Sunday, October 4, 2015

Tank car cargoes — a reference

If you are a tank car enthusiast, as I am, or if you just want to have a few realistic loads in the tank cars you operate, obviously you need to know something about what is carried in different sizes and ownerships of tank cars. Now petroleum products are easy, because much of that traffic moved in oil company tank cars (and UTLX cars serving the former parts of Standard Oil). But chemicals are another matter. What was in which cars, and where did they originate?
     In my own case, I am interested in these questions as part of the process of compiling waybills, from prototype lists of shippers and receivers whenever possible, through prototype research otherwise. I have often found myself using Google, first to find a correct company name for my 1953 modeling year (like all corporations, chemical companies merge or split or are renamed from time to time), then further researching to find out where the company had its production plants or refineries, then to find out the principal products of that company and plant. Sometimes I start at the other end, knowing what one of my on-line industries would need to receive, then searching to find out where that product might come from.
     Some of this process has been alluded to in previous posts (for example, , and also the follow-up to that post, at: ). But those posts, from back in 2011, were aimed at the more general question of waybills for all kinds of cargo. The present post is aimed specifically at tank cars and their cargoes.
     As I’ve worked particularly on tank car issues more recently, I have found that Google searches repeatedly directed me to the same book, which is a history of chemical companies up to the year 2000, and finally realized that much of the research I was doing, on company names, plants, and products, could all be found in this book. So I bought a copy. It’s by Fred Aftalion, is still in print, and can be bought on-line, used or new, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and a number of other booksellers, and even new from the publisher direct (Chemical Heritage Press, Philadelphia). Here is the cover of the softbound second edition:

I cannot say enough about this book. Phenomenally rich in information, at just the right level of detail for tank car cargoes and car choices, and worth way more to me than the $24.95 price. It does contain extensive information about European companies too, but the U.S. information, including oil companies, is just excellent.
     From this book, I could much more quickly and conveniently discovered the history of Allied Chemical, which I laboriously teased out from several sources (my findings are here: ). And that’s just one example.
     How do you connect the company and product information to tank cars? It is very helpful to have at hand Ed Kaminski’s two books (published by Signature Press), American Car & Foundry Company, 1899–1999, with a long chapter on tank cars but unfortunately now out of print, and Tank Cars of American Car & Foundry Company, 1865–1955, published in 2003. These two books contain a great many builder photos. The second one, Tank Cars, also contains a multi-page table in the back of the book, showing which cargoes could be carried in which cars.
     Below are a few examples, taken from part of one page in this table, and you can see at once that some cargoes can be carried in a variety of cars, others are much more restricted. The first column tells you the regulatory identity of the cargo, which in turn determines the placard to apply. (You can click to enlarge these tables.)

The symbols in this table are in the key below.

    To choose two examples, common chemicals such as nitric acid and napthalene are in the table portion shown, and their status identified. Napthalene is listed as “N.R.,” meaning non-regulated, and thus can move in the simplest kinds of cars, even the non-ICC-regulated cars such as AAR 203W, and without any placard. The complete table is thus a handy way to match up tank car types with waybilled cargoes and with the appropriate placards for those cargoes.
     I’ve discussed tank car placard use before, both model and prototype (see: ), and also gave in that post an introductory discussion of use of the table material shown above.
     It’s also worth mentioning that there was some seasonality in tank car cargoes in the 1950s. We naturally expect seasonality in things like produce harvest (see for example my post on this topic, which can be found at: ), but the same applies, in a lesser degree to tank cars. For example, asphalt for road repair moved much more heavily in late spring and summer than the rest of the year; home heating oil was very heavy in fall, as was LPG, as homeowners prepare for winter. Gasoline is heavier in the warmer months, and so on. To illustrate, here are data from 1948, by quarter, taken from Table N in the publication The Tank Car Story, Defense Transportation Administration, Washington, DC, November 1, 1951. This publication presents a study of tank car availability with respect to military needs during the Korean war.

