Reading composite mill gondola

There is great satisfaction in completing a freight car kit that was started nearly a decade ago. This Reading composite mill gondola was recently decaled and weathered. Funaro & Camerlengo produces this HO scale resin kit with decals for Reading or Central of New Jersey owners. The kit supplied Reading decals reflected a late steam era presentation. As I model 1926, this gondola has been used in an undecorated state for awhile. Click on any image here to review a larger size.

The model represents a couple of Philadelphia & Reading prototype car classes with 50 ton capacity and 893 cubic feet. These 2500 gondolas had wood floors and drop ends. Many of the prototypes were in-service through WWII

  • GHc 27500-27999 were built in 1912-13 by Cambria Steel Car
  • GHc 28000-28499 were built in 1913 by American Car & Foundry
  • GHd 28500-28999 were built in 1916 by the Standard Steel Car Company
  • GHd 29000-29499 were built in 1918, builder unknown
  • GHd 29500-29999 were built in 1918 by the Standard Steel Car Company

These details came from the Reading Modeler site. This is a great prototype data resource on the Reading freight car fleet.

Here are the model parts in October 2009 at the start of flash removal. This is a good kit to build as an introduction to resin freight car building. There are few grab irons to install and the fishbelly side sills obscure the underframe detail, making the brake detail optional. I did not install the brake components on my model.

Here’s a look at the underframe. The rectangular pieces are sheet lead that were cut and fit to the space before Barge contact cement was used to fix them into place. I don’t have a record when the model was built, but I know it has been in service on the Wheeling Freight Terminal since the first operating session in June 2014.

While rummaging through my decal stash late in 2016, I found an envelope with a pair of decal sets for Reading gondolas. These were produced by John Hall several years ago and currently unavailable. The sets are intended for steel Reading mill gondolas but I noticed the lettering could work for this composite mill gon kit. I thought I could combine portions of a Rail Graphics generic data set to reflect a mid-1920s appearance. The John Hall decal discovery pushed me to paint the model

But there was a problem. I did not have a prototype image to follow. Additionally, these gondolas were initially lettered for the Philadelphia & Reading. In 1924, the P&R reorganized and became the Reading. With a late 1926 modeling focus, would any of these gondolas have been repainted and relettered?

From the collection of Ray Breyer.

My friend Ray came to the rescue with the above image and another that helped unravel the mystery. The car above bears a journal repack stencil of 8-37. This is on the sill right above the right truck. But we can see the lines of data on the wood above the steel side sill. These are a sort of hardware inventory for various installed appliances and a common lettering detail through the 1920s. Just enough of the lettering is visible to read. The generic data set provided nearly all of these words. A second image was taken at more of an angle but showed the weight data lettering on the left side of the car. I was able to verify the READING lettering and car number were in the same places as seen on the above image. As an added bonus, the gondola on the other image had a weigh date of 8-26!

Between the two images, I made a sketch to guide decal placement.

A new razor blade went to work separating the required decals from the sheets.

After applying decals to the car ends, I like to work on one portion of a side at a time. In this image, nearly all of the decals are cut from the sheets and placed on the work space similar to the application for the model. Individual numbers for the 893 cubic capacity data were cut out and applied after all of these decals were in place.

In short order, the model begins to look like the prototype. A soaking bowl is nearby with a drop of Dawn dish detergent and distilled water. After determining the order of application, the first decal is dropped into the water for several seconds. A pair of fine tweezers is used to remove it from the water and the decal is slid off of the backing. If the decal won’t slide right off, let it soak for a few more seconds.

Once the decal is free of the backing, I often dip it into the water again to rinse any residue then dab it onto a paper towel to soak off the water. The model surface has had decal solution applied just before the decal was removed from the water. The decal is then set into the solution on the model and carefully nudged into place with a toothpick. A small corner of paper towel can be used to wick away excess solution. Once the decal is in place, grab the next one and repeat the process.

As there are several lettering lines to apply on both sides of a side stake, the decals are applied quickly so they can be nudged into place with better spacing. Brushing on extra decal solution helps when nudging them into place.

The first few times applying a bunch of decals can be tedious. The more experience I’ve had with these applications, the easier it has become. No, it’s not a snap, but I’m more confident and can plow through this type of work faster than I could a year ago. A few chalk mark decals were also applied to see how they look after additional weathering.

After the decals have dried, the model goes to the paint booth for a gloss coat to seal the work. Pledge Floor Care Multi Surface Finish (aka Future) is sprayed on full strength at 28 psi. After the gloss dries, a flat coat is applied. I used Model Master 4636 clear flat acryl with some Model Master thinner. Three drops of the car color were added as well as two drops of burnt umber. The mixture flattens the overall appearance and cuts the brightness of the white lettering.

At this point the floor can finally be installed! This was painted and weathered a few years ago.

As the model represents a car repainted just months previous to a 1926 modeling focus, the weathering was light. But the interior needed to have more of a raw appearance, similar to the floor. It is frustrating when the effects do not appear well in these images. I may work on the interior by drybrushing light gray then working with Prismacolor pencils to add shading and slight color.

For now, this model is done. I’ll return to this at some point and work on the interior sides. A removable load is under consideration but that will be a project for another day, hopefully not eight years from now.

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15 thoughts on “Reading composite mill gondola”

  1. I always hated it when the decal bashing was more than the model itself. That is why I began to artwork for correct data for a particular project. If I can be of help in your future projects, don’t hesitate to contact me.

    1. Thanks for the offer, Jerry. I agree the decal bashing can be more work than the actual model build. I will be in touch but I have some major tasks ahead and all modeling will be taking a back seat soon. Full info will be posted soon here on the blog. – Eric

    1. Armand, these are similar to a few prototypes with differences in the side stake placement and quantities, and the stake pocket locations.

  2. Good looking car, Eric. Isn’t that the kit you bought when we attended the Barea show way back then? Good to see it finished (almost).


    1. Thanks, Jim! Yes, this may have been the kit I bought at the Berea train show in 2009! You have a better memory than I do!

  3. Eric,
    Another fine build. Floor weathering especially catches the eye.
    Lester Breuer

  4. Hi Eric,

    you said that the images don’t represent the floor weathering very well, but I think it looks great. Ordinarily, I weather gondola and flat car floors made wood to have a more uniform look end-to-end, with some spots of rust and/or oil to represent past loads, but your car really looks great.

    Todd Sullivan
    Jamesville, NY

  5. I have been reading your posts for several years – started when I found your blog about South Elkins. I have been periodically checking back to see what you have new, but would like to get notifications of new posts to this and any other blogs you have.

    I enjoy your modeling very much.

    Thank you
    numbersmgr on MRH

  6. Amazing coincidence, I just finished decaling my gon like this last night,only my kit was packaged by West Shore Line as a kit. I put a newer scheme on mine, to reflect 40’s to 50’s paint. One of my $2.00 finds at a swap meet, complete with a pair of old Cape Line trucks. I didn’t do my floor yet, I’m glad you showed yours, it gave my some idea how to finish it. Nice work, and it makes me feel good to know I’m not the only guy with long term unfinished projects on my bench.

  7. Very nice work! Thanks for sharing the process with us…literally the product of years of work.

  8. Hi Eric

    Beautiful work, and thank you for the wealth of information – I model in a different scale but similar period and the details you describe are a huge help to me.


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