On occasion, railroads are called upon to move specialized cargo that is much larger and/or heavier than would normally be handled with conventional railcars. Such occasions are the domain of heavy-capacity flatcars, designed expressly to transport these extreme loads in a safe and secure manner. In addition to their obvious visual interest, special moves using heavy-capacity flatcars for “high and wide” loads provide interesting new possibilities for model railroad operations. On the prototype, these large loads often necessitate restrictions due to clearance issues posed by these oversized loads. These loads may also justify unusual movements over alternate routes to avoid opposing trains, tunnels, or bridges due to excess weight or clearance issues. To maximize available height, many heavy-capacity flatcars are built with a lowered “depressed” center deck, gaining around two feet of precious vertical clearance in many cases.
Class One Model Works (COMW) has released an all-new, ready-to-run HO scale model of a heavy-duty depressed-center flatcar based on prototypes designed by General Steel Castings Co. (GSC) and operated by major railroads across the United States. GSC offered its depressed-center flatcars in a variety of different capacities and deck lengths. Accompanying this release are several realistic loads from COMW appropriate for this flatcar and perhaps suitable for other heavy-capacity cars as well.
Perhaps an example of life imitating art, GSC designed and manufactured these flatcars as ready-to-assemble “kits” that railroads would purchase to later assemble at their own car shops. Ironically (but conveniently for hobbyists), COMW’s scale rendition comes fully assembled and ready to run. This highly detailed HO scale model represents the GSC heavy-duty flatcar design with a depressed lading deck measuring 21 ft. in length. Riding on a pair of six-wheel Commonwealth drop-equalized trucks, this iteration of the GSC HD flatcar design measured 58’ 4” over the strikers with a 9-ft. wide deck and could carry a payload up to 125 tons. Cars of this specific design were first produced in 1953, with similar GSC cars of the same capacity appearing as early as 1928. Against an HO scale ruler, the model closely matches all exterior dimensions of the real thing.
Mirroring the construction of its prototype, the COMW flat is also formed around a single large die-cast metal underframe casting. From there, the model differs with a plastic outer body representing the deck and side sills above. Separately applied details at each end of the car include plastic stirrup steps, grab irons, coupler cut levers, and vertical brake staffs each with a brake wheel attached. The grab irons and cut levers are formed from .008” wire, which delivers a fine scale appearance to the model. Adding to the realism are separately applied air brake lines running along the side sills. Depending upon the road name, road number and era, COMW provides end decks topped with simulated wood or see-through mesh, three different jacking pad options, and more…