Short Gondola Puzzle

Garth Groff and Sally Sanford <mallardlodge1000@...>


Some 20 years ago when I used to take Amtrak's Cardinal to Chicago on the first leg of my annual trip to visit my parents on the Left Coast, I passed by the Armco/AK Steel furnace complex in Ashland, Kentucky. Armco had a large fleet of in-plant gondolas for handling scrap steel to be remelted. Among them were a number of shorty gondolas which always intrigued me. I managed to get photos through the glass from the moving train of two such cars. Sorry for the low quality of these photos, but the cars were quite far away, and Amtrak was not exactly fastidious about washing the Cardinal's windows. Ask me privately why this was "Train from Hell" and you will get an earful.

Armco 4432 looks to be about 34-36 feet long, 7 panels and has slight fishbelly side sills.

Armco 4461 looks like it is about 36' long, has 10 uneven panels, and straight side sills.

Finally, just east of the Armco works was a large scrap yard and baling operation belonging to Mansbach Metals. They also had similar short gondolas. I suspect that Mansbach fed baled scrap to Armco over connecting private industrial track, but have no proof of this. Certainly none of these cars were in interchange service by this time.

The Mansbach Metals car also looks to be about 36' long, has similar 10 uneven panels and straight side sills, suggesting this and Armco 4461 are related. The ends appear to be Pullman-style stampings. 

It seems possible that these cars all were in revenue service for some railroad when new (and in our era of interest). Can any of you help with previous owners and other data?

Please note that these are NOT the 29' coil gondolas built by Greenville in 1953 for the Western Pacific (WP 6401-6500). I am quite familiar with those cars, and their features don't match the Ashland cars.

Yours Aye,

Garth Groff  🦆

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