You can readily see that asphalt and gasoline are quite seasonal, in contrast to soybean oil, deliberately chosen as a nearly non-seasonal commodity for comparison, while cottonseed oil does show seasonal variation in parallel with cotton harvest season.
     In creating and using tank car waybills on my layout, I have taken advantage of the kinds of information shown in this post. I commend these sources to anyone interested in doing the same.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Another operating session

This last weekend I hosted another pair of operating sessions, one Saturday and one Sunday, in the usual mode on this layout, of two two-person crews, one working each side of the layout, then switching to operate the opposite side in the second half of the session. These sessions were not particularly different from previous ones, except for a couple of changes I made to see how they would work out.
     One new feature was the inclusion of switching at Jupiter Pump and Compressor in Ballard (an industry described in an earlier post, at: ). I included both inbound and outbound car movements, which seemed to work fine, even though, as shown in the post just cited, the actual loading and unloading spot tracks are not installed yet. The cars were moved to and from the plant lead only.
     I also included some off-spot moves (cars not spotted at their final destinations, but instead left on nearby tracks by the previous switch crew), to see how these would work. These moves also worked pretty well. In this photo of conductor Robert Bowdidge (right) and behind him, Jim Radkey, you can see a crew involved in one of those moves at Ballard.

The view above is over the hill at the end of the peninsula on the layout, so at left is visible the backdrop and back edge of Shumala, but the two crew pictured are working at Ballard.
     On the side of the layout at Shumala, I changed around the switching moves from what had been done before, and these too went smoothly, as far as I could tell. Here you see conductor Otis McGee (left) and Larry Altbaum working through their switching on Sunday.

     The last change I would mention for my operating scheme was that I included a confiscation, in which an empty car at one industry was to be spotted at a different industry for loading, something familiar on the prototype. This is not a complex concept, but I wanted to be sure my paperwork describing the moves would work. Here Ed Slintak, right, and conductor Mark Schutzer are working Ballard. The yellow NP reefer just under Ed’s elbow is the confiscated empty they moved.

     This session went well and completed the variations in operating patterns that I had wanted to try. I have since thought of a few more changes to try in future sessions, and part of the planning has been to balance the work load on each side of the layout, so that both crews finish their first set of switching at similar times, and can then switch sides. But of course the rate of work by any crew depends on the level of experience they have, as well as on the degree of familiarity with the layout. Most of the crews who have worked on the layout this year were new to it, and when people return for additional sessions, I am sure their rate of work will be higher.
     One of the visiting operators was heard to say, “Gee, there really can be a lot of switching on a small layout,” and to me that was a compliment — exactly what I have been hoping to accomplish.
Tony Thompson

Monday, September 28, 2015

Another signature car, Part 2

Recently I posted a description of my choice of a Pennsylvania Class G22 gondola for an additional “signature” freight car from the Pennsy fleet (it’s at: ). As I mentioned in that post, the car should have 70-ton Crown trucks, and I used the Bowser version, their part number 74091. I also mentioned that the kit (Westerfield no. 1201), as built, is rather light, and that weight needs to be added if the car is to be run empty. Here is a view of the underside of the assembled model. The brake system is a divided K or KD arrangement.

     My plan was to fill a lot of the spaces between ribs on the underbody with small squares of lead sheet. A few years ago, Richard Hendrickson and I each bought a sheet of lead from Small Parts Inc., their part no. SPB-062-B, which is a 6 x 12-inch sheet, 0.062 inches thick. (I also have a sheet of roofer’s lead, but it is thinner, so not as convenient for this application.) The material is quite soft and easily bent or straightened, and easily cut with side cutters. I simply started cutting rough rectangles of the size of the spaces between the ribs on the G22 model, as you see in this photo. (You can click on the photo to enlarge it if you wish.) As will be obvious in a moment, exact size and shape were not goals in cutting these.

