Going, Gondolas - Part II (Click
here to read Pt I)
by Mike Stella
Just as the #2452 Pennsylvania gondola
was the very first postwar freight car made from that new plastic
material, so was the #6462 NYC gondola the first postwar freight
car to get the new "scale dimensions." The gondola grew from 9"
to 11-1/2" in length years before the boxcars were enlarged to
create the now famous 6464 series, and long before tank cars grew
a third dome. Where the previous #2452 gondola was slated for
inclusion with only the beginning 0-27 set, this new, longer NYC
gondola became a staple in the more prestigious "O" gauge line
and appeared in many top-of-the-line sets.
There are numerous variations for the collector
to seek out and none command a premium price. I still search at
train meets hoping to discover a gondola I do not already own;
I know they are out there.
Early NYC gondolas have the "N" in the second panel. In later
years, the "N" moved over to the third panel. My first #6462 NYC
gondola is painted black, has three lines of data, NEW 2-49, and
is detailed with steps and brakewheels. I believe this was the
first #6462 offered by Lionel.
The next picture shows a stripped down black car with only two
lines of data, no built-date, no steps, or brakewheels. When the
gondolas were first painted red, they also came with three lines
of data, built-date, steps and brakewheels.
Eventually, the steps disappeared. Two lines of data were used
along with the built-date.
Next, the brakewheels were removed as was the NEW 2-49 built date.
This car is also a much darker shade of red.
Finally, the often sought after green NYC gondola was made. It
lacks all the extra details including the built-date.
the mid-1950s, Lionel changed the style of the NYC stamping on
the gondolas, making it a larger, sans-serif font, and moving
the "N" to the third panel. I only have a single red car and a
single green car each with three lines of data and the NEW-49
built date. These two cars are still numbered#6462.
In following years, Lionel further cheapened its gondolas by using
plastic trucks, bodies molded in the desired color eliminating
the need to paint, and the sheet metal bottoms which greatly added
to the hefty feel of the cars. The #6462 number changed also to
#6002, #6062, and eventually#6162. The first of these were always
The #6002 is an unusual NYC black gondola because of the trucks.
Lionel used plastic Scout-type trucks but added the more expensive
magnetic couplers rather then straight Scout couplers. This car
came in a set where each freight car was treated to these same
style trucks. Lionel must have thought it was going to save some
production costs but these cars and this style truck were never
seen again so the savings couldn't have mounted to much, if anything
Lionel continued using plastic trucks on future
gondolas. However, these were the standard Timken-type and they
now appeared on the #6062 black gondolas which exist in at least
three variations. The first (pic#9) #6062 has the plastic trucks
riveted to a metal frame and this frame is attached to the plastic
body in the same manner as all previous NYC gondolas; via tabs
that snap into plastic tabs.
Once again, to save production costs, Lionel started to rivet
the trucks directly to the #6062 plastic body eliminating the
metal floor frame altogether. This new style #6062 can be found
both with, and without, the NEW 2-49 built date.
Lionel used a standard gondola body for two operating cars. The
first of these is the #6342 and I have found at least four different
variations to add to my gondola collection. The first two #6342s
came in a light red and a dark red, both with metal trucks, although
one car has the final style metal trucks with the extended tab
to facilitate manual uncoupling. These were probably produced
in two different years thus the difference in color.
The next #6342 has plastic trucks. It does not include the NEW
2-49 built date which is stamped on the two cars with metal trucks.
The final #6342 never had the metal ramp installed. This particular
gondola was obtained directly from the son of a Lionel employee
that cleaned out his fathers office upon his fathers death.
This edition on collecting gondolas will conclude
with one of my favorites, the #6162-60 ALASKA gondola. Its bright
yellow color is a refreshing change from all the black and red
cars. I have had many of these cars in my collection over the
years and have found only two variations.
Most Alaska gondolas come with a very dark blue lettering that
matches the color of the Alaska locomotive, boxcar, and caboose.
The lettering on one car I have is a much lighter blue. I have
shown this car to those involved with checklists and price guides,
but their attitude was, "Who cares?"
WHO CARES? I CARE. I am a bonafide Lionel
collector that enjoys finding variations, even if they aren't
documented in those "holier-than-thou" price guides.
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 at: email@example.com.