Monday, March 15, 2021

NH GA-4 60508 with Buoy Load

New Haven GA-4 class gondola 60508 with a buoy load.

I've seen another picture of this car load from another angle. Unfortunately, this one isn't in great shape, but it's an interesting load. The other photo that I've seen is much better quality, but from the other end and the placard to the left of the reporting marks is not legible in that photo. It says:


Note the tie-downs welded on the car sides. These aren't standard on New Haven gondolas and I am unaware how many received them. It would appear these cars were modified for special service, and thus the placard. There is a second gondola (60289) visible in this photo, and appears a third is to its left in the other photo I've seen. I cannot tell if they carry the same load, nor whether the tie downs are present on those cars as well.

Cars assigned to special service like this were noted in Transportation Department Forms and supplements. For example, here are a couple of pages from TD-12-G from December 15, 1956:

Unfortunately, I don't have one for this specific period around July '52 (when the car was reweighed) to see specifically what assignment it had. I believe that one or more of the gondolas had the tie-downs installed for servicing this particular load/company, which is why they were stenciled to be returned when empty.

New Haven Low Side Coal Cars (Gondolas)

In my era, the New Haven had three classes of gondolas designated in internal documents as Low Side Coal Cars (hoppers being High Side Coal Cars), L.S. Coal Cars, Coal Cars, Coal (Gondola), or simply gondolas. The primary designation appears to be Low Side Coal Car.

58000-58499 (Class GA-2)
41' 40-ton steel drop door gondolas built 1929 by New Haven.
Starting 1949-1953 the drop doors were welded shut/removed.
AB Brakes replaced KD brakes 1948.
Ajax power handbrakes installed 1948.
Most remaining sold/rebuilt/leased in 1955-56 and renumbered into the 59000-59249 series.

60000-60499 (Class GA-3)
43' 50-ton steel drop door gondolas built 1929-30 at New Haven.
1949(?)-1953 the drop doors were welded shut/removed.
AB Brakes replaced KD brakes 1947.
Ajax power handbrakes installed 1948.
Most remaining sold/rebuilt/leased in 1955 and renumbered to the 61000-61249 series.

60500-60649 (Class GA-4)
43' steel drop door gondolas built 1937-8 at Readville.
Built with AB Brakes and Ajax powered handbrakes
Drop doors were not removed until they were sold/rebuilt/leased back.

This group was almost identical to the GA-3 class (see the prior diagram), but when built had AB instead of KD brakes, and Ajax powered handbrakes, instead of Klasing, Miner, or Universal. The handbrake was 1-3/8" farther from the center line of the car. Unlike the other classes, the drop doors were not removed from these cars.

Drop Doors
All three of these classes were built with steel floors, four drop doors, and Standard Steel Car ratchet-type door mechanisms. They are clearly visible on the side of the builders' photo of 58000:

Starting c1947 (see the roster info below) the drop doors were removed. What is unclear to me is the process used. In photos it's obvious that the door locking mechanism is no longer present along the side sills. Someplace I recall it being reported that they welded the doors shut. I cannot find that reference at this time. If that's the case, then the doors would still be visible in the floor of the car.

When the cars were sold to International Railway Car Co in 1955, rebuilt at Readville, and then leased back to the New Haven, the floors appear to have been entirely replaced. So cars in the 59000- and 61000-series would have no evidence of the drop doors remaining.


The August, 1947 ORER lists all cars with drop doors. The diagram for the 60000-series indicates in a note dated 10-4-47 that the drop doors were removed from all of that 60000-604999 series cars.

I don't have any ORERs between the August, 1947 and May, 1950 issues, but through the March 1949 Summary of Equipment all of the gondolas are listed as having drop doors.

The June 1949 SoE shows 259 solid bottom and 236 with drop doors of 80,000 lb capacity (58000-series), and 264/379 solid/drop doors in the 50-ton 60000-series cars. Note that this does not separate the GA-4 class. However, the diagram indicates only the original 500 cars were modified, and the ORER/SoE data further verifies that the GA-4 class did not have their drop doors sealed/removed at this time.

That shows more than 50% of the cars having been modified in three months. So the timeliness of the changes may vary depending on the given report. What is clear is that by late '49, a substantial number of the cars had been modified. It would appear that the diagram was updated in 1947, but that either the sealing/removal of the doors didn't start until mid-1949, or that the modified cars weren't separated out in the roster until then. Some 1948 or 1949 ORERs would be helpful here (hint, hint...).

