Monday, January 30, 2012

Modeling freight traffic: Coast Line, 1953-Part 12

In several of the posts in this thread (most of them last spring), such as the first one ( ), I discussed the freight manifest schedules on the Coast Line. Here I want to present some data for the mid-1953 schedules, drawn from a 1954 document, Southern Pacific’s “Condensed Perishable, Merchandise and Manifest Train Schedule No. 15,” published for Pacific Lines on March 5, 1954.
     This Schedule in the 1950s was a single large sheet of paper, with both timetable schedules and train notes, for the principal routes over which these trains ran. In addition to the Ogden, Golden State, Sunset, and Shasta routes reaching out to the boundaries of the Pacific Lines component of SP, there were also schedules for the San Joaquin Valley and Coast Routes. I will show here just the Coast Route part of this document.
     Here is the timetable part. I will offer some analysis in a moment.

Notice that, unlike employee timetables, the entire route is shown between Los Angeles and San Francisco, though it comprises parts of two divisions (Coast and Los Angeles in 1953). Light figures here are AM times, dark figures PM times.
     The notes are most helpful in that they identify what each train does and what connections it is expected to make. You can click on this to enlarge it.

The dates of the creation of each individual schedule are also given, most well within 1953, which is why this is valuable for my own 1953 modeling.
     A couple of these trains, the MM and the MX, operate on the far north end of the Coast Route, and in addition, the SV trains head northward, thus don’t impact my modeled territory south of San Luis Obispo. But all the others do matter to my layout, to one degree or another. The hottest freights are the SSE (“Sunset East”) connecting with other eastward traffic at Colton, and the LA (“LA Manifest”), both eastward, and westward trains SF (“San Francisco Manifest”) and GGM (“Golden Gate Manifest”).
     Principal perishable movements are the SMV (“Santa Maria Vegetable Block”) and the WPB (“Watsonville Perishable Block”), as described in the notes. The SMV is described as connecting with departing Colton Blocks of perishables at Colton, so that the schedule of that train would be critical. When perishables were in the SF, they would need to connect with the SJR (“San Jose-Roseville”) train, making that train’s schedule more critical.
     All these trains correspond with what I described in the first post on this thread (on the basis mostly of interviews), in the link given above, plus the second post (at: ),  except for the SSE, which was referred to in later years as the CLM (“Coast Line Manifest”) and played the same role. Information here from the actual SP Schedule clarifies and solidifies the insights I had obtained earlier.
     Comparing these train symbol schedules to the employee-timetable train number schedules, the only corresponding eastward daytime train is the LA, matching approximately with timetable train 916. In 1953, westward trains were not scheduled over the Guadalupe Subdivision (between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara), and would have operated as extra trains, but onward from San Luis westward the SF and GGM seem to match, respectively, timetable trains 919 and 923. I should emphasize, though, that Mac Gaddis and others I interviewed stressed to me that train times in the employee timetable were not rigorously followed, except for those trains with vital connections, such as the SSE or SMV.
     The importance of the 1954 “Condensed Perishable, Merchandise and Manifest Train Schedule No. 15,” is that it provides the framework of important mainline freight trains which I need to operate on my layout, even though these function mostly as background traffic for the most modeled part of the layout, the Santa Rosalia Branch.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, January 26, 2012

San Luis Obispo operations-5

I haven’t posted a Mac Gaddis segment for awhile, so thought I would add one here. “Mac” was the late Malcolm Gaddis, long-time SP employee, who worked at San Luis Obispo in the early 1950s and in later years on many parts of Pacific Lines. Mac passed away in 2010. I interviewed him at his home in San Jose in 1990, and afterwards transcribed the tapes I recorded while he talked. Part 4 of this thread can be viewed at: . In this segment, some parts are not about the Coast Line, but they are interesting stories anyway.

