The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading

  NUMBER 151


© April 25, 2010   

 ©Discover Live Steam. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission.


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My Low Sided Gon Car
1/8th Scale Revenue Car
Available on disc 3 of the series "Backyard Train - CAD Drawings for the Live Steam Hobby"


Written by Laurence Johnson

I've been told that low sided gondolas were used to haul coal, on shortline railroads, and were hand loaded and unloaded. “My dad could shovel all the coal out in one day by himself! But then those cars were the short ones.” My car shown here is scaled for a 40’ length with steel sides and the traditional wooden floor. After WWII, they "stuck steel floors in all the cars" my old friend tells me.
The other purpose I have for this car is to haul passengers; please remember I am modeling a shortline mixed freight railroad found in the Midwest and south during the 30s and 40s. The match of these two goals makes for gons to haul passengers.

To keep the center of gravity as low as possible I used some heavy 3 inch "C" channel for the framework and I made the ends using shortened metal house floor bridging.


click any image to enlarge

I cut the metal bridging pieces to length and using tin snips and ball peen hammer to shape the cut end matching the factory end. Another part of this experiment is using liquid steel to “glue” the piece to the flat sheet steel. Time will tell if this assembly method will holdup. The ends are only four inches high which prevents the use of commercial shaped ends. The side ribs are plug welded half inch solid square stock and eighth by one inch flat stock. To get a better grip on things (pun intended) I drilled double holes in two places in the flat stock before welding. I followed the same practice when welding the ribs onto the side sheets.

When attaching the side sheets to the bottom frame and the top inside flat stock I drilled the holes in the steel sides from the inside out and leaving the burred edge up thus providing additional filler metal when plug welding that sub assembly. With all plug welds I ground them flat and followed with a wire brush wheel in my right angle grinder removing all “mill marks.”

This picture (right) shows the welding of the angle iron to the top of the side sheets. I did not 100% weld the joining edge; these welds were ground and wire brushed. I use gas shielded wire welding but stick welding (arc) can get the job done; it does require a little more welding finesse with the thin stock and cleanup. After welding I cut down 2 x 4s to fit the inside shape of the C-Channel and ran a couple of drywall screws up thru holes in the bottom of the channel holding them in place. The oak floor boards are cut from 1 1/2” thick rough sawn oak and surfaced to 3/8” thickness making them 3 x 12 scaled in size. I glued these with liquid nails and wire brads to the 2 x 4 stringers. This floor can be removed for the painting (repainting?) of the steel work.

The floor was “colored” with the torch (lower right) to give it the “coal look” and then a coat of boiled linseed oil for weather proofing. If passengers or cargo scuffs the floor up — so much the better. The finishing decals are on order and this car will roll this summer at the PSRR Club.

click any image to enlarge


Written by Laurence Johnson

These and other plans by Laurence Johnson are available on disc 3 of
the series "Backyard Train -
CAD Drawings for the Live Steam Hobby"

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