The Gondolas of Tacoma

With the scrapyard finished, I needed some gondolas to service it. I’d noticed on eBay that rolling stock with Rapido couplers is considerably cheaper than the more modern cars. I figured I’d have a go at converting some of these cars using Micro Trains (MT) trucks and couplers.

The original cars:

Gondolas 1

These are Bachmann products, and besides the couplers, the metal wheel treads are grossly oversize. A little research shows that these 42′ outside braced gondolas were released in 1968 – 1969. The car data gives a 1957 build date, which seems suspicious for a composite car. I found that some railroads rebuilt their composite cars in the 1950’s, but the cars blend well with my other composite rolling stock, and don’t look out of place on my 1948 layout.

Once the OEM trucks were removed (along with their couplers), I started by drilling out the kingpin holes on the bolsters. I found that a 5/32″ hole would accommodate the MT bolster inserts, and those drilled out to 5/64″ would accommodate the kingpins.

Gondola bolsters

The plug on the right is a repair for a coupler screw hole I’d misaligned.

I wanted to try some body-mounted couplers, and the instructions direct that the mounting screw be drilled 1/8″ from the end of the car body. I found this to be too close, and allowed the coupler pocket to extend past the end sill. I used a pair of locking tweezers to position the coupler, and dimpled the underside with a drill bit.

Gondola positioning coupler

This way I could make adjustments if the alignment was off. Drilling and tapping the mounting hole was a simple affair with MT’s drill and tap kit. I found that even with the supplied spacer, the screw extended slightly through the car floor. This is not so much of a problem with house cars, but on open cars it’s a bit annoying. A dab of Flat Black paint hides the screw end on black cars, but not so much for other colors.

After assembly with MT trucks and metal wheels and the usual weathering, the cars are ready for service:

Gondola fiinished

I haven’t converted the green PL&E car, because I can’t find evidence that that livery is valid for the late 1940’s. Overall an easy and relatively inexpensive way to add some needed rolling stock.


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