     Here are Mac’s comments:
“The SP always ran big trains. I remember one time in Bakersfield, first time I went there, I saw a poor little Consolidation, 2831, with 127 flat cars, it about tore up the yard trying to get traction to move that train. They had to use an 0-6-0 to get it started, and they set up the main line all the way to Fresno to make sure he didn’t have to stop anywhere. He could never have started up again.
     “The Santa Fe was totally different. They ran shorter trains with big power, like those Mountains they had. They would call over to the SP to find out when the next Tehachapi drag was due out, then they would call their train for ten minutes earlier.
     “Of course, the Santa Fe dragged a lot of slow trains over there too. I remember one time at Cliff, they had piled up 40 flat cars in one pile. I got up there about four o’clock in the morning with Jim Strong, who was the chief engineer. What had happened, they had a lumber train, and they had EMDs on the point and those big Alco Alligators on the rear, and were going along the double track in Run 8, probably 18 miles an hour or so. The guy on the front end gets a red block at the end of the siding, and he shuts off, without setting any air or anything. 
     “Well, the Alcos, they were still in Run 8 and kept right on coming, and these flat cars just went every which way. So Jim Strong and I decided that one way to get the main line open quickly was bulldoze ’em over the side, and we had a Cat D8 up there and pushed em right over the cliff, and by seven o’clock it was about cleared up.
     “Bob Robinson, the Division Superintendent, came up there, and he didn’t exactly understand what we had done, but the road was clear. We never did have a record of how many cars we had shoved over the bank.
     “About two years later, D.J. Russell was coming up there in his business car, and coming around that curve, he was way out in the very corner of his back platformso he could see over the side. He loved to do that, see everything on the railroad. They’re standing out there, and Russell says, ‘SayBob, what’s all that mess down there?’ 
     “So next day, we had a little staff meeting, as soon as the Old Man had left, and Robinson had to call everybody in and pass along some of the chewing he’d gotten. ‘Gaddis,’ he says to me, ‘how did all those goddam cars get all down that hill?’
     “I said, ‘Oh, gee, that was a long time ago, and I’ve forgotten all about that.’ He looks at me and says, ‘Ohsure.’ Anyway, he must have driven back up above Caliente to see it, and he was telling me, ‘those all have to go, get rid of all of them.’ We got a junk dealer to go in there and salvage all of those cars.
     “I guess the worst wreck I got involved in on the Coast was at Guadalupe. There was a four-unit diesel, a fairly hotshot train westward on the main, and the Guadalupe local had a cab-forward. It must have been heavy with beets that day. He had switched out his loads, sawed all the way back up, then run down again.
     “Apparently he had gone far enough to clear the signal, and the four-unit diesel coming down the hill into town, doing 45 or 50, just saw three greens in a row. The Mallet had pulled up again and they met right there, laid them both right over, probably the worst mess I ever saw. All four units on their side, the Mallet over the other waybut nobody was killed. They had all seen it coming, I guess, and managed to get off the engines.
     “One time in a strike, management had to operate. I remember working on the Coos Bay local with three Baldwins and 42 log cars, just loaded to the gills. We started east early in the morning, pulled up to the top of the mountain, and went to eat. When we came out again, well, my brakeman was out of the accounting department, and his expertise was close to zero. The conductor was from the safety  department, and I told them both I wanted retainers on all the cars to go down the hill.
     “Of course, they're saying ‘What are retainers?‘ so you have to go back and show them where you turn this little lever, ‘turn it like this.’ They wouldn’t ride on the locomotive, but wanted to be in the caboose. That was okay. I was surprised, those Baldwins actually had an excellent dynamic brake, and they did quite well, no slipping at all. They would ring the alarm bell when they got up to about Run 6, and they would call me on the radio, and I’d say ‘Just keep going.’ They were built so sturdy, I wasn’t worried about the overload.
     “We used the Baldwins on the Coast for awhile, mostly for local work, and they had plenty of pulling power, but the trucks were so rigid they were always damaging the track. The Roadmasters would really gripe about them. Eventually they were moved off the Coast. 
     “Now about the Cuesta tunnels, they had water cars up there for protection. They had them there for years and years, in case of fires. It was four or five cars, usually two with platforms on the top and a couple just with water inside. I don’t recall if any of them had spray heads. Some were on each side of the summit. 
     “There was a siding just above the summit tunnel, between there and Cuesta siding, where there were work cars. You know they worked on those tunnels for just years. They dug out almost six feet of the tunnel tops, with 3-foot gauge cars to pull out the dirt. They could only do a little work at a time, because the line was kept open all through the project, and when they finally got the job done, those work crews must have been shocked. Probably they thought they had a lifetime job.”

