Going, Going, Gondolas – Part II
by Mike Stella (Click here to read Pt I)
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.
In 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 black.
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 at all.
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.
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 protected].