Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

American Limited Models HO scale Trinity covered hopper

Read this review from Model Railroader magazine
American Limited Models HO scale Trinity covered hopper
American Limited Models HO scale Trinity covered hopper
The American Limited Models HO scale TrinityRail 3281 covered hopper separately applied brake gear and piping.

American Limited Models, a longtime manufacturer of locomotive and passenger car diaphragms and fuel cranes in HO and N scales, has jumped into the freight car market. The company’s first release is an HO scale TrinityRail 3,281- cubic-foot-capacity two-bay covered hopper. The ready-to-run injection-molded plastic model features a one-piece body with a separate roof; wire grab irons; and road-number-specific load limit, light weight, and TrinityRail lot number.

TrinityRail debuted its 3281 covered hopper in 1999. Sales literature from the Dallas-based freight car manufacturer states that the two-bay hopper can be used to transport sand, cement, and other high-density products.

The round sides make the hopper more efficient to load and unload, and better utilizes the available cubic capacity. The high side sills make it easier for workers to reach the vibrator brackets and outlet gates. The trough center sill enhances the operation of the outlet gates while providing improved structural integrity and reducing the car’s weight.

The full-size car is offered with various hatch options based on customer needs. The American Limited Models car has three round hatches.

Our sample is decorated for Winn Bay Sand, a frac-sand producer with plants in Blair, Wis., and Hanson Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada (the company was acquired by Preferred Sands LLC in 2012).

The model’s dimensions closely follow prototype drawings from the TrinityRail website. The distance over the coupler pulling faces is a scale 2 feet too long. The hatch cover centers are a scale 1'-3" farther apart than on the drawings.

For the most part, the model’s details match the prototype car 804849. There are a few small discrepancies. The Trinity- Rail builder’s sticker and job number should be on the same body panel as the Clean, Oil, Test & Stencil panel.

The defect card holder is also in the wrong location. It should be on the first full body panel, to the left of the Ld Lmt and Lt Wt stencils.

The bearing caps on the full-size car are blue. This would be an easy fix with some paint and a fine paintbrush. I appreciated that the reporting marks and road number are applied to the truck sideframes.

I put the hopper in a train on our HO scale Wisconsin & Southern layout. The car rolled through the no. 5 turnouts without incident. However, I noticed that the car had a distinct wobble. I used a National Model Railroad Association standards gauge to check the wheels, and they were in gauge throughout their rotation. The trucks were properly adjusted, too.

Finally, I took the wheelsets out and rolled them on my desk. Wheels on three of the four axles were slightly canted.

I used a truck tuner to reshape the sockets on the trucks and replaced the factory wheelsets with InterMountain 36" wheelsets. The car rolled smoothly after these modifications.

The hopper weighs 3.6 ounces, which is correct per NMRA recommended practice 20.1. The plastic lower-shelf couplers, less trip pins, are mounted at the correct height.

Overall, I was impressed with American Limited’s first freight car. Yes, there were a few issues, but nothing I’d consider deal breakers. This modern car would look great on its own, in a manifest freight, or in a unit train.

Price: $48.95

American Limited Models
190 Turner Dr., Unit C
Durango, CO 81303

Road names: Winn Bay Sand (six road numbers), Chicago Freight Car Leasing Co. (four numbers), CSX (12 numbers), Midwest Railcar Corp. (six numbers), Trinity Industries Leasing (six numbers), and Union Pacific (12 numbers).

Era: 1999 to present

▪▪Scale 36"-diameter metal wheelsets, in gauge
▪▪Photo-etched see-through metal running boards and crossover platforms
▪▪Plastic uncoupling levers
▪▪Scale lower shelf couplers without trip pin, mounted at correct height
▪▪Weight: 3.6 ounces

Join the discussion

Read and share your comments on this article
Comment on this article
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of are allowed to comment on this article. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
5 compact track plans

5 compact track plans

Pack lots of fun into a small space.

Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!
By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Model Railroader magazine. Please view our privacy policy