     I have a little more from my interview with Mac, and I’ll include it in a future post.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Modeling meat reefers -- Part 2

Awhile back, I started a thread on modeling meat refrigerator cars, including some statistics on the car fleet size of the major meat packers (available at: ). Now I want to update what I’m doing.
     To repeat somewhat, here is the starting point, a LifeLike version of the old Varney plastic reefer, picked up at a swap meet for $1.00:

As mentioned in the prior post, the paint scheme shown corresponds to no prototype scheme I know of, but that doesn’t matter, as it will be stripped off anyway.
     First step is to slice off all the side and end grab irons and ladders, and roof corner grab irons. Each of the worked areas is sanded smooth, then re-scribed so that the appearance of individual boards is continued through each area. I also removed all the cast-on sill steps, as they are much too heavy to look right; they will be replaced by A-Line metal steps.
     Fore each expected prototype, I examined prototype photos to determine whether ladders or grab-iron rows were used, and whether straight or drop-style grab irons were chosen (more on this in a moment). I checked to see which shape of sill steps was used. Also, of course, the type of roof needed to be determined if possible.
     The roof that comes on the model represents an outside metal roof, with battens at panel seams in the roof. This is all right for several potential prototypes, but a few still had the older standard of board roofs. I should emphasize that such a roof is not just a layer of boards, but actually had two layers of tongue-and-groove boards, with metal sheets sandwiched between the two layers, which is called an inside metal roof. To represent it, I sanded off the battens (and ice hatches) to smooth the entire roof, and added sheets of scribed styrene for such cars as would need it.
      Here’s a car with this treatment. The running board is original, and by itself would be too thick, but the thickness of the scribed styrene applied atop the old roof surface reduces the apparent thickness to a reasonable quantity.

Drop grab irons, an A-Line product, have been placed on the car, but not yet spaced and glued (the car is destined as a Swift car, in a number group which had grab irons of this style). Ice hatches will of course be added later.
     Speaking of grab irons, how do you know how to space them away from the car side? This was a requirement of the federal Safety Appliance Act after 1911, and is shown (with various updates) in Car Builders Cyclopedia issues over the years. Here is the relevant part, abstracted from the 1940 Cyc, page 1090 (click to enlarge):

For this question, we need dimension “G” in the table, which shows a minimum of 2 inches and no maximum, and also indicates “preferably” 2.5 inches.
     My way of implementing this stand-off distance is to put a strip of styrene behind the row of grab irons. I use a strip of 0.030-inch-thick sheet, which translates to 2.61 inches in HO scale, then apply tiny dabs of CA adhesive with the tip of a pin to each leg of each grab iron. This photo shows how the spacer looks.

As I get more construction done, I will post updates.
     For background, and to try and show where I’m headed, here’s a quick summary of what I know about reefers of the major meat packers. The majority had straight grab irons (no ladders) and straight-sided steps. Exceptions were the older Swift cars, which had drop grab irons, and some later Cudahy cars, which had ladders. Most wood-side reefers had outside metal roofs, but the older Swift cars (as in the model example shown above) had board roofs. Most were deep yellow in color (not lemon yellow), except Hormel and Wilson cars, which seem to have been light orange. Most had black side hardware such as door hinges, but most did not include grab irons, ladders, or both in the black paint. Most painted the kick plate under the door a contrasting color, black or boxcar red. Of course, the word “most” indicates that there are exceptions. I intend to show prototype photos of each model when completed.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Open-car loads: pipe in gondolas

Having shown my DT&I gondola with a pipe load, in my post about the model displays at “Prototype Rails” in Cocoa Beach two weeks ago (available at: ), I have received two email messages asking about pipe loads. This post explores what’s involved and how I build the models.
     The rules for open-car loading are remarkably complete and detailed (issued at regular intervals by, successively, MCB, ARA and AAR, in the form of books), and though identified as “standard practice,” can be seen in a fair number of photographs to have been followed incompletely. Still, I would suggest that in general, using the loading rules is a good start for modeling open-car loads.
     Where can one find these rules? Original Loading Rules books of various ages can often be found for sale at railroadiana or swap meets, usually 5 x 7.5 inches with paper covers. Another useful source is the issue of Railway Prototype Cyclopedia (no. 20) with an article on open-top loads. It is only about flat cars, but many of the rules are very similar for gondolas.
     Here is an instructive transition-era photo (a B&O publicity shot, taken in the marine terminal at Locust Point [Baltimore], Maryland, with ships in the background), showing several gondolas with pipe loads, variously secured.

