The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Comparison: Three OO Scale Steel Gondola Cars

Up today we have the three American OO steel gondola cars you are most likely to encounter, models by produced by Graceline (and later Transportation Models), Eastern, and Schorr.  All are unique and easy to identify.

First up we have the stack of three cars. The Eastern kit (top) was introduced in 1948. This car is outwardly similar, from the side, to the Graceline car (middle), but there are some very easy to spot differences. First off the Eastern car has a cast frame that says “Eastern” right on it, but beyond that the Eastern car is open top with heavy wooden parts in the sides. In contrast the Graceline car is built around a solid block of wood and has to be assembled with a load. Looking at the sides themselves too, Graceline used a material for their sides that is thinner than Eastern, the rivet patterns are different, and most importantly the Eastern sides are printed while Graceline had to be painted and decaled.

Then on the bottom of the stack is the Schorr car. It is completely different in terms of materials as it is brass and was imported from Japan. A beautiful model, it is light and will normally be found on a set of their great trucks.

Looking at them from the top you can see the differing effects of each car more clearly. The Eastern car has the heavy sides, the Graceline car has the very thin looking sides with a load, and the Schorr car is the best scaled of the bunch.

The last photo is from the “B” end. The ends are all quite different. I should note that the Eastern car in these photos has had Scale-Craft hopper ladders applied to it; the standard Eastern ladder was cast. If there is a reliable way to tell apart Graceline and Transportation models versions of this car, I am not aware of it, as Transportation Models recycled old Graceline parts in their kits and the other parts are similar. I could also note that Temple Nieter made a nice copy, in metal, of the Graceline cardboard car ends. These seem to be among his more common parts, and I have the mold he used to make the part.

All three cars run well and look good! As to the Graceline car, it was built by William Gilbert who at the time was Engineer of Track for the RF&P. They "still had two of these cars in company service to haul crossties from the treating plant .... That is why I had to paint and letter it when I found one."

To close, there were two more makers of steel gondola cars in OO, both pre-war and very rarely seen. The very first on the market was by Hoffman’s, and an example of this kit may be seen here. Then we get to what has to be one of the rarest Nason items, their steel gondola, the catalog photo of which may be seen here.  Also, Picard made a simple body kit for a steel gondola. Finally, I should note Hawk made a wood gondola of similar proportions, which may be seen in this article. 

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