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From Freight to Ferry: The Evolution of Southern Railway’s 316112 Gondolas and Their Unique Role in Eastern Virginia
In 1924, Southern Railway came into possession of 1,500 steel low-side gondolas, each measuring 41 feet and 6 inches, intended for general freight service use by its customers. Many of these cars underwent substantial transformations, receiving new bodies in 1944 and a complete overhaul and renumbering in 1968. Though a significant number were scrapped in subsequent years, some persisted in maintenance of way service.
During the 1980s, the Eastern Shore Railroad (ESHR), a short line operating in eastern Virginia, acquired ten of these gondolas. They were designated as “reach” cars, aiding in the loading and unloading process for the car ferry connecting ESHR’s tracks in Little Creek (Norfolk), Virginia, with its primary line at Cape Charles, Virginia, across Chesapeake Bay. These reach cars played a vital role by eliminating the need for heavy locomotives to position the freight cars on the ferry directly. Their lightweight nature minimized wear and tear on both the ferry and its moorings, while their low profile streamlined communication between the ground crew and the engineer in the locomotive through hand signals.
A vintage photograph, included here, symbolizes our specific gondola. While the original number of the car is unknown to us, it has been collectively decided to depict this representation.
Rolling Stock: Southern Railway 316112
Rolling Stock Type: Low-side Gondola
Operators: Southern Railway, Eastern Shore Railroad, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
Date Built: 1924
Lettered: Southern Railway