Shawmut coal gondolas

Perry Squier has added several coal gondolas to his HO scale Shawmut layout. Perry sent the following photos and notes.

A distinctive freight car missing from my layout were the 6001-6500 series drop bottom gondolas bought by the Pittsburg Shawmut & Northern in 1907. These 50-ton capacity, 40-foot gondolas had steel centersills and wood sides. They also had a 4-foot, 8.5-inch interior height with six drop doors. These were big cars on the Shawmut.


I have been extremely fortunate to have had a mentor and friend in the late Bill Bauer. He lived in St. Marys, Pennsylvania, where the Shawmut had their main shops and offices. When the railroad stopped operations in 1947, Bill and his brother Mike were given permission to take any paper they wanted from the offices. They pulled every correspondence, map, drawing, report, etc., covering the business history of the railroad.

Bill and Mike stored these materials in a couple hundred plastic tubs kept in a real box car on their property. I was allowed to haul tubs to my New Jersey home and organize the files.

I was given permission to copy whatever I needed. One of the documents was an equipment diagram for the 6000 series coal gondolas.


The car diagram and material list gave me everything I needed to scratch build the gondolas. In my 1923 model year, 493 of the original 500 cars were in service. I decided to build 30 of them.

I started with a Tichy flat car underframe and shortened it to 38-foot, 2.5-inches. The width was close enough to the prototype, so I left that alone. Lead strips were added to the centersill along with styrene pads for the coupler pockets. I also installed 8 X 10 wood beam end sills, which would be sanded to the correct profile later in the process.

I like the look of real wood so I decided to use Kappler Mill & Lumber Co. strip wood. I pre-cut side and end pieces to streamline the production line. These were sorted in old kit boxes.

I built a jig to hold the boards tight while I glued on the styrene hat-shaped metal side stakes.

I added a 0.040 X 0.156-inch styrene strip to the sides of the Tichy floor. This is tight to the bottom of the floorboards and represents the 15-inch steel C-channel side sills. Door operating hardware was skimmed from Tichy #3003 vertical brake wheel platform parts with an NBW added to the center. Micro- Mark rivet decals were added along the sill.

After these details, it was time to install the sides and ends. I added corner braces which I cut from Grandt Line #5002 high side gondola parts.

I added grab irons, sill steps, and brake details to finish the cars. After a primer coat, I painted the cars with Scalecoat detail black and applied custom decals from Rail Graphics.

I made coal loads by cutting foam inserts to fill the cavity and topped those off with prototype bituminous coal from the Shawmut’s #21 mine in Byrnedale, Pennsylvania.

It was worth the extra effort to create these distinctive Shawmut coal gondolas. They are a great contrast to the typical steel twin hoppers of the early 1920s and bring another level of authenticity to my layout.

Thanks again, Perry Squier, for sharing another ambitious project. If the Shawmut piques your interest, why not join the Pittsburg Shawmut & Northern Historical Society? Members share lots of information on the railroad and the region it served. More photos of Perry’s layout are featured on the site.

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3 thoughts on “Shawmut coal gondolas”

  1. The cars are very impressive and I can appreciate the effort that went into building them. But why detract from the finished product by using such mediocre MDC archbar trucks when there are such beautiful options available from Tahoe, Tichy and Bowser at reasonable cost?

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