Most of these cars have three pairs of side stakes, but some follow the loading rule for pipe longer than 20 feet and have four pairs of stakes. Most if not all pairs of stakes appear to be secured to each other across the top of the pipe cargo, using wire. These loads extend above the gondola sides.
     What are the rules for this kind of load? Reproduced below are two figures from a pre-World War II AAR Loading Rules book, showing the main features. You can see that it largely corresponds to the loads in the photo above. First, a side and top view of the load.

For completeness, here is an end view (but notice the exceptions):

I usually make loads much less tall than the end-view drawing above, so don’t need the intermediate “bearing pieces” or wire ties shown.
     To model smaller-diameter pipe of the kind shown in the B&O photo above, the kind of coffee stirrers found in many coffee shops and cafes are very suitable for HO scale pipe. They are less prevalent out there than formerly but can still be found. This photo shows their appearance and relative size.

     I glue them into stacks with model airplane canopy cement (from my stash of R/C-56), then spray paint them with grimy black or a comparable color. No need for all pipes in your load to be full length, as the ones in the interior of the load cannot be seen. The bottom of one of my loads looks like this:

For this load, I used three sets of stakes and tied them together with smaller stripwood across the top of the load. Wood ties like this were permitted, though wire was more common. I have a wire-secured load somewhere, if I can find it. Here is a top view of the load just shown:

     I use essentially the same process for large pipe. The “big” straws provided at a variety of fast-food outlets are similar and lend themselves well to this use. Here is an example made from McDonalds’ straws, seen from the bottom. (When my kids were small, we sometimes ended up at McDonalds and it was an opportunity to scrounge straws. But all the burger chains and other outlets provide this size of straw.)

     For this load, I simply used spacer stakes, not tied together across the top, as this load sits mostly below the sides of my gondolas. It is black rather than the “grimy black” of the load of small pipe. Like the other load, it is sized to drop into a 40-foot gondola. If some of your gondolas are narrower than others, the loads need to be identified on the bottom as to which cars they will fit.

     Although I haven’t said so above, and I suppose it’s pretty obvious, these are removable loads, as are nearly all my open-car loads. That means, of course, the needed car weight has to be contained in the car itself, not in the load, and thus cars can be run empty just as well as loaded. If you use waybills for loads like this, the car needs to run half its cycle empty! I’m not willing to glue in loads, and then “pretend that car is empty” in operations.
     These loads are quick and easy to make, and the price is certainly right. I like to run gondolas with loads at least half the time, so it looks like they have a purpose on the railroad! Pipe is a good example. If you haven’t made any loads like this, give them a try.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Route cards — 7

As I mentioned last month in the prior post in this thread (accessible at: ), Guy Wilber was kind enough to dig into his AAR and other materials to answer questions about the dimensions and arrangements of route card boards on freight cars. Guy has now sent me the actual prototype items, so I will provide them here for those interested.
     I quoted the AAR Manual language on route card boards (and placard boards) as of 1954, but it is always interesting (and in a way reassuring) to read the statement exactly as it appeared. I show it below, and would point out that right under the heading is the legend “Recommended practice,” emphasizing the point I made earlier, that this set of dimensions and arrangements was not mandatory but was a recommendation. As always with these blog images, you can click on it to enlarge it.

As can be seen at the bottom of the image, this was page C-42 in the Manual.
     Guy also sent me a copy of the Plate 250 drawing, cited a number of times in that prior post (“Route cards-6,” link above). Here it is, with the lettering slightly rearranged but with all drawn and dimensioned items in the drawing exactly as originally published.

Note that the “clear” space of the wood board to post cards is in fact 5-5/8 inches by 9-1/8 inches, in accord with the minimum of 5-1/2 x 9 inches cited in the foregoing prose text from 1953. I was also interested that provision is made for using a board like this on wood-sided cars, I suppose to reduce the surface damage due to stapling, which would otherwise occur on the side sheathing on such cars.
     This seems to wrap up what needs to be said on this topic for the time being. I hope these actual documents are of value to some readers. And thanks again, Guy, for the help.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Car Service Rules-2

In the previous post on this topic (the post can be viewed at:, I gave a general description of the Car Service Rules and how they might be used by modelers. In this post, I want to provide more details for those interested. I should credit the substantial help I’ve received on this topic from railroaders Jerry Stewart, Paul Koehler, and Dan Holbrook, the latter of whom presented a superb clinic on the Rules at the Lisle meeting in October 2011.
     A background point: I received a query after my first post from a modeler of the early 20th century, who wanted to know how far back these rules go. In Dan’s clinic, he stated that the impetus for these rules was a meeting in 1876 of car accountants from 64 railroads (and letters from 21 more), which led eventually to the first full set of rules, established in 1888. By 1904, there was a committee of Railway Car Accountants which oversaw the operation of these rules. On March 1, 1920, the railroads voluntarily established the Car Service Division of the ARA, which merged into the AAR in 1934. Although the ICC had the power to intervene in car service matters, it tended to allow the ARA or AAR procedures to take precedence unless an emergency arose.
     The “Home District” map I showed, for 1954, was in force from 1952 until 1973, so it suits my own layout operation, but modelers of eras prior to 1952 will need to locate maps for their own time period. I believe the map prior to the 1952 map had been in use since before World War II, but I have not tried to establish the exact period. These maps are usually included in every issue of the Official Railway Equipment Register, so one can check for one’s own era.
     The ARA or AAR would from time to time issue Special Car Orders (SCO), which could overrule the Car Service Rules for particular cases. It would happen that a particular railroad was desperate for its own cars to be returned, often coal railroads, so an SCO might be issued, for example, directing that hopper cars of the N&W should be returned directly home when unloaded, regardless of service route. Normally these orders were terminated when the car shortage abated.
     When the need for particular cars didn’t rise to the level of needing an SCO, there were still requests through an AAR clearing house for particular car routings. These various needs were usually circulated to agents, yardmasters, conductors and car clerks in the form of railroad memos called “Equipment Instructions” or some similar title. I have constructed such a document for my layout, as I showed in an earlier post (you can view it at: ). Dan pointed out that in later years these were called “Tide” instructions.
     I mentioned “emergencies” above. The ICC could issue Service Orders of many different kinds, and did so for a number of situations during World War II, as one example. These are distinct from the ARA or AAR Orders, because ICC orders had the force of law, and were legally mandatory. The ARA/AAR Orders were not mandatory and there were no penalties for non-compliance.
     A famous example of an ICC Service Order during World War II was the directive that refrigerator cars could be substituted for box cars, and that several refrigerator car owners who normally controlled their own fleets would have to allow the cars to be free-running, that is, able to be loaded wherever needed. Although ICC Service Order 104 initially applied only to PFE and SFRD cars, since they made extensive empty movements westward while much wartime traffic was westward for the Pacific Theater and empty cars were badly needed, other refrigerator car owners were gradually added. This order was in effect until 1949, and during its operation, refrigerator cars of all owners could be found throughout the country.
     The most important rule for many modelers of 1953 and later is SCO 90, which directed, in effect, that empty box cars (without special equipment) should be moved directly homeward instead of returning via their service route. It was very complex in operation, because each railroad would direct which terminals should receive the cars from various connecting railroads, and an immense matrix came into existence, telling agents and yardmasters throughout the nation exactly where to send empty box cars, of every railroad, from every part of the country. Over the years, as conditions changed, SCO 90 was reissued many times, sometimes monthly. I have seen copies of SCO 90 extending to more than 20 closely typed pages.
     I show here a page from a Santa Fe SCO 90 document of 1953, which gives some idea of the complexity I am talking about (click to enlarge).

     The first memos and letters pertaining to SCO 90 that I have seen were from March 1953, and it did not go into official use until July 1, 1953. So far, I have chosen not to apply SCO 90 conditions to my layout, but I intend to explore how it will change my Empty Car Bill cycles if I do so.
     For obvious reasons, Car Service Rules generally did not apply to privately owned cars such as tank cars. The car owners directed movement of the cars, and might not always move a particular empty back to its loading point, but might move it to the location of another lessee. Directives were issued by owners of the cars to affected railroads, and sometimes this information was included on or attached to waybills.
     Incorporating all these refinements into model waybill systems could naturally be a complex challenge. Accompanying Dan Holbrook’s fine clinic at Lisle on the Car Service Rules was a talk by Perry Sugarman on his implementation of some of these factors in his computer system for the Holbrook layout’s operation. I found much food for thought in Perry’s talk.
     I recognize that many modelers will find these details to be “too much information,” and indeed several of them would be either difficult to model, or would not make much difference if modeled. But my own view is that prototype information like this is always valuable to know, because it increases the discrimination one can use in deciding what to model and what not to model. I would prefer to make that decision as a deliberate choice rather than out of ignorance.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cocoa Beach meeting comments

This year’s “Prototype Rails” meeting at Cocoa Beach, Florida (January 5-7) was as interesting and enjoyable as nearly all of them have been, with a lot of very interesting and informative clinics and extremely nice displayed models. Weather was also warmer than in some past Januarys in Florida. This is at least the 11th and I think maybe the 13th of these meetings, which Mike Brock has wisely and effectively directed, and at this point it’s one of the modeling meets I just wouldn’t miss.
     I took three models to display, two of which were “Shake ’n’ Take” projects, the Kahn’s reefer and the DT&I gondola (which was shown with a load of pipe). In addition, I showed my stand-in M&StL box car. All three have been described here in prior blog posts, and all are pictured here, including the pipe load. You may note that I added roping staples and a route card board to the gondola.

     Richard Hendrickson and I presented our joint clinic on weathering freight cars again, slightly updated and improved from the version we did at the Lisle, Illinois meeting last October. The handout for that clinic is available on a prior post in this blog, at: . Below is one of the images I added to the clinic to show a range of weathering on PFE refrigerator cars (compare the blog post at: ).

     I also presented an updated version of my clinic on prototypical waybills, incorporating not only more information about the “no car card” bills I’ve been creating for Otis McGee’s layout (previously described in my series of blog posts in the thread entitled “Waybills”), but also a new section. This was about a modification of my own waybill and “car sleeve” system, which had been implemented by Jeff Aley for Tom Weissgerber’s UP layout in Folsom, California. Jeff prepared the slides for that segment, and did the presentation of it also.
     Kind of at the last minute, “Shake ’n’ Take” impresario Greg Martin asked me to do the historical background presentation for this year’s “S ’n’ T” project, an SP Class B-50-12-A box car. These are the cars SP rebuilt in 1949-1950 from its original USRA single-sheathed box cars, to an all-steel box car of quite different appearance. SP company photographers took numerous photos of the rebuilding process, and luckily these images survive in a couple of archives, so I was able to illustrate the process in some detail.
     The usual outstanding clinic program, chaired by Jeff Aley, went off well and had plenty of terrific talks. I wasn’t even able to get to all the ones I wanted to hear. For me, these talks are a major attraction of a good meeting, and both Cocoa Beach and Lisle/Naperville have had excellent programming, year after year. This is in contrast to, say, NMRA National Conventions, which often have a whole bunch of talks along the lines of “How to make a tree.” I have no objection to elementary talks, but I believe they shouldn’t dominate the program.
     I also found a couple of prototype photos at the Bob’s Photo sales room that I could use, and this year a group of us managed to have two dinners at the outstanding Cuban restaurant in downtown Cocoa Beach, Roberto’s, so you could say that there were benefits on a variety of fronts.
     I sometimes wonder, in advance, if it’s really worth flying across the country for a few days’ meeting, and once again, at Cocoa Beach I had absolutely no doubt it turned out to be a worthwhile trip.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Car Service Rules

I’m not an expert on the Car Service Rules of the AAR, but have been asked about the main features often enough that I thought a summary might be useful here.
     These rules were adopted and modified over the years by a process of consensus among the member railroads of the AAR (and the ARA prior to 1934), through the committee process of the associations. The primary purpose of the rules was to increase efficiency in utilization of the national freight car fleet. The core idea is simple: reduce the amount of miles run by freight cars during which the cars are empty.
     The simplest way for a railroad to handle the freight cars of all other railroads (called “foreign” cars) would be for the road to return them, when made empty, to the owning road, while loading its own cars exclusively. This means, nationwide, that empty miles for every car would be equal to loaded miles, because every other railroad would be loading its shipments in its own cars and getting them back empty. But since many cars are functionally equivalent, such as general-purpose box cars, why not load that fresh empty and send it homeward, but loaded? This obviously reduces empty mileage considerably, and improves utilization. If Road A loads a car to Road B, and B then loads the same car back to A, there is no empty mileage at all. Even if the car only moves, say, halfway homeward with a load, the ratio of loaded to empty miles is improved.
     There was eventually an extensive set of rules, with detailed interpretations, special exceptions, and so forth, to try and implement the simple-sounding idea of loading foreign empty cars in the homeward direction. But here is a compact summary, developed by the AAR and reproduced in some issues of the Official Railway Equipment Register. The rules are listed in order of preference (click to enlarge).

The Districts referred to were defined in a map, the details of which changed from time to time, but here is the map for 1954.

