Freight Car Friday – Gondolas

30 09 2011

Gondolas are among the most versatile and abused freight cars on the rails. These yeomen cars can carry many different loads, but are often assigned some of the heaviest and hard to handle.


Pipe load

Gondolas carry a wide variety of loads - often larger than the car itself.

If there is one industry that relies on gondolas more than any other, it is steel. From finished coils, slabs and structural shapes to scrap, steel loads of all shapes and sizes travel in gondolas. Often these heavy loads take a toll on the cars. Scratches and rust, bulging sides even sagging floors are all trademarks of gondolas. It  is no wonder they enjoy some of the shortest careers in railroading. If you like heavy weathering, then gondolas are for you!

drop end

Modifications like this drop-end allow some gondolas to carry even more loads. An idler car (typically a flat car) would be needed for a load that extended past the car.

There is a variety in the gondolas themselves as well. Gondolas can be found in almost any length, height and capacity and with many other adaptations. Over the past 20 years, gondolas have replaced thousands of hoppers in coal service. With more power plants using rotary dumpers to empty their cars, the cheaper and more simple gondola has an advantage over hoppers. Mill gondolas have ends that can be lowered to carry longer loads. Some cars have even featured removable sides. Others have featured doors in the floor for easier unloading or removable roofs or hoods to protect the loads.

culvert loader

Action accessories allow you to model the loading as well as the load!

With a great variety of possible loads, gondolas make an interesting addition to your roster. Lionel offers many loads for your cars, others can be easily modeled from items you’ll find around the house or hobby shop. Of course there are many operating accessories available to help load and unload these cars too!

Empty cars can be just as interesting to detail. Most “empty” gondolas still carry discarded boards, straps and other “trash” used to secure previous loads. Many railroads put special clean-out tracks in yards to remove this debris before delivering cars to shippers. Such a track is an easy addition to your yard and can be used to provide another “spot” to send your freight cars.

coal gon

Gondolas have become increasingly popular in unit trains for coal. They are unloaded by being turned upside down.

With all of this action, the simple gondola offers a lot of fun for its size. You could build a train of thirty gondolas and not load any two the same! Whether you model a heavy industry, or just like interesting loads, gondolas are the perfect addition to your roster.



6 responses

30 09 2011
Alfonso Llana

I have just suscribed to this “bulletins” a few days ago. I enjoy them a lot and they are a refreshing finding in my mail box. Just keep them coming.

30 09 2011

Thank you very much. We’ll keep rolling them out and we have some more fun things coming to the blog in the near future, so stay tuned!

30 09 2011
Alfonso Llana

Unless you are Hall 9000, the “2001 Space Oddissey” computer, it is very nice in this era of automated machines for everything, to receive a human response. Thank you

30 09 2011

1000111011000010111101 You’re welcome! 🙂

30 09 2011
Alfonso Llana

I didn´t see that coming. Very advanced microprocessor you. My regards to Cyberdine 🙂

2 12 2011

Please make new NY Central Culvert gondolas, in colors other than red and green!!

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