If you're interested in this material, you can visit .
     With all the non-brake-gear slots filled, it looked like the photo below, and weighed 2.7 ounces. That means I have added well over 2 ounces to the car. This is still light by NMRA standards, but in my experience will be all right at this weight. I rarely weight my cars to the full NMRA value; for example, a 40-foot car should weigh 4 ounces according to the NMRA, but I usually am nearer to 3 ounces on such a car. As many others have noted, consistent weight is more important than any particular amount of standard weight. I have discussed this point myself in prior posts (such as this one: ).

The weights (you can see I did not particularly try to cut exact sizes and shapes) were cemented in place with canopy glue, and will all be painted flat black before the car goes into service, though the height of each lead piece is less than the depth of the side sill, so that from a level side view, they are all invisible.
     A word about the lead material. You can find some hysterical commentary on the Internet about lead, but in fact, it is not a dangerous material at all, if handled with recognition of what danger it does pose. You don’t want to ingest lead oxide, which is what is on the surface of the lead sheet, so keep your hands away from your mouth or any food or drink while working, and do wash your hands as soon as you're done working with the lead. And that’s it. No other problems to worry about.
     With the car sides weathered, and the reweigh and repack decals added, the car looked like this. The interior is not weathered yet, but that is a fairly straightforward process and doesn’t have to be part of this post.

     I’m happy to have this additional PRR freight car added to my fleet, as it is certainly among the many Pennsy cars which can qualify as a signature car.
Tony Thompson

Friday, September 25, 2015

Jupiter Pump and Compressor

Some years ago, when my layout and I were still living in Pittsburgh, PA, I envisioned an industry on the layout which would manufacture and ship both water pumps and air compressors, and I chose the name “Jupiter” for it. The name, of course, was chosen to denote big, powerful products. I did have a spur designated as Jupiter on my then-layout town of Los Olivos, and some switching of cars to and from that spur was done. But no structure was ever built to represent the Jupiter plant.
     With my new layout in Berkeley, there was no space for the Los Olivos part of the old layout, so some new location had to be envisioned if there was still to be a Jupiter company. That was about as far as thinking had progressed, until the beginning of Santa Rosalia tracklaying (see my description at this link: ), when I could finally recognize a space that could be usable for Jupiter.
    My ideas were that Jupiter had its own foundry for cast iron parts, and would also fabricate parts from sheet steel and rod, then ship a wide variety of pumps and compressors for mining, farming, shipbuilding, and other uses, meant that there could be a substantial variety of loads inbound, and plenty of loads outbound. This would nicely balance all the agricultural shipping already in place in Ballard.
     My starting point was a very old kit structure, a Suydam corrugated metal Pacific Foundry (kit 19) I had assembled when I was in high school, using one of those massive copper-block-tip soldering irons heated in a gas flame (in the school metal shop). Partly because it is all galvanized metal and real durable, it has survived pretty much unscathed, all the intervening years. (Incidentally, I note there are plenty of these kits available nowadays on eBay.) Windows never got installed.

The building needs a dirtier roof and some indications of rusting corrugated sheathing, all of which I will add with my usual acrylic washes. For more on them, see the Reference Pages at the top right of this post.
     I envisioned this structure as a receiving facility for the Jupiter plant, so cars could be spotted inside the building. The doorways are not tall enough to permit that, so the structure needs to be raised by placing it on a foundation.
     First step was to lay an entry siding off of my track between Ballard and Santa Rosalia. The area is shown below (the structure with a green roof is a space-holder). The rectangular space at left rear is to be the site of the Suydam mill building shown above. In the foreground is the main line between Ballard and Santa Rosalia, and the switch which doesn’t connect to anything will be the lead to Ballard’s Track 7, the rear industry lead.

     In the photo above, some bare plywood can be seen. This is the last such area on the entire layout, and for track support, I chose to use sheet cork. A piece was cut and fitted to the plywood area you see above.
     To the left of the area shown above, there is a substantial gap between the layout surface and the bottom of the backdrop. The next photo shows more clearly how this looks, with the Suydam building (now weathered) in place to indicate where it will be located.