Some of the “home district” definitions may seem odd, but these depended on the presence of major junctions or interchange points, not the primary operating areas of individual railroads.
     The intent of the rules is for the owning road of a car to benefit from car movement under load if possible (meaning freight revenue), thus the rule directing that car should be loaded for movement via the home road, even if destined beyond that road.
     A further point to recognize is that although empty cars normally were returned homeward via the route they took when loaded, so that each road benefiting from handling the car under load would also bear the burden of moving the empty car without revenue, there was an important exception. If the road on which the car was made empty had a direct connection to the owning road, the car would be moved homeward via that direct connection, regardless of the route under load.
     [Much more on this topic can be found in the very interesting book by E.W. Coughlin of the AAR, entitled Freight Car Distribution and Car Handling in the United States (AAR, 1956). It can usually be readily found on the Internet through used book dealers.]
     Railroaders will usually comment, when addressing this topic, that the AAR list of rules fails to show one rule, sometimes called the “boss rule,” or “rule zero,” or the “big rule.” That rule is stated something like, “Protect the shipment.” That means, provide the shipper with the car he needs, even if you have to break all the other six rules, and you can be sure your supervision will not criticize you for doing so.
     That leads to the question, “just how seriously were these rules taken? are they really rules or just guidelines?” Several AAR studies found that the Car Service Rules were obeyed around 80 or 90 percent of the time (before World War II) in loading empties, but more like 65 percent thereafter, and recollections of employees of the transition era are consistent with such percentages. So although these were not really mandatory, they did tend to be generally followed.
     How does all this affect modeling and operations on model layouts? You can, of course, entirely ignore them and spot cars for loading however you like. But if you want to capture some of the prototype approach, at least try to load foreign empties in a homeward direction, and move direct-connection empties directly homeward.
     What is perhaps less obvious is that loaded cars arriving at your industries from distant origins should also have been loaded according to the Car Service Rules. That means that the originating railroad in some distant area, say New England for my SP layout, would probably not use its own cars, nor empties of railroads in its immediate area of the country, because those would go home on direct connections. Instead, they would be trying to load cars typical of the area you model. As an SP modeler, this means I expect to receive loads from the far corners of the country in SP, UP and Santa Fe box cars in many cases.
     In times of economic weakness, when the car supply tends to be in surplus, foreign empties probably do go home much of the time. But in boom times, when car supply can get rather tight, the Car Service Rules are usually bent to suit circumstances. This can be an “out” for those who don’t want to bother about car service; just say you are modeling a time of prosperity. Or you can do a little research and find out if your chosen modeling period, say fall of 1950, was in fact a boom time or not.
     But whatever you choose to do on your own layout, knowing something about the Car Service Rules helps you choose how prototypical you want to be in operation.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

M&StL box car: addendum

After my blog post about modeling a Minneapolis & St. Louis box car appeared (it’s at ), Douglas Harding sent me a photo of a M&StL car which is much closer to the Train Miniature (TM) model. You can see that it not only has the Howe truss arrangement of side bracing which the TM model has, but also has Z-bar bracing like the TM car.

I don’t know the date of this photo, but the reweigh date on the car is June 1938, so it probably was taken no later than the end of 1940 (reweigh intervals at that time were 30 months).
     But there is a drawback to this prototype choice too. There were 212 cars listed in the M&StL number series 18000-18999 (even numbers only) in the July 1946 Official Railway Equipment Register, but by 1949 none remained to be listed. Since I model 1953, that pretty much rules out an 18000-series prototype, but for modelers of earlier eras, this would probably be a better choice. Thanks for the interesting photo, Doug.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, January 1, 2012

“Shake ’n’ Take” modeling project: DT&I gondola

The 2010 “Shake ’n’ Take” modeling project at the Prototype Rails meeting in Cocoa Beach, Florida, was a 40-foot Detroit, Toledo & Ironton gondola. It was designed as a kitbash from the Athearn (nominal) 50-foot gondola, and John Engstrom of Athearn arranged the donation of the kits to be used as starting points for the project. Other contributors included Ted Culotta of Speedwitch, who donated the resin drop ends, and Tom Madden, who produced them; Jim Singer of 5th Ave. Car Shops, who arranged for the custom decals; and Brian Leppert of Tahoe Model Works, who donated the double-truss side frames for the car trucks.
     This project actually had its inception in a Richard Hendrickson article, published years ago in Prototype Modeler (November-December issue, 1982, pages 12-16), and Richard guided Greg Martin in preparing the instructions for the “Shake ’n’ Take” project. With Greg’s permission, I have posted a PDF of the project instructions on Google Docs. Here is the link:

     The basic process is to shorten the Athearn model by cutting and removing a piece in the car center, two side panels long, and re-attaching the remaining pieces, with corresponding underframe modifications; and replacement of the Athearn fixed ends with drop ends and making corresponding changes in the end framing. I stripped off the paint of the donated kit, and worked with the bare plastic body.
     I began with the body shortening, a similar process to which I had done years ago, following Richard’s articles on lengthening the Athearn car from its stock length of 48+ scale feet, for several longer prototypes. I like to add reinforcing strips to the new joint, inside the side sill, as is visible in the photo below. I cut the Athearn weight to fit the new car length, removing about 3/4-inch in the middle, and likewise cutting that amount from the Athearn underframe. As Greg points out in the kit instructions, we don’t know for sure what kind of center sill these cars had, and I chose to simply retain the Athearn fishbelly design, though it may not be correct for this car.
     Here is a view of the underbody at this point, with the car reduced to 41 feet long. The saw cut where material was removed from the underframe is visible, as is model putty on the side joint. The reinforcement strip is white, and the gap where the steel weight was cut is the shiny line to the left of the car center. The couplers are just a trial installation.

The floor was smoothed, since a wood floor will be inserted. Ends were sawed out, then cleaned up like this:

According to Greg’s directions, new end frames were fabricated from styrene, and looked like this:

     But at this point, I realized that Greg’s procedure would result in an end frame which was too thick, if I followed his method of adding scale 4 x 4-inch styrene to the back of these frames. I also was not happy with the depth and shape of the end sill in these new parts. So I narrowed the upright portions, cut them off flush with the bottom of the “U” shape, and glued the four “post pieces” to the car ends, making them flush with the car side (a photo of this is further along).
     I then added the styrene 4 x 4, but flush with the car end surface, and when the glue was dry, shaped them with files and sandpaper to the desired shape. The net result is an end frame which looks like the prototype thickness and shape, and is not, to my eye, over-thick. This prototype photo from Richard Hendrickson’s collection is a good end view (and nicely shows the hand brake support arrangement also), clearly showing the shape of the end frame. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

Here is how the A end of my model looked with the revised construction:

     Further work was straightforward detailing for the most part, and I simply followed Greg’s directions. For sill steps, I used A-Line Style B, which, though not exactly like the prototype, do have a similar look. In mounting these, I used the same trick with 4 x 4 styrene blocks behind the side sill as in my M&StL box car project (see the description of this sill step procedure at: ).
     Other details included A-Line drop grab irons and an InterMountain Ajax hand brake and a retainer valve (from their 1937 AAR box car detail set). I applied Archer rivets to the end frames, rather than apply individual rivets as Greg did.
     The resin drop ends, as mentioned above, were part of the kit. The ends were added after gluing in the “wood” floor (Evergreen no. 3047, called “Passenger Car Siding.” (In HO scale, it corresponds to the commonly-used 5-1/2-inch board width for gondola wood floors). On other projects, I have represented wood floors with a wider spacing by using Evergreen no. 2067 (“Freight Car Siding”), which is 0.020-inch thickness, a little easier to work with than the 0.030-inch thickness of Evergreen no. 3047.
     I installed the Tahoe Model Works trucks which were provided with the kit, the double-truss AAR design, and added Reboxx 0.088-inch wheel treads and 1.010-inch axles.
     Since I didn’t have an interest in an auto-frame load for this car, I consulted the January 1953 issue of the Official Railway Equipment Register and found that 30 of DT&I’s gondolas of this body style were not equipped with auto frame racks at this time, and I chose one of the listed car numbers among those 30 for my model. Here is the completed car, after airbrushing, lettering with the decals provided, and weathering with acrylic washes.

The drop ends of this car are eye-catching, as they are correctly ribbed with the major corrugations convex toward the car interior, as on the prototype. Here is an end view to show both ends, along with the wood floor, posed at the Shumala depot.

     This completes an interesting project on which I carried out a few tasks that weren’t familiar, thus hopefully expanding my capabilities. This is one of the attractions of activities like the “Shake ’n’ Take” projects, along with, of course, the opportunity to make a distinctive and useful freight car for the fleet. My thanks again to Greg Martin for sustaining this activity at “Prototype Rails” in Cocoa Beach.
Tony Thompson