Gondola (rail)

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A railroad gondola seen at Rochelle, Illinois CW 5097 at Rochelle, IL, 20040718.jpg
A railroad gondola seen at Rochelle, Illinois

In US railroad terminology, a gondola is an open-topped rail vehicle used for transporting loose bulk materials. Because of their low side walls, gondolas are also suitable for the carriage of such high-density cargos as steel plates or coils, or of bulky items such as prefabricated sections of rail track. Gondolas are distinct from hopper cars in that they do not have doors on their floor to empty cargo.


In Australia these wagons are called open wagons .


The first gondola cars in North America were developed in the 1830s, and used primarily to carry coal. Early gondolas were little more than flatcars with wooden sides added, and were typically small – 30 feet (9.14 m) or less in length, and 15 short tons (13.4 long tons; 13.6 t) or less in weight. [1] These cars were not widely used at first, as they could only be unloaded by workers shoveling out their cargo by hand, a slow and labor-intensive process. A solution for this problem was developed around the 1860s with the drop-bottom gondola, which had hatches installed in the floor which could be opened at a destination, with workers using shovels to direct cargo towards the hatches. This was an improvement over earlier gondolas, but still required manual unloading. [1]

This covered gondola protects its cargo from exposure to moisture while in transit. Covered Hopper, South Shore (10589142205).jpg
This covered gondola protects its cargo from exposure to moisture while in transit.

After the American Civil War, advances in technology, especially the development of steel, allowed new and larger gondola designs. New gondolas built with steel sides and frames (though wood was retained for flooring, since it was flexible and cheap to replace) were often built to lengths between 40 and 50 feet (12.19 and 15.24 m), and gradually increased in capacity from around 30 short tons (26.8 long tons; 27.2 t) to as much as 70 short tons (62.5 long tons; 63.5 t) by the early to mid 20th century. [1] Gondolas began to be built for specialized purposes; depending on their intended cargo, the side heights could range from just two feet (0.61 m) for bulk commodities like sand, to six feet (1.83 m) or more for loads such as pipes, ten feet (3.05 m), or more for light cargos like woodchips. [1] Covered gondolas were also developed for cargos that had to be protected from the elements, such as food and freshly made steel. [1] Starting in the 1950s and 1960s, high-sided gondolas were used for coal, thanks to stronger car construction and the invention of rotary car dumpers, which allowed these gondolas to be emptied automatically. [1]

Specialized car types

"Bathtub" gondolas

A bathtub gondola passing through Rochelle, Illinois, in 2005 Bathtub gondola at Rochelle.jpg
A bathtub gondola passing through Rochelle, Illinois, in 2005

In the second half of the 20th century, coal haulage shifted from open hopper cars to high-sided gondolas. Using a gondola, the railroads are able to haul a larger amount of coal per car since gondolas do not include the equipment needed for unloading. However, since these cars do not have hatches for unloading the products shipped in them, railroads must use rotary car dumpers (mechanisms that hold a car against a short section of track as the car and track are slowly rotated upside down to empty the car) or other means to empty them. The term "bathtub" refers to the shape of the car.

The "Double Rotary" coal gondola is required in this consist. The "Double Rotary" referring to this car that has rotary couplers on both ends instead of one end.

Coil car

The coil car is a modified gondola designed specifically for carrying coils of metal. [2]

Track ballast gondolas

A side-dump gondola on display at the US National Railroad Museum Side dump gondola at NRM.jpg
A side-dump gondola on display at the US National Railroad Museum

Track ballast gondolas carry ballast. These gondolas are side tipping.

Lorry or mine car

A 30 cu ft (0.85 m) mine car, drawing from the United States Bureau of Mines 30-cu.ft.Minecar.jpg
A 30 cu ft (0.85 m) mine car, drawing from the United States Bureau of Mines

An open railroad car (gondola) with a tipping trough, often found in mines. Known in the UK as a tippler or chaldron wagon [3] and in the US as a mine car. [4]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Boxcar Enclosed railroad car used to carry freight

A boxcar is the North American (AAR) term for a railroad car that is enclosed and generally used to carry freight. The boxcar, while not the simplest freight car design, is probably the most versatile since it can carry most loads. Boxcars have side doors of varying size and operation, and some include end doors and adjustable bulkheads to load very large items.

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The Hulett was an ore unloader that was widely used on the Great Lakes of North America. It was unsuited to tidewater ports because it could not adjust for rising and falling tides, although one was used in New York City.

A hopper car (US) or hopper wagon (UIC) is a type of railroad freight car used to transport loose bulk commodities such as coal, ore, grain, and track ballast. Two main types of hopper car exist: covered hopper cars, which are equipped with a roof, and open hopper cars, which do not have a roof.

