Thursday, December 8, 2016

Blog anniversary post

The first post to this blog was on December 8, 2010, so every year on that date I post some general thoughts about the blog. I also like to look back at topics covered and some of the numbers relating to viewers, both from the past year and overall. Last year’s anniversary post can be found at this link: . I should mention that the date of December 8 has no special significance; it simply happened to be the day I finished work on my first blog post.
     From the beginning, I have found the viewership data remarkable. Google’s Blogger application allows the blog owner to see statistics on page views, not only current views but over a week’s and a month’s span, along with all-time views. The first year there were about 50,000 page views, a huge number that was a complete surprise to me. But that was only the beginning. The following year there were about 100,000 more, and the third year about 150,000 more still. To me these were truly amazing numbers, with total views reaching about 300,000 views after three years. Thereafter the viewing flattened out quite a bit, with the fourth and fifth years each having around 170,000 new page views, but even so the totals after five years, of nearly 640,000 views, still seemed staggering.
     This sixth year has again seen an increase, with the annual number now in excess of 200,000 views, and representing further growth from what had looked like a plateau last year. You can see that in the screen shot below of the data. The graph begins at far left, at the line labeled “May 2010” (though I didn’t start posting until December 8) and runs until now. The “plateau” I mentioned is evident from the fall of 2013 through to the end of 2015. But it has really had some big peaks in page views during 2016, contributing to the record totals for the past year. And by the way, the large drop at extreme right just represents the partial return so far for this month, December.

Though I look at these numbers fairly often, I have never gotten used to their sheer magnitude. To me, it’s an amazing level of interest.
     My posting pace of a couple of posts a week continues to be about right for me. This leads to around ten posts a month, which I find comfortable. I have also had comments from people that they like finding new posts fairly often, so for at least some readers, the pace is good also.
     I have been receiving this year around the same amount of email comments and questions arising from my posts as in prior years. As has been true for some time, these are more numerous than comments posted to the blog itself. Though I like to see comments posted to the blog, because that way others can view the question as well as the answer, the email channel is fine with me, and represents another way I can convey information and in some cases, clarification. These queries usually touch on what I think of as the core topics of my blog: modeling the freight cars, trains and operations of the Southern Pacific, necessarily also reaching a wide range of associated topics like waybills, freight car detailing, and even railroad history, as a basis to understand modeling goals.
     I have been pleased that a relatively recent feature of the blog, the “reference pages” noted at the upper right of the adjoining boundary of the blog page, have been well received. These reference pages are a fairly detailed set of explanations and examples of weathering techniques, primarily using acrylic washes, mostly my own but some developed together with my late friend Richard Hendrickson. It is gratifying that modelers tell me they have gotten ideas, and seen how to carry out techniques, from these pages.
     I don’t really have any new goals for next year and beyond, though as my layout gets closer to completion, and my freight car fleet scarcely needs more cars, my thoughts and projects will be somewhat different than in past years. An obvious emphasis will likely be layout operation. Onward!
Tony Thompson

Monday, December 5, 2016

SP's Instructions to Station Agents, Part 3

In Part 1 of this series about the Southern Pacific Instructions to Station Agents, which was Circular 39-1 of the Accounting Department, I showed the appearance of the book and wrote a little about some of the interesting contents (you can see it at: ).In particular, I explored the SP form numbers for various kinds of waybills, and showed the ways I have implemented that information on the model waybills for my layout.
     The second section of this discussion, Part 2, was primarily concerned with information about weight agreements. For many shippers, those agreements simplified determining weights in freight cars, and I added some discussion about my knowledge of how weight agreements work and the various Weighing and Inspection Bureaus. Part 2 can be found at: .
     In the present Part 3, I turn to some interesting information in Circular 39-1 about waybilling of tank cars. Most of what I want to discuss is in rule 1028, and I show below four parts of that rule. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

          I will first discuss the main part of the rule, the first paragraph. This clearly provides that all privately-owned tank cars moving empty, whatever the.specifics of movement, cannot be moved on Empty Car Slips or equivalent, but must move on regular carload waybills. Among other things, this ensures that their entire empty movement is specified on one document, rather than the car moving through a number of junctions between railroads, all on the individual roads’ Empty Car Bills. This is something I have always done in my model waybills, as shown, for example, in Figure 15 of my column on waybills in the May 2012 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist (you can download any issue of MRH at any time, for free, from their site at: ). Here is another example.

