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HO scale G-22 gondola
Westerfield Railroad Scale Reproductions Elk Grove Village, Ill.
Periodic additions to Westerfield's "Golden Age" line offer prototype modelers a growing variety of accurately scaled and detailed HO scale kits representing steam-era freight cars. The Pennsylvania G-22 mill gondola should be an especially popular addition to the Westerfield line. Thousands of G-22's were a familiar sight both on the Pennsy itself and in interchange service from the World War I period through the 1950's. In addition, thousands of similar cars based on the G-22 design were built for the USRA during World War I and for other major Eastern railroads during the 1920's, and Westerfield's kit is easily modified to represent these cars. A part from prototype appeal, the relatively simple construction of the model makes this kit an attractive choice for less experienced modelers who may want to give Westerfield's "plastic craftsman-type" kits a try.
A pace-setting design, Pennsy's G-22 gondola was a large and heavy car for its day, built entirely of steel at a time when composite construction was still common practice. That the G-22's were strongly built was demonstrated by their longevity; most survived through the 1940's, and more than 400 were still on the Pennsy roster after a half century of revenue service. The G-22's, though advanced in design, were in no sense experimental, as the Pennsy's initial order was for four thousand cars to be delivered in 1915. Thousands more followed in 1916, and several hundred drop-end versions of class G-22a were added to the Pennsy roster a year later. When built, the G-22's (though not the G-22a-class cars) had steel floors with four transverse drop-bottom doors. These doors were later removed and the openings plated over so that by the late 1930's, only a handful of G-22's remained in their original form (Westerfield's kit represents a G-22 as rebuilt without the drop-bottom doors).
A builder's photo of G-22 775470 appeared in the 1919 CAR BUILDER'S DICTIONARY (reprinted in Newton Gregg's TRAIN SHED CYCLOPEDIA No. 35. A G-22b-class container car is illustrated in CAR BUILDER's CYCLOPEDIAS of the 1930's, as well as in Wayner's book, THE CARS OF THE PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD.
When the government took over the nation's faltering rail system during World War I, the USRA freight car committee, obviously impressed with the G-22 design, adopted the drop-end version with only minor modifications as the USRA standard 70-ton mill gondola. Pressed Steel Car Co. and Standard Steel Car Co. were instructed to build 4,500 of these "government issue" gondolas. Pennsy itself received 2,500 of the class G-25 cars while the rest were assigned to the Baltimore and Ohio, Reading, and New York Central System. After the war ended, both the B&O and the Reading liked their USRA mill gons well enough to order many additional cars of similar design.
Turning from the prototype to the model, the major parts of Westerfield's kit are molded in metal-filled polyester. These are assembled to form the carbody, to which various metal and plastic detail parts are then added. Construction of the car is relatively uncomplicated and goes quickly, aided by Westerfield's unusually comprehensive and detailed instruction sheet. Careful work and precise fitting are essential, however, as the parts are not designed to "fall together" in correct alignment as they are in many styrene plastic kits. Also, the castings are brittle and easily damaged-in fact, Westerfield now places a prominent warning notice about this hazard inside the top of every kit's box - I even encountered some breakage problems in spite of handling the parts very carefully.
To start with, a piece was broken out of one center sill flange when I first opened the kit. By the time I had assembled and detailed the floor, several other pieces of flange had parted company with the center sill, so I filed off what was left of the flanges and replaced them with strips of 1"x6" styrene. I also had problems with the towing staples cast onto the car sides, two of which broke off under light finger pressure when I was cleaning up the edges of the side castings with a file. Accordingly, I removed the two remaining ones and replaced all four with .020 brass wire, fitted in No. 76 holes drilled next to the attaching bolts.
My conversations with other modelers indicate that I'm not alone in experiencing such difficulties. Al W esterfield's insistence on maintaining correctly scaled dimensions and cross sections is admirable in principle, but in some instances it invites broken parts and needless frustration. A slightly overscale center sill flange, for instance, is clearly preferable to a broken one, especially on a part that isn't highly visible when the finished model is on the track. I believe most modelers would welcome some compromises in fidelity to scale where necessary to ensure that the model's details will survive normal handling during construction and operation, and hope Al will take this into consideration in designing future kits.
Aside from these problems, the G-22 gondola goes together easily and continues the high standards established by previous Westerfield kits for precise detailing and prototype fidelity. In comparing the kit with prototype photos I discovered one minor discrepancy, however. Like most other Pennsy cars of their era, the G-22's had KD air brake equipment, with the reservoir separate from the cylinder, while the kit provides Cal Scale KC type brake gear. This is easily remedied by cutting the Cal Scale cylinder/reservoir apart with a razor blade, mounting the cylinder next to the center sill, and locating the reservoir and triple valve next to the side sill as shown in the model photo. It should also be noted that the original KD brake equipment was gradually replaced with the AB-type beginning in the 1930's, with most cars converted to AB brakes by the early 1950's. Early in the history of the G-22's, the retainer valves were also moved from the car end to the left side of the car, close to the B(brakewheel) end.
Since mill gondolas lead a hard life and I wanted my model to represent a car that had seen thirty years or so of service, I gave some thought to achieving a "well used" look. Making actual dents in the brittle side and end castings was obviously out of the question, but after some experimenting I found that I could simulate dents by applying judiciously shaped and located blobs of the thick ACC type adhesive that's intended for use with wood and other porous materials. When these ACC bumps were dry, I filled the slight ridges around their edges with a thick application of primer so that, after light sanding, they blended into the sides and ends, closely resembling real dents in appearance. I then added some dents and gouges in the side posts and top flanges with a file, and the net result was a car that appeared appropriately battered and bent.
Except for the model photos, Westerfield's instruction sheet omits information about the numbering of the G-22's and Pennsy's method of numbering freight cars was confusing, especially for modelers with limited reference material. Fortunately, Pennsy entries in the OFFICIAL FREIGHT CAR REGISTER listed car classes as well as numbers, but many modelers don't have access to old issues of the REGISTER. My January 1948 REGISTER shows the following number series for G-22's, and these probably didn't change much over the years:
Numbers assigned to the G-22a drop-end cars were:
The gons converted to class G-22b container cars were renumbered 353000-353277 (200,000-lb. capacity cars) and 353278-353311 (190,000-lb. capacity cars).
Excellent decals are furnished with the Westerfield kit, with prototypically correct lettering that's sharply printed in dense, opaque white. Data is included for both the standard G-22 and the 100-ton G-22b container car, although not for the journal repacking and air brake servicing data which was always stenciled on the prototype cars.
A warning is in order about applying car numbers: the number sequence on the decal sheet for the sides is not the same as that for the ends. I didn't notice this until after I had lettered the sides, and found myself applying the small end numbers one character at a time. Lettering the car would be easier if the side and end numbers on the decal sheet matched, and easier still if they corresponded to the number series used on the prototype cars.
In spite of the minor difficulties I encountered in assembling and finishing Westerfield's gondola kit, I enjoyed building it and was very pleased with the realistic appearance of the finished model, so I decided to try converting a second kit into a USRA type drop-end car. The Baltimore and Ohio 0-27 gondola model shown in the photos is the result. The major modification to the kit involved making new ends, end sills and corner posts from styrene sheet and strip stock, with rivet detail on the ends impressed on a thin metal overlay. The side posts were filed straight, eliminating the Pennsy-style tapered configuration, and some details such as brake gear and tack boards were relocated. The following prototype data regarding the USRA mill gondolas and their postwar progeny is offered for the benefit of modelers who may wish to attempt a similar conversion.
Drawings for the USRA standard 70-ton mill gondola, showing the revisions made to the Pennsy G-22 design, are included in TRAIN SHED CYCLOPEDIA No. 9. The cars built under government contracts were assigned as follows:
Baltimore & Ohio 500 cars
New York Central 500 cars
Pennsylvania 2500 cars
Philadelphia & Reading 500 cars
Pittsburgh, McKeesport & Youghiogheny (3) 500 cars
1. Renumbered 707500-707799 in 1937.
2. Later renumbered 825387-825436.
3. A subsidiary of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, part of the New York Central system.
(The information above is adapted from James E. Lane, "USRA Freight Cars...," RAILROAD HISTORY No. 128 [Spring, 1973].)
