Christopher Brimley updated May 19, 2011


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  • Modeling A Fruehauf Conrail Gondola

    by Ken Edmier

    Model photos by the author Prototype photos by Tim Frederick

    Model Railroading - September 2005 - Page 20

    Gondola cars are very common, and it is hard to find a manifest freight train without one. Since many gondola designs were railroad specific, finding models that match exact prototypes can be difficult. Fortunately, Rail Yard Models is making this a little easier with a new resin gondola kit. Built in 1971 and 1972 by Fruehauf, Penn Central received 1,500 of these cars, designated as G47 class cars, numbered into two series. Cars numbered 580100-581099 were delivered with steel floors while cars numbered 564950-565449 were delivered with wood floors. The cars became part of Conrail in 1976 and many were repainted with full Conrail lettering. At some point, Conrail renumbered some of the cars assigned in general service while others were equipped with a coil cradle and reclassified to coil steel service and renumbered into the 608083-608917 series. More recently, these cars have been integrated into the CSX and Norfolk Southern fleets.

    Rail Yard Models is a relatively new manufacturer of modern resin freight cars, and a complete catalog can be found at While the word resin may scare some, this kit goes together as if it was a styrene kit. The major difference being cyanoacrylate (CA) or Cyanopoxy needs to be used instead of plastic cement for assembly. The kit includes most of the parts necessary to build a very detailed model, including the proper decals for the roadname and lettering scheme to be modeled. Brass etchings are used for the end ladders, brake rigging and load anchors, thus providing excellent prototype-specific details. Couplers are not included. Special mention must be given to the instructions, which not only include step-by-step instructions (with corresponding pictures), but also color photos of the cars in four separate paint schemes, prototype information, a full page of color detail photos, and a prototype drawing with lettering diagram for the specific roadname and paint scheme purchased. In addition, the kit can be ordered with a steel floor, wood floor, or coil cradle.

    Before starting, the decision needs to be made which car end panels are to be used since the kit comes with three different sets. Since I always try to match the model to a specific prototype car, some research was required. After searching my favorite website,, a suitable prototype photo was found that would match my October 1983 modeling era. CR 580419, which features the three-channel fabricated plate car ends, was the car I decided to model. Compared to my usually long list of added details, the added details on this car were very minor and mainly included the train air line, coupler lift bars and air release rods. I also wanted to model the dents on the side panels and finish the model with a load.

    Getting Started

    The unwanted flash was removed from the car end panels before installing on the carbody. When securing the ends, make sure the hand brake mounting tab is on the brake end (B-end) of the car. The metal top corner braces were then installed on each corner of the body.

    The train air line runs through the center of the center sill between the bolsters. Drill a #76 hole through the center of each bolster from each end before inserting a piece of .019 brass wire, 43' long. Secure the upper draft-gear box to the body. In order to be able to attach the draft-gear lid with a screw, drill a starter hole in the coupler post and enlarge to a #55 hole. Place the draft-gear lid on the box and drill from inside the body through each lid with a #80 tap. Enlarge the holes in the lids with a #52 clearance drill and mount the lids using the short mounting screws from the Kadee #78 coupler package. Install the rest of the train air line by drilling a #76 hole in each bolster, next to the coupler boxes, and trim the .019 brass wire flush with the end of each coupler box.

    Model Railroading - September 2005 - Page 21

    Turning our attention back to the underframe, install 12 cross tie caps made from .010 x .060 x 50" long styrene strip on the small cast cross members and 12 cross bearers made of .015 x .080 x 45" long styrene strip on the larger cast cross members. Make six cross bearer connectors from .010 x .060 x 36" styrene strip and mount on the larger cast cross members, centered on the center sill. Assemble the air reservoir and drill two #80 holes for the air lines. Assemble the air cylinder and drill a #80 in the backside for an air line. The control valve has one hole pre-drilled, but needs an additional three #80 holes, one next to and two below. Drill one #80 hole on the opposite side of the four drilled holes and mount an eyebolt. Install the air reservoir and control valve with the air lines holes facing the non-brake end (Aend) while the brake cylinder is installed with the clevis facing the B-end.