In this case, the waybill to move the empty car returns it over the same route, via the same junctions, as the car moved when loaded, as the first part of rule 1028, above, requires. These waybills also conform to part (b) of rule 1028, requiring reverse movement along original route, and with the original shipper shown as consignee on the return. Incidentally, here is the model of car SHPX 4007 that is moved with these waybills:

The model is an Overland brass car, ICC Class 104, seen in my layout town of Ballard behind SP Consolidation 2592. In the background is a three-compartment wine tank car.
     Of course, tank car journeys can be much shorter, without traversing a series of junctions between railroads. The one shown below is at the other extreme of distance, though appropriate for my layout locale.

This pair of waybills is for the model of an asphalt tank car that I described in a previous post, part of my exercise in adding asphalt cars to my fleet (you can read it at: ). Note also that the SP agent is shown as the shipper on the returning empty, as was typical practice.
     Finally, there is part (d) of rule 1028, mentioning that for tank cars owned by railroads (as opposed to private owners), an Empty Car Bill may be used, and the specifically recommended form is SP Form 1304. That form is the basis for my own layout Empty Car Bill, and that form number is in the upper right corner. Here is a bill pair to illustrate.

     I am interested in tank car movements generally, and perusal of SP’s rule 1028 from Circular 39-1 has helped me ensure that my layout tank car handling is prototypical. But there are still a few more valuable details to be gleaned from Circular 29-1, which I will take up in a future post.
Tony Thompson

Friday, December 2, 2016

Electrical wars. Part 12: new turnout parts

In the preceding post, Part 11, I described the electrical problems which can arise with an old Shinohara turnout, and a variety of ways to try and correct those problems (the post is at this link: ). I should emphasize that the problems I enumerated are not characteristic of new Shinohara turnouts, but arise with age and oxidation of electrical contacts.
     That preceding post showed the removal of the point-rail assembly and cutting off of the closure rails, along with cleaning up the tie strip. The next steps were to install the new parts to replace the old, removed parts. The method described, I should explain, is suitable for turnouts already in place on a layout. Some of the required work is more easily done on the workbench, but usually one’s really old Shinohara turnouts are already installed in the layout. Work illustrated in the preceding post showed practicing on a turnout not installed, but the goal was to fix an installed turnout.
     As I showed in Part 11, all point rails were removed back to the area of the frog. The first step in applying new parts is to clean up the cut rail ends with a file, and install rail joiners that fit the rail size. This turnout in the SP main line on my layout is code 100, so that is the joiner size (you can click to enlarge).

This is a right-hand turnout, whereas some of the prior photos were for a left-hand turnout; but of course all the procedures are the same.
     Two pieces of rail, the code 100 size of the turnout, are now cut (overlength). One side is filed flat and the head of the other side also filed flat, to serve as points. Of course remember there is a “left-hand” and “right-hand” point, so don’t make the common error of making two alike (you can guess how I know). Then the stubs salvaged from the old point rails, as shown in Part 11, are soldered to the inside base of the point rail. Next a clearance hole is drilled in the stub to accept small assembly screws, such as 0-80, 00-90, or 1.2 mm (I used the latter). I will say more about assembly in a moment.

     I have a selection of small metric screws and metric tools (originally purchased to maintain brass steam locomotives), and these are nicely suitable for the turnout work I’m describing in this post. Shown below are the NorthWest Short Line packages of not only the screws, 1.2-mm panheads, but also the set containing a clearance drill, tap drill, and a 0.25-mm-pitch tap. These are not cheap but are fine for the job if you are not doing a great many of these tasks.

     Now the point rails, with the stubs attached, are used to locate the tap holes in a printed-circuit (PC) board throw bar. This is shown below, with the drilled hole extending through the new tie bar.

Next the hole under the second point is similarly located, of course setting the points at the correct spacing from the stock rails. The NMRA track gauge includes gauge tabs for this clearance, as shown below. You can see the overlength point rails at this stage, which can be cut to exact length after being attached to the throw bar.

Holes in the throw bar are then tapped and screws inserted. As always, a notch through the copper plating on the PC board throw bar is needed so there is no electrical continuity (and don’t forget the underside of the throw bar if you have PC board plated on both sides—don’t ask how I know).
     Some will say, why not solder the new point rails to the PC board? Anyone who has done this and then operated for awhile knows that eventually one or both solder joints breaks, because operation of the turnout exerts bending stress on that solder joint. And if you re-solder, eventually the copper may even de-bond from the PC board. Securing the points with screws prevents that.
     Now the correct-length point rails are inserted into the rail joiners and screwed to the throw bar. The assembly at this point still needs some more work, but the overall appearance of the new parts is clear.

