Skip to main content

I'm curious about the fact that just about  every model steam locomotive comes with a full bunker load of coal.  It seems to me that the only time this happens is when the train has just left the station or terminal.  Most of the times that I have looked at the coal pile, it had a V-shaped appearance leading forward toward the engine from either the automatic stoker or by hand firing. Has anyone modified  the appearance of their tenders to reflect this?   If so, how about posting a picture of your modification.

I think that it would be cool if model train manufacturers varied this a bit.  Hey, we could even have the fireman back there "cutting coal". 


What do babies and steam locomotives have in common?  They both have a tender behind.                              (I couldn't help myself)

Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Nowadays, most manufacturers will have a full bunker so there's more room in the tender for electronic "stuff."  If you chisel away the coal load on MTH or Lionel's locomotives, the bunker is shallow which wouldn't allow for much "depletion" of the load.

I suppose in a perfect world, the manufacturers could model an empty bunker and include a bag of coal for the user to add.  However, modeling an empty bunker eats up a lot of space for any electronics, as seen in the S Scale brass import:

RRM 10



Images (1)
  • RRM 10

Some years back I ran across a 3rd Rail model that had a real "hopper" like that, but it made the upgrade a giant PITA as there wasn't much room left in the tender!  Rusty is, of course, right, the room in the tender is what likely dictates the shape of the coal load.

An interesting twist is the Lionel Vision Line Big Boy, if you removed the mechanized depleting coal load, you could actually model the coal load as significantly depleted.  Truthfully, in many other tenders, if you are replacing the electronics, you might be able to remove the existing coal load and add a recessed tray to model a depleted coal load and still leave room for the electronics.  I suspect it's just the work of actually doing the modifications that may limit the number of these you'll see.  It's an interesting issue, and thinking about it, it might be interesting to do one of those one day.

I modified every tender of the coal burning steam locomotives I had, in one way or another. Some with only about 1/4 of the coal remaining in the bunker, so that the forward portion was "down to the stoker auger", while one or two others had totally full, i.e. heaped up high, as the Burlington was prone to do. Those few Lionel steam models with the die cast "coal load", had the die cast "coal load" cut out and a coal bunker constructed for a much more realistic coal load.

Add Reply

OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
Link copied to your clipboard.