Open-bottom gondola vs open hopper

2453 views
29 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    December 2019
  • From: Seattle, WA, USA
  • 1 posts
Open-bottom gondola vs open hopper
Posted by orgelspielerkmd on Sunday, January 19, 2020 6:14 PM

How do you tell the difference between an open-bottom gondola and an open hopper?  Great Northern had many open-bottoms gondolas up until the 50s, I believe, when they bought their first closed-bottom gondolas.  Are the open-bottom gondolas much like the closed ones in height?  Would an open hopper always be taller than an open-bottom gondola, for instance?

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 4,726 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Monday, January 20, 2020 8:40 PM

My observations are that in the classic era, hoppers had sloped bottoms, while drop-bottom gondolas retained the flat bottom and general shape of a gondola.  Many western railroads liked the flexability of the GS (general service) gondola with the drop bottom, that may carry mineral traffic or anything the usual gondola could carry, as different commodities were often seasonal.

In recent times, especially in the rotary gondola era, gondola seems to be a term used for solid bottom open top bulk carriers, without regard to hight of the car side, which have grown to hopper hight.

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Denver / La Junta
  • 9,862 posts
Posted by mudchicken on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 1:28 AM

MidlandMike

My observations are that in the classic era, hoppers had sloped bottoms, while drop-bottom gondolas retained the flat bottom and general shape of a gondola.  Many western railroads liked the flexability of the GS (general service) gondola with the drop bottom, that may carry mineral traffic or anything the usual gondola could carry, as different commodities were often seasonal.

In recent times, especially in the rotary gondola era, gondola seems to be a term used for solid bottom open top bulk carriers, without regard to hight of the car side, which have grown to hopper hight.

 

Wine doors, ratchets and locking clips on the drop gons ....drop bottom gons tend to sit a little higher

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 11,619 posts
Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 9:21 AM

Mac says it better.

Something to remember as a general principle for 'aggregate' loads is that, for a given shape and configuration of car, you will either 'load out' or 'cube out' first.  Both the type of car and its height will reflect this.

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 2,475 posts
Posted by PNWRMNM on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 10:19 AM

orgelspielerkmd

How do you tell the difference between an open-bottom gondola and an open hopper?  Great Northern had many open-bottoms gondolas up until the 50s, I believe, when they bought their first closed-bottom gondolas.  Are the open-bottom gondolas much like the closed ones in height?  Would an open hopper always be taller than an open-bottom gondola, for instance?

 

First, if you are interested in the Great Northern, you should join the Great Northern Railway Historical Association. See gnrhs.org.

Gondolas are differentiated from hopper cars. Gondoala cars are open top cars with flat bottoms. They may or may not have bottom doors or side doors or removable ends. Hopper cars have hopper doors on the bottom. Most but not all are 'self clearing' meaning that they have slope sheets on both ends so that all of the load will slide down the sheets and out of the car. All issues of the Official Railway Equipment Register include definitions and drawings of the many varieties of both gons and hoppers.

You asked about the side wall height of drop bottom vs. solid bottom gons. In the GN case they answer is that in the 1950's they were about the same. That is the first lot of 40' foot 'mill gons' were about as tall/deep as the large fleet of GS drop bottom gons.

Wood chips, a low density product introduced tall gons on the GN, NP, SP&S, and SP, and probably other raods. The first generation of chip cars on the GN were 40 foot box cars with the roof removed. In round numbers these cars offered twice the cubic capacity of a 40 foot gon, but with the same nominal 50 ton carrying capacity. Next the GN took surplus drop bottom gons and added extended height walls and ends to increase cubic capacity. GN also had a group of 50' chip cars converted from 50' box cars. During the 1960's chip hauling roads in the PNW went to purpose built chip cars about 65 feet long and as tall as they could make them. As I recall they were about 7400 cubic feet. The default unloading system was rotary dumpers, probably due to freezing weather in the winter.

I have also seen chip hoppers built for Southern roads. These did not need dumpers to be unloaded, but did need a trestle over a pit with a belt take away system.

The issue of height is basically one of bulk density of the product. You want to maximize tons per car. The easiest way to do that is increase hieght. If that does not work, you have to lengthen the car which increases the tare weight which decreases the payload.

Mac McCulloch

  • Member since
    August 2005
  • From: At the Crossroads of the West
  • 11,009 posts
Posted by Deggesty on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 10:41 AM

My only experience with gondolas was a trip from Brownville, Ala., to Buhl, Ala. and back on the Mobile and Gulf. Except for the two of us who rode the engine, our party rode in a gon. As I recall, the car had a flat bottom (they were used for transporting poles).

