locked Re: Southern early low side gons (1901-1945)

Bill Schafer

Dave’s excellent article on the Spanish flu appeared on p. 12 of 2019-3 TIES - six months before the Covid 19 epidemic. 


On Apr 18, 2022, at 09:22, George Eichelberger <geichelberger@...> wrote:


Ties ran an article on low side gons and most of the info Jim King published with his kits came from SRHA. (Jim is always very good with crediting material.)

Many people have heard my comments on ORERs before. They are far from a perfect data source!

I can’t say if other roads had the same attitude but the Southern did not always worry about the quantities in the ORERs. For example, if a series was being scrapped, there was no need to “count down” the number of cars left. When the last car was gone, the entire entry would be removed.

Those inaccuracies were for cars being purchased or rebuilt as well as scrapped. If cars were to be rebuilt/renumbered under an SCP, or purchased new, the entries would sometimes be made before the work was done or the cars delivered. The ORERs' only real use to the railroads was for dealing with interchanged cars. If car 123456 showed up in interchange, the ORER told the receiving railroad its details. If a car number was in the ORER but the car did not exist (scrapped/not delivered), it meant nothing.

There is at least one series of 40’ Southern box car rebuilds in ORERs that never existed. They were shown to have 70-ton trucks but were only rebuilt with 50-ton capy. THAT would be a serious problem in the RER because a receiving railroad could overload those cars because they relied on the published CAPY info.

The other issue I see with ORERS is how the entries aggregated cars with similar characteristics. A quantity could include cars from different orders/rebuilds as long as their AAR code and dimensions were the same (mol).

ORERS are good starting point references but I question their value for “deep” research.


PS Always confusing, the first “low side gons” by Southern classification were actually flat cars with low wooden sides. Yes, they were “gons” (116000 series?) but could be seen as flat cars with low sides.

PPS With Covid so much in the news, I really recommend Dave’s article in TIES on the Spanish Flu epidemic that was published some time ago.

On Apr 17, 2022, at 10:31 PM, A&Y Dave in MD <dbott@...> wrote:

There's been comparatively a lot of history of Southern boxcars and even hoppers in the pre-WWII era, but the gondolas, and my favorite the low side gons, have had little attention paid.  I want to fix this starting with the low side versions.


I'm gathering data about the Southern's early low side gondola fleet, hopefully for an article in TIES (since I haven't found an article on the history of these cars yet).  Attached (if it goes through) is a PDF with my transcription of the ORER entries for years I have (fifteen years from 1901-1945).  I included the entries for any gondola with an inside height of less than 3'10".  Many were labeled "low side" as the kind in the ORER, others just appear to have low sides by dimension.


The first page of the attached PDF is a pivot table indicating the total number of cars in each series by available year for series having 25+ cars in a year (leaving out the "one off" car series).  The last five pages of the PDF list each ORER year with low side gondola car number series as rows (and not filtered by the minimum count). The entire listing is helpful to see things like when AGS, CNOTP, and other subsidiaries had some cars re-lettered Southern and renumbered.


Now I need to review the photos I have for these series to see what I can learn.  I doubt I will find much.  I have maybe 6 photos total of the 1924 built cars (non-rebuilt). The best are from the online archive of Duke University construction in 1929.  I've gone through all the 'Southern Rails' and the first three of nine binders of SRHA TIES magazines and I have found three more photos (two of which you cannot read lettering and can barely count the ribs to confirm the type and the other one is in the Speedwitch kit instructions). I also have the only photo found of the wood side gon on flat car (117500-117999 series introduced in 1930) from the SMMW kit instructions.  I did see Ed King's article on modeling the steel low sides in O scale, but he didn't have a prototype photo or information that I didn't already see.  Kind of interesting that we have at least two model kits and one model article, but no history article!


If anyone has more information or photos, especially of the 9 rib 10 panel low side steel gondolas (since they are more likely), please let me know.  I've yet to go through my other books (Prince, Webb, etc) to look for glimpses of these cars.  Most photos I've seen depict the cars after rebuilding to 11 ribs starting about 1943.


The 1940's rebuilt with 11 ribs and later built cars are pretty well documented (even with color photos), but data on the 1924 built and earlier steel, composite, or wood cars is much harder to find.  Hopefully I can get to the archives some day and look for drawings.  I need to resolve questions like: Which of these series were all wood, which composite, and which were steel? The SMMW kit history states that the 1924 steel cars were built with 9 ribs, Andrews trucks, and AB brakes.  The latter is hard to believe, given AB brakes were introduced in 1930 and not adopted by the AAR until 1934.  So I can believe the 1937 and later built cars plus the rebuilds had AB brakes, but I wonder if that was supposed to indicate "Split K" or K brakes for 1924 built cars instead.


Dave Bott


I extracted all the Southern Railway entry page images from at least one ORER for each year I have obtained (1901, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1912, 1913, 1917, 1926, 1930, 1934, 1935, 1945, 1950, 1955, 1959). The first ten are no longer copyrighted and I obtained via Google books. The others are ones I have bought.  Great for research purposes. If anyone is interested in a set of just the 19 Southern entries (PDFs are 45mb in ZIP file), I can make available for download from personal Google or OneDrive.  Just let me know.  I would be interested in Southern entries for years I don't have prior to 1950.


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