To show a close-up of the screw heads and throw bar, the photo below shows this more clearly.

     An important step now is to use flexible wire and connect each stock rail to its adjoining point rail. This means the point rails are always correctly powered, and no longer depend on contact with the stock rail at the throw bar. Lastly, a new gap is needed next to the frog, which I cut with a cut-off disc in a motor tool.
     With all those steps complete, here is the rebuilt switch. The throw bar is not yet cut to length, or painted, nor are the new point rails painted, but you can see the completed arrangements.

The ground-throw obviously has not been re-installed, but that is a simple step.
     Now, as I stated in Part 11, I need to power the frog. This is an excellent spot for a Frog Juicer. As mentioned, these are made and sold by Tam Valley Depot (you can visit(their site at: ). And with that, I now have a better-looking turnout which is electrically dependable without a lot of cleaning of the point rail contacts to the stock rail. I’m relieved and pleased! and I thank Jim Providenza for his help in working on my turnouts.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

SP's Instruction to Station Agents, Part 2

In Part 1 on this topic, I showed the appearance of the SP’s Circular 39-1, issued by the Accounting Department to all agents (you can read that post at this link: ). As I indicated in that post, the document does contain a great many items of minuscule detail (perhaps not so minuscule to an accountant), but nevertheless still contains a number of pieces of information which can definitely be used in understanding SP waybill practice.
     What has long been an area of interest to me is the entire topic of car weights and weight agreements. Naturally that topic is addressed in the Freight section, Section II, of Circular 39-1. The first four parts of rule 1066 are relevant (you can click on the image to enlarge it):

What you see here in rule 1066(a) and (b) explains the use of the abbreviations “TCFB” and “WWIB” in my waybills. I don’t know how many Weighing and Inspection Bureaus (WIB) there may have been in the entire U.S. There was a Southern one (SWIB) headquartered in Atlanta, and I understand there was also an eastern (EWIB) and mid-western (MWIB) in existence, though I don’t know their geographic boundaries. I do know the WWIB was headquartered in Chicago and the TCFB in San Francisco.
     I explored the topic of weight agreements in an earlier article in The Dispatcher’s Office, back in April 2010; you can read a corrected version of that article on line, to fix the various errors which crept into the magazine version (it’s available at: ). I will repeat the gist of it here for convenience.
     We are all familiar with the idea that a loaded car is weighed on a scale, and the light weight of the car subtracted from the gross weight to obtain the net weight, which is the weight of the cargo. That can be done on a scale operated by the railroad, or it could be done by a shipper, if the shipper’s scale has been certified by a WIB. Sometimes the weight is only estimated, with the expectation that a scale weight will be determined later (more on the SP rule for that situation, farther down in this post).
     But many if not most car weights are determined through weight agreements. These greatly simplify stating a cargo weight. To illustrate how they work, imaging a shipper of floor wax, which ships its wax in gallon bottles. A carton of six of these, with packaging, weighs, let us say, 51 pounds, and obviously will be consistent for every carton. Then the shipper needs only to count the cartons put into the car to know the total loaded weight. If 840 cartons are loaded, the weight is 840 x 51 = 42,840 pounds.
     To be able to follow this process, the shipper obtains a weight agreement with the regional WIB, for each kind of container shipped. As shown in the above example, the agreement permits a count of containers loaded, multiplied by unit weight, to determine total cargo weight. This is indicated on the prototype waybill by the presence of the “agreement stamp” of the shipper, which gives the agreement ID number. Rule 1066 (d), above, requires the presence of this stamp, or an equivalent notation.
     Following on to the above material from rule 1066, I show below an extract from rule 1068, part (d) only, relating to the direction of cars to be weighed at a subsequent location.

