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 Post subject: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:04 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 30, 2004 3:24 pm
Posts: 462
Location: Scranton, PA
I know that many of us in this forum have one foot in the preservation and historic railroading world, and another foot in the model or toy train world.

One thing that has bugged me, on and off, since the late 1970s when I first saw it was the "Blue Coal" hopper car in the modeling world. My first encounter with this was the TYCO HO hopper, in RDG markings. A few years ago, Lionel made one with D&H markings. I have also seen people who modeled it with O&W reporting marks.
While it is a cool graphic, it seems to permeate all scales with the blue two or three bay coal hopper, the glowing hot hunk of anthracite (standing in for the "O" in coal) and the railroad markings, which seem to cover nearly every one of the anthracite hauling railroads.

My questions here are 1) did any such hopper car ever exist? You would think that if it did, any freight car painted blue would be heavily documented, even in the days when you could only get black and white film. I have yet to see any such car. 2) If it never existed, why do so many people model this car? The "Blue Coal" graphic chosen is true to the Glen Alden Coal company, which sprayed the coal blue to give the impression that it burned hotter than "ordinary" coal. In the house where I grew up, there was a card with that same image stapled to the post at the bottom of the cellar steps. I guess it was an order card, so you could call the coal company before you ran out. We had oil heat, so that was not a priority for us to call for coal.

I'm sure that I am over thinking this topic, but if anyone can produce any image of such a hopper, maybe I can sleep better at night. LOL. Speculate away on why prototype modelers want cars like this, too. Thank you for reading.

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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:40 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
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Location: Tucson, Arizona
I don't know about blue coal hoppers but I do know there were green coal hoppers. Oneida and Western ran unit trains that had green hoppers.

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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:53 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
Posts: 2522
Location: Northern Illinois
tim o'm wrote:

My questions here are 1) did any such hopper car ever exist? You would think that if it did, any freight car painted blue would be heavily documented, even in the days when you could only get black and white film. I have yet to see any such car. 2) If it never existed, why do so many people model this car? The "Blue Coal" graphic chosen is true to the Glen Alden Coal company, which sprayed the coal blue to give the impression that it burned hotter than "ordinary" coal. In the house where I grew up, there was a card with that same image stapled to the post at the bottom of the cellar steps. I guess it was an order card, so you could call the coal company before you ran out. We had oil heat, so that was not a priority for us to call for coal.


I doubt any real examples ever existed. The impetus for the models is strictly the neat graphic, well know in the east from years of use, and still remembered. Consider the brands of the models so painted; Lionel, Tyco, and some others that are primarily focused on the toy market. Their problem is coal hoppers, especially from the steam era, are boring... and the graphic was irresistible.

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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:59 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
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Location: Tucson, Arizona
Stearns Coal and Lumber Co. might have also done something similar to that for the coal sold under their Blue Heron label. Shamrock Coal delivered their coal to utilities utilizing their green unit train, operated under the fallen flag Oneida and Western Railroad.

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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 2:00 pm 

Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2016 6:14 am
Posts: 31
I have never seen a picture of a real hopper car painted blue. Supposedly it was a dyed coal for a marketing gimmick.


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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 2:49 pm 
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Location: Alberta, Canada
While completely unrelated to northeast U.S. anthracite and the original 'Blue Coal' brand, this is the only real train I've ever heard of with blue coal cars:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-am5josMZ8

Some railroads did paint their coal cars in bright colours, but they were a pain to keep clean. Canadian Pacific ordered their first rotary-dump cars in the same 'Action Red' colour scheme the locomotives wore, but after a few years they switched back to black for the cars.

http://www.okthepk.ca/dataCprSiding/art ... news01.htm

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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 2:52 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2017 5:54 pm
Posts: 79
Bowser, who made cars of this scheme in three roadnames for both HO and N-scale, specifically lists them as a fantasy paint job. I'd say that's your answer.
https://www.bowser-trains.com/history/nscalegla.html


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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 3:01 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
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Location: Northern Illinois
One of the things working against a prototype for a Blue Coal hopper is that the anthracite business died before the full value of billboard railroad cars as a marketing tool became apparent. Plus the fact that during much of the twentieth century coal companies did not own their own rail cars; they relied on the railroads to supply cars, and the railroads were still operating under the ICC order that banned "billboard" reefers in 1938 IIRC.

