C&O experimental lightweight 50-ton 3-bay hopper cars 100-114

C&O experimental lightweight 50-ton 3-bay hopper cars 100-114

Dixon, Thomas W Jr

These interesting cars were built in 1935 to experiment with new car-building designs. Nos. 100– 104 were built by Bethlehem Steel in Johnstown, Pa., in August 1935, while Nos. 105-114 were built concurrently by the American Car and Foundry plant at Huntington, W Va.

The first group was constructed of high tensile strength, low alloy steel plate, with molybdenum steel on the strength members. The ACF group was constructed in a similar manner using their trademarked Cor-Ten and Man-Ten steel.

The cars were similar to other C&O 50-ton hoppers, measuring 33 feet, 6 inches inside and 37 feet over the striking faces of the couplers. They used the offset-side general configuration and initially had the standard C&O lettering and number placement. An additional block of oneinch letters under the road name explained all the experimental aspects of the cars. They were used in regular service, totally integrated with the overall fleet until the last cars were retired in 1973.

Some cars were removed from service for a while after 14 years. Upon inspection the new high tensile steel proved to be much more resistant to wear, thus allowing this type of steel to be used on most succeeding designs on the C&O. Since this steel wore more slowly, the thickness of the plate could be reduced, thus reducing the tare weight of the car and allowing a heavier payload to be carried.

When new, these cars were at the very leading edge of design. In a Railway Age article appearing in the June 29, 1935, issue, the editors stated:

“In preparing the design three objectives were given special attention: First, to adapt the equipment to the particular conditions and requirements of service on the Chesapeake & Ohio; second, to afford an opportunity for tests, under actual service conditions, of new materials and appliances; and, third, to include the latest developments and standards in those features which are not of special construction.”

The C&OHS archives contains detailed builder photos on both lots of cars. Some of these photos were used in Al Kresse’s C&O Freight Cars, 1937-1965, Vol. I – Hoppers & Gondolas. The photos reproduced here, with one exception, are different from those used in the book.

The painting and lettering diagram reproduced on page 5 shows changes through 1958. The evolution of painting and lettering on these cars is as follows:

1) As built, 1935-1950.

2) In 1950, the roadname was moved to the center of the car using the three-line style, and the first style “C&O For Progress” logo was added. The roadname letters changed from nine-inch to seven-inch height.

3) In 1955, the experimental stencil was removed and the “C&O For Progress” logo updated to the second version.

4) Finally, in 1958, the thick lines that appeared above and below the road name were removed.

Archivist’s Note

The Archives is interested in acquiring photographs of these cars showing any of the subsequent painting and lettering variations. Please contact the Archives at the Clifton Forge address shown on page 2 if you can help.


Chesapeake & Ohio Freight Cars, 1937-1965, Vol I – Hoppers & Gondolas (available from the C&OHS).

Freight Equipment of the Chesapeake & Ohio – August 1, 1937 (available from the C&OHS)

Railway Age article entitled “C. & O. Light-Weight Hopper Car Has Many New Features,” June 29, 1935.

Copyright Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society, Inc. Jan 2000

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