    Using .012 brass wire and the instructions underframe drawing, form the four air lines that run from the control valve to the air reservoir, brake cylinder, and to the train air line. Install the brake rod supports and the brake lever pivot support before installing the small and large brake levers, making sure the end of the large brake lever is placed into the clevis on the brake cylinder. Place the wire insulation over a piece of .012 brass wire to form the slack adjuster and install between the brake levers. Form two brake rods from .012 brass wire and run them from each lever to a #80 hole drilled in each bolster, making sure the brake rods are parallel to the center sill.

    Install the brake fulcrum on the B-end. The brake rod that runs from the brake cylinder to the brake fulcrum has a small piece of chain mounted on each end. Form the rod from .012 brass wire, 19' long, and mount a 12" long piece of chain on each end. Using .008 brass wire, install a small hook on the brake cylinder clevis and on the bolster end on the brake fulcrum. Secure the end of each chain over the small hooks and secure the rod to the bolster, making sure the chain has a small loop on each end. Put a little CA on the chain to make sure the loops stay downward. Install the two brake rod supports per the kits instruction, but also install a third brake rod support on the cross bearer connector over the slack adjuster (see Photo 1).

    Model Railroading - September 2005 - Page 22

    The car sides are symmetrical, and each side has two small holes and a larger hole. The small holes are used for the air release rods with only one hole actually being used on each side. Drill a #61 hole just to the right of the second rib to the right of center, centered just above the third (from the bottom) rivet head and 6" away from the rib. Drill a #77 hole just to the left of the first rib left of center, centered just above the bottom rivet head and 6" away from the rib. Drill a second #77 hole just to the right of the first rib to the right of center, centered just above the bottom rivet head and 6 " away from the rib (see Photo 4). The small hole on each side that is in front of the control valve and the air reservoir will be used for the air release rods. Using a #77 drill, drill through the small hole in front of the air reservoir to create a hole in the air reservoir support.

    Using .008 brass wire, form a small loop at one end by wrapping it around a #77 drill bit and trim away the excess wire. Feed the nonlooped end of the wire through the small hole by the air reservoir and through the air reservoir support, over the center sill, and through the eyebolt on the control valve. Secure in place with the loop vertical and tight against the body before trimming at the eyebolt. Form a second loop from .008 brass wire and feed through the small hole in front of the control valve and trim to end at the eyebolt and secure in place, again with the loop vertical and tight against the body.

    The retaining valve, from an InterMountain PS-1 boxcar detail sprue, was secured to a .030 x .030 x 4" long styrene block mounted on the small cross member in front of the control valve. Using .012 brass wire, form an air line from the retaining valve to the control valve. Trim the small tackboards, also from the PS-1 detail sprue, to 9" long x 4" high and thin before installing on the first side panel of each side. The defect tube is .035 diameter styrene rod, 9 " long, mounted on the third panel with the B-end on your left.

    Model Railroading - September 2005 - Page 23

    Body Details

    Using a #80 bit, drill the holes in the sides and ends of the body for the end ladders, grabirons, roping loops and brake platform, using the dimples as your guide. Since the body is very thin, the holes can be drilled only to a depth of .030. Before installing the hand brake, add a small hook at the bottom with .008 brass wire for brake chain. Add a second hook, made from .008 brass wire, at the end of the brake fulcrum below the hand brake. Place the ends of a chain, approximately 30" long, over the small hooks and secure in place, making sure the chain is vertical. Then, install the brake platform. A brakewheel from InterMountains PS-5277 boxcar brake detail sprue was substituted as it is a better match for the prototype brakewheel.

    Install the coupler lift bar brackets on each end. In looking at prototype pictures, the originally coupler lift bars seem to match the Detail Associates coupler lift bar (#6215) while later cars have homemade coupler lift bar assemblies, probably shop replacements. I decided to include these homemade replacement coupler lift bar assemblies on the model. Each assembly has an upper and lower piece and are connected to each other by two connector bars, all formed from .012 brass wire. Form the two assemblies and install on each end per the Figure, with the lower piece placed just underneath each coupler, approximately where the coupler trip pins are located. Then, install the corner steps.

    On the top rails of the car, there are 26 pairs of dimples for mounting the load anchor loops. Drill each dimple with a #80 drill, but only drill about .040 deep. Using a small needlenose pliers, bend each tab 90 and insert a load anchor into the pair of holes and secure in place, with the anchor loops facing the interior of the car. Then, install the flat weight (see Photos 1-6).

