Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thinning the collection

The title of this post is kind of tongue in cheek, but it refers to a problem most modelers have, namely, an awful lot of kits on the shelf, or projects contemplated and not finished, or maybe not even started. Lots of stuff which may not really be part of what you want to do, and one reason you’re not building those kits or working on those projects is that they are no longer central to your modeling interests. I’m no different.
     My numerous prior posts about how I have thought about the freight car fleet I need for my layout, both in terms of road names and car types, and the analysis of each car type for which cars and how many I would need--that wasn’t just an exercise. It also led me to recognize things on the shelf (or finished cars in storage) that really did not fit what I am trying to do. For some, this kind of analysis indicates what you might need to acquire, and in a very few cases, that applied to me also, but usually it was the opposite. I identified what needed to go.
     For one example from the series of posts about the fleet, this one about a single car type might serve to illustrate what I mean by analyzing my needs: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/04/choosing-model-car-fleet-8-gondolas.html .)
     At model railroad conventions, whether local or national, there are usually swap meet rooms or sales tables or auctions, and these are a great way to move stuff to people who know what they’re looking at. At one convention, I sold 21 kits; at another one, 12 kits and five ready-to-run cars; at a third one, 14 kits. All those were plastic or wood cars. Among my resin kits, where I seem unusually prone to impulse purchases, I’ve gotten rid of 34 kits while getting 18 cars built that I did need.
     I don’t want to sound like I have the problem whipped, because if you added up all the disposed kits and cars in the previous paragraph, it wouldn’t come close to the total of all kits still remaining to be dealt with. But my point is that the collection is getting thinned out, and the collection that remains is much more directed to the locale and era that I’m trying to model.
     Have I ever weakened at one of those sales tables or auctions and bought some new stuff? Sure, but a very small amount compared to what was going away. After all, my analysis did identify a few needs in my fleet, and it’s fun to search out and fill those needs too. And of course my proceeds from the items that sold did provide me with some ready cash!
     And it isn’t only kits that have been let go. I also sold a full dozen completed cars that no longer meet my needs, and have given away more than a dozen more. These are mostly cars built early in my modeling, when my era choice was pretty broad and my modeling skills and prototype knowledge less. Others can use the cars, and I was happy to find them new homes.
     All this is partly a matter of space: when the shelves are full to overflowing, it’s time to assess the contents of those shelves. But it’s also a matter of focus. My modeling goals have evolved to a fairly specific time and place, meaning that the appropriate models are fewer. The other part of “focus” is that I am eliminating poorer quality or less accurate models. Sure, a few will stay with me for various nostalgia reasons (such as the car I parts-bashed when I was 13--it’s kind of crude, but it has a place of pride in my display case). But in a metaphor appropriate to the current season (at least in California), the tree is healthier when it’s pruned.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Waybills, Part 19: confiscation

