Freight Cars - SP Gondolas - Overview

The topic of SP Gondolas cover many classes of cars.  I will be limiting this post to those cars which served into the 1940-1955 time frame and not counting the 'Work' cars of the W-50-series, which I've touched on before briefly and am not ready to cover further at this time.

Modeling SP gondolas, three of which sit at Caliente during the early 1950s.

Obviously for more in-depth information see Anthony Thompsons' SP Freight Cars Volume 1 - Gondolas and Stock Cars.

Some of my figuring of how many cars to model, or justification to model a class comes from a rough figure that the La Mesa Model Railroad Club could actually support about 1% of the SP's fleet of gondolas!  Obviously extra 'weight' would be given to specific on-line industries which are represented with whole freight trains of cars, such as the SP's famous sugar beet trains, or the mineral and ore traffic on the Jawbone Branch.

The PSS and OCM Lumber trains also tend to soak up a fair number of various classes of gondolas in their own cycle with the XMUG trains returning with 80-120 cars in one movement (usually a mix of boxcars, flatcars, and gondolas during the late 1940s and early 1950s.  I have a series of blogs covering the SP & ATSF's Tehachapi Pass Freight Symbols used during the 1950s.

40-Ton Gondolas

SP G-40-1 

1917 SPE Co. built Sacramento SP 54720-54919 (200 cars)

This class was built under war emergency conditions by the SP at the Sacramento Shops.  The cars were truss-rod construction flatcars with sides for use as gondolas.  In 1927 many of the class were rebuilt with steel parts including steel draft sill reinforcements and cast steel draft arms

The last handful survived into 1945 and were gone by 1950.

50-Ton Gondolas

SP G-50-1 

1908 Cambria Steel built - Archbar trucks

SP 90402-90451 (50 cars)
H&TC 3100-3399 (100 cars)
 (UP also had about 1800+ of this class)

See notes below on G-50-2.

SP G-50-2

1910 Cambria Steel and PSC built - Andrew trucks

SP 52720-53119 (400 cars)
SP 54050-54189 (150 cars)
SP 54390-54513 (124 cars)
SP 54560-54685 (126 cars)

Most of G-50-1/2 were out of service by 1945, with the last handful surviving to 1955.  These classes do show up in SPMW service as of Jan, 1956.

Nothing I know of is really close to start a G-50-2 from in terms of modeling in HO.  These cars had 15 vertical ribs and were 40ft long.  Few models in HO have such closely spaced ribs.  I may at some point look into making one or two kitbashed models for these classes, but not anytime soon (June 2019).

SP G-50-3

1913 PSC/Bettendorf/Cambria Steel/SPE Co/Ralston and others built -
SP 53120-53729 (610 cars)
53930-53949 (20 cars)
54190-54389 (200 cars)
GH&SA 41000-41099 (100 cars)
T&NO 41100-41199 (100 cars)
ML&T 41200-41299 (100 cars)

(GH&SA and ML&T became T&NO in 1928).

An option for starting a G-50-3

Currently in June 2019 - Starting a G-50-3 would start with a Bachmann, Rivarossi, Life-Like, etc 8-panel gondola, such as the one shown above after dismantling.  The process would start with a serious amount of kitbashing, including, cutting four-bays into the lower edge of the center carside on the 6 center panels up to the second belt of rivets from the bottom, building new ends, building new underframe, fabricating new cross beams and extending the ribs down about 6-8" and installing drop door mechanisms.

Overall a pretty heavy kitbashing project, but it is possible.

SPMW 1903

SPMW 1903, a retired G-50-3 class car sits at Magunden with a load of scrap and second hand materials.

My model of SPMW 1903 started from a Bachmann/Tyco/etc 8-panel gondola and was finished around 2000.  The kitbashing included new ends, endsills, underframe and centersill.  It was a fun scratchbuilding project to make the whole centersill and associated parts.  I didn't extend the vertical ribs as much as current research photos suggest it should be, but for what information I had, it wasn't bad.

I would encourage folks new to kitbashing that they should try something like the SPMW 1903, which requires some scratch building, but you have a good starting point for much of the 'finished model'.  Somehow the projects seem a little less daunting when you already see 'most of a carbody' in front of you!