     At the left edge of the photo above, you can see that part of the gap has been covered. I have used a method of “closing” such gaps, without  rigidly attaching the backdrop and layout surface together, with a folded strip of manila folder stock. (See my post at: ). My next step, then, was to use that method in this location. When glued down (only the horizontal part is glued), the manila looked like this.

Alongside the new manila space-filler, you see a building flat. This is a part of a KingMill Enterprises product, included in their “Radical Flats” Commerce St. series, sheet no. 9. The part that you see in the photo above is what was left over after I cut out part of this KingMill sheet to make my Caslon Printing Co. flat, which I described in a previous post (see it at: ); there you can see most of the full Commerce St. no. 9 sheet before cutting. The KingMill website ( ) reports that they no longer sell these products, but it is rumored that the line has been sold to Scenic Express, so these fine backdrops may become available again.
     Incidentally, there was one more building on the Commerce St. no. 9 sheet, a corrugated metal building. I reorganized that building by cutting and fitting so it had vestigial sides, and used roofing from another KingMill building sheet, glued all the parts to foam-core board, and created my Pismo Marine Service building at Santa Rosalia. The description of creating that structure kind of got buried in another post, which was mostly about kitbashing the cannery at Santa Rosalia. If you’re interested in the KingMill building I made, here’s the link: . Now that I’ve mentioned it, I should show a better view of that building, which I was pretty happy with, once it was in place. (You can click on the image to enlarge it, if you want to read the signs.)

     The site for Jupiter is coming along nicely. Given the wide range of both inbound and outbound traffic associated with this business, I look forward to its contribution to operating sessions!
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

More Richard Hendrickson open-car loads

In the period since Richard Hendrickson passed away last summer, I have posted a few descriptions of some of his interesting open-car loads. One of these posts was about the several multi-car loads he had built (you can see it at this link: ). Another post showed four different lumber loads he had built (and one load of creosoted poles); that one can be found at: . All those loads, and the ones in this post also, were ones Richard carefully built after study of the AAR loading diagrams for each type of load.
     In the present post, I want to show a few more of his loads in open-top cars. I will begin with a recent example, one I know he completed just two years ago, which is a Proto2000 Illinois Terminal flat car (no. 1133) with a load of Army trucks, perhaps surplus ones, as they carry no lettering or emblems.

Like the other photos in this post, this image is among the photographs I took of nearly every freight car in Richard’s fleet, though quite a few, more than 75 cars, have now gone to a variety of new owners.
     A relatively simple load, but an effective and realistic one, is pipe, whatever the diameter. Richard completed three gondolas with essentially identical pipe loads. to model something often seen in prototype photos: a cut of cars all going the same place with the same loads. Here is one of them.

     Another classic load, though not often modeled well, is auto frames, from the days before “unibody” car construction. Based on a prototype photo, here is a correctly loaded car of frames, with racks modeled from the prototype photo, shown in Pere Marquette no. 10209.

     A Tichy flat car was modified for this next load, a pressure vessel of some kind, marked for its builder, on Texas & Pacific flat car 5048. It is tied down with cables to the stake pockets. In a number of his models, Richard “kit mingled” as well as changed and replaced kit parts, so I can’t always tell the entire origin, but I do recognize a few cars which he built pretty much straight from kits.

     One of my all-time favorites among his freight cars is this load of crates, all correctly tied down to the car, all marked with red “up” arrows and stenciled with destination labels for each crate, on NYC 499372. The tie-downs are chart tape, representing steel banding, run through the stake pockets and doubled back to be fastened above the pocket.

     The purpose in showing these is not only to illustrate some of Richard’s accomplishments, but also to provide, possibly, some inspiration to other modelers as to the scope of loads that can be built, and ways to tie them down to the car.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Seasonality of crops and traffic