Other than working from photos, I don't have a list of when a specific road number had the drop doors sealed/removed.

Here are the quantities listed in the Summaries of Equipment and ORERs, with the 58000-series then the 60000-series listed separately, and each noting solid bottom/drop doors. The ORERs separate out the GA-4 class, the Summaries don't until the 11-51 issue.

09-49    272/223; 273/370 (1,138) - only missing five 58000-series and seven 60000-series 
12-49    291/204; 302/341 (1,138)
03-50    324/171; 376/267 (1,138)
05-50    361/134; 411/82; 150 (1,138) - ORER
06-50    409/86; 419/224 (1,138)
11-50    464/31; 459/34; 150 (1,138) - ORER
12-50    476/19; 481/162 (1,138)
03-51    479/16; 482/161 (1,138)
06-51    482/12; 488/155 (1,137)
11-51    489/5; 491/2; 150 (1,137) - GA-4 class listed separately now.
12-51    489/5; 491/2; 150  (1,137)
03-52    492/2; 490/1; 150 (1,135)
12-52    461/0; 397/0; 150 (1,008) - no drop door cars left except the GA-4 cars.
11-53    394; 286; 85 (765) - ORER
12-53    350; 258; 81 (689)
12-54    258; 184; 72 (514)
  • 58427 destroyed 5/3/51 Dunkirk, NY (NYC)
  • 60385 destroyed 1/15/52 Union City, PA (PRR)
  • 58063 destroyed 6/4/52 Pitcairn, PA (PRR)
  • 60277 and 60476 destroyed 10/28/53 in East Walden, NY (NYC)
From 1953-54, 82 cars pulled from all three classes were renumbered and reassigned to work service, replacing cars that had been converted to work service c1939 after these cars were built. All were condemned in 1961, and handful sold or condemned earlier. 

Starting in 1955, most cars would be sold to International Railway Car Co., who were required to rebuild the cars at their expense with railroad workers at Readville, and then leased them back to the NH.  The 58000- series cars were renumbered into the 59000-59249 series, and the 60000- series to the 61000-61249 series once rebuilt.

The SoE entries for the 58000/59000; 60000/610000; and 60500 series are:
12-55    204/54; 121/65; 70 (514)
12-56    24/217; 6/232; 4 (483)
12-57    25/217; 6/231; 4 (483)
12-58    25/217; 6/231; 4 (483)
12-59    11/217; 1/231; 1 (461)
12-60    11/217; 1/230; 1 (460)
12-61    11/216; 1/230; 1 (429)
12-62    11/216; 1/230; 1 (429)
12-63    11/216; 1/228; 1 (427)
12-64    11/216; 1/228 (426)
12-65    11/125; 1/129 (266)
12-66    11/26; 1/29 (67)
12/67    10/2; 0/3 (15)
12/68    61053 is the only remaining car. (1)

We can see the shift to the leased cars in 1955-6, although they maintained a very small roster of company owned cars. It's fairly steady through 1964, with only a small amount of attrition (slower than the roster as a whole), but then drops off quickly. The percent of gondolas to the entire NH roster:

New Haven Freight Cars (December)(% of gondolas to total)
1958    8,061 (5.9%)
1959    8,006 (5.7%)
1960    8.087 (5.6%)
1961    7,619 (5.6%)
1962    6,925 (6.2%)
1963    5,567 (7.7%)
1964    5,565 (7.7%)
1965    5,412 (4.9%)
1966    4,287 (1.5%)
1967    4000 (.38%)
1968    3,959 (.03%)

The shorter 58000-series GA-2 class cars are easy to model since Funaro and Camerlengo produced a model, and I continue to bug Steve about completing the GA-3/4 classes. The models are excellent one-piece bodies and are available with and without drop doors.

As I noted above, though, when modeling the cars pre-1955, there's a question of whether the floor was replaced or the doors just welded shut. I think that initially they were welded shut, in which case the model with the drop doors is appropriate, minus the locking/operating mechanism, for any car except for those that were sold to International Railway Car Co, then rebuilt and leased back to the NH. In other words, for any cars numbered in the 58000-series.

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