This week we look at some more of our favorite “fictional freight” cars. Both of these variations on the gondola first came into the Lionel line in the 1950s and we’re still producing variations of these and the accessories that go with them today.
The Barrel Car
The first Operating Barrel Car appeared in 1954. The No. 3562 car was lettered for the Santa Fe. The classic car featured a vibrating ramp which unloaded the wooden barrels by shaking them to the top where a figure waited to push them off the side. Produced from 1954 to 1958, the cars’ colors changed over the years but the basic appearance and operation remained the same. In more recent years, we’ve reproduced some of the older cars as well as new schemes.
By railroad standards, no company would have devoted this much engineering and weight for a car with such limited carrying capacity (6 wood barrels.) And of course you had to feel for that poor worker has he clung to his post while the train raced around the platform between stops. Regardless of these minor liberties, the car offered a ton of play value, especially when combined with the barrel loader accessory.
A more modern variation on the car features a ramp mounted on a flat car. Gravity, rather than the vibrating ramp, is the primary aid in unloading this new car. Although more “efficient” than the 1950s design, this car would still leave a car builder shaking his head. We’ve also made this car in several roadnames with barrels “filled” with everything from maple syrup to reindeer feed.
The Culvert Car
Like the Barrel Car, this is another variation on the common gondola. First introduced in 1956, the Culvert Car featured a metal ramp inside a traditional gondola body. Designed to work with the culvert loader and unloader accessories, the car was definitely the most technologically simple element of the set. Although again, there would be no prototypical need for this ramp inside the car, it did make the functioning of the accessories, and hence the play value of the models, much better.
The early versions of the car came decorated for the New York Central. Our most recent version was lettered for Bethlehem Steel and there have been others in between. Beyond that, there were very few variations in the car’s production.
Like Searchlight and Aquarium cars, all of these models are a stretch of prototype practice. But hey, the rivet counters can’t have all the fun!