Penn Central G31 Gondola Modelling Information
By Mike Shylanski
In trying to make an accurate model of a PRR or PC class G31 gondola, I used a ConCor (formerly Revell) model as a starting point. I understood from Railmodel Journal articles that the Revel model was 2 scale feet too low and needs modification. The easiest thing to do is cut 6 scale inches (about 2 millimeters of plastic) off the bottom and shave off the rivets to make a welded gon. My examination of the ConCor model and a reprint of a Car Cyclopedia book convinced me that the ConCor model was an attempt to model a drop-end G31 gondola. Based on photos and PRR blueprints recreated in the Middle Divsion's Pennsylvania Railroad Compendium plus the Railmodel Journal article I have learned the following about PRR G31 gondolas. G31A--drop ends, welded; G31B--drop ends, welded; G31C drop ends, riveted; G31D--fixed ends, welded; G31E--drop ends, still don't know whether welded or rivetted; G31K--end type unknown, welded. I do not know whether there ever were G31F, G, H and I, gondolas, but the RMJ article claims there were G31K's. What this all comes down to is if someone wants to use the ConCor gon to make a fairly accurate PRR gon, he needs to saw off two scale feet from the bottom of the sides of the car, shave off all the rivets, and letter it as a G31A or G31B gondola. Without altering the car's ends or adding rivets--something I can't even imagine doing--you can't make a decent G31D or E. I am not sure about the supposed G31K. ConCor sells a "Conrail Quality" version of this gon, but I checked the current ORER and the number, while plausible, does not match a real car. Also, the ConCor CQ gon has a built date in the 1990's.
No matter which car you model, you will need to discard the ConCor underframe and use a new one. Railmodel Journal suggested using a modified Athearn 50' boxcar underframe. I bought a Life Like Proto 2000 52' gon and used that kit's center sill and brake gear for the conversion. I took the Proto 2000 gon floor and glued it to the bottom of the Con-Cor/Revell car's floor. Otherwise the underframe would not be in the right place. You could also substitute a sheet of styrene that was fairly thick. This may sound like a lot of work, but it's not too bad. While I'm not sure how authentic that brake gear is for a Pennsy gon, it does make for a nice-looking model.
One of the key sources for my research was the Morning Sun Books' PRR Color Guides to Freight and Passenger Equipment, which has photographs of several G31 gons, at least one of which was taken after the PC merger.
Here for the modeller is the breakdown on numbering for at least some of the G31's as of 1953. This is taken from the NMRA republication of the 1953 Official Railway Equipment Register: The PRR sure had a lot of gons!
- G31A-- 373950 to 375749
- G31D-- 375750-376949