Rapido Gondola Renumberings and Alternate Logo

Tonight’s project is working on lettering on a few cars. Since I acquired “more than one” 6-packs of Algoma Central gondolas when Rapido Trains released their new Canadian gondola in AC colours, I have a number of cars with duplicate numbers to change. Also, some later repaints had a simplified version of the bear logo without the railway’s name spelled out in an encircling band around the logo. I have several sets of CDS dry transfers for AC gondolas in my lettering stash, and these sets include both versions of the logo, so I decided that on at least a few cars I will also replace these logos for some visual variety.


Two Rapido ACR gondolas. Top car is unaltered factory paint/lettering; bottom car is renumbered and has a different logo applied, although differences are more obvious in close up or in person.

To remove the original lettering, I used the edge of a curved scalpel type blade. If you work very carefully, and with a light touch, you can scrape away the original lettering with little trace remaining. The new number and logo will also cover over the same spots, and a little bit of light weathering will completely hide any uneven spots.


Logo comparison. Above is unaltered factory painted car. Below, the original logo has been carefully removed and replaced with the simplied logo from a CDS dry transfer set.

In the close-up photo you can more clearly see the difference between the logos. The top logo, as featured on the factory-painted Rapido model, includes an outer band around the logo with the railway’s name. The lower logo, applied from a CDS dry transfer lettering set, is a simplified version without the railway name and a proportionally larger bear silhouette.

I also removed the NSC builder’s logo (below the car data) and the fill lines (above the “GO MA” and “NT RA” panels) from the lower car, and I’ll probably actually be going over all of the cars I have and removing the builder’s logo from all of them. (Information suggests that when brand new/as built the original series of cars acquired in 1958 (AC 601-800) were originally painted *brown*, although photos of these cars in original paint are extremely hard to come by. AC 801-875, built in 1961-62 were probably delivered in black, as were coil steel service cars in series AC 900-924, built in 12/1962 and for which I have photos that clearly show the original NSC builders logo. The 900-series also had a slight variation in the font of the billboard lettering…)

Freight Car Friday #1 – AC 433

To keep this blog a little more active and interesting, and to share a bit of the collection, I’m going to try this new feature. On a semi-regular basis, I’ll schedule these posts for Friday mornings.

“Freight Car Friday” posts will normally consist one or two related photos of an Algoma Central freight car, or some other freight car subject related to the AC. This might be a prototype shot or a model shot. It might be an AC car, or a non-AC car photographed on the AC, or otherwise related in some context. It might be a revenue service or non-revenue car. It may or may not include a lot of commentary with the photo.

So check back in here on Fridays for a regular dose of freight cars. I should have enough material to keep this going for quite a while.

I’ll lead off the series with this photo of AC 433 at Steelton yard, taken on July 28, 2014 from the Agawa Canyon Tour Train on my summer railfanning vacation to northern Ontario.


The 400 series number on this car was assigned by Wisconsin Central in the late 1990s. The lettering style marks this as originally from somewhere in the AC 601-875 series of 52’6″ gondolas built by National Steel Car in two separate batches in 1959 and 1961. Notice though the additional little angle iron brackets along the top edge of the car side in several places; these appear to be attachment points for clamping down covers for protecting coil steel loads, indicating that prior to its renumbering to the 400 series by WC for work service, this was either a 925-934 or 975-984 series coil steel service car (these two groups were drawn from former 601-875 series cars; another group of 25 cars numbered 900-924 was acquired new in 1961 for coil steel service). When in coil steel service, they would have colourful bright yellow painted 3 piece steel covers to protect the load. It’s now one of five AC gondolas on hand at Steelton yard loaded with track panel sections and track materials for effecting quick repairs to a section of track.

Rapido 52′ Gondolas Arrived

This evening I stopped at the post office to pick up several packages – packages containing the new Rapido Trains 52′ Canadian gondolas. (I won’t tell you how many exactly I picked up, because this was partly a pooled group order of cars for the WRMRC layout, so better than half of the cars will end up belonging to others, but let’s just say I acquired “more than one” 6-pack of AC cars (plus a few CPs) for my own purposes.)