Early in the twentieth century the Berwind-White Coal Co. owned a huge fleet of cars, but the cars were sedately painted, black with white lettering and the Berwind black circle in white square mark. But the financial incentives for owning cars disappeared, and the cars were sold to the railroads and repainted.

There are a couple other examples of company owned cars in interesting paint schemes that may have encouraged the made-up Blue Coal scheme. Very late in the life of the O&W, a local mine operator, Waddell Coal Co. purchased a small fleet of twin hoppers and painted them bright orange with huge Waddell Coal lettering. The purchase may have been prompted by the ailing O&W's inability to supply adequate cars.

And Peabody Coal Co. had a company owned fleet, some of which were painted yellow with a large Peabody name and a burning lump of coal graphic reminiscent of the Blue Coal trademark.

If you google either of these companies you'll find dozens of pictures of models inspired by their cars, but finding photos of the actual cars themselves is a different story, but some photographic evidence does exist.

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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 3:51 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2005 1:25 pm
Posts: 5749
Berks315 wrote:
I have never seen a picture of a real hopper car painted blue. Supposedly it was a dyed coal for a marketing gimmick.


Berks315 -

As for no blue painted hopper cars, there was a thread here on RyPN a while back about a 'Roll call for open top twin bay hopper cars' and I recall one of the replies included a photo of a blue painted hopper car. I seem to recall it was from out west and may have been a U.S. Air Force car.

Les


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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 3:53 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:53 pm
Posts: 157
My late Dad once described hopper cars with some sort of blue dye sprayed over the top of the load. I don't recall whether he said anything about the ownership of the cars themselves, and I don't know exactly when he might have seen them - perhaps prior to WW2. This might have been done before color photography was common, which could explain the lack of photos.

JR


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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:00 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:26 am
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Location: Maine
A Google image search for "Blue Coal" hopper cars turns up a bunch but all in model form. Remember, "Blue Coal" was a commercial brand. There were plenty of blue hopper cars carrying coal, but that may be the confusion.

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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:29 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 24, 2004 2:35 pm
Posts: 340
Location: NJ
Although not in the same "Blue Coal" vein, Rock Island had blue painted coal hoppers too.

https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/427/32522663262_4bcd0b21dc_b.jpg

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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:31 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:47 pm
Posts: 332
Location: Philadelphia, PA
"Blue Coal" was a marketing tool of the Glen Alden Coal Co., which was the former mining subsidiary of the DL&W. DL&W was forced to divest under antitrust. The Huber Breaker Preservation Society site states Glen Alden was renamed Blue Coal Co. in 1966

The company dyed the coal blue to ensure purchasers they were getting genuine Glen Alden anthracite. Glen Alden operated the mines near Wanamie where 3' 6" gauge tank lokies pulled mine jimmies a few miles from nearby mines to the huge Huber Breaker.

By contrast, Reading Anthracite sprayed its coal with red dots.

The blue dye made some sense: anthracite burns with a blue flame.

https://huberbreaker.org/home/history/h ... r-breaker/

Phil Mulligan


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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 5:37 pm 

Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2015 11:54 am
Posts: 719
Location: New Franklin, OH
cjvrr wrote:
Although not in the same "Blue Coal" vein, Rock Island had blue painted coal hoppers too.

https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/427/32522663262_4bcd0b21dc_b.jpg

Some of those wound up on the B&LE. I’m not sure when they picked them up but I seem to recall somebody had light blue hoppers seen in the Pittsburgh area in the mid to late seventies. I don’t know if those were the ex-RI cars or not.

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 Post subject: Re: Blue Coal hopper cars
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 5:50 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 24, 2004 12:13 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Baltimore. MD
I remember as a child the anthracite in the cellar having little thin foil metallic medals, which I recall were red/silver, about the sizer of a quarter. In my case it would have been delivered by the Cadillac and Lake City to the Falmouth Co-op in Falmouth, MI (ca. 1968-9). I cant find these things on-line, but probably because I do not know what they are called. Any help?

Steve


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