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Tangent Scale Models ACF 70 Ton Welded Gondola

Tangent Scale Models ACF Gondola

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tangent gondola

End to end, Tangent's ACF gondola captures the distinctive look of this prototype in every detail.

©2011 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

For its third new HO scale freight car, Tangent Scale Models chose a 70 ton welded gondola produced by American Car and Foundry in the late 1940s and 1950s. Nearly identical cars were built by Pullman Standard. The car has never been mass-produced in HO scale before.

Tangent prides itself on producing only the best models available. This car is certainly worthy of that reputation. Finely detailed, nicely painted and smooth running - these cars will be a nice addition on any layout set from the 1950s to the 1990s.

MSRP: $30.95

Prototype History

American Car and Foundry (ACF) began offering a 70 ton gondola in 1948. The Pennsylvania Railroad was the biggest buyer, adding 11,600 cars to their roster as their class G31B. The PRR also had similar cars from other builders along with building their own. Many of these cars survived through the Penn Central years and into Conrail. Some Pennsy cars were sold to other roads as well. Additional cars were delivered from ACF in 1951-52 with fixed ends, but otherwise identical.

ACF sold the cars to other roads as well. Delaware Lackawanna and Western, Wabash, Atlantic Coast Line purchased the cars new. Western Pacific and Souuthern Pacific also acquired the cars.

These 70 ton cars were the standard 52 feet 6 inches in length. The sides were a relatively low 3 feet 3 inches in height. The most distinctive feature of the cars was the welded construction of the carbody. This was seldom seen, especially on gondolas, in 1948. The sidesill features a shallow "fishbelly" design.

These cars could be found in revenue service all across the country for 40 years. Mass retirements began in the late 1980s and 1990s. Some cars found their way into company service. The Conrail Historical Society recently acquired one such car, Conrail 67257, former PRR 615889. A former DL&W car is preserved at Steamtown in Scranton, PA.

Tangent has produced the car in many of the most popular road names for the car thus far, and more variations are still possible for future runs. These cars normally sell out quickly, and one look at the quality of these models shows why.

Model Review

top chords

Top chord details including tie downs and the notch for the ladder are very well done.

©2011 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

The model is very faithful to the prototype. I measured the car against copies of official diagrams and found it spot on in all major dimensions. All of the body details are nicely done, but the tie down loops beneath the top chord really stand out as fine detailing on an otherwise-simple welded car.

The car features many detail parts, some are plastic others are wire. Ends are nicely finished with grab irons, coupler cut levers, air hoses and Kadee No. 58 "scale" couplers. The "B" end features a handbrake appropriate for the road and an etched platform. The drop ends are nicely modeled, but are fixed in position.

The car rides on ASF A-3 ride control trucks. The side frames are very nicely modeled. Metal wheels roll freely and all checked in gauge.

This latest release comes decorated for 8 new road names / schemes and new road numbers for 3 previous runs.
New Paint schemes / roads:

  • Conrail (6 nos. - ex DLW)
  • Penn Central (6 nos. - 1973 repaint)
  • Pennsylvania - "Early Shadow Keystone" (12 nos.)
  • Pennsylvania - "Late Shadow Keystone" (12 nos.)
  • Southern Pacific - orig. black (6 nos.)
  • Southern Pacific - 1966 repaint "Gothic" letters (12 nos.)
  • Wabash - brown repaint (3 nos.)
  • Western Pacific (3 nos.)

New numbers for old runs:

  • Southern Pacific - orig. brown (3 new nos.)
  • Wabash - black (3 new nos.)
  • Pennsylvania - As delivered (12 nos.)

Conrail (ex-DLW) Model

The models I purchased for this review and use on my home layout are decorated for Conrail. Tangent made an interesting choice here, modeling the much less common ex-DLW class GE51D cars. Going by the numbers, the former PRR cars were a far more common sight on Conrail. I would be surprised if these aren't done in a future run, along with possibly some of the company service schemes.

A photo of CR 521043 appears on Tangent's website and the lettering on the models is an exact match. I have attempted to double check the other numbers against the Conrail 1976 renumbering guide and a 1982 equipment diagram book but with little luck. It appears the majority of the cars were numbered in the 510529 - 510850 block. Those early renumberings were often a bit scattered however, especially when cars had yet to be renumbered for a previous merger as is the case with these DLW cars (Erie Lackawanna.)

The paint on the cars is very evenly applied and the lettering is legible down to the smallest print. The brown color is good for a car freshly shopped. Gondolas as a rule get weathered fairly well and the color will be easy to lighten to represent a later or more in-service appearance.

Conrail used several of these cars as idlers with small cranes. Removng one of the ends would be an easy-enough modification. This car would look nice as a boom car for one of the Walthers American cranes.

Wrap Up


Printing on the gondola is crisp down to the smallest type.

©2011 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Numbering questions aside, this is a beautiful model, and one that seems long overdue. Finding popularity on railroads across the country, seeing more than four decades of service, and with a distinctive yet simple design, these cars should stand out and yet look right at home on any layout.

For N scalers, BLMA has produced the same model, with many of the same paint schemes and road numbers as the Tangent HO models. Some have already been released, others are on their way. Nice to see manufacturers working together for a change!

This car can be greatly enhanced with some weathering. No doubt I'll be doing that as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Look for a how-to article to follow.

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