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Home > Rolling Stock > Steel Coil Gondola Conversion

Steel Coil Gondola Conversion

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This is a one night project that will add a bit of character to your fleet of gondolas. I started out with an undecorated Athearn blue box 50' gondola and added a few details to convert the car for steel coil service.

Prototype - In the early steel days gondolas were often converted to steel coil service. A steel coil is a long thin sheet of metal rolled into a spool. Coil steel can be easily dented or damaged. A special carriage or rack was installed inside a gondola to prevent damage to the coil from shifting during transport. The rack essentially prevented damage to the steel coil as it was delivered.

Once a rack for steel coil was installed in a gondola, it generally became a dedicated steel carrying car. A basic wooden frame is sufficient to secure a heavy steel coil. We will take a quick look at how to convert a regular gondola into a steel coil car by installing a wooden frame to secure a load.

Parts - The parts needed can be obtained from Modeler's Choice. You will need at least one item, Coil Cradles and if you want to convert the steel floor of your car over to a wood floor order the wood deck.

Parts and Supplies

Athearn -
50' Gondola (Blue Box Kit)

Modeler's Choice -
Wood Decks (#501)
Wood Coil Cradles (#551)

Walthers -
Goo Adhesive

White or Wood Glue

Other Details
Detail Associates -
Stirrup Steps

Intermountain -
36" Wheels

Kadee -
#5 Couplers

(Click for larger image)

Installation - This is a two part conversion if you decide to install a wooden floor along with the wooden cradles. Before installing the floor I painted the inside of the gondola a rust brown color, such as Polly Scale Rail Brown. I did not want any paint to get on the new floor so I painted the inside of the gondola before installing the floor.

Floor - Place dabs of Goo on the floor of your gondola (inside the gondola). You do not need full coverage, I placed a dab of glue in half of the square patterns on the floor of the gondola. We do not want any glue visible when we press the floor in place, use the Goo sparingly. While the glue is still wet, insert the wood deck and press it firmly with your fingers. You should not see any glue leak out of the sides. I took a few metal weights and placed them inside the car while the glue cured (overnight).

(Click for larger image)

The picture above shows the completed car with a sample deck laying next to it. The precision cutting literally allows us a drop in perfect fit. I did not have to trim or sand the deck at all, it was very simple to install. You will notice a bit of warping in the photo, this was due to the heat of the photographic lamp used to take the picture. When I purchased the decks, they were perfectly flat and a breeze to drop in and install.

Coil Cradle - Now, use white glue to cement the cradles to the wood deck. I made a template to ensure the cradle was centered inside the car and the appropriate distance from the car end. You will notice that the cradles are near the ends of the car. This was done on purpose because on the prototype cars we want the weight of the steel coil to be near the wheels (trucks) of the freight car. They did not put coils in the center of gondolas fearing the weight would be too much for the freight car to handle. Generally you will want to put 2 or 4 steel coils in the car when loaded. I also placed metal weights on the cradles while they dried (overnight).

This was a quick and easy project that instantly converted a regular service gondola into a steel coil car. We are now ready to weather the car and build a coil load for our car to transport.

- Mark N. Goedert


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