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I’ve lately picked up a modern-era working coal hopper, and I’m looking at using it on my O27 “door layout”. I could just about accommodate a coal ramp accessory, but I don’t have one and I won’t be in the US in any foreseeable future.

Anyway, I want to make things easy for little fingers (my grand-daughter) ... so I’m looking at a simple ramp, to raise the track about 40mm to fit a tray underneath. I have a K Line uncoupler Track, much lighter and simpler than the Lionel units (one button) so that can operate the hopper car.

I’ve found a German plastic kit that could easily be adapted to a simple “open top” filler design


So that seems to provide a simple operating cycle, with plenty of action. Grade on the ramp would be about 10%. Ok, let’s look at this..


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Sounds like you're in the ball park. I assume you're talking about the Lionel coal ramp that unloads via opening bottom doors on the hopper. It sure looked steep but was it 10%? I would be concerned about pushing loaded hopper up 10% without traction tires or maybe 1 or 2 at a time.

I'm not good at metric but I believe that tower is more than 40mm off the ground. That's going to be a heck of a climb but it's a good idea.

Noooo.... the idea was to raise the track about 40mm so the hopper can discharge into a tray. Then shunt the car across to the tower. My grand-daughter could them tip the tray into the tower to refill the hopper car.

The picture of the tower is just a catalogue picture.

I didn’t intend the loco to go on the ramp, just push the car up and down again with another gondola or hopper as a buffer

It’s a simple sequence on a small layout.

Last edited by Rockershovel

No grade can go from 0% to 10% and back to 0% at the "top" without some transition.  The amount of "transition" at each end of the grade will depend on the length of cars you utilize.  Look up vertical easements on the web to find how they are calculated and why they are necessary.

Hope it will all fit on your door.


You could use the Lionel 110 pier set.  Use what ever combination of piers that gets you to the height you want  in whatever length you have. I would not try to level out the unloading track. The change from the grade to level caused trouble with couplers.   The 110 pier sets can usually be found cheap on eBay.  I would recommend the earlier set with the two piece clamps and a machine screw, not the later  type that uses a self tapping screw into a one piece clamp.

Or you can keep everything on the level and cut a hole in the tabletop with a coffee can to catch the coal .  I don't know your abilities , but a simple drawer setup would work with a set location for the can or tray .  Slide the drawer open and grab the can/tray then load the coaling tower.  Any coal that jumps around or misses the can/tray can be easily cleaned up from the drawer and not the floor .  Good luck on what ever you choose .

Rockershovel, I too have a door layout. "Real estate" is pretty valuable. So for example, rather than using the typical Lionel plastic dump bin, I use these Tupperware silverware single trays. I have a UC track right along the edge of the layout, then off the layout is one of these silverware trays painted black. Contents from dump cars go into this tray.

I've also made some "temporary" extensions using thin plywood and some bracing, which easily go in to the edge of the door (and can be easily removed), allowing for some additional items.

So on that thought, maybe... to add to your thought/consideration process, you could put a switch track on the edge of the layout, with that track going to a temporary extension, where you could be some sort of dump bin underneath the track for the operating hopper to dump into. You could place the coaling tower nearby.  And as a added security, in addition to obviously having a bumper at the end of the extension track, you could remove the center rail, which would stop any locomotive from going beyond a certain point. It would also add a little ease to installation of the below track dump bin.

Another thing I do on my layout is I have some buildings/operating accessories that are always there. BUT I have others that I have purposed to be easily removed and replaced with another. This helps to keep the layout more interesting. For example, I have an operating tower that is part of a chemical loading facility. This tower is battery operated, so it is easily taken off the layout or put back on.

Also it helps to use a little imagination with a small layout. You don't have room for an entire industrial facility. So in my thinking, I have a loading dock which represents the larger industrial facility that you don't see (because it isn't there).

Likewise with the coaling tower. You could mount it to a thin base, allowing it to be on or off the layout. Then you could add some scenery details to this base, like maybe having a pile of coal that is glued in place.

I've also created little scenery vignettes on foam pieces that I get from stores such as Hobby Lobby. Like I have one vignette that has construction guys working. Or I have some scenery vignettes that have bushes and shrubs. Again these are easily relocated on the layout, or replaced with something else. I find ideas like this help to keep the layout from getting stagnant. 

Anyways, just some thoughts for your consideration.

That’s the sort of thinking I was looking for. I particularly like the idea of the inset plastic box to receive the coal, which greatly simplifies the tracklaying and also gives the option to use side tipper cars, which I have two.

The track configuration is this; I could have the coal drop in the siding to the right, then shuttle the train to the left-hand siding to be refilled as convenient. That would also allow a second train to circulate the outer loop while the coal train was refilling... I also have a couple of vignettes in mind involving a nodding donkey pump and a crossing gate...



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