The terminology of “confiscation” of freight cars, meaning the use of an empty foreign car to be loaded on a particular railroad, rather than being sent homeward empty, sometimes sounds like something illicit is being described. But that’s not true at all; this is simply the term sometimes used.
     A problem which can arise in modelers’ waybill systems is a realistic means of arranging for a certain amount of confiscation of empties. The usual prototype cycle, in which a car is unloaded and then sent directly homeward (if there is a direct connection to the owning railroad) or sent off on the reverse route it followed when loaded, is familiar. But obviously the Car Service Rules (which I’ve tried to summarize briefly at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/01/car-service-rules.html ) intend that foreign cars be loaded whenever possible, rather than moved empty, and this is exactly what “confiscation” is all about.
     On model railroads, the ease and realism of simulating confiscation of empties which otherwise would be homeward bound will vary with the system of car cards and/or waybills. Here’s why. Any system with a fixed cycle of car movements, such as the traditional four-cycle waybill, directs unloaded cars to specific places, such as yards or off-layout destinations, and in the following cycle, the next piece of the paperwork directs the car again to a specific location. Then cars are “never” available empty at most layout locations, because their paperwork always directs them to some other location.
     Obviously it is the rigidity of the cycles which is at fault here. One way to break the fixed cycles is if new paperwork is supplied to each car for each operating session; then confiscation is readily accomplished. This can, however, represent an awful lot of paper generation. But most people re-use their paperwork in subsequent sessions. What about those systems? One option is to prepare for the possibility of confiscation at a particular town, by including an additional waybill in the sleeve (if one is used), which can be chosen when desired. But this is not “demand-based” car flow if that choice is arbitrary.
     In a layout system with demand-based car flow (this means car flow which derives from industry needs, an idea which I’ve discussed previously; see: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/11/operations-demand-based-car-flow.html ), a yardmaster may receive a certain number of waybills (in effect, standing in for Bills of Lading), and these identify needed empties. The yardmaster or his yard crew can then choose suitable empty cars for these loads, following Car Service Rules if desired. For this to work, either the four-cycle paperwork needs to have an empty cycle called “available for loading,” or the paperwork needs to be pulled or replaced as needed. I’ll turn to the latter possibility in a moment.
     The system I use on my layout, in which all waybills are “one-function” or single-sided bills, makes confiscation easy and natural. Layout resetting between sessions readily provides for confiscation, either directly from industry sidings or from car accumulation points such as yards or interchange tracks. For a summary, see: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/10/operations-role-of-agent.html and also the further discussion of the same topic at:  http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/11/waybills-15-managing-bills.html.
     But the problem comes with any system in which car movements are relatively constrained, whether by four or any other number of cycles which repeat, or by having preprinted waybills and Empty Car Bills organized in a sleeve or other system (as I have described for Otis McGee’s layout, at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/07/waybills-9.html ). As mentioned above, it can readily happen that cars are always regarded as having firm destinations. The way to break this pattern is to treat any free-running car with an “empty cycle” as potentially loadable, if the car is suitable for the needed load. Appropriate paperwork can be created to supersede an existing cycle, presumably under the control of a yardmaster or agent at a particular town.
     I am in the process of trying two approaches to this. One is to provide blank Empty Car Bills at the yard, so a yardmaster, presented with specific car needs of certain industries, can handwrite a fresh Bill to move a suitable car to that industry, if it is already empty and moving on a prior Empty Car Bill. This new Empty Car Bill would be placed atop the existing Empty bill in the sleeve.

Filling out part or all of such a bill by hand is prototypical; several several examples I’ve seen of actual Empty Car Bills are indeed written out in pencil, as in this instance (click to enlarge):

However, unless these new Empty Bills are regarded as disposable, waybills will build up in some car sleeves. Moreover, additional load waybills have to be provided also.
     The second approach is to prepare “overlay bills” for industries which typically need cars, in the case of Otis McGee’s layout, flat cars for lumber mills. I’ve discussed overlay bills before (see for example: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/08/waybills-10.html ), both for empty and loaded movement, and these would be available at the yard (Dunsmuir on Otis’s layout). A rule for use of such overlay bills is probably needed. For Otis’s layout, this might be something like “all empty flat cars destined Eugene or beyond can be confiscated if needed.” So a yardmaster with overlay bills on hand, representing industry needs, would then seek the appropriate cars subject to confiscation, and add the short bills.
      Here are examples of both the Empty Car Bills and waybills, in full-length and short (overlay) form. When the short bill is placed atop the long bill in the car sleeve and aligned, it looks like a single bill. First, the overlay Empty bill which preempts the long Empty bill:

Next, for the following session, the overlay waybill which supersedes the existing waybill for this car (both overlay bills would be put in the sleeve):

Once the car has been loaded and moved to westward staging (Redding), the overlay bills would be removed and returned to storage at Dunsmuir yard. I lean toward this second approach, but will try both.
     This handling of empty cars to be loaded may not be an important feature of too many layouts, but when it is, a realistic means of accomplishing it seems to me to be essential.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Small modeling project: upgrading an SP box car

