Gondola builds

PRR GRa 1913 builder image from the Westerfield Models AC&F collection

About a year ago, a few Pre-Depression Era railroad modelers embarked on a group kit build. We chose a Pennsylvania Railroad GRa class composite gondola kit, but we opened the door for other gondola models that fit the era. It’s time to share the progress!

René LaVoise wrapped up his HO scale Westerfield Models kit # 4502 build first. Here are his progress notes.

Car body assembly

Be very careful evening up the length of the sides and the top and bottom floor pieces. I apparently made the sides slightly shorter than the floors. I had to remove more material from the ends of the floor castings.

I dry fit the floors into place after assembling the sides and ends. Both floors dropped into place easily, but I must have missed something. When I installed the floors and aligned the edge of the bolsters to the bottom of the side sills, the floor bulged in the middle. The bow is slight but noticeable. I hope a load will hide that.

The instructions call for first putting the top (inside) floor in place by only gluing it onto the ends. Do not glue to the sides at this time. Then you put the bottom floor in place by gluing it to the underside of the top floor. I used Walther’s Goo and left overnight to dry. 

The next morning, I noticed the bolster ends were not flush with the side sill. I tried to push the bolsters flush with side sill and applied CA to fix the bottom floor to the sides and ends. When I flipped the car over to CA the top floor to the sides, I noticed the upward bow. I may have held something out of alignment when I glued the bottom floor in place. Or maybe the Goo warped the floor and I hadn’t noticed. If I had to do it over, I would glue the top and bottom floors together first, allow the joint to dry, then drop it into place. 

Underframe detail

Most of the underframe details could’ve been left off. Additional weight can be added as the fish belly side sills will hide it.

Stake pocket covers

I was lucky to find plenty of extra stake pocket covers on the parts sheet. I launched a couple into orbit while installing these small parts. I ended up using styrene strip for several stake pocket covers. I found the styrene was easier to fabricate and install. 

End sill details

The chains were tricky to install. Use care in prepping the resin hook. I used a #79 bit to drill the eye of the hook before sanding and removing it from the casting sheet. It’s much easier to drill small parts while they remain connected to the parts sheet or sprue.

If I were building this model again, I would either CA or solder the pair of Yarmouth Model Works Carmer uncoupling lever parts together before threading them over the eyebolt for the chain and hook. I spent a lot of time fiddling with the small parts to orient them correctly, hold in place, slip the eyebolt into the end sill hole, and hit with a dab of CA.

Final details

I opted not to use the kit-provided flat brass to fabricate the sill steps. I went old school and bent them from staples. I could’ve used A-Line products but the staples were within reach. I also did not use the cast resin hand brake wheel, but opted for an old white metal Kadee part I had on hand.

Once everything was installed, I washed the model. After it had dried, I applied a primer coat. A freight car color was applied after the primer was dry. A clear gloss coat was sprayed onto the model before decaling.

Thank you, René, for sharing your gondola modeling notes and photos.

I built the same kit and had a warped inside floor. I used the hot water method to flatten the casting. I set the casting on a flat pan and poured near-boiling water into the pan until the casting was submerged. I waited a minute or two before removing the casting to a flat surface and placing a flat bottom plate on top of it. I used this method twice to remove the warp. As a note, the floor casting is impregnated with lead to add weight to the model. Use care when working with lead and wash your hands afterwards.

I also had trouble with the stake pocked covers. I used strip styrene for many of the covers, using René’s suggestion. I installed Yarmouth Model Works sill steps, Accurail scale size couplers, and Bowser arch bar trucks on the model. My model is not yet painted. I’m also waiting until after the model is painted to install the Carmer uncoupling levers.

That covers the project kit. A few different gondola models were also built by group members. Those will be featured soon. A group project kit build can be rewarding for all involved. Sharing photos and trading techniques can help everyone move their projects forward. If you and a few of your modeling friends all have the same kit in the stash, you can start a group build.

If you have several Pennsylvania Railroad projects to tackle, you may want to join the PRR Projects Group on Groups.io. They cover a couple of different Pennsy projects each year and their archives are great resources for past projects. The modeling techniques can be applied to any project.

RPM updates

A few Railroad Prototype Modeler (RPM) events are ahead. Check the RPM Calendar for dates and links to the events. The New England/Northeast RPM in Springfield, MA, is coming up quickly and sure to be a great time.

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