As to wood chip cars, I saw them, from time to time, in Reform, where they came up from the south on the AT&N to continue, on the GM&O, to a paper mill in Tuscaloosa. They looked, to me, like ordinary hopper cars.

Johnny

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 18,684 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 11:01 AM

Deggesty
As to wood chip cars, I saw them, from time to time, in Reform, where they came up from the south on the AT&N to continue, on the GM&O, to a paper mill in Tuscaloosa. They looked, to me, like ordinary hopper cars.

'Dedicated' wood chip hoppers were normally regular open top hopper that had their top rails and siding raised a foot or more above the regular oth height.  Wood chips weigh less than the normal oth commodities and additional cubeage was needed to get full utilization out of the car load.

  • Member since
    June 2001
  • From: Lombard (west of Chicago), Illinois
  • 13,512 posts
Posted by CShaveRR on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 2:43 PM

Back in the 1930s and before, there were hopper-bottom gondolas, hoppers without slope sheets, and on and on, each design with its own mechanical designation.  

The GS gondolas seemed to be bought only by railroads west of the Mississippi River.  Most of those railroads weren't very big on hopper cars.  A few GS cars lasted into the 1960s and 70s.

Bethgons do come in varying heights.  When the gross rail load was increased from 263K to 286K, the height went up just a bit.  A lot of Bethgons have been converted to ballast hoppers for the Herzog unit ballast trains.

Carl

Railroader Emeritus (practiced railroading for 46 years--and in 2010 I finally got it right!)

CAACSCOCOM--I don't want to behave improperly, so I just won't behave at all. (SM)

  • Member since
    July 2010
  • From: Louisiana
  • 2,013 posts
Posted by Paul of Covington on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 2:56 PM

   Slightly related--I used to have a Lionel side-dump car.  I don't remember ever seeing or hearing or reading about them in real life.  Did they exist, were they common, and are there any in use today?

_____________

My mind's made up.  Don't confuse me with the facts.

  • Member since
    September 2002
  • From: North Carolina
  • 1,748 posts
Posted by csxns on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 3:34 PM

Paul of Covington
side-dump car. 

I have seen something like that it was a Difco side dump car for MOW.

Russell

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 20,844 posts
Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 4:11 PM

Paul of Covington
and are there any in use today?

Pretty sure there are.

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 18,684 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 4:12 PM

Paul of Covington
   Slightly related--I used to have a Lionel side-dump car.  I don't remember ever seeing or hearing or reading about them in real life.  Did they exist, were they common, and are there any in use today?

They still exist and MofW mainly use them, from my observation, in moving large quantities of rip-rap to the areas of wash outs in efforts to rebuild the ground upon which the railroad is built.  On CSX such cars are restricted to 30 MPH.

They must be used with car as with the loads they carry and dump, it not used properly they are able to dump themselves right into a derailment.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 11,561 posts
Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 4:22 PM

Paul of Covington

   Slightly related--I used to have a Lionel side-dump car.  I don't remember ever seeing or hearing or reading about them in real life.  Did they exist, were they common, and are there any in use today?

 

 
Side-dump cars have been used quite a bit by the taconite / iron ore railroads. Googling "Missabe side-dump car" will come up with quite a few images for example.
Stix
  • Member since
    June 2011
  • 821 posts
Posted by NP Eddie on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 4:40 PM

I saw a number of NP drop sided gons when I started on the NP in 1966. They were used for coal, coke, and scrap loads. Northtown (Minneapols) sent them north to Duluth for coal and coke loading. Our division car distributors would use them in scrap business. After the 1970 merger, I bid a relief job on the X-GN side and saw two drop bottom gons (1XNP and 1XGN car used in shuttle service between their plans in southeast Minneapolis to a scrap yard on the SOO in north Minneapolis. Both cars were old and on their last legs!

In the early 1970's one railroad (don't know which one) sent a load of scrap to Canada in one of the drop floor cars. There was a big derailment that was caused by the drop doors opening. After that Canada prohibited loads in that type of car unless the floor was covered with metal over the doors or the doors were welded shut.

The Hill lines did have a number of air dump cars that were used of MTCE of Way service. They were restricted to daylight operation only in case one dumped a load during train movement. I did see one dump a load of rip-rap at Northtown in the 1980's.

Ed Burns

Retired clerk from Northtown.

  • Member since
    December 2017
  • From: I've been everywhere, man
  • 2,484 posts
Posted by SD70Dude on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 5:01 PM

Paul of Covington

   Slightly related--I used to have a Lionel side-dump car.  I don't remember ever seeing or hearing or reading about them in real life.  Did they exist, were they common, and are there any in use today?