SP G-50-6/8

1916 & 1924 Ralston built -

G-50-6 1916

SP 53730-53929 (200 cars)
NWP 4750-4829 (80 cars)

G-50-8 - 1924

GH&SA 41750-42049 (300 cars)
LW 42050-42149 (100 cars)
HE&WT 42150-42249 (100 cars) - Total 500 cars

All GH&SA, LW, & HE&WT cars to T&NO reporting marks in 1928.

A partly completed kitbash of SP 53825, starting with the Bachmann 8-panel gondola.

I started a kitbash to make the later-life G-50-6/8 class cars with bolster-to-car-end sidesill around 2004.  I still need to finish this car and a couple of sisters.  When I do, I'll post a blog about it. 

Some 25 Pacific Lines G-50-6s were converted to garbage service during the 1920s with 3" perforated drain pipes in each corner of the car, the cars were also fitted with tie-downs along the top edge of the sides for a car-cover.  I suppose it's a good thing that we don't model with smell-o-vision!

Many of these cars were assigned Port of Long Beach - Trona service during the 1930s, this actually included a fair number of the T&NO G-50-8 class cars.  Why the T&NO cars were sent west to work out of Trona is not know, perhaps the down turn in loading sulfur, but needing potash or Trona chemicals for fertilizer was still in demand?

It would seem that many of the Texas cars worked in sulfur service until the G-70-1/3 series cars came on-line.

This model uses modified DTA 'plate' ends for their GS gondolas.  Also needed will be a full new underframe and drop door mechanisms.


1923-1924 General American Car Co. & Ralston Steel Car Co. built.

AE 4000-4024 (25 cars)
PE 5900-5999 (100 cars)
SP 46155-46604 (450 cars)
PE 6000-6099 (100 cars)
SP 46605-47079 (475 cars)
PE 20000-20599 (600 cars) - Total 1750 cars
Bettendorf or ASF T-section trucks used.

The AE cars transferred to SP in 1924.  T&NO received 200 cars from PE (100 from 20000-20599 series in Oct 1929, 2nd 100 from 15 cars series PE 6000-6099 and 85 cars from 20000-20599 series in 1940.)

SP 46254, an SP G-50-9 class gondola with replacement AAR pattern trucks at Caliente, Calif, on the LMRC layout.

Many of these cars lasted well into the 1950s, including specialized versions with doors removed from the floors for log service.  Others were modified with slope sheets to make ballast or earth moving 'hoppers' using only the center 4-doors on each side and reducing cubic capacity for the heavier loading service.

Ulrich Utah Coal Route painted version of their GS gondola, which is mostly accurate but rather crude for SP G-50-9/10/11/12 classes.

The G-50-9/10/11/12 class cars can be crudely modeled with second hand Ulrich's metal drop bottom gondolas.  These models have long been out of production, but are still possible to find at swap meets.  These cars have also been produced in brass.

SP G-50-10

1925 TCI&RR built SP 91400-92399 (1000 cars).  ASF T-section trucks used.

See above notes.

SP G-50-11

1926 Pressed Steel Car Co. build SP 92400-92899 (500 cars).  Bettendorf T-section trucks used.

See above notes.

SP G-50-12

1927 Standard Steel Car built SP 92900-93899 (1000 cars).  1st 500 ASF Dalman, 2nd 500 Bettendorf Dalman trucks used.

See above notes.

SP G-50-15

1942 Bethlehem Steel built - SP 94500-95199 (700 cars).  Plate ends used, Equipco handbrakes, Bettendorf AAR trucks.

G-50-15 class, SP 94581, a classic example of the start to the SP's final GS gondola design.

The G-50-15 class became the template for the majority of the next 6 classes of Pacific Lines GS gondolas.  These cars were used in mineral and ore service throughout the Pacific Lines.  They moved steel products such as steel pipe from Kaiser steel plants.  These cars also moved lumber during lumber seasons and also when there were extra cars available.

Generally the all-steel GS gondolas were not used in SP's famous sugarbeet operations, as the steel bodies became blisteringly hot in the sun-baked San Joaquin and Imperial Valleys, to the point the 'roots' would be cooked, loosing the sugar to natural metabolism far faster than the wooden Blackburn Racks and wood-sided G-50-18 and -20 class replacement cars.

