Re: USRA composite gondolas (long, but illuminating)

Ray Breyer

Richard Hendrickson wrote:
No good news here, Mark. Almost all of the USRA
composite gondolas were rebuilt or scrapped by
the end of WW II. Minneapolis & St. Louis had
me refurbished ex-L&N cars, some of which lasted
into the early '50s, but only one of those was
still listed in the 1/53 ORER. I can't think of
any other RRs that still had them in revenue
John Hile wrote:
At one point I tried to find unmodified (or least
modified) 40' USRA cars still listed in the 1/53
ORER with composite sides.  Below are my notes...
ACL 99300-99443, 141 cars
GM&O 12200-12374 most w/solid floors, 170 cars
L&N 73000-74999, 19 cars
SLSF 85000-85999 solid floors?, 358 cars
Additions and/or corrections are welcome.

Hi everyone,

With all of the work that people have put into tracking down various odd, obscure, and single-road freight cars with limited appeal (to the "great unwashed", anyway) I'm frankly stunned that no one's bothered to actually study the USRA composite gons AND their clones, to come up with anything approaching a definitive study.

Since no one's seemed to bother, I've done so. Starting off with the (flawed) list John Nehrich has online, I dug through my hundreds of car diagram book scans, thousands of freight car photos, and assorted other primary source freight car material (most railroad-generated) I now have a list of all of the USRA GS gons in service, along with all of their CLOSE clones (those cars that looked VERY close to the original USRA design, especially from the sides. They MUST have the blank center panel and the same lower edge to be included in my list). I tried to track down all of the original number series, their build dates, and if & when they were rebuilt. My numbers tracked any cars that were rebuilt from their original configuration, but which kept the original side bracing (including steel rebuilds or cars with the wood removed for pulp or pipe service). I then tracked all of these car number series through the 1930, 1945, 1950, 1955 and 1959 ORERs.

My number of originally-built cars and clones is problematic, since this is only a quick study (for now). It stands as 47,979 cars and IS an incorrect number. Milwaukee and Wabash cars are especially giving me fits, and more research is required.

However, my ORER quantities, based on the car series that I've been able to trace, are much more accurate. For those that are interested, here's the list of all of the surviving cars in 1959, which should prove illuminating:

ACL 90250-90499, 272 cars, original USRA rebuilt to steel WITH original sides.
ACL 99300-99443, 8 cars, all-original cars, ex-AB&C.
C of G 10861-10935, 66 cars, clone rebuilds with open sides for pulp.
C&IM 15000-15001, 2 cars, steel clone rebuilds WITH original sides for container service.
G&F 6001-6030, 13 cars, steel rebuild clones WITH original sides.
GM&O 12000-12374, 46 cars, wood-sided clones, ex-M&O.
GM&O 44000-44249, 246 cars, all-original cars, ex-Alton.
IC 82720-84997, 25 cars, all-original cars, mix of IC USRA cars and ex-VS&P clones.
MILW 1-1000, 1000 cars, clones rebuilt without wood sides for pulp and pipe service.
MILW 84000-90949, 4043 cars, wood-sided clones.
MP 28900-29999, 7 cars, original USRA rebuilt with side doors replacing 3 panels per side.
SLSF 50000-50398, 62 cars, wood-sided clones.
SLSF 50399-53346, 764 cars, wood-sided clones (some MAY be steel rebuilds, but not according to the ORERs)
SLSF 85000-85999, 129 cars, all-original USRA cars.
Wabash 13000-13249, 243 cars, LIKELY clones, WITH composite sides.

This all adds up to a grand total of 6,926 cars that at least look like USRA gons running after the steam era. 5573 of these still have wood sides, 287 have steel replacement sides but retained the diagonal bracing of the original cars, and 1066 cars have open sides with all of the original bracing intact. 687 of these cars are original USRA-built cars, and 408 of these are nominally retain their as-built configuration (some, but not all, likely have replacement ends)

So good news! If you like USRA composite gons, but model some time after WWII, start buying them in large lots, especially if you're a Milwaukee or Frisco modeler. Get the Intermountain versions though, as you'll sometimes have to leave the sides off or replace them with steel.

Now I need to clean up these numbers, and then figure out what to do with this data. Good thing Bob's Photos will be nearby in a couple of weeks.

Ray Breyer
Elgin, IL

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