by Tony Cook
Arrowhead Models began a few years ago with its release of a 100-ton hopper car and followed that with a reproduction of a very popular gondola in HO scale. The company is currently working on an American Car & Foundry 4600 Centerflow hopper. This gondola reproduces Greenville’s 2494-cubic-foot capacity gondola built for Trailer Train’s Railgon service. Dating to 1979, the Railgon concept was like Trailer Train’s mid-1970s Railbox service. Building on the same idea that general service boxcars were needed, Railgon was formed to operate a fleet of gondolas. An approved design from Railgon was met with participation by five freight car builders (Berwick, Bethlehem, Greenville, Pullman-Standard, and Thrall) with examples going into service in mid-1980.
Among the partners in Railgon that received equipment as the business model failed was Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW). In 1987, 300 remaining members of Railgon’s fleet moved on to join Rio Grande’s roster. The part out of gondolas began a year prior and by the time Rio Grande received examples, Railgon’s fleet was already well below half its original size. Numbered in the 330000-series, Rio Grande’s collection included nearly 200 gondolas with racks or cradles in the bed of the car. This addition to the otherwise general service car made these examples ready for coil steel service (this feature is differentiated in classification as “GBSR” versus “GB” for regular gons).
ABOVE: DRGW 330019 came to the road after the breakup of the fleet of Railgon gondolas. This highly accurate reproduction includes an orange label (center of the car side beneath the “a” in Railgon) noting the inclusion of racks down its bed for carrying coil steel.
When I bought my first example from Lombard Hobbies a year or so back (an as-delivered Railgon with GONX reporting marks), I was stunned by the delicate and fine appearance of this gondola. When a really amazing rendition of a prototype that has been produced in the past in model form comes to the hobby, I suddenly feel like this is a locomotive or car that we’ve never truly seen in HO. Arrowhead’s fine work on this Greenville gondola hits me this way… suddenly, I have a new definition of what this should look like in HO scale.
I mentioned the sides, end, and floor are thin brass; added to this base is a wealth of separately applied details. In all, Arrowhead reports the count is about 200 parts (more than 80 wire and more than 30 etched-brass) to make up this gondola. Think again about other gondola models you may have experienced and the number of pieces making them up is nowhere near this figure.
The model (without load) weighs 2.4 ounces and comes equipped with body-mounted Kadee 156 whisker-style metal knuckle couplers. The accurate roller bearing truck sideframes hold 36-inch fine scale Code 88 metal wheels. Arrowhead packs this assembled gondola in a typical two-piece inner plastic tray system with the model wrapped in film, and all this is housed in a two-piece cardboard box.
ABOVE: More than 200 parts make up Arrowhead’s finely detailed Greenville 2494-cubic-foot capacity gondola. The model rides on fine scale Code 88 metal wheels.
Though I’ve stated the vast number of parts and delicate feel of this gondola, I am surprised by its robust nature. This is the second example I’ve handled and I had no loose parts and managed to do photogaph, check wheels and coupler height (both were fine compared to NMRA recommendations), and operate this model without damaging anything. This is a solidly built gondola.
For this recent group, Lombard Hobbies in the Chicago area has an exclusive group of five D&RGW examples (three with coil steel cradle as shown in this review and two regular gons). In addition, Arrowhead has five Chicago & North Western gons. These include blacked out sides (no Railgon lettering remains) with yellow frame and patched white CNW reporting marks. For both road names (D&RGW and CNW), check with Lombard Hobbies. Visit Arrowhead Models or a participating hobby dealer for Chicago & North Western releases.
The complete review is found in July 2021’s Model Railroad News!