Followers of the P.C.C.M. 42 series saw the first virtual ops revenue run of Penn Central gondolas 576104 and 576123 which had been recently added to the N.Y.C.T.L., K.PD. and A.P.R.R. railroads.
Here they are on Ralph's K.P.D. in P.C.CM. 42F with their bulkheads in place and some great looking pole loads made by scratch builder extraordinaire Ralph himself.
At the end of 2017 I added two Walthers Penn Central G43a gondolas to my ever growing Penn Central fleet. When I first saw the cars I really liked the way they looked and kept my eyes open for them to hopefully go on sale. Eventually they did and I was able to score some from MB Klein known also as modeltrainstuff.com
The PC gondolas are numbered 576104 and 576123 and are based on the PRR G43 and later Penn Central G43a gondolas. In the first half of 1968 Penn Central's Hollidaysburg Shops built three lots of G43a gondolas for a total of 2,150 cars continuing on with the G43 lineage originated at Altoona prior to the merger. The cars have a 100 ton capacity and an inside length of 52'6''. The cars were extremely rugged and successful marking the last of the PRR and first PC gondolas.
In the Penn Central promotional video Call us Penn Central the newly built G43a gondolas can be seen starting at the 1:45 mark.
The Walthers PC G43a models are nice representations of this sturdy and iconic PC car. Rivet counters will find some discrepancies but they look to be few.
Upon initial inspection of the new gondolas it was noted that the knuckle couplers were drooping significantly. A Kadee fiber washer should take care of that. Once the drooping coupler was fixed it was noted that the couplers did not couple up to the Kadee height gauge even though the were at the exact same height. Hmm. Closer inspection found that the factory installed Proto-Max coupler faces were slightly bent downward. This caused the coupler face not to fit inside the Kadee coupler. This is what should happen when coupling.
The PC gondolas have been placed on the layout now coupled up with Kadee #5s. Bulkheads and a steel coil cradle were included with the models and make for some nice additional operational opportunities. The defective couplers are shown at the ends of the car.
PC 576123 looking fresh out of Hollidaysburg sits in Terminal Yard. The bent Proto Max couplers have been removed.
Other Walthers cars delivered by Santa sit in Terminal Yard. The PC 50 boxcar, 360063 courtesy of PC Ralph was perfect out of the box as was the 10-6 sleeper car. Both matched up perfectly with the Kadee height gauge and were extremely free rolling.
Upon testing of the gondolas I noted they did not roll as well as the other two cars listed above. Investigation into this revealed some flash on the ends of the axles. This was easily removed with a single edge razor blade. After this procedure the cars were rolling smoothly and wobble free.
A look at the underside of the gondolas shows the bolsters were broken during assembly. Wrong sized screws? Machine setting not right? Who knows? But it really shouldn't be damaged like this right out of the box.
With everything coupling and rolling smoothly I put some loads in the cars along with the bulk heads. They look good! I also added ACI labels going with prototype photos for the location.
With the steel coil cradles installed and great looking steel coils made by Ralph inside, the cars are now ready for revenue service!
A test run with the cars headed for North Side Yard. The steel coils will be delivered to Gervais Pipe and Fitting.
The obligatory company photo from the Empire City viaduct.
Conclusions: I contacted Walthers Customer Service and advised them of the coupler issues found on the gondolas. The service rep was cordial, expressed the expected I'm sorry to hear that and then promptly sent me replacement couplers which arrived on January 2nd.
All things considered shaving of the axles and replacing of the couplers should not be necessary on a ready to run model that has an M.S.R.P. at around $25.00. But it was. Walthers to their credit promptly made good on the defective parts. Ralph and Sir Neal report no problems with their gondolas so these may be two that got away.
As you saw the cars are now in service and look very good on the layout. I am happy to add them to my fleet but needed to be honest about them in case I'm not the only one to face these issues. Would I buy them again if on sale? Yes.