After the railroads were returned to private ownership, the Baltimore & Ohio began acquiring additional gondolas based on the USRA design. The first of these, designated class 0-27, were almost carbon copies of their wartime predecessors. Later cars, with strengthened ends and ARA trucks instead of the Andrews type, were in sub-class 0-27a. Thsse postwar B&O cars, numbered 250500-256499, eventually totalled 6,500. There's a builder's photo of 0-27 251569 in the 1925 CAR BUILDERS' CYCLOPEDIA (reprinted in TRAIN SHED CYCLOPEDIA No. 62), and a photo and drawing of 0-27a 254000 appears in the 1931 CYCLOPEDIA (reprinted in TRAIN SHED CYCLOPEDIA No. 46). The Reading, too, purchased an additional 4,000 cars, numbered 20000-21999 and 23500-25499, which, except for their corrugated steel drop ends, were of USRA design. --
Richard H . H endrickson
Pennsylvania RR P-70 coach
E. Setauket ,NY
Editor's Note: We deeply regret reporting that Bruce Giles and Charlie Santoro of Alco Models have recently left the model railroad business they began 15 years ago. Alco Models' P-70 may still be found although quantities may be limited - we'll advise you if the availability of the model resumes.
My sample contained all necessary parts for construction, including the special Pennsy trucks and the well-known X2F couplers. The parts in the kit were all of good to excellent quality, with the details on the sides and roof matching the details in the above-mentioned photos very closely. The underbody has all of the details you'd expect to find under a coach of this vintage. The underbody parts aren't detailed as precisely as the sides, but since they're buried under the car, the fidelity isn't as critical. The roof parts, sides and end parts are prepainted in the appropriate tuscan red and black, the sides were lettered and pin striped in simulated gold leaf. There were no car numbers applied, but a set of gold decals were included. I found that the clarity of the decals weren't up to the quality of the factory-applied lettering, so you may opt for lettering from another source.
The instructions consist of one 8 1/2" x 11" sheet, printed on both sides. One side has the written instructions on it, while the other provides an exploded view of the kit and other graphic information about the assembly. It's my opinion that the instructions weren't as clear as some that have appeared in other kits of this nature, and additional information about the prototype and about the assembly would have been appreciated. Information on proper numbering of the car, for example, was missing from the instructions. The photos of coach 3400 in John White's book provided the necessary reference material.
In assembling this model, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the relationship of the parts by "dry fitting" the sides, ends, floor and roof. In assembling my model, I deviated slightly from the sequence shown in the instructions. The coupler pockets are integrally molded with the truck framework, and the instructions call for cutting the pockets from the truck after it's assembled. Removal before assembly is easier and less likely to result in a broken truck, but the modeler must make certain that the frame is assembled with the mounting pads for the sideframes facing downward.
The instructions suggest beginning the side assembly with the window installation. Since some touch-up of the paint may be required after assembly, and since you'll probably wish to flat-finish the car to hide the number decals, the window assembly should be done after the treatment is applied and just prior to affixing the roof. I'd suggest cutting the vestibule windows from the main window assemblies and installing them as separate units.
Most of the underbody parts are two-piece moldings, and will require filing on the mating surfaces for a good, tight fit. After these parts were assembled, it was necessary to file some of the joints to better approximate the cylindrical surfaces. This was probably the most time-consuming part of the whole assembly process.
The roof presented the biggest challenge in the assembly. It consists of three major sections and a dozen small vents to be added to the finished roof. The main roof section has openings for two clerestory sections, to be added by the modeler. Careful installation of these sections is necessary to achieve a smooth, flat roof profile. The main roof had a prominent sag in the clerestory section, a common occurance in a molded roof of this type. Again deviating from the instructions, which suggest using a tube type cement, I attached the upper portions of the clerestory inserts to the roof using a strong, fast-setting cement. The cement was applied from the center and gradually extended outward to the ends of the roof. The lower joints were handled in a similar fashion, with occasional checks to ensure that the lower sections of the roof remained straight.
As an overall assessment of this kit, the Alco P-70 has a high degree of prototype accuracy. Despite the minor short comings of the decals and instructions, problems that most modelers can easily overcome, it's a car that can be easily built by any modeler with experience in multi-piece plastic kits. For the Pennsy fan, Alco's P-70 is a must. --
Ken W. Breher