    Adding Dents to the Sides

    Unless you are modeling a new gondola, having bulged and dented sides are a must, especially since the prototype for my car would have been over 12 years old for my modeling era. I was not sure how to create this look until I remembered an article by Brad Pitzer that appeared in the December 2001 Model Railroader. Mr. Pitzer used a soldering iron and dabs of CA to create the bulges and dents. Not wanting to try a soldering iron on a resin body, I decided to use just the CA. Using the prototype picture as a reference, start by placing dabs, some small and some larger, of CA on each panel. Use a spare piece of styrene rod to move around the CA until the desired shape is obtained, repeating as necessary.

    Painting and Decaling

    Wash the car carefully with soap and water and dry thoroughly before priming with Primer Gray. After priming, paint the complete car with Erie Lackawanna Maroon. After the paint has dried, spray with Testors Glosscote for decaling.

    Model Railroading - September 2005 - Page 24

    The prototype pictures were used to match the lettering and a second Rail Yard Models decal set was used to better match the capacity, load and light weights and repaint date. Spare N scale boxcar door lettering was used for the small lettering above the G47 lettering (see Photo 7). Flat clear acrylic was applied to seal and protect the decals during weathering and also to provide a nice fading effect (see Photo 8).


    Start the weathering process by applying a grime wash to the complete car using the Q-tip weathering technique. I make mine with one part Railroad Tie Brown and one drop of Weathered Black to which I add two parts water. It is applied with a small brush, one section at a time. Then, use a dry Q-tip to remove the wash, waiting only about ten seconds. A Q-tip with decal setting solution can be used to remove more of the wash, but be careful around the decals (see Photo 9).

    The next step was to highlight dented panels by drybrushing on the Rust and feathering with the Q-tip. Apply very lightly and build up as desired, working in an upand-down pattern. The last weathering step is to airbrush the underbody, and dust the rest of the car with the grime wash, including the interior of the gondola (see Photo 10). When finished, let dry and seal again with Dullcote.

    Finishing Touches

    After removing the mounting peg on Kadees air hoses, drill a #78 hole where the mounting pegs were and bend each air hose to slightly curve inward. Paint the glad hands and angle cocks silver before mounting the air hoses on each end of the train air line. Paint the end loops of the air release rods white. Lightly drybrush the chain below the brakewheel and the chain on the underbody brake rigging with Rust and then highlight the glad hands and angle cocks.

    Model Railroading - September 2005 - Page 25

    After removing the trip pins from Kadees #78 couplers, airbrush the couplers with the grime wash and then drybrush with a little Rust before installing in the coupler boxes. The wheelsets were painted with the grime wash and then drybrushed with a little Rust to give each wheelset a different rust/weathering pattern. Highlight the trucks by airbrushing with the grime wash and highlight the springs with Rust before installing the trucks. Check the coupler height and adjust as necessary (see Photo 11).

    Making a Gondola Load

    While many different gondola loads are available, I decided upon the Coiled Wire load made by Chooch Enterprises (see Photo 12). (Caution: This load is on the heavy side (3.6 oz.) and when added to the empty car weight of 2.6 oz, results in a car weighing more then the NMRA standard for a car this length (4.6 oz.). The load is a tad too long for the model, so remove the partial bundles molded on one end with a razor saw. Using a Dremel tool with a router bit, reshape the cut end to better represent two end coils before hollowing out the inside of the coils on both ends. The simulated bandings were extended on both ends using .010 x .030 styrene strip. Then, the sides of the bases extending past the base of the coils were removed using a Dremel tool with a cutting disk (see Photo 13).

    Model Railroading - September 2005 - Page 26

    Airbrush the reworked ends with ATSF Silver. Fellow modeler Kurt Kruse suggested airbrushing the load with a bluishgray overspray to represent the tint that comes from the hot rolling process. The load was lightly oversprayed with a homemade bluish-gray tint made from two parts Southern Pacific Lettering Gray and one part B&M Blue. To help hide the base of the load and blend it into the interior of the gondola, paint the base of the load Eric Lackawanna Maroon. Brush the bands that hold the coils together and the center of the end coils with Engine Black before sealing the load with Dullcote (see Photos 14). The load was then attached to floor of the gondola.


    I would like to thank my friends on the Modern Freight Car Internet List for their help and suggestions, especially Chris Butts, Jim Eager and Kurt Kruse, and to Tim Frederick for the use of his prototype pictures. A special thanks to Rail Yard Models for producing an awesome kit of a unique prototype and for allowing me to finally have a prototypical gondola on my roster.

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