We all know perfectly well that agriculture is seasonal, with any number of familiar items of produce being available only in certain parts of the year. This of course reflects when each particular crop is harvested (though some, like apples, are disbursed from storage outside of harvest season). The seasonality of harvest in turn affects rail shipment of produce (for those modeling such shipment). But is this seasonality often modeled? I would say “not often,” though of course those who model a particular date, or a month (as Richard Hendrickson did in choosing October 1947) do keep repeating the exact same season every time they operate. With respect to agriculture, it’s kind of the modeling implementation of the Groundhog Day movie.
     One thing I thought would be interesting to model on my layout is the changing harvest seasons in California, where a truly broad range of crops is grown. How would you go about learning the necessary information to model those seasons? There are extensive U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) reports, both descriptive and statistical, for most areas of the country and spanning many years. But for my layout, Southern Pacific territory harvests are described, by growing area, in a six-page table in the back of the PFE book (Pacific Fruit Express, 2nd edition, A.W. Thompson, R.J. Church, and B.H. Jones, Signature Press, Berkeley and Wilton, CA, 2000). It lists 43 different crops, from anise to watermelons, and gives both the main harvest season (black bars in the chart below) and lesser harvest seasons (gray bars).
     I selected out the vegetable crops I know were and are produced in the general area I model, called the Guadalupe-Santa Maria District (mostly the Santa Maria Plain on both sides of the Santa Maria River). I have just used the table entry lines for that district. You can click to enlarge.

These data are from the 1940s. I have been warned by those who know farming, that these data will inevitably vary over time, as new varieties of each crop are introduced, often chosen to ripen at less competitive times of year for that crop, and older varieties may cease to be planted. But these data certainly give me a starting point.
     In a previous post, I gave a general introduction to this topic and to use of these harvest season tables, and to the topic of pre-cooling produce. You can read it at: .
     Perhaps the most striking thing about the table shown above is that there is something being harvested in this district in every month of the year, and in each month there is at least one peak harvest period in progress. And one crop I know was and is significant in the district, carrots, is not even shown. Carrot season in this district is all but year-round, so it can be added to the eight crops listed in the table above.
     I have two vegetable packing houses on my layout, Phelan & Taylor in Shumala and Western Packing in Ballard, so both can reflect the seasonality you see above. I have created waybills to mirror that (more about them in a moment).
    Fruit is much more seasonal than vegetables. I also have two fruit-packing houses on the layout, Guadalupe Fruit in Balland and Coastal Citrus (lemons) in Santa Rosalia. Lemons are shipped nearly year-round, but Guadalupe Fruit primarily packs tree fruit, harvested from May to September, and is accordingly shut down in other months. In addition, my two wine-making industries, Zaca Mesa Winery and the Wine-Growers Cooperative Association, both in Ballard, ship wine grapes in the fall harvest season. (For more about grape traffic as part of the wine business, see my post at: .)
     Although these fruit crops are not shown for the Guadalupe-Santa Maria District in the 1940s SP tables in the PFE book, I have another crop summary for this area, which permits me to construct something like the above table, for the fruit grown in this area, mostly on Nipomo Mesa. The grape season shown is for wine grapes, not table grapes. I have also included some  citrus at the bottom of the table. This is a small exaggeration in the case of lemons, as the area I modeled is some miles north of actual lemon territory. Navel oranges, on the other hand, were in fact raised on the Nipomo Mesa, though barely in commercial quantity, so I can include an occasional orange carload too, in the span of December to March.

     My core idea for layout operations is that the packing house shipments reflect the current actual season. That is, the day and month on the layout are those of the current calendar, though the year is always 1953. Right now, since it’s September, the shipments on my layout reflect what you see in the tables above for September: primarily celery, lettuce and tomatoes, with a few carloads of broccoli and carrots. For fruit shipments, there is really only wine grapes and lemons at this time.
     Over time, I have created Southern Pacific outbound waybills for all non-meat refrigerator cars in my fleet, because all might be used on occasion for perishables shipped from my packing houses. Thus I can add variety with “overlay” or stub waybills, for different destinations and different cargoes. (The design and use of these overlay bills was described in an earlier post, which is at this link: .) Here are four of my overlay bills, suitable for September vegetable shipping.

