Empire Belt RR ALcos

Empire Belt RR ALcos
Custom Painted FA / FB Units

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Four Aluminum Coal Gondolas Join The Fleet.

Greetings Blog Followers,

The New York Central Train Layout has recently received four new aluminum coal gondolas from the Atlas Railroad Company. The new units are painted silver and jade green and lettered for the Penn Central. Yes the Penn Central! These units were pre ordered through my local hobby shop. When making the order my LHS go to guy made sure I knew these were "fantasy units". I replied to him that my whole layout is a fantasy and so are most others including his! He agreed and we both shared a good laugh.

History: Railroads have been hauling coal almost since their inception  using gondolas and hoppers made of wood, then steel then aluminum. The light weight of aluminum allows for greater lading and cubic foot capacities ideal for bulk minerals. The four new cars are American Association of Rail Roads car type code J311, a gondola with a load limit greater than 185,000 pounds. Typical of these cars is a rotary coupler on one or both ends usually signified with a contrasting color on the end. The new units have a tub bottom and Gross Rail Loading is 286,000 pounds.

Some prototype information and  specs can be found here;

Some prototype photos can be seen here;
Models: Atlas Trainman. Factory painted PC units with metal wheels and accumate magnetic knuckle couplers. Out of the box the cars look good. They are very free rolling although a bit light for a car this size. Removing the coal load reveals an empty hopper with no interior details present. When checked against the Kadee Height Gauge the accumate couplers were found to be sagging and the trip pin too low. All in all though these are nice models and I give kudos to Atlas for producing them.

Penn Central 682100

Penn Central 682242

Penn Central 682147 is on the work bench ready to have it's accumate couplers removed. This is a standard practice that I follow as I do not like the accumate's two piece design. You can see previously removed two piece accumates next to the Kadee parts drawer.  

Bottom view of the hopper cars shows tub bottoms and reveals that trucks and coupler boxes are easily removed with a Phillips screw driver. 

The truck has been removed and we now have easy access to the coupler box

A Kadee #5 has been installed with the bronze spring on the bottom and a Kadee #209 .010 gray fiber washer below that. The washed will act as a spacer to prevent vertical play and coupler sag. The coupler spring washer configuration is basically trial and error but the adjustments will be worth it as seen below.

PC 682147 tested against the Kadee Height Gauge. Perfect!

Penn Central 682147 now on the layout at North Side Yard

Penn Central 682497 

The new hopper cars coupled up and ready to roll

The cars await motive power and caboose  

A pair of Penn Central RS2s pick up the cars from North Side Yard.



  1. Those are cool looking cars!!!! I like the green on the end. Decent looking coal load too. Imagine if the PC had such eye catching cars....railfans would have loved it!!

    1. Thanks Ralph! They certainly caught my eye when I first saw them! First time I actually pre-ordered any model RR equipment. Might need to add some type of additional industry like a power plant so I can run them more often. Kind of maxed out on space though.