Lehigh & New England Gondola #10381

(including LNE #729, #730 & #10390)

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Lehigh & New England 50 ton composite gondola #10381 was built in 1934 by American Car & Foundry. It features a steel underframe, steel dreadnaught ends and steel truss sides. The floor and sides are wood planked. Once a general purpose freight car, the WK&S converted it to an open-air observation car. A bench seat runs down the middle of the car and an opening was cut in one end so passengers may pass to and from an adjoining coach. This car is always a favorite among passengers.

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This photo shows an interior view of #10381. Here you can see the bench seating and the pass-through to the adjoining coach.

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A northbound photo freight special finds LNE gondola #10381 trailing LNE flat car #719 and LNE caboose #512 on approach to the Ontelaunee Creek bridge. Photo by Gary Zweizig.

The WK&S once rostered four LNE gondolas, #729, #730, #10381 and #10390. All four cars were converted to open-air observation cars just like #10381 described above. During the first few years of operation in the early and mid-1960s the WK&S ran a two train schedule with two open cars in each train. But only #10381 has been maintained in service since then. The remaining three cars were left to the weather.

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Three of the four open cars occupy this consist power by WK&S #250.

Many older pictures depict a coupled pair of WK&S open cars. This arrangement essentially divided the train in two since only one end of each car had a pass-through and that end had to be coupled to an adjoining coach. Such is shown in the picture below from 1965. Passengers cannot pass between the two open cars.

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Interior view of a pair of open cars from 1965. Photo contributed by Alan McCleaf.

During the 1990s #10390 was sold to an operator of the Kutztown/Topton line. Car #10390 was identical to #10381 described above. Car #10390 was refurbished for Kutztown excursion service with the grandiose name of "Pennsylvania Dutch Vista View Open Top Dome Car". Around 1999 the Kutztown line was taken over by another operator. Car #10390 left the property and was trucked to another tourist outfit called the Three Rivers Rambler operating on the Knoxville & Holston River Railroad in Tennessee. The car was again refurbished and named "Dauntless".

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Dauntless at a Three Rivers Rambler rail fan event on August 26, 2007. Photo by John Higginson.

The remaining two cars (#729 & 730) are still at the WK&S. The Lehigh & New England numbered most of their non-revenue cars in the 700 series. Car #729 was rebuilt from an unknown LNE #10201 series car around 1958 and was used as a boom car for LNE crane #698. During 2004 the car was stripped of what remained of the wood planking. The car may be restored to service.

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LNE #729.

Car #730 was rebuilt from LNE #10256 around 1958. Car #10256 was originally built by Magor Car Company in May 1923. Rebuilt #730 features side dump doors for distributing cinder ballast along the track. The doors are clearly visible in the photo below. There are no future plans for #730.

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LNE #730