This notation, directing a car to weighed at a nearby location, can readily be added by hand to a waybill. For my layout locale, the nearest scale would be at San Luis Obispo.
     While discussing weight agreements, I should mention that the waybill will also normally carry a notation to state the basis for the weight (for example, shipper count). Here is the SP rule, which is  part of rule 1041:

The notation, “shipper’s load, count and weight” can be abbreviated SLC&W, and any part of that might be noted instead, such as SL&C when there is a weight agreement.
     These extracts from the very interesting Circular 39-1  document address a number of things I am already doing with my waybills. But there is certainly more material in this document, and I will come back to those additional details from Circular 39-1, in a future post.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, November 27, 2016

SP's Instructions to Station Agents, Part 1

Probably every railroad issued instructions of various kinds to station agents. I happen to have been loaned the Southern Pacific version of these instructions by Chuck Catania. Chuck’s dad used to ship with SP and was given this book when the local depot was closed. Its official name is Circular 39-1, and it is a large screw-post book, designed so that any and all pages could be (and were) updated and replaced. Page size is 8.5 x 11 inches. Here is the cover:

     You may note that the cover is dated January 1, 1925, but the pages inside had dates all the way from that era, up into the early 1960s. So it isn’t a “period” document of the 1920s, but reflects how things had progressed up into 1961. I know that year because pasted inside the back cover is a series of pages with the date of each update and the signature of the Traveling Auditor doing the updating. The last entry shown is dated June 13, 1961, signed by W.L. Browne. Unfortunately, these pages were pasted one over the other, so only the topmost page can be read. Here it is:

     This book is about two inches thick, give or take, and contains a really large amount of information about passenger ticketing and service. My own interests are in Section II, entitled “Instructions—Freight Accounts,” encompassing rules 1000 to 1999 (not all numbers were in use), especially the parts about waybilling, so I made a Xerox copy for myself of the entire freight section, totalling 176 pages, and returned the book to Chuck.
     Now I want to turn to what might one learn from this material. Obviously each person’s interests will dictate what is valuable here, and I will only describe the parts I wanted to make use of. Many parts of this book cover true minutiae of accounting and certainly sound like problems arising from quite unusual situations. But of course the main points of freight traffic handling are in there too. I have tried to extricate those parts I can use to make better SP waybills.
     I will begin with SP’s form numbers. This is a very minor detail, and it certainly is far from essential that these be correct on my waybills, but I would like to get them right if I can. Right near the beginning of Section II was rule 1002, specifying which form was used for which cargoes. In all, there were 46 “species” of waybills (some only for Pacific Lines or only for Texas and Louisiana Lines), but I need only forms 700, 707 and 709 (you can click to enlarge):

The above text clearly shows that the standard freight waybill for most uses was Form 700 (as is confirmed by several references in other rules), that Form 707 is the livestock form, and Form 709 is for perishables. But which of the two forms 709? That’s clarified in rule 1091:

So in fact, form 709 is a “preferred movement” bill, and 709AA is a straight perishable bill, with 709AA used for shipments outside California. Both were recommended by AAR “to be printed on pink paper.”
     Incidentally, I should mention a point from the AAR book, Railway Accounting Rules, that the freight waybill and livestock waybill forms (here SP forms 700 and 707) were mandatory forms. The AAR identified perishable and preferred-movement forms as “recommendatory,” for use “by such roads as desire” such forms.
     To show how I have incorporated the form number, along with the designation “A.A.R. 98,” as was done on several SP forms, here is my freight bill header:

At upper left is the month and date of printing this form (1-51) and the number printed at that time, 400M (400,000) copies. At upper right is the form number.
     In the case of the perishable bill, I have chosen to ignore the prototype size of the form 709AA, 17 inches long, and use it instead as a standard size bill. Shown below are both forms 709 and 709AA (though not presented here in pink; the color is accomplished when I print the bills on pink stock).

 As I’ve mentioned before, most of this lettering is scanned from prototype documents.
     These extracts from a much larger document show a couple of points I have already implemented into my layout waybill forms, and a few more I need to add. I will come back to those additions, and a few more details from Circular 39-1, in a future post.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Electrical wars, Part 11: better power routing