We call them air-dumps.  They are still in use today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwmCExnuiMw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbf9IUgY2yI

They use a very large volume of air, sometimes one locomotive cannot keep up with a trainload of them. 

They are also rather dangerous, it is quite easy to tip the car right off the track, especially if the load is frozen.

Woodchip shipments are now rare in western Canada, I think the last major moves on CN are from Houston and Fort St. James to a pulp mill in Prince George, BC.  Chips have always been a low value, low revenue commodity, and they have the added downside of blowing out of the car and fouling ballast.  CN tried fibreglass lids, but found they would blow off the car as well!

All the CN and BC Rail cars I've seen have end doors.  Some mill have a tilt platform to unload them (just like the chip trucks), while others would use a front-end loader. 

A number of them have been transferred to OCS junk tie service, which subjects them to abuse they were not designed for.  Many loaded ones can be seen bulging under the weight of the ties. 

As of 8 years ago there was one car still running around in very faded Pacific Great Eastern paint.  But I only saw it once. 

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Denver / La Junta
  • 9,862 posts
Posted by mudchicken on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 6:19 PM

Side dumps / air dumps still very much exist and are still being built in small lots. (33 - 50 CY variety) ... One of the more stupid operating stunts after the mergers was the downsizing of the air-dump fleets. Roadmasters fight tooth and nail to get those and keep them moving.

I got to "play" with a brand new one (1:1 scale) in Minneapolis last year before it was delivered to BNSF, complete with hydraulic assist. (BNSF generally prefers straight air - less limitations on what you can do with the car.)

DIFCO/MAGOR et al have been succeeded by a hybrid firm that also builds American Crane self propelled units for bridge and pile driver work under license - https://jk-co.com/air-side-dump-car/ 

Many of those Cleveland Cliffs taconite air dumps are now in captive service in CO (extended side doors, dump planks and  all)

SD70-Dude: Sounds like you have some neophytes around you regarding air dumps, they don't know how to work a compromise fitting off the main air reservoir glad-hand, your mechanical folks are a liability and some people haven't learned to respect a tool that isn't dangerous if it is operated competently. (What knucklehead loaded an airdump with wet material and let it sit for any length of time in cold climate country?Dunce)

Now if only the  #@@*&!!! mechanical people would help maintain the things and the operating bubbas would give them a little more priority before everything comes to a halt.

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
  • Member since
    August 2005
  • From: At the Crossroads of the West
  • 11,009 posts
Posted by Deggesty on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 7:38 PM

Quoting MC: "Now if only the  #@@*&!!! mechanical people would help maintain the things and the operating bubbas would give them a little more priority before everything comes to a halt."

Isn't that what you get when you take people off the street and put them to work before they have learned the job?Smile

Johnny

  • Member since
    December 2017
  • From: I've been everywhere, man
  • 2,484 posts
Posted by SD70Dude on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 7:51 PM

mudchicken

SD70-Dude: Sounds like you have some neophytes around you regarding air dumps, they don't know how to work a compromise fitting off the main air reservoir glad-hand, your mechanical folks are a liability and some people haven't learned to respect a tool that isn't dangerous if it is operated competently. (What knucklehead loaded an airdump with wet material and let it sit for any length of time in cold climate country?Dunce)

CN Engineering, that's who!

Most ballast for the Western Region comes from two quarries in British Columbia,  McAbee (east of Ashcroft) and Kalum (just west of Terrace).  Kalum is in one of the wetter parts of the northwest coast, and while McAbee is in a desert those cars still go through a wet region on the way to their destinations.  CN recently stopped using a third quarry at Giscome, east of Prince George.

And since OCS moves like ballast trains are usually low-priority, those trains often end up sitting for days at a time in yards at various enroute locations, giving additional time to 'moisten' and then freeze the load. 

I saw a bunch of loaded air-dumps go through Edmonton during this last -40 cold snap.  I don't envy the crews who will have to unload them.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

  • Member since
    July 2010
  • From: Louisiana
  • 2,013 posts
Posted by Paul of Covington on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 9:43 PM

   Thanks, all.  Glad to see they're alive and well.

_____________

My mind's made up.  Don't confuse me with the facts.

  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: South Central,Ks
  • 6,556 posts
Posted by samfp1943 on Wednesday, January 22, 2020 12:16 PM

Paul of Covington

   Slightly related--I used to have a Lionel side-dump car.  I don't remember ever seeing or hearing or reading about them in real life.  Did they exist, were they common, and are there any in use today? 