The SP 94115, a G-50-15 class is pretty easily modeled with DTA ends and grab-ladders replacing the RC kit ladders all around.

I've built a couple of G-50-15s by kitbashing Red Caboose G-50-22 kits with DTA 'plate ends' and not using the supplied ladder stock for the corners.  Instead I drilled and installed Tichy 18" grab irons.

SP G-50-16

1944 Mt Vernon Car built - SP 95200-95499 (300 cars). Original Dreadnaught Ends used, Equipco handbrakes, Barber S-2 trucks.

Ends again available from DTA.

SP G-50-18

1946 Bethlehem built - SP 89854-90403.  "Reverse" Dreadnaught End, Ajax handbrake, Barber S-2 truck.

This class along with G-50-19 are the first classes of the GS series of cars to use reverse Dreadnaught ends.

SP G-50-20

1948 Pressed Steel Car Co. built SP 56330-57829 (1500 cars).  Wooden Sides, "Reverse" Dreadnaught End, Miner (1000) & Ureno (650) handbrakes, 1st 500 Buckeye trucks, 1000 Symington-Gould trucks.

The G-50-20 class pioneered the replacement of the SP's vast fleet of Blackburn sugar beet racks starting in 1948.

SP G-50-22

1948-1949 Bethlehem built SP 151000-152649 (1500 cars)  "Improved" Dreadnaught End, Miner (1000) & Ureno (650) handbrakes, ASF A-3 trucks.

SP 152344, a G-50-22

The G-50-22 class is the follow-on class to the G-50-18, which set the final standard for the GS drop bottom gondola on the SP.  These cars were used everywhere for almost every purpose the SP could think of.  These cars could easily be found on every division of the SP from 1950 well into the 1970s.

This is the car produced by Red Caboose/IMRC.

SP G-50-23

1949 General American Transportation Co. built SP 150000-150999 (1000 cars).  "Improved" Dreadnaught End, Miner (1000) & Ureno (650) handbrakes, Various mix of truck suppliers used.

SP 150143, a G-50-23 class composite GS gondola, model by Red Caboose/IMRC

This class, like the G-50-20 before it, was primarily used in the SP's sugar beet and woodchip service in California and Oregon.  The close of the SP's use of Blackburn sugar beet racks in 1950 was due to the last of the 1000 G-50-20s arriving and being put into service.

OwlMtModels F-50-series SP 43745 with Blackburn rack 'B-692', photographed on the 'Wyoming Division' in Sedona, Arizona.

It is interesting to note that the retirement to SPMW service of larger numbers of F-50-5/8/9/10 and -12 class flatcars increased in 1951 and 1952 as the flatcars sat idle for a year or more following the drop in Blackburn sugar beet rack and lumber use following the arrival of G-50-20/23 and F-70-6/7 in service.

This is the car produced by Red Caboose/IMRC.


1951-52 built - SP 160650-161049 (400 cars)

Welded version of a steel floored gondola.  These cars were built at Sacramento by SP Equipment Co.

SP G-50-27

1953 built SP Equip. Co., Sacramento Fall '53 - SP 152650-153099.  "Improved" Dreadnaught End, steel sides, Ajax handbrake, Std Car Truck Co Barber S-2-A0 trucks.

These cars were SP home-built continuations of the 1949-built G-50-22 class cars.   Only slight changes to the RC/IMRC model are needed to model these cars.

50+ft 50-Ton Gondolas


1929-1930 SPE Co/Ralston built SP 93900-93949 (50 cars), PE 25000-25014 (15 cars), SP 93950-94049 (100 cars) - 48ft IL

Speedwitch's SP G-50-13, partly assembled with the basic body complete.

Speedwitch (resin) has produced the G-50-13 as a resin model.  These kits are very nice and produce a beautiful model.  I'm finishing this model with Tahoe Model Work's lovely Dalman Two-Level trucks.  Eventually, I should be able to finish this model which I bought half-built, and do a nice blog on building the kit I have from start-to-finish.


1937 SPE Co built - SP 94050-94149 (100 cars), 94150-94249 (100 cars) - 50ft IL

SP 94248, cut down P2K 52ft gondola.

I modeled my G-50-14s with P2K "Greenville" gondolas with 12" cut out of the center of the car, between the center ribs.  The 'fish belly' sidesills were cut down flush and a new 'fish belly' underframe was added from an old Athearn 50ft gondola model.  The cross members were cut down as well to match the sidesills.  The car has a vertical-staff hand brake installed in place of the 'power' handbrake which comes with the kit.  The SP 94248 model I kitbashed around 1998 or so.

70-Ton Gondolas

SP G-70-2

1941 SPE Co built - SP 94250-94264 (15 cars)

An SP G-70-2/4 class gondola in the XMUG at Tehachapi Calif. Jan 7, 1953 - La Mesa Model Railroad Club.

The G-70-2's 15 cars is really a challenge to justify modeling, unless you're going to say you're modeling just before the 1942's arrival of the G-70-4.  As such I decided not to model one of these cars, but one could certainly be justified in place of a G-70-4.

See G-70-4 notes below on modeling this class.

SP G-70-4

1942 SPE Co built - SP 94265-94305 (40 cars), T&NO 43500-43549 (50 cars)

SP 94296, a G-70-4 65ft 'Mill' Gondola.

I made my 65ft G-70-2/4 models from Athearn R-T-R 65ft Mill Gondolas, mostly by renumbering them.  I replaced the Bachmann EZ-Mate couplers with Kadee 'whisker' couplers.  Technically the cars should also have 3-spring 70-Ton trucks under them as well, which is an easy replacement at some point.

I cover these classes in more detail on my SP 65ft Mill Gondolas blog post.

SP G-70-6

1950 Ralston Steel Car built - SP 160000-160099 (100 cars)

My mostly completed partial relettering of an Athearn 65ft 'Mill' gondola as a G-70-6.

Again, an Athearn R-T-R model renumbered for use as a G-70-6.  This later run of Athearn 65ft gonds wasn't glued together to the metal floor as well, so additional CA was flowed into the failing joint to secure the car's construction.  I hate it when my models try to re-kit themselves without authorization!I cover these classes in more detail on my SP 65ft Mill Gondolas blog post.

SP G-70-7

1951 AC&F built - SP 160500-160549 (50 cars) - High Side, Fixed End, - 52ft-6in IL.

Minimal 4ft-side kitbash of MDC 50ft Thrall gondola into a stand-in for G-70-7 with OwlMtModels 3004 Modular Lumber Load.

These cars are interesting, and I've found not too hard to do a basic stand-in model for using the old MDC-Roundhouse 'modern' 50ft Thrall gondolas.  New ends are supplied by using the extra 'Improved' Dreadnaught ends from my G-50-15/16 conversions.

To do these kitbashes correctly requires two donor bodies and cutting the tops off in such a way that the original 4ft high sides come out with parts to make a 36" and 60" side model.  The RC ends can then likewise be cut to have a 3-rib end for the 36" side car and a 5-rib end for the 60" side car.  Styrene is used to make the 'fish belly' sidesill profile for this class and G-70-11.

The G-70-7 historically had a wooden plank floor in the car.  The MDC model has a smooth plastic floor, which I overladed with a LaserKit wooden floor for this model.  I believe it was one originally intended for a P2K gondola, which I re-purposed for this project.

Link to blog on building this removable OwlMtModel Lumber Load.

SP G-70-8

1951 AC&F built - SP 16100-160199 (50 cars) - Low side, drop end, 52ft-6in IL.

Tangent Scale Models' G-70-8 in 'as delivered' all black scheme.

The G-70-8 is best modeled with Tangent's excellent models of the AC&F design.  Remember that this class was delivered in the experimental 'all black' freight car scheme that SP was testing in 1951 on gondolas.

These models need minimal finishing to get into service on your railroad.  I only really had to add some minimal weathering and build a couple loads for these before they started 'earning money' hauling lumber at the La Mesa Model Railroad Club's Tehachapi Pass model.

SP G-70-9

1953 Oct - Greenville built - SP 160550-160649 (100 cars) - 65ft 'Mill' Gondolas

Athearn R-T-R's SP 160550, the class car for G-70-9.