In my Electrical Wars series of posts, one subject has been old Shinohara turnouts, which over the years have become unreliable in power routing. By “routing,” I mean the point rail–stock rail contact which powers the frog with the correct polarity. These turnouts have a brass strip connecting the point rails at the throw bar, making the points a single unit electrically. There is also a phosphor bronze strip underneath that brass strip, that is very helpful electrically (when it is new), because it contacts the bottom of the stock rails, but as it oxidizes with time, becomes less and less helpful, and is almost impossible to clean. That was the reason for replacing the lead turnout into my yard at Shumala, as I discussed in a previous post in this series, at: .
     One answer is to install separate power-routing contacts under the layout. I have used various kinds of contacts for this, such as a pair of microswitches, or a slide switch, or on some occasions, the contact assemblies from old twin-coil switch machines (the latter was described and shown in an earlier post, which is at: ). All these have one drawback: they require a mechanical connection to the turnout, such as a vertical operating wire, which in turn connects to whatever electrical contact arrangement is chosen. Electromechanical designs like this are not only touchy to install correctly, but also typically require adjustment from time to time, and adjustments can be fussy also,
     A modern alternative is to separate the point rails electrically from each other, then electrically connect each to its adjoining stock rail. That ensures good electrical feed to the point rails as well as correct polarity. But now the frog must be isolated electrically from the points, and a means devised to feed correct polarity to the frog. There are several ways to do that. A purely electrical way is to use a Frog Juicer, made by Tam Valley Depot (see their line of these devices at: ).
     I started out by mentioning problems with old Shinohara turnouts. I decided to try rebuilding one. In a Shinohara turnout, and several other varieties of commercial turnouts, the point rails are connected to each other and to the frog, so those connections must all be changed. My friend Jim Providenza came over to demonstrate how all this can be done. The first step was to cut the rails at the location shown by the red line below, using a cut-off disk in a motor tool, then to remove the rails between that cut and the end of the point assembly (the rails indicated by the arrow just to the left of the line), and finally also to remove the point assembly itself (the arrow farther to the left).

     We started by making the cut shown by the red line. Once that is done, and the adjoining rails removed, the molded-on “spike heads” in the plastic tie strip need to be removed, so they won’t impede the new point rails. The photo below shows this process, which is quick and easy with a hobby knife.

The next step is to remove the point assembly. In doing so, the brass strip that connects the two point rails (at the throwbar) is cut right next to the center rivet on both sides, and the entire throwbar pulled out. When this is done, the turnout now has all the removed parts gone, as shown below.

     The only parts saved from the old point assembly are two of the little stubs remaining from the connection of the points at the throwbar. Shown below are all the removed parts, with an arrow to two of the stubs just mentioned (the other two were already removed). These can be un-soldered from the old point rail, and will be re-soldered to the new point rails in the same location, at the new throwbar location.

     This completes the removal of unwanted parts and the turnout would now be ready to receive the installation of new points and throwbar. I will show the installation of those new parts in a following post.
Tony Thompson

Monday, November 21, 2016

Waybills, Part 56: a Western Pacific shipper guide

I have often discussed and described railroad-issued Shipper Guides or Shipper Directories in this blog (you can use those names as search terms in the search box to the right of this text to find them). Many of the ones I have previously described are sold as reprints by Ted Schnepf’s Rails Unlimited business (visit the selection at: ). In the present post I want to show a guide from another source. It belongs to and is located at the California State Railroad Museum or CSRM. I wrote about CSRM and the library in an earlier post (see it here: ).
     I don’t recall the cost of this Xerox copy of the original, but it was on the basis of a per-page copying charge. Contacting CSRM by phone or email should yield the cost; the document is 176 pages altogether. Shown below is the front page of the guide, identified as Western Pacific Circular 167-E (and that designation is how you can identify it to order a copy from CSRM).

Note that the guide also includes WP subsidiaries Sacramento Northern and Tidewater Southern.
     An important part of any guide like this is a key to the abbreviations used. Some may be obvious, but there are usually at least a few obscure ones. Like most guides, this one includes pages to present such a key. Here’s the railroad list, and the beginning of the additional list.

      This guide is the best type, in that it shows all accessible businesses for WP, including those accessible via switching agreements, even when the business is located on the tracks of another railroad. I will show just two examples. First, one page for Oakland, California, with numerous SP-located shippers. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

      My second example is a page for Salt Lake City, obviously with many railroads identified that are different  from the Oakland page.

      I really enjoy researching both origins of inbound loads to my layout, and destinations for outbound cars. I will just give a single example. The fish cannery on my layout naturally needs to receive empty cans, and the major can companies had plants all over the country to supply such needs. I found in the page shown above that American Can Co. had an Oakland plant, located on SP, so I chose it as a supplier to my cannery:

The box car here is a New York Central car, and since it moves within the same District, is not in violation of Car Service Rules to be assigned this way. (I’ve discussed the Car Service Rules in several previous posts; for example, .)
     This WP document, like many other Shipper Guides, is a great resource if you want to make waybills with prototype shippers and receivers of cargoes, I have already been using it for awhile, and expect to continue to depend on it as a resource.
Tony Thompson