These models are based on a common design of 52’6″ gondola with riveted construction and drop ends that were built by Eastern Car Company during the 1940s-50s for most of the major Canadian railways. Similar cars were built by Canadian Car & Foundry and National Steel Car up into the early 1960s, with generally similar features, but some detail differences.


The prototype Algoma Central cars were built in 1959-62 in two batches by National Steel Car. (AC 601-800 and 801-875. Another almost identical batch was built in 1962 as AC 900-924 with covers for coil steel service.) They actually differ from the model in two ways. One, the AC cars have a different style of structural ribs on the sides. While the model features the distinctive Z shaped ribs fashioned from simple angle stock, the later AC cars had a stamped rib with a more of a hat profile (if you cross-sectioned the rib). The AC cars were also a higher capacity car with a 4′ interior height instead of the 3’5″ height of the model. However, the number and spacing of the side ribs is still consistent on all of these Canadian cars, so that still makes these cars a better stand in than any model of an American prototype. (The older Proto2000 gondola, based on a design built by Greenville Steel Car and Bethlehem Steel Corp., was previously the best stand in, but has a different number of side ribs and panels, which alters the layout of the Algoma Central billboard lettering on the side of the car.)

The models are well packaged, but even so exercise care when removing the cars from the packaging and check for any minor damage in shipping. There’s been some reports of the delicate ribs damaged in shipping (I haven’t seen much of this yet, but I’ve only removed a couple of cars from their packaging so far) and I had a few ends knocked free and rattling around inside the box (the drop ends are just press fit in place, so this is no big deal).

Here’s a few photos of a sample AC and CP (Action Red scheme) car to see some of the detail on these new models:

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The relief of the Z shaped ribs is a distinctive feature of this model. The individual ribs are actually separate pieces to achive this effect. So one will have to take some care when picking up these cars not to crush any delicate details.


These CP red cars feature trucks with converted roller bearing journals, a nice touch.


I weighed one car at 4.1oz, just slightly under the NMRA “recommended” weight for a 7″ car of 4.5oz (1oz + .5oz/inch), but then almost every factory car is slightly under this recommendation, and consistency is one of the most important things. The Rapido car actually weighed out exactly identical to one of the Proto2000 gondolas I had nearby.

And lastly, a couple of final shots of the two cars on my in progress switching layout. The cars both appeared to track and roll quite well, although admittedly I don’t have much track to roll them around on. The real test will be when we try dragging a set of these around in a train at the club layout.

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ACR Survivors

On my trip to Sault Ste Marie to ride the Tour of the Line, I got to see and photograph a few examples of surviving original AC equipment.

At the yard at Steelton was a string of 5 AC gondolas loaded with track panel sections for emergency track repair and replacement work.

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A similar set of 5 gondolas was also on hand at Hawk Junction. Note that the closest car in this string is an older 48′ gondola!


These AC gons are extremely rare now. The only remaining examples are in maintenance service like these, having long been removed from any sort of revenue service. These could even be among the last 10 survivors (of the 52′ gons), although there could be a few more still in similar service on former WC lines.

Also at Steelton yard is one of the former AC steel cabooses (acquired secondhand by the AC from Canadian Pacific around 1990-91) and one of the AC’s two original steel snowplows (although the plow has several years before been repainted into WC maroon and gold colours). These were screened by the gondolas and other junk and equipment from where the passenger train boards, but fortunately I got shots from the other side using my 200mm zoom lens on my July trip:


I also saw a few AC marked pulpwood flatcars on both trips, although it’s hard to call these original survivors, since the grey AC 238100 series pulpwood cars were rebuilt from former CP cars in 1998, well after the Wisconsin Central takeover.

Also, though it was located much farther back in the shops area and wasn’t accessible for photographs, heavyweight business car “Agawa” is still hanging around the former AC property. I have no information on the disposition of former AC business car “Michipicoten”.

Finally, I’m not sure whether you can consider this a “survivor”, but this old ex-Ontario Northland work boxcar was sitting in the weeds alongside a maintenance spur near the Oba lake “floating” trestles:


Not bad for 18 1/2 years after the end of the Algoma Central as an independent railway. (The WC sale was official on Feb 1, 1995.)