 

  Saw a string of side dump (3) on a siding between Raton and Santa Fe on the ride to Albuquerque. So I guess BNSF srill uses them... Also saw a string of several gondolas, just north of Glorietta,NM Station. Loaded with wood debris(ties(?), they were very heavily 'tagged'. And coming back, our train (#4) followed a freight train over Raton,( we spent about 25 minutes waiting in the tunnel.)

 

 

 


 

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Denver / La Junta
  • 9,862 posts
Posted by mudchicken on Wednesday, January 22, 2020 5:39 PM

Sam: you must have been following the work train back over the hill (no freight moving between Trinidad and Lamy)

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: South Central,Ks
  • 6,556 posts
Posted by samfp1943 on Wednesday, January 22, 2020 10:52 PM

mudchicken

Sam: you must have been following the work train back over the hill (no freight moving between Trinidad and Lamy) 

  Quite possibly(?)  Never saw it, just the red signals and an occasional yellow as we followed it, very slowly, over the Pass and Eastward...Did see some cars left on sidings[MOW debris,ties, maybe.]

 

 

 


 

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 11,561 posts
Posted by wjstix on Thursday, January 23, 2020 10:41 AM

Back to the gondolas, I recall reading somewhere along the line that in years past small coal dealers preferred to get coal in a drop-bottom gondola rather than a hopper car if they didn't have an elevated coal dock. The hopper car would dump straight down onto the track in the siding. Gondolas with hatches in the floor were set up so the hinges were towards the center of the car, so coal unloaded thru the hatches would go to the side of the track. That made it much easier to say use a portable conveyer to load the coal into a truck, and you didn't have to try to dig around under the hopper car to get the coal clear before moving it after it dumped.

Stix
  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 5,322 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, January 23, 2020 10:10 PM

mudchicken

Now if only the  #@@*&!!! mechanical people would help maintain the things...

 

WHAT?  SPEND MONEY ON NON-REVENUE EQUIPMENT?  THAT"S JUST CRAZY TALK.

Jeff

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Denver / La Junta
  • 9,862 posts
Posted by mudchicken on Friday, January 24, 2020 10:43 AM

jeffhergert

 

 
mudchicken

Now if only the  #@@*&!!! mechanical people would help maintain the things...

 

 

 

WHAT?  SPEND MONEY ON NON-REVENUE EQUIPMENT?  THAT"S JUST CRAZY TALK.

Jeff

 

Sigh Some things never change

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
  • Member since
    October 2006
  • From: Allentown, PA
  • 9,809 posts
Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Saturday, January 25, 2020 2:27 PM

Looking at it in a slightly different way - especially on a piece of equipment that sees so few miles in actual service each year! (which is a good thing, if you think about it)  

- PDN. 

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Denver / La Junta
  • 9,862 posts
Posted by mudchicken on Sunday, January 26, 2020 12:35 PM

Paul_D_North_Jr

Looking at it in a slightly different way - especially on a piece of equipment that sees so few miles in actual service each year! (which is a good thing, if you think about it)  

- PDN. 

 

They were never idle on Santa Fe unless they were bad ordered. Plenty of non-Suspense/Force/casualty account work out there. Ballast, waste ballast/screenings and rip rap were always on the move along with projects in the terminals. Road crossing ballast was a common application.

(access to a Loram/Georgetown "Dump Train" is still tightly restricted)

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 18,684 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, January 26, 2020 12:50 PM

mudchicken
 
Paul_D_North_Jr

Looking at it in a slightly different way - especially on a piece of equipment that sees so few miles in actual service each year! (which is a good thing, if you think about it)  

- PDN.  

They were never idle on Santa Fe unless they were bad ordered. Plenty of non-Suspense/Force/casualty account work out there. Ballast, waste ballast/screenings and rip rap were always on the move along with projects in the terminals. Road crossing ballast was a common application. 

(access to a Loram/Georgetown "Dump Train" is still tightly restricted)

I have been in Jacksonville for the past month.  A Herzog GPS ballast train has been parked on the FEC here ever since the day I arrived.

  • Member since
    January 2008
  • 992 posts
Posted by Sunnyland on Monday, February 3, 2020 3:33 PM

never knew about open bottom gondolas, only hoppers.  Do remember riding in  gondola cars on  Q steam trips pulled by #4960.  Great place to watch the action and get hit by cinders, ha ha, as she was coal powered at that time.  Dad and I loved to stand out there and watch the world go by, Mom usually stayed inside.  

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 18,684 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Monday, February 3, 2020 4:54 PM

The B&O would deliver a number of 'no bottom' gons to Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows point when the 'push' was on to fill Beth Steel's car orders.  (had been wood floor gons with the floors burnt out from prior hot slab loadings)

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy