AC Covered Steel Coil Gondolas

One of the interesting variations of gondolas operated by the Algoma Central was their group of 52′ gondolas modified for steel coil service. These cars were outfitted with internal wooden bunks for loading the coils of sheet steel and three piece round steel covers to protect the contents from the elements. These covers were painted bright yellow, which on top of the standard black ACR gondola made for an eye-catching appearance. (Although as the covers got banged up during handling, they began to rust quite heavily and some later photos show hoods on some cars that are almost uniformly brown.)

AC 903 coil steel service gondola at Winnipeg, MB in the 1990s. James A. Brookman photo.

All told there were a total of 45 cars in this service by the mid 1980s. Roster listings are a little messy, but it appears the first 25 cars numbered 900-924 were delivered new by National Steel Car in December 1961. A total of 20 additional cars would be drawn from the 601-875 series for conversion in the late 1970s-early 1980s and renumbered 925-934 and 975-984. (Some notes in Official Railway Equipment Registers in the mid-late 1980s also show an additional 10 cars within the 601-875 series marked out as being fitted with coil bunks but not covers, and maintaining their original numbers.)

SeriesAAR Mech.BuiltNote
converted between 1980-84
converted 1979-80

As these cars are quite visually distinctive, and important to steel products service on my mid 1980s era layout, I’ve long wanted to model some of these, and have kicked around some ideas for scratchbuilding the hoods out of styrene tube, or styrene sheet wrapped around a former, but never got around to actually building any yet.

A couple of years ago however, I acquired an Elegoo Saturn 3D printer, and decided that these coil hoods might be well suited to that application. I drew up the designs from photos and was able to print out the hoods for several cars.

The hoods were printed in three pieces similar to the real ones, including the reinforcing ribs and stacking brackets as part of the print. The crane lifting brackets on the tops of the hoods were soldered together from brass wire and small bits cut from .005″ brass sheet.

After completion, the hoods were primed and then painted yellow (Vallejo Model Air #71.002 Medium Yellow) and installed on the cars. My 52′ gondola models are all from Rapido Trains, as they are the only ones that correctly match the spacing and number of side ribs, but the hoods fit other models of 52′ gondola as well. Two cars were painted from undecorated models using decals from Precision Design Co. which match the more rounded billboard lettering style on the lower numbered 900 series cars, while the rest of the cars were factory painted Rapido cars with just renumbering into 900 series numbers, which represent nicely cars renumbered from the 601-875 series.

My fleet of AC coil steel gons now stands at seven, a respectable number which should cover my operational needs quite nicely when combined with some CN and CP coil cars. Now all that remains is some weathering, and a proper layout to run them on!

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.