Jan 31, 2002
Like many other major railroads, the Reading Company was not only able to build their own steam locomotives, they were also able to build their own freight cars. While the Reading curtailed locomotive construction with the arrival of the diesel engine, they continued building rolling stock. During July and August 1971 in their Reading Car Shops, they assembled a total of 200 45-foot, 100-ton, 12-panel, 3-bay HTe class hoppers from prefabricated Bethlehem Steel Car kits.
These hoppers rode on Barber S-2-C roller bearing trucks with flat tops and 36" wheels. Getting a bit more technical, the hoppers had a Convent underframe and were 9'9" wide by 8'10" high, giving them a cubic capacity of 3,422'. The hopper bays had six wine door locks. All the cars were painted in the classic Reading "speed lettering" scheme and assigned to series RDG 41650-41849.
Originally, the Reading Company assigned these cars to iron ore service. On the left hand end panel of each car was stenciled "Ore Service Between Joanna And Bethlehem." Bethlehem Steel owned a high-grade ore mine in Joanna, PA, on the Reading Company's old Wilmington & Northern Branch. The cars were loaded there, then shipped to Bethlehem Steel's plants in Bethlehem, PA. For more information about this service and the GP-40-2's that hauled the train under the Reading Company then Conrail, check the GP-40-2 Prototype page.
Eventually, the Reading also began using the cars in regular coal service. Conrail continued this practice as well, using the cars in both or service on their "Z" loaded iron ore trains and on their "U" loaded coal trains.
Unlike with other predecessor rolling stock, Conrail never seemed to have renumbered any of the Reading HTe hoppers into a Conrail series. I have yet to find any references in any roster to these cars with CR numbers, nor have I seen a CR-stenciled or fully repainted HTe. If Conrail did repaint some cars, they eluded not only myself but other railfans I know who tracked Conrail rolling stock.
Many of the original 200 HTe hoppers survived well into the 1990s. Beginning around 1996, though, fewer and fewer of these cars were showing up in coal trains. In 1999 I saw only a handful of the cars still in service in Eastern Pennsylvania. How many years of service do these cars have left in them under CSX and Norfolk Southern is anyone's guess.
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