~ Latest Update Thursday, January 7, 2016 ~
A short history by Railroad Artist and Historian, John Hugh Coker
Depending on your outlook, of course, the "Drop Bottom Gons" might easily be classified as just about the FUNKIEST cars to ever run on the old Narrow Gauge! The D&RGW had 200 of 'em, numbered 700 - 899.. They were built by American Car and Foundry and delivered in August 1903. The cars were part of a large order of new equipment that included these Gons, Boxcars, Stock Cars, "High Side" Gondolas, and Locomotives ordered for the Narrow Gauge in that year.. (The locomotives ordered were K-27's, to be built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works..)
The primary purpose for these cars was to transport coal and ballast. Since they could be unloaded out on the right-of-way, or directly over the "grizzly" (grating) of a coal loading facility, you can best believe that they saw a lot of use! It is not known how much revenue service they saw, if any, as they mostly carried company related materials.
When originally constructed, the 800 series cars had a little more capacity than the 700's did.. But sometime later on, perhaps in the 1926 rebuilding, most of these acquired an additional top board so as to increase their capacity to match the others.
All cars were rebuilt in the late 1920's rebuilding with steel bolsters and beefier coupler draft gear being installed...
Over the years, these cars got and TOOK a lot of punishment. (And delivered some of their own to the uninitiated..) They had a real propensity towards flipping over if not unloaded properly.. (Studying photographs and drawings one can see that they were laid out in quarters, or quadrants.. Although they had 12 doors, these could only be lowered in sections of three.. The routine was: Dump one quadrant on one side, then dump the same quadrant on the opposite side, etc. Dumping of both quadrants on one side was an invitation to disaster! The lopsided weighting could easily tip the car over! ) The ratchets which were at each corner were for closing these doors. Opening them involved squeaking them just a bit tighter, knocking the "chock" loose, then stand back!
The cars were also noted for their unforgiving tendency to smash fingers. Nevertheless, they were considered important enough that quite a number of them were saved for use on the tourist lines that succeeded the 1970 abandonment.
Many of these cars still see occasional use on the C&TS and D&SNG, doing exactly what they did best: Receiving the spent coal as "cinders", and spreading same out on the line as ballast...
Photos of whole trains of Drop Bottom Gons are few and far between. The few photos you do see of whole trains of them were taken on the "Baldwin Branch.." The South Park turned this section of trackage over to the D&RGW back in 1910 at the closing of Alpine Tunnel so somebody could continue rail service to their clients, the Baldwin mines. Interestingly, neither the South Park nor the D&RGW ever upgraded the bridges on this branchline; The South Park / C&S because they no longer used it, the D&RGW because they didn't own it.
Fortunately for all of us, by the time the C&S gave it to the D&RGW, traffic had slowed to the point where there was little incentive to do any upgrading on it, which was the primary reason that the C-16's survived as long as they did!
As you can see, these unique cars were essential to the railroad's survival. They'll likely end up being just as important on your railroad too!
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