In 1953, covered hoppers were still fairly rare. Nationally, they were less than 2 percent of all freight cars (actually 1.75%), and at that time were predominantly used for bulk cement service. In that same year, the SP fleet included just 587 covered hoppers out of a total fleet of 57,671 cars, or very close to 1%. At that time SP owned very few hoppers of any kind, with the balance of about 1700 cars being ballast cars with longitudinal-dumping doors, not traditional twin cross-hoppers.
This means I don’t need many covered hoppers of any reporting marks. Further, since cement is mostly a low-value commodity which can’t support the cost of long-distance shipping, there shouldn’t be covered hoppers from far-away railroads. The use of these cars for cement effectively means that they were only free-running cars for loads of that particular commodity. Chemical shipping was just beginning to make use of covered hoppers in 1953, and grain shipping in covered hoppers was off in the future.
Photos of SP yards and trains in the early 1950s support this analysis, with fairly few covered hoppers visible in most places (near cement plants being an obvious exception). Accordingly, I plan to have four or five SP covered hoppers, all of which will be the square-hatch variety standard in 1953. The Pullman-Standard PS-2 with round hatches was not introduced until mid 1953, and SP bought none until 1954.
Luckily, InterMountain currently produces a superb model of the square-hatch cars. For foreign-road cars, I have one each GN, ATSF, UP, and D&RGW, along with one each SHPX and NAHX private-lease cars, and all of these will operate sparingly. I may add a T&NO or SSW car. These will largely be in mainline service only.
I do have one on-line destination which can accept cars of cement: my California Division of Highways yard, since in my era the CDH did some of its own building of roads and bridges, unlike today when CalTrans uses contractors for virtually all such work. Likely most deliveries will be SP cars.
Here’s a photo at Shumala of one of the IM cars, inbound with a load. This car was also pictured in my original Dispatcher’s Office article, complete with waybill, but did not appear in the magazine. The corrected version is available, as mentioned in an earlier post, at Google Docs via this link: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0Bz_ctrHrDz4wMDhmMDk1N2MtNzY2MS00Y2RlLWI4MGMtMGJjODBiNGRhZWIy&hl=en&authkey=COyo7MQN
These InterMountain cars don’t require much work to be ready to roll, just a bit of cement spillage on a nearly new car like this one, so adding to the fleet will be easy.