This will be a somewhat brief description of how I built three two axle gondolas for my Fall River Line Railroad. The basis for this project was three pair of cast metal side frames that were made by the Red Ball Company many years ago for some two axle car kits. That is all the parts that I had from Red Ball and these had lain in my spare parts drawer for many years. What got me started was a photo taken in Chicago at the Illinois Central Burnside Shops.

(Click on any image to get a larger version)

The original photo encompassed the better part of a huge roundhouse on the premises. But off to the side in the doorway of one of the stalls was a two axle gon which seemed to be laden with some sort of ashes or gunk from inside the roundhouse. I zoomed into the gondola and printed it out so I could study it. The IC gon seems to be a side dumping car of sorts as the sides of the car seem to hinge outwards from the top. My cars would not.

Remembering the Red Ball side frames in the drawer I started to draw up a rough plan to build three similar cars. The side frames having a nice amount of detail also had a lot of casting flash that needed to be removed. Similar side frames are available through Bittercreek Models item T-77. Thanks to Dave Emery who provided this information through The Railroad Line Forum.

To remove the flash I used one of many dental tools I have accumulated over the years, mostly from “The Tool Man” at shows and conventions. This particular tool is hooked with a beveled cutting edge the length of the hook. Be careful it has a sharp point and loves flesh.

Next was to space the two side frames apart the correct distance to hold two axles. In this case I used Kadee 33" wheel sets which measure 1.013". I reamed out the four journals with my reaming tool so that had to be taken into account. The spacer is a .120" thick by .500" styrene. Be sure that the journals align square to each other and the axles float freely. Then epoxy the assembly together with the axles in place.

Next I built a styrene box based on a truss design used many railroads for coal jimmies during the 1800's. I consulted my book, Coal Cars: The First Three Hundred Years by Karig. The bottom runners of the box are strips of .120" x .125" styrene cut to 16' 3" length which are to lay atop the side frames. The rest of the framing is 6" x 6" styrene all of which was roughed up to give a wood grain effect. Scribed sheets of styrene were used to fill in side, end and floor of the gondola body. Design your box to fit your likes.

The gondola body measures 16' x 7'. Use of a spacer insured that vertical members were equally spaced and straight.

When the box is glued square and dry drill holes for all the grabs NBW detail.

Now it is about time to glue the box to the frame with epoxy. When the glue has set overnight you may want to fit couplers to the underside of the box. Space between rail top and box bottom measured 0.478" on my cars. Then I add the details for the ‘B’ end of the car. Add some weight under the car. My completed cars weigh out at 1.30 oz. each.

Actually the best time to apply the stirrup steps is after the box is glued on the side frames. I used A-Line stirrups of which one side is drilled into the side frame and the other is drilled into the bottom styrene member of the box. UV glue was used to attach them. Now they are ready for paint. In this image you can see the weight that was added. One piece of lead fit up against the floor and above the axles and a second piece of lead was cut to fit between the axles but not seen when the car is sitting on the track.

My first encounter with this glue was with my good friend and modeler, my dentist. About a year and a half ago my dentist was replacing a worn out crown in my head. He came out with this tube of glue, put a dab on the inside of the new crown and slipped it on the abutment which was screwed into my skull. Then he got a purple light and shined it on the crown, scrapped of the excess and sent me on my way. I inquired as to this new method of bonding teeth and he explained that it was called UV, short for ultraviolet, adhesive. That the adhesive would not set until subjected to UV light. Pretty neat! It wasn’t but several months later that a fellow modeler friend of mine, Tom, came by and gave me a small package of a substance he called UV glue. “Ah ha”, I exclaimed, “I have had first hand acquaintance with the stuff.” He said that he had two viles of the stuff and one was for me to experiment with, and to let him know how it works. It didn’t take me long to find occasions to use it; and it works quite well.

I was able to glue the broken bat handle back on to the on/off switch on our vacuum cleaner. Now I have never had much luck with ACC, but the UV worked on a variety of materials, castings to styrene, wood to metal, attaching wire grabs and stirrups. I love the stuff. It is like epoxy except that there is no mixing and it sets up in seconds with the UV light. The glue I have has a vile of glue with a stopper on one end and on the opposite end is a UV light controlled by a push button. Very handy. My next problem was where could I find more of this great stuff when this one ran out. Another model builder told me to try Bed Bath and Beyond, they have everything. And he was right because I found it right up front at the check out counter.

The finished cars are “not for interchange” cars and assigned for hauling scrap, ashes, or garbage.


I look forward to hearing from any of you who might have found an interest in my build. Please use the link provided below and drop me an email and let me know what you think of this build and check below for our build of a Ambroid ACL Phosphate car and links to other Fall River Line related sites.

Additional builds and articles by Ol' Harold:

Building the ACL Phosphate car from an Ambroid kit

When is a Clamp NOT a Clamp

To see additional images of the Fall River Line check out the Fall River Line Photo Gallery

To see some of the other equipment on our roster check out the Fall River Line Equipment Roster Photo Gallery

We have a few old videos originally shot on film but now converted to Digital

For a visual tour of the FRL Take a Ride on the Fall River Line

Follow a FRL Freight from LaCroix up to New Hope FRL Freight train

For additional information about this
or other Ol, Harold projects drop
me a line at: Ol' Harold at Fall River Line