The last of the 65ft "Mill" Gondola clones, these 100 cars are the class that Athearn factory painted their models for in the 'as delivered' scheme.

Modeling right in the 1950-1953 era, I purposely kept this car and it's sister 160588 completely clean on the sides.  Only weathering on the trucks and a light coating on the horizontal surfaces on the tops of the side and floor, as the first couple trips across the country would have started to accumulate dust and dirt from the loads, but nothing seriously starting to damage the paint job yet.  - See above's G-70-4 SP 94296's weathering for a 1941-built car as it reached 10 years of hard wartime service.

SP G-70-11

1953 AC&F built - SP 160400-160599 (200 cars) - 52ft-6in IL.

This class is basically a repeat of G-70-7 with a slightly deeper 'fish belly' sidesill.  The 5ft Interior Height is repeated as well.

Modeling this with a kitbashed MDC-Roundhouse Thrall gondola with the RC/IMRC ends is probably the easiest and most economical way to produce such a model.

SP G-70-12

1953 AC&F built - SP 160150-160399 (200 cars) - 52ft-6in IL.

Tangent Scale Models' G-70-12 in simplified herald FCR scheme.

This class is the follow-on class repeat of G-70-8.  Again the Tangent Scale Models car is a good starting point for this class.  This class was painted in FCR (Freight Car Red) but without the black background for the herald, which was only tried for a short time.

Also notice the 1952 dropping of the white bars over the road name and under the car number.

Post-1955 Designs

The following classes are built after my era of interest.  As such I'm not planning to spending too much time researching or building models.

SP G-70-14

1957 Greenville built - SP 340255-340404 (150 cars), 65ft gondola, steel floor, drop ends with strap re-enforcement.  


1958 AC&F built - SP 330250-330449 (200 cars), AC&F 53'6" - (one foot longer than previous 52'6" gondolas in the G-70-series).  Steel floor, fixed ends.  Welded construction, using same methods as on G-70-8 and -12.

Texas Lines Gondolas

War Emergency Gondolas (WWII)

These cars were built with wooden sides, steel posts and diagonals in a Pratt Truss configuration with 8 panels between the bolsters, and two plain panels outside of the truck bolsters.  The cars used various ends from Dreadnaught, reverse Dreadnaught, and finally the improved Dreadnaught ends.

Models of these cars have been available in resin, but I only have seen a couple of these kits.  

The truss pattern is the same direction as that used on the Pacific Lines G-50-20 and -23 class cars.  It should be noted that the T&NO gonds have solid bottoms and sits lower than the Pacific Lines drop bottom gonds. 

Eventually about half of the WWII built gondolas for the T&NO received steel sheathing for the sides replacing the wooden sides.


1944 Pressed Steel Car Co built - T&NO 42450-42649 (200 cars)


1946 Ralston built - T&NO 42650-42849 (200 cars)
1948 Ralston built - T&NO 44100-44599 (500 cars)


1949 AC&F built - T&NO 46300-46999 (700 cars)


1951 SPE built - T&NO 47000-48499 (1500 cars)

Sulfur Gondolas


1937 AC&F built - T&NO 43000-43099 (100 cars)

Built more as a flatcar with sideboards, the G-70-1 is somewhat interesting in that the last car was built with aluminum sides, instead of wood, saving 5200 pounds off the light weight of the car.


1941 AC&F built - T&NO 43100-43149 (50 cars)

Both G-70-1 and -3 used a mixture of wooden and steel stakes to hold the sides.


1947 T&NO Algiers built - T&NO 43150-43249 (100 cars) 

Home built cars at the T&NO shops.


1953 T&NO Algiers built - T&NO 43250-43349 (100 cars)


1956 T&NO Houston built - T&NO 43350-43449 (100 cars)

Inherited Gondolas from other companies

PE Caswell-design Gondolas - Inherited by SP in the late 1930s

SP 44110-44159 (50 cars) 1913 PSC ex-PE 5601-5699 40'4" IL GS Caswell-mechanism (roller drop bottom design)  Thompson SP Freight Cars Vol.1, page 83 for Southern Pacific photograph.