Bulk material handling

Bulk material handling is an engineering field that is centered on the design of equipment used for the handling of dry materials. Bulk materials are those dry materials which are powdery, granular or lumpy in nature, and are stored in heaps. Examples of bulk materials are minerals, ores, coal, cereals, woodchips, sand, gravel, clay, cement, ash, salt, chemicals, grain, sugar, flour and stone in loose bulk form. It can also relate to the handling of mixed wastes. Bulk material handling is an essential part of all industries that process bulk ingredients, including: food, beverage, confectionery, pet food, animal feed, tobacco, chemical, agricultural, polymer, plastic, rubber, ceramic, electronics, metals, minerals, paint, paper, textiles and more.

Dry bulk cargo barge

A dry bulk cargo barge is a barge designed to carry freight such as coal, finished steel or its ingredients, grain, sand or gravel, or similar materials. Barges are usually constructed of steel. They have an outer hull, an internal void that is fitted with heavy struts and cross braces or scantlings, and an internal cargo box. The outer hull of a barge can come in one of two configurations. A rake barge has a curved bow to provide less resistance when being pushed and is usually placed at the head of the tow. A box barge is usually placed in the center and rear of the tow and can hold more cargo.

Covered hopper

A covered hopper is a self-clearing enclosed railroad freight car with fixed roof, sides, and ends with openings for loading through the roof and bottom openings for unloading. Covered hopper cars are designed for carrying dry bulk loads, varying from grain to products such as sand and clay. The cover protects the loads from the weather. Dry cement would be very hard to unload if mixed with water in transit, while grain would be likely to rot if exposed to rain.

Rotary car dumper

A rotary car dumper or wagon tippler (UK) is a mechanism used for unloading certain railroad cars such as hopper cars, gondolas or mine cars. It holds the rail car to a section of track and then rotates the track and car together to dump out the contents. Used with gondola cars, it is making open hopper cars obsolete. Because hopper cars require sloped chutes in order to direct the contents to the bottom dump doors (hatches) for unloading, gondola cars allow cars to be lower, thus lowering their center of gravity, while carrying the same gross rail load. The "Double Rotary" coal gondola or coal hopper is required for compatibility.

Rail freight transport Train that carries cargo

Rail freight transport is the use of railroads and trains to transport cargo as opposed to human passengers.

Bulk cargo Commodity cargo transported unpackaged in large quantities

Bulk cargo is commodity cargo that is transported unpackaged in large quantities.

Mineral wagon

A mineral wagon or coal truck is a small open-topped railway goods wagon used in the United Kingdom and elsewhere to carry coal, ores and other mine products.

Coil car Type of rolling stock

Coil cars are a specialized type of rolling stock designed for the transport of coils of sheet metal, particularly steel. They are considered a subtype of the gondola car, though they bear little resemblance to a typical gondola.

Ralston Steel Car Company Rolling stock manufacturer

The Ralston Steel Car Company operated in Columbus, Ohio, from 1905-1953. The company began by modifying wood freight cars to add steel underframes. Later it manufactured its own line of all-steel rail cars.

Minecart Type of rail vehicle used with mine railways

A minecart or mine cart is a type of rolling stock found on a mine railway, used for moving ore and materials procured in the process of traditional mining. Minecarts are seldom used in modern operations, having largely been superseded in underground operations by more efficient belt conveyor systems that allow machines such as longwall shearers and continuous miners to operate at their full capacity, and above ground by large dumpers.

Heyl & Patterson Inc. is an American specialist engineering company, founded in 1887 and based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Open wagon Railway wagons for transportation of bulk goods

Open wagons form a large group of railway goods wagons designed primarily for the transportation of bulk goods that are not moisture-retentive and can usually be tipped, dumped or shovelled. The International Union of Railways (UIC) distinguishes between ordinary wagons and special wagons (F/6). Open wagons often form a significant part of a railway company's goods wagon fleet; for example, forming just under 40% of the Deutsche Bahn's total goods wagon stock in Germany.

The Victorian Railways in Australia have had a vast range of hopper-type wagons over the last century, for transporting anything from grains through fuel to various powders.

A coal truck may refer to:


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Schafer, Mike (1999). Freight train cars. Mike McBride. Osceola, Wis.: MBI Pub. pp. 38–45. ISBN   0-7603-0612-5. OCLC   41002704.
  2. "What Is a Coil Car?". www.up.com. October 5, 2021. Retrieved 2021-12-31.
  3. Chaldron wagon [ dead link ] Archived 2008-12-08 at the Wayback Machine
  4. "30-Cu. Ft. Mine car". Archived from the original on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2010-10-13.