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Quick Look: ExactRail HO scale SP gondola

Read this review from the November 2017 Model Railroader
ExactRail HO scale SP gondola
ExactRail HO scale SP gondola

Price: $44.99

525 E. 1860 S.
Provo, UT 84606

Era: 1974 to present

Comments: ExactRail has added a Southern Pacific (SP) class G-100-22 gondola to its Platinum Series of ready-to-run HO scale freight cars. The model features wire grab irons and brake cylinder lever hangers, metal top chord tie-downs, and etched-brass Automatic Car Identification plates. ExactRail offers the car in its as-delivered scheme in nine numbers.

Our sample is decorated as SP no. 340534, part of the railroad’s 340525 through 340624 series of 100-ton gondolas built by Thrall Car Manufacturing Co. in 1974. The 3,234-cubic-foot-capacity general-service cars, which featured a steel floor and solid ends, were used to carry pipe, steel shapes, and structural steel. As of January 2016, only one car from this series remained on Union Pacific’s roster.

The model’s dimensions closely follow data in the January 1975 Official Railway Equipment Register (National Railway Publication Co.). The interior length and width are both a scale 3 inches too narrow, but that’s typical of gondola models.

Underneath, the model has a one-piece casting of the center sills, bolster blocks, and crossbearers. The crossties and body bolsters are cast into the underbody. The AB control valve, air reservoir, and brake cylinder are separate parts. The rods and pipes are a mix of plastic and wire.

The paint on the model is smooth and evenly applied, and the lettering is all legible and opaque. The lettering placement matches prototype photos in Anthony W. Thompson’s Southern Pacific Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Car Equipment (Morning Sun Books, 1999).

Other separately applied parts include plastic side and end ladders, wire uncoupling levers, and an etched-metal brakewheel platform.

The model features CNC-machined 36" metal wheelsets, which are properly gauged. The Kadee no. 158 body- mounted couplers are installed at the correct height. At 4.4 ounces, the gondola is 1.1 ounces too light per National Model Railroad Association Recommended Practice 20.1.

I tested the car on our HO scale Wisconsin & Southern Troy Branch. The car operated smoothly while being pushed and pulled through the layout’s no. 5 turnouts and 30" radius curves.

ExactRail describes its Platinum Series as “our premier collection of fine-scale replicas.” This gondola definitely belongs in that category.

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