Thursday, October 19, 2023

The new Class One flat car

 Many of you will have seen the announcements by a relatively new model manufacturer, Class One Model Works, for a 58-foot heavy-duty, depressed-center flat car. (You can visit the Class One site to see these models at: .) Several railroads built very similar versions of this car, because General Steel Castings Corp. (GSC) produced a one-piece steel casting for the entire car. This of course made a very strong and durable car body.

Below is an example of one of these 58-foot GSC frames, produced under the “Commonwealth” name, whitewashed for the photo (GSC photo for Southern Pacific, Steve Peery collection).

Either a car builder or the railroad’s own shops could add brake gear, desired decking, and suitable trucks and couplers to complete the car, a straightforward job for most railroad shops. One of the interesting things about the flat cars produced with these body castings is that many of the railroads chose to use a heavy-duty 6-wheel Commonwealth truck produced by GSC, a distinctive-looking truck (GSC photo for Southern Pacific, Steve Peery collection).

As you can tell from my photo credits, Southern Pacific was one of the railroads that bought these cars, with these trucks. But Class One is not offering an SP version. I have an idea why not. 

The Class One models offer either a wood end deck or an open-grate end deck, and all cars have the end-to-center transition area open, with the slots showing (see the frame photo above). But SP covered the transition-area slots with steel plate, and welded steel plate onto the end decks also. This rather vertiginous photo, taken from the overhead crane at the T&NO shop in Houston (SP photo, Steve Peery collection), shows this, though this is a slightly different car from those shown above.

That of course raises the very interesting question of whether the Class One model can be modified to match the SP cars shown in these photos. I am still contemplating that option. But to assess whether that would be feasible, I went ahead and bought one of their cars, Erie 7265, a car built in 1948. Like all the cars, it has the Commonwealth trucks (they are roller-bearing trucks, not correct for the Erie car in its original state.) It’s a very nice model and will certainly be going into action on my layout, pending truck correction. This model has the wood end decks.

I even admire their shipping box for the cars, a crate-like look that I show below. Inside, the model is securely positioned at an angle to the short directions of the box, and arrived in perfect condition.

I will return to the question of whether I can or will modify one of these cars for Southern Pacific in a future post. But I do know how to back-date a roller-bearing truck to plain bearings, as I did for my helium car model some years ago (see the post at: , scroll down to the bottom). I may do the same for the Erie car shown above.

Tony Thompson


  1. Tony, did depressed-center flats commonly go offline?


    1. Yes, Phil, very much so! There weren't that many of them in the national fleet, and shippers often got cars from faraway railroads. There was a special listing of heavy-duty flat cars in the back of every ORER, just because of this situation. Car distributors used what they could find.
      Tony Thompson