The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading


MAY 27, 2007  

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Never Derailed...well not yet anyway

The Tale of the S&C Railroad’s Gondola



S & C Railroad’s gondola on display at the Kern County Fair where it won "Best of Show".

Written by Steven Sosa-Marcon

 It all started back in April of 2006, and the railroad got an idea to build their 1st riding car to use at the Kern County Live Steamers track in the outskirts of Bakersfield. So the Chief Engineer #2 let one of the club members know what the railroad wanted to do, and that club member, his name is Tom Osterdock, found somewhat detailed plans to build a 5 ft. 9 ľ in. wooden gondola, and that worked out just perfect. The railroad building crew got straight to work by making a materials list and went out to Lowe’s to get all of it. When that was complete, we (meaning me, Steven, and Paul Dillard), looked at the plans and got the plywood and measured all the necessary pieces to be cut out. Then, once that was complete, including the cutting and gluing plywood, we were ready to sand it all down, and then paint it. As you can see in the above picture, it looks nice with the camera flash shining on it. The approximate construction time, including sanding and painting, and trips to the hardware store took all about 2-3 weeks.
Trucks and couplers used for the gondola were purchased from Tom Bee Co. The couplers are non-operating because the railroad didn’t want to wait an extra 2 weeks adding to delivery time from Tom Bee. Anyways, the trucks were perfect for the gondola, and also installed fairly easily. For coupler pockets, the railroad went out and bought 1/8” x 1”x 2” rectangular tubing, and cut to size. These were installed fairly easily also when they got cut to size. Once the gondola came together, it was time to put it on the track and adjust the coupler height to match KCLS’s 8 ft. bench cars. Before that, the railroad bought and installed safety chains and eye loops on both ends of the car. Then of course, they bought two boat seats so people could sit in it. Currently, the gondola is being used as a conductor’s car on the main passenger train at the Kern County Live Steamers, and it’s been in service for almost a year. It just survived a major train show here in Bakersfield, and it didn’t mind hauling a few extra passengers on the seats.

This gondola was built by Paul Dillard and Steven Keeney of Steven's Railroad (now called the S & C Railroad.)

You may ask what makes this cars so stable?  It's the way I have my trucks set up. A club member at KCLS suggested I tap and die the bolster bar, and install a couple of hex-cap bolts on both sides per truck.   It works really well and keeps the car very stable both when people are riding AND when running empty. Since the trucks are from Tom Bee, they make the car flexible (KCLS's track isn't 100% straight). The gondola flies through switches without any kind of problem which usually happens on the railroad. Compared to other cars, it's the only car that DOES NOT derail on the track. Everyone in the club loves it, and are glad that I bring it out to run days, train shows, etc.

This car has never derailed on Kern County Live Steamer's track in Bakersfield.

The S & C's current project is a 5' flatcar with cushioned seats. The future projects include a GE Boxcab (0-4-0 wheel arrangement), a caboose and more.

The Kern County Live Steamer’s members LOVE the gondola, and hope for it to remain in service for a long time. They call it, “The most non-derailing, and most comfortable car on the train…” Tim Willard says, “You guys should build 5 or 6 more Gondolas!!” The S & C Railroad is a private 7 ˝” gauge railroad, and I’m the Chief Engineer # 2 of it. Remember, “It all started with a wooden gondola!!!!” To find out more information about the Kern County Live Steamers, visit our site:

Written by Steven Sosa-Marcon


the end

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