Gondolas can carry a wide array of products, and they are also adaptable to specific services. One of the more common types of gondolas are “mill gons.” These have been tweaked for hauling the products of steel mills. These loads could take many forms, from pipe to beams to ingots to finished machinery.
What makes a gon a mill gon? Mill gons have several common characteristics – low sides (generally 6′ or less) and a lack of interior bracing are a must. Many, but not all, feature “drop ends” which can be lowered to carry longer loads. Mill gons have come in many lengths, from 40 to 66 feet. Cars of 52′ 6″ were the most common from the 1940s through the 1970s and remain a popular option today. All of this is designed to facilitate the loading of finished goods.
Lionel has produced models of one of the more common mill gons of the post-war era. Pullman Standard’s PS-5 gon was used by dozens of railroads across the country. Similar cars were built by Greenville, Bethlehem Steel and others. Construction started in the 194os and many cars remained in service through the 1970s despite the heavy abuse often inflicted upon them. Some were retained as maintenance of way cars and lasted even longer.
These cars feature drop ends which allowed the car to carry extra-long loads. Poles, structural beams, girders and similar loads may be within the car’s 70 ton weight capacity but extend longer than its deck. With the doors lowered an idler car (typically a flatcar) would be added to protect neighboring cars. Extremely long loads would need to be centered on the gondola with idlers at both ends to help the car navigate curves.
You can load your models with almost any structural load, along with machinery, tarped loads, crates or other finished goods. Raw materials could also be carried, but generally made poor use of the cars’ capacity and would necessitate cleaning before loading the next round of finished goods. When loading extra-long loads, test the overhang on curves carefully!