Thrall Gondola with Load, CWEX #1 (5)
Roadname: Commonwealth Edison
Gondolas are one of the most versatile types of freight cars. Coal cars are one of most important types. Today coal "gons" are one of the main components of energy production in North America.
In the second half of the 20th century, coal haulage shifted from open hopper cars to high-sided gondolas. Using a gondola, the railroads are able to haul a larger amount of coal per car since gondolas do not include the equipment needed for unloading. However, since these cars do not have hatches for unloading the products shipped in them, railroads must use rotary car dumpers (mechanisms that hold a car against a short section of track as the car and track are slowly rotated upside down to empty the car) or other means to empty them. The term "bathtub" refers to the shape of the car.
Originally, individual cars would be decoupled and placed in the dumper, but now it is possible to dump an entire unit train of coal without uncoupling any of the cars. The cars used for these trains are equipped with AAR Type F rotary couplers on one end, with this end generally indicated with contrasting paint color. The dumper rotates the cars on the axis of the couplers. The cars must all oriented the same way, failure to do will result in a broken coupler when the dumper rotates.
 On rotary-dump cars, the colored end marks the end of the car that is equipped with the rotary coupler.
Thrall Car Manufacturing Company
was established around 1917 and build several types of freight cars. Their rotary gons held a significant market share in the 1970s. In 2001 they merged with rival Trinity Rail Group, Inc.
owned several coal-fired powerplants in the Chicago area. Their reporting marks CWEX were found on thousands of hoppers and gons. They had 1,385 cars in the roadnumber series 2843 – 6115, these having a capacity of 4,358 cu. Ft. and 100-tons. C.E. was bought by Midwest Generation, which inherited the CWEX code.
N RTR 50’ Thrall High-Side Coal GondolaAthearn N
offers 55 sets and individual 50' Thrall gons in 15 roadnames, and an undecorated version. This set of five Ready To Run
Thrall gondolas are packaged in Athearn’s yellow and blue RTR box with a cellophane window. The five individual cars are secured in formed plastic cradles inside their own hard plastic clear cases.
• Fully assembled and ready for your layout
• Removable cast coal load in each car
• Five different road numbers
• Screw mounted trucks for accurate tracking
• McHenry N scale couplers installed
These are retooled models of the MDC
(Model Die Casting, part of Roundhouse Trains, now part of Athearn) Thrall kit. The molding is sharp and I found no molding flaws. All detail is molded on. The ladders, stirrups, and grab irons are over-scale. From the “three foot rule” they look good.
The model rides upon plastic trucks and wheels. While some modelers will criticize the use of plastic wheels, the wheels are molded in color and are not shiny, and the flanges accept code 55 track.
Athearn includes a molded coal load – nice!
Not many. A separately applied hand brake on one end, and some molded air brake detail on the belly. What appear to be ASF Ride Control 100-Ton Roller Bearing Trucks
look good, as do the McHenry N scale knuckle-spring couplers (with magnetic uncoupling).
Painting and Lettering
This is where these models really shine. Athearn includes five non-sequential roadnumbers per set. Athearn has issued four five-car sets for Commonwealth Edison, each gon with different road numbers. You can model quite a unit train if you want. If your eyes are good enough, or if you use magnification, you can read all of the dimensional data, i.e., the inner length is 47’ 9”, capacity of 4000 Cu. Ft., etc. We can also read that the “NEW date” is July 1964. One interesting stencil is the AAR class code “GK”: An Open Top Car, having fixed sides and ends and solid bottom, suitable for mill trade and having sufficient cubic capacity to carry its marked capacity of bituminous coal (Reclassified into "GB" ).
Some AAR lists state that this code was discontinued in 1938, while another states it is appropriate for the era as equivalent to GB plus ‘"Marked Capacity" of bituminous coal.’
The paint is smooth and does not obscure the detail. The paint of the markings is opaque.
These are nice models of mid- to modern diesel era rotary bathtub gons. The finish is excellent. I think the detail is sufficient. Whether the plastic wheel set is a problem is up to you. Those knuckle couplers bring the models into the modern world, and their coal loads enhance the appearance. Recommended.
Please remember to tell vendors and sellers that you saw this model here -- at Railroad Modeler
,  Wikipedia