Freight Car Friday – Barrel and Culvert Cars

15 03 2013

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

Barrel Car

The Southern barrel car is a modern version of this operating classic.

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.


The steadfast worker was aided by a vibrating ramp on the car.

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.

CN Barrel Car

The Canadian National car featured barrels of “maple syrup.”

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

Culvert Car

The Culvert Car features a more simple design.

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.

culvert loader

Action accessories make all of these “unprototypical” cars a load of fun!

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!



3 responses

15 03 2013
James Jette

I have a barrel loader (postwar 362) and the grandkids still like to play with it in the electronic age.

15 03 2013
Andrew Falconer

The Operating Barrel Gondola Car already looks a lot like the Greenville Steel Car company Corrugated Gondola that was built for the Chicago & North Western, Missouri Pacific Mo-Pac, and Southern Pacific. The Barrel Gondola car also has a resemblence to the Trailer Train company’s GONX railgon gondolas. Those four paint schemes most likely have never been applied to the Operating Barrel Gondola car.

15 03 2013
Andrew Falconer

The operating barrel gondola would look great in the ATSF Santa Fe scheme applied to ATSF gondolas in the 1980’s and 1990’s of a mineral red body with white graphics and the Santa Fe circle cross logo that has a large Q around it.

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