Sunday, March 6, 2022

The Ulrich “War Emergency” gondola

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post about the old Ulrich 52-ft., 6-in. gondola in HO scale, built to “War Emergency” standards during World War II with wood floor and sheathing to save steel. The model I discussed was one that I had acquired from Chuck Hitchcock, among the hobby’s leading lights, in my opinion. The post is at: . That model is lettered for Santa Fe.

Though I didn’t mention it in that post, my late friend Richard Hendrickson wrote a very nice two-part article about this prototype in Railmodel Journal, in the issues for May and June, 2002. These articles were stimulated by the release of the very nice Tichy kit for these gondolas, and he showed modifications he made to the kit to create cars for New York Central, Pennsylvania, and Santa Fe.

But I had always wanted to do an Ulrich model myself. Not too long ago, I found a completed model at a swap meet, and bought it. I decided I had better look more carefully at the prototype before deciding what to upgrade, and how much. Here’s a builder photo of a New York Central car (NYC photo, Richard Hendrickson collection). The color is boxcar red, incidentally.

One distinctive feature of the NYC cars was the lever handbrake, made by Klasing. Here’s a NYC end view to show what it looked like (Hendrickson collection). Note also the wider end posts to provide structural strength when the drop end is lowered.

Turning to the model, I already had acquired a set of the excellent Greg Komar dry transfers for this car, set 325-B. So I could re-letter after probably needing to repaint. And in any case, the original Ulrich lettering wasn’t very crisp. Here is my model, as acquired, in Norfolk & Western paint. The paint-free areas at each end inside are where slabs of weight had been glued.

The interior of these models was simply a sheet of wood, as you see above; the prototype, of course was planked. I can add scribed styrene sheet inside to deal with that issue. 

The model ends are nice, in that they are stamped brass, and thus have the “reverse” of the outside-surface ribs visible inside, as they should. But the builder of this model had added a geared handbrake on the drop end, as shown below. The actual N&W cars had lever handbrakes on the end post, like the NYC photo above.

The model also obviously has Talgo-type trucks with horn-hook couplers. I will replace the trucks and add body-mounted Kadee couplers.

Lastly, these model only had the three elements of brake gear (reservoir, cylinder, valve), and these were not added in a correct arrangement — see below. The valve is placed so it would interfere with the cylinder, and the cylinder “points” to the wrong end (the builder put the handbrake housing on the other end). I would guess that the builder had no idea of what these parts do.

I have not found a good prototype image of the underbody arrangement, but I show below the way Richard Hendrickson arranged the brake rigging on his model. I will follow this general arrangement.

Now I am ready to proceed! More on this project in a future post.

Tony Thompson

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