Going, Gondolas - Part I
by Mike Stella
Is there a less glamorous Lionel
freight car than the gondola? Everybody might have one or two
gondolas in their collection, but does anybody really collect
them? How many different ones are there and does anybody care?
I met a fellow collector, about
25 years ago, at my first big West Coast train meet that only
wanted Lionel items with the New York Central roadname. He asked
if I knew that there were 152 different NYC gondolas? Well, I'm
still collecting, and I'm still looking, but I don't think I have
found all those variations... yet.
Gondolas are easy to collect, not expensive at all, plentiful
compared to many other freight cars, and a challenge to locate
in every color and style. I want to start this short series on
collecting gondolas with the very first postwar offering: The
#2452 Pennsylvania Railroad version.
This first car from 1945 was the forerunner of all postwar plastic
cars. It comes with "whirly wheels," "thick axles," and "flying
shoes." It is unique in that the large square hole cut in the
floor (to be used in next years Electronic Set) has a pronounced
jagged edge. It looks like the folks at Lionel did some cutting
by hand. I do not know if every #2452 in every 1945 set comes
this way but mine did.
The next gondola is the same in everyway, except the jagged edge
is now smooth, like stamped from a machine. This second #2452
still has the thick axles with whirly wheels and the flying shoe
pickups. It wasn't long before Lionel began to find ways to cheapen
the postwar line.
The #2452 gondola became a #2452X with the loss of both brake
wheels. Lionel stamped the bottom of these cars with a silver
#2452X so future collectors would know not to simply add a couple
of brake wheels. This third gondola still has the flying shoes
but the axles are now much thinner and the individual car wheels
have lost that prototypical "whirl."
My fourth gondola in this series finds the 2452X with the coil
coupler now standard. All #2452Xs are still stamped in silver
on the bottom.
The fifth gondola is identical to its immediate predecessors.
The only exception is that the large square hole is no longer
needed. It has been replaced with a round hole about 1 inch in
A lettering change creates the sixth car in this series as the
"G27" has a very noticeable increase in size. It is the last 2452X
and retains the round hole, coil couplers, and silver stamping
of its immediate predecessors.
Coil couplers gave way to magnetic couplers across the entire
Lionel line and the 2400 series cars became 6400 series so the
Pennsylvania gondola became #6452. The "X" was dropped as no longer
being needed to distinguish this from earlier cars and there was
no longer any need to stamp the number on the bottom.
This series might have ended here except somebody goofed and changed
the number to #6462, the same as was used on the longer NYC series
gondolas. These cars were then stamped on the bottom with the
correct #6452 so as not to confuse the buying public.
The last car in this Pennsylvania series is the #4452 from the
Electronic Set that was cataloged from 1946 to 1950, but, probably,
only made in the initial run. The #4452, finally, shows us why
that big square hole was cut out of the bottom as an electronic
receiver fits snugly inside. The color coded electronic decal
tells the operator which colored button to press on the control
unit to operate the coil couplers on this gondola.
These 9 cars complete Part I of
this collecting series on gondolas. Part II will take a look at
the early 6462s.
Please Note: Part of the reason
I enjoy writing articles about collecting trains is that I learn
new things about the hobby from readers like you. If you would
like to share your experiences, or notice any errors or omissions
in any of my posts, please write to me, Mike Stella, directly