Oversized Gla's on the O&W

by Bob Karig

    If you've read my article on Gla's, you already know that the O&W had over 700 of these venerable, all-steel, twin-hoppers in its coal car fleet during the 1930's and 40's.  But did you know that the O&W also had some other Gla-type cars in its inventory?  If you've already built your quota of Gla's for the O&W, perhaps you'd like to try your hand at modeling some of these cars.

    In 1920, the Pressed Steel Car Company introduced an oversized Gla that was eleven inches taller than a standard Gla.  This increased the capacity of the car from the 1683 cubic feet of a standard Gla to 1960 cubic feet, and as a result, the car was rated at 55 tons versus the standard Gla's 50 tons.  Other than the increase in height, the car was dimensionally identical to a standard Gla.  A builder's photo of this car is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1--The Pressed Steel Car Company introduced this oversized Gla in 1920.  It was eleven inches taller than a standard Gla, and it had a capacity of 1960 cubic feet versus the standard Gla's 1683 cubic feet.  This builder's photo is from the D.K. Retterer collection.

    The Struthers Furnace Company purchased 60 of these cars from Pressed Steel in 1920, but their service with that furnace company was short lived.  In 1926, the receiver for Struthers put these cars on the market at the same time that the O&W was suffering from a capacity shortage in its coal car fleet.  The O&W bought 40 of these oversize Gla's and put them into service numbered 17000-17039.  These cars proved very reliable, and according to remarks by railroad officials in the late 30's, they were well liked by the railroad.  They were so well liked that they became the model for an experiment by the O&W in 1939.

    Two years had already elapsed since the O&W had entered bankruptcy when, in 1939, the O&W again found itself suffering from capacity problems.  Management sought an inexpensive way to overcome this capacity shortage, and its car shops provided the answer--increase the capacity of its existing cars by raising their sides one foot.  The thinking was very clear, if you raise the sides of a standard Gla by one foot, you produce a car comparable to the 17000 series, which had been so successful on the railroad.

    Thus, the O&W sought and received permission from the bankruptcy court to make this modification.  In that same year, the O&W modified one of its Gla's in the 3249 series by raising the sides one foot.  This modification was made by cutting off the top rails and riveting extensions against and inside the existing sides.  A close-up photo of this modification is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2--This close-up photo taken by John Forni from Al Seebach's collection shows the modification the O&W made to 501 of its coal cars in 1939 and 1940 to increase their capacity. 

    The first car that was modified became O&W car number 10500  The O&W planned to modify 300 of its existing Gla fleet with this extension, probably using the late model Gla's from the 20000 series.  Unfortunately, the O&W must not have liked the results, because 10500 was the only Gla so modified.  The O&W went on to increase the capacity of 500 of its other 50-ton cars with this modification, but no other Gla's.  Therefore, car number 10500 became a series of one on the O&W until its retirement in 1946.  Cars in the 17000 series stayed in service through 1955.

    If you'd like to model these two cars, the kit-bash is fairly straight forward.  You can produce one of each of these cars using three Bowser Gla kits.  First, cut the top two feet off of one of the car bodies.  The top becomes the top of the 17000 series car.  The bottom is discarded.  Next, cut one foot off of the second car body.  The top becomes the top of car #10500 and the bottom becomes the bottom of the 17000 series car.  Finally, cut the top rail off of the third car body.  Now, this needs to be done carefully, because you want to preserve the rivet pattern that exists just below the top rail.  This will become the rivet pattern located just below the seam of the side extension, as seen in Figure 2.

    Here's how I made the cuts.  I mounted my Dremel tool in a drill press with a thin saw blade.  Two notes with regard to the saw blade.  First, be sure that it's mounted backwards so that it doesn't chew the plastic.  Second, I found it necessary to reinforce the thin saw blade with some plastic washers to keep it from wandering.  Next, I built a small carriage to hold the car bodies steady as I slid them through the saw blade.  It actually worked easier and cleaner than I expected.  Just remember the adage, "Measure twice, cut once," and move slowly.

    Once you've made these cuts, it's a simple matter to complete the kits.  The two hardest parts will be joining the top and bottom pieces together and adding the grab irons.  I used thin pieces of plastic inside the lower part of the car bodies to assist me with the first problem of aligning the top and bottom pieces.  As far as the second, it became a matter of trial and error.  Note that the 20000 series has six, straight grab irons on the sides and five on the ends.  The increase in height of car number 10500 would have required the O&W to increase the number of grab irons from the standard Gla from five to six on the sides and from four to five on the ends.  Although no picture of car number 10500 has been found, it appears that the O&W's practice would have been to reuse the drop grab irons on the lower sides and ends and add a straight grab iron at the top rung.  Like I said, trial and error for measurement.  Also, the 10500 probably had a power hand brake.  The Bowser kit has an Ajax brake that you can use to accomodate this modification.  Note also that the 17000 series had Dunham door operating mechanisms that were located about two-thirds up the outside of the hopper bays (see photo).  Car number 10500 probably had Simonton door operating mechanisms, which would have been located about midway up the outside of the hopper bays.  In both cases, the door operating mechanisms would only be on the "left" side of the car, that is the side that you're facing when the brake or "B" end is on your right.  This means that you'll have to shave off the Wine door locks, which are molded on both sides of the Bowser kit.  I used some door operating mechanisms from some old Accurail hoppers.  They're Enterprise mechanisms, but they'll do.  My eyes aren't that good anyway.

    I made up a set of decals for these cars for myself, and I made a few to share.  If you'd like to try your hand at these, I can let you have a set of the decals for $8.00 a set.  In addition to these two car series, there are decals for a standard Gla, a standard USRA hopper, hoppers in the 19000 series, and gondolas in the 6200 series, all complete with accurate data for the mid-1940's.  I've thrown in a few other car numbers and details just for grins.

    If you'd like to learn more about these two series of hopper cars, watch for my upcoming book, The Anthracite Operations and Coal Cars of the NYO&W Ry.