EPSW 40ft Gondolas - Inherited by SP in 1924

SP 44360-44598 (250 cars) 1906 AC&F
SP 44617-44967 (370 cars) 1903 AC&F
SP 44970-45214 (250 cars) 1903-1907 PSC
SP 45215-45461 (250 cars) 1907 PSC
SP 45462-45903 (450 cars) 1914 SSC

SP 45752, an Ex-EPSW gondola.

I've covered modeling SP 45752 with the sideboards from an old Mantua gondola in my first blog post Ex-EPSW 40ft Ballast Gondola in July 2016.

USRA WWI Gondolas from EPSW in 1924

SP 45904-46153 (250 cars) 1919 SSC - WWI USRA pattern 9-panel gondolas

SP 46111, an USRA ex-EPSW inherited car.

IMRC and Walthers/P1K has produced these cars and sold them in SP paint schemes.

In Conclusion

Caboose SP 213 brings up the rear of a mixed through freight at Magunden.

Hopefully this post will be helpful for fellow gondola modelers.  I'll be updating as time goes on as more models become available or I finish some of my projects.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Ex-EPSW 40ft Ballast Gondola

Freight Cars - Modeling SP Flatcars - Overview

SP 65ft Mill Gondolas

Freight Symbols over Tehachapi Pass - (Index Page)


  1. InterMountain says on their website that the ex-El Paso and Southwestern USRA standard-design composite drop-bottom gondolas were rebuilt in February of 1945. When these cars were rebuilt, were they rebuilt with steel sides and thus became all-steel cars? I'm curious because I can't find any information or photographs anywhere as to whether or not these cars were ever rebuilt as completely-steel cars.

    1. ORER 1950 shows SP 45906-46149 still with wood floors and sides as of the printing. Some in the series are still shown as GS (drop bottom) with 61 cars while a sub-group are shown as GA (not fully self-clearing with only four doors iirc) with fixed ends and tight bottom showing only 5 cars. The tight bottom cars are the ones that were rebuilt.
      SP Note W in the 1950 ORER shows SP 46007, 46066, 46095, 46115, and 46134 as the five tight-bottomed cars of AAR class GB. I see no evidence that the cars were rebuilt with steel sides. As far as I know, no SP composite-sided gondolas were rebuilt with steel sides. This is covered in my post about the UP GS ex-composite side car showing up at Owenyo in a photo.

    2. Okay, sorry. I had to ask. I'm new to modeling freight cars and I should have known that the "February 1945" date on the sides of the USRA cars is their reweighing date. I do have two more questions about the USRA cars. The first is: What loads were they used for carry? Also, where were those cars used when the SP used them? I'd like to know because I'm thinking about using the InterMountain N-scale examples on a layout that represents the Coast Line in 1946, which was at the height of the Daylight's popularity, since those are the only SP freight cars that have a period-appropriate reweighing date based on the SP's freight car reweighing policies that would work for April and May of 1946.

    3. The USRA cars were used in mixed GB service around the SP system until they aged out. The vast majority of the SP's 40ft gondolas were GS cars, which were mostly self-clearing, where as the USRA cars were only at best about 1/3 self-clearing, so I doubt they were used in beet service, etc. They might have been used in finished loads, like steel pipe from the Pittsburg plant, etc
      You also may wish to consider getting some tare-date decals, which will allow you to re-mark other models for your modeling era.

    4. I have only a few more questions about the USRA gondola and the SP's versions. I noticed that in the photograph, your model has a brake wheel that's directly mounted to the end of the car. I also know from looking at photos of Intermountain's version of the car in all scales that these cars would have had simple brake shafts without wheels. When did the SP start applying actual brake wheels to their examples of the USRA gondolas, and when did they mount brake wheels directly to the end of the car? Was it also at the same time? Those will be the final questions that I will ask about this car.

    5. Hello again railwayman001,
      Several of my cars have destroyed brakewheels in the photos (needing repair). The USRA gonds used Miner handbrakes, which were a lever brake, which collapsed down against the side of the mechanism. The EPSW cars had vertical wheel brakes, which would have had standard equipment, like the USRA Tichy boxcars for example... a couple pillow-block bearings and a base strap for the 'stem-winding' action with the chain to happen.

  2. Jason. Great work. I'm a buddy of Scott Inman. Thanks. Douglas Hodgdon


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