     The description in this post outlines the general approach I have taken to reflect seasonality of crops in my modeled area, through the rail shipments that result. Obviously this approach could readily be adopted to any area of the country, though in most other areas there would probably be a smaller variety of crops being grown .
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Another signature freight car

I wrote a two-part series on “signature freight cars” in my “Getting Real” columns in Model Railroad Hobbyist, and these appeared in the issues for April, 2013 and March, 2015. As with all issues of MRH, you can download these for free from their website, .
     I’ll repeat my definition of a “signature” freight car from those articles. The term is sometimes used for unique cars of a particular railroad, such as the famous Milwaukee Road rib-side box cars that I described in the first column, but to me the meaning is broader than that. I use the term “signature” to mean a freight car which is characteristic of its owning railroad, meaning that it is reasonably distinctive, and also that it is a car of which the owner’s roster contained a relatively large number of cars. Unique cars can certainly qualify, but there are many cases where a “standard” car design also qualifies, just because its owner had so very many of them. There are examples in both of my articles, among the 19 railroads for which I designated “signature” cars.
     In those articles, I deliberately restricted myself to only three car classes for each of the five biggest railroads, to two cars each for the next twelve railroads, and just one each for the two smallest roads chosen. But for truly large railroads like the Pennsylvania and New York Central, this really is an underestimate of the impact of those large fleets. In my own layout freight car roster, I not only have four PRR X29 box cars, and four of the NYC USRA-derived steel box cars (only one of each of those types was shown in my second column), but I also need even more cars to represent these big roads.
     An important car I wanted to add for PRR was the G22 gondola. A relatively early steel gondola, its 46-foot inside length made it distinctive when the first 4000 cars of this class were built in 1915. Originally the cars had four drop doors, but these had been removed from all cars by about 1940. The original cars had fixed ends, though many cars received drop ends instead, making them Class G22a. Some cars were converted for container service, usually making them Class G22b. Original brakes were Pennsy’s preferred “divided K” system, called KD, but these brakes were replaced on many cars with AB brakes in the 1940s.
     Below is a comparison of PRR gondola classes in 1939 and in 1955, using data taken from the Official Railway Equipment Register or ORER. Helpfully, PRR included car class designations in its ORER entries, valuable because many car classes were slotted into a bunch of different number groups, scattered through the roster. The G22 was no exception, with many cars in both the 300,000 and 800,000 series.  Here are a couple of the larger G22 number groups:

315101–315866, 352001–352831, 360501–362383, and 382002–383091 (from the 1953 ORER)

All number groups within the 800,000 series are smaller than these.

You can see above that the GR and GS classes were dominant in 1939, though they were already beginning to be scrapped in large numbers. By 1955, G22 had become a relatively large part of the PRR gondola fleet (second only to Class G31 in all its subclasses, which was the class chosen in my second MRH column). Below is a prototype G22 photo. It was taken by Paul Dunn at Zanesville, Ohio, and is from the Richard Hendrickson collection.

     There are fine Westerfield kits for G22 and both subclasses, G22a and G22b.I decided to do a G22 car, as they were very numerous, and had Dennis Williams assemble my kit as part of a batch of other work he was doing for me. As always, I prefer to do my own decal lettering and then weathering. Here is the model in fresh paint and lettering, and with interim trucks (I will apply 70-ton Crown trucks later). Weathering will of course be added, and then fresh paint patches for reweigh and repack stencils.

The car is also very light, and weight needs to be added if the car is to be operated empty. There are a couple of ways to do so, and I will cover that in a future post.
     These cars were used for the usual wide variety of loads carried in gondolas. Back in January 2012 I showed a nice B&O photo of a PRR G22 loaded with pipe, at the Locust Point yard [Baltimore] — see it at: . Here is a repeat of that photo.

Pipe loads like this are easy to make with coffee stirrers, as I showed in the same earlier post, at the link shown just above the photo. One way to add weight is to build the coffee-stirrer load on top of a piece of lead or sheet steel, but that begs the question of running empty.
     I am glad to be adding this car, representing a significant gondola among the largest freight car fleet in North America, the Pennsylvania Railroad, to my operating fleet.
Tony Thompson