C&NW gondola upgrades

About the time John Golden’s gondola post appeared, Clark Propst was finishing up a gondola for his fleet. Here’s Clark with notes and photos.

I got this C&NW Accurail gondola kit decorated by 5th Avenue Car Shops in a trade a few years ago and finally decided to assemble it. After a quick look around, it appeared to match the C&NW prototype close enough.

I remembered an article on these gondolas in an old Mainline Modeler magazine. I compared photos of the number series chosen by Jim Singer of 5th Avenue Car Shops. There were some differences between the real cars and model. The real cars had ladders on the ends and one less grab on the right side to match the ladder rung spacing. The chosen number series had a built date of 1-49, which puts them in the middle of the time I model 1948-1950.

I had a dilemma. Do I make changes knowing I couldn’t match the paint on a car that wouldn’t get much weathering, or do I leave it alone? I chose the former thinking I could come ‘close enough’ with my touchup. I proceeded to carve off the molded-on grabs. On the ends, I used a small round file to try to clean things up. I wasn’t too particular as the ladders would cover the area. I used Branchline boxcar end ladders from my extra ladder drawer because they are narrower than most ladders and the spacing was close enough.

The prototypes were equipped with Miner hand brakes. I didn’t have a matching gear housing so I left the Ajax gear housing that was molded on the end and glued on a Kadee Miner hand brake wheel. I also added a retainer valve from a leftover Ribside Cars sprue, mainly because it was a color match. A short piece of thin wire from my scrap box was installed for the retainer line.

On the sides, I matched the right end grab iron spacing to the end ladder rungs and placed Tichy grabs in holes drilled with a #78 bit. The route card placard was near the frame in the far-left panel. 5th Avenue placed stenciling there that should have been above the board. I glued a scrap bit of styrene over the lettering. I brushed on Polly S Oxide Red from my stash as it was a close enough match. I added a piece of Champ decal stripe as a route car and a few Speedwitch Media chalk marks to give the model a little character.

After taking these initial photos, I realized the bottom right end grab should have had a drop on the left end. Geez, I had even planned to install a proper grab there, too. Of course, I couldn’t let that pass so this detail was upgraded for the final photo.

Branchline Barber S-2 trucks with Intermountain wheels sets were installed, along with Kadee #153 couplers. Detail Associates uncoupling levers were added using an eye bolt to secure them. Weathering was mostly done to the inside of the gondola. Pan Pastel black, dark gray, and rust colors were used on the inside. Raw umber and dark gray were applied along the lower sides, for wheel slash on the ends, and on the underframe components. I did include some air piping between brake components. This model’s far from prefect but close enough for my layout.

Clark Propst
Mason City Iowa


Many thanks to Clark Propst for sharing techniques to upgrade a common plastic gondola kit. Clark shows how a few small details can enhance a model and move it toward reflecting a prototype.

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3 thoughts on “C&NW gondola upgrades

  1. Great looking model, Clark. There is definitely a lack of CNW gons and hoppers in the HO scale world. It’s a nice change of pace.

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