2677 - Gondola Car
2677 – Gondola Car

The Lionel 2677 – Gondola Car from 1939-41. Features include tinplate construction, tinplate trucks with journals, link couplers, metal wheels and axles. This Lionel Car is a fun example of pre war tin model railroading. It is numbered #2677 and was made between 1939 & 1941.

What is a gondola car?

In US railroad terminology, a gondola is an open-topped rail vehicle used for transporting loose bulk materials. Because of their low side walls gondolas are also suitable for the carriage of such high-density cargos. Such as steel plates or coils, or of bulky items such as prefabricated sections of rail track.

Before the opening of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), considerable amounts of coal were carried via the Potomac River. Since timber was an abundant resource, flat boats, called “gondolas” (a spoof on Venetian rowing boats), were constructed to navigate the “black diamonds” down river to markets around Washington, DC. There, both the boat and cargo were sold and the boatmen returned home by foot. The railroad cars first employed in the haulage of coal were thus named after these shallow-draft boats called “gondola cars”.

Early gondola cars typically had low sides. Their contents had to be shoveled out by hand, and they took a long time to unload. In 1905, the Ralston Steel Car Company patented a flat bottom gondola with lever operated chutes that allowed the gondola to be unloaded automatically from the bottom. The chutes would direct the contents of the gondola to the sides. This coincided with the switch from wood to steel freight cars, as the pulling force of locomotives tended to crush the older wood cars.