To meet part of the needs in my freight car fleet for SP box cars (see my analysis of needs for SP box cars within my boxcar fleet, in a previous post, at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/07/choosing-model-car-fleet-sp-box-cars.html ), I am assembling some kits. I thought it might be of interest to relate the thinking behind some of my detail changes.
     The kit I’ll describe in this post is an old IMWX kit for an SP Class B-50-20 car, from a special run made for the La Mesa Club, with “Return to SP agent Bakersfield” placards on them. This kit is numbered SP 83546, and correctly includes welded 7-panel doors. But the kit also includes a representation of a wood running board (all the cars in Class B-50-20 were built with Apex steel-grid running boards and brake steps), and the kit has Ajax handbrake gear (the car with this number would have had an Equipco handbrake). These kinds of car specialties are all tabulated in my book on SP box cars, Volume 4 in the series Southern Pacific Freight Cars (Signature Press, 2006). Here is a clear view of the end for the prototype class (though it’s one of the cars with Youngstown corrugated doors):


The Equipco hand brake and metal brake step are evident on SP 84822. Next, here’s a car with a number quite close to the IMWX kit number, and with the panel door; the Barber trucks with spring planks can also be discerned.


Both these builder photos are from the Shasta Division Archives. A word about the doors. The “Creco” panel door, so named for its maker, Chicago Railway Equipment Company, was available by the end of the 1930s in either welded or riveted form. But in 1941, Creco spun off its door business as the Superior Door Company (headquartered at the same address in Chicago). The purchase of the welded doors for Class B-50-20 was made by SP prior to this change, however, so these doors are properly called “Creco doors” (as indeed SP called them in its order summary), though to many modelers the Superior name is more familiar for welded doors.
     Returning to the kit, there are lots of etched metal running boards which could be used for this project, and I often choose the various Plano products. But for this one, I decided to use an old Overland etched-stainless board, and an etched brake step. The only trick is to get the corner grab irons correctly spaced from the surface of the lateral board, prior to applying CA to hold the parts. I used a normally-closed spring-loaded tweezer to hold the grab iron against my styrene spacer (the spacer was shown in use to space grab irons, in this post: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/01/modeling-meat-reefers-2.html ). It looked like this before CA attachment:


Kadee makes a superb Equipco brake wheel, which I also used. With the brake step and brake wheel in place, this is the model:


Most other details on the car were straight from the kit. I added weights inside the car in the form of large nuts, as I showed for the PFE R-30-16 reefer project (at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/08/small-modeling-project-pfe-r-30-16.html ). I don’t have replacement trucks on hand that adequately depict the correct Barber bolster ends, so for the time being will just retain the kit AAR trucks, which at least do have a representation of the spring planks. As can be seen in the photo above, I have installed Kadee No. 58 couplers, which is my current standard; for more on freight car standards, see:  http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/03/model-freight-car-standards.html .
     Here is the completed car end:


and here is a side view of the entire car, still needing weathering, of course.


     The detail changes in this model are minor, but I described them to show an approach to making models closer to prototype, for which an out-of-the-box kit often falls short. Knowledge of the prototype you wish to model, combined with awareness of appropriate after-market detail parts, permits these improvements.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wine as an industrial commodity: update

In the previous post on this topic, I mentioned one of the X2011 NMRA convention cars, which was a California Dispatch Line wine car. The model is the Walthers production version of the Proto2000 insulated AC&F Type 21 tank car, in ready-to-run form. It is now available at the convention’s on-line store. Here is the link for those interested: http://www.x2011west.org/cart/ . A photo of the car may be useful, so here is a view of the unweathered car, just as it comes.


     I also received a request to show a photo of the old Laconia model of a Chateau Martin car. Mine needs some upgrading of details (particularly car corners), as the car was assembled by its previous owner, but here it is in its present condition. The car color at least is clearly shown.


     Modeling wine traffic can be an interesting addition to a layout, even if you model a location far from any California vineyards. The wine can be passing through on the way to somewhere else, or it can be delivered to a local wholesaler for bottling.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Type and typography-foundations

As a sidelight to my own interests in type and typography, as mentioned in a previous post (at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/11/type-and-typography-on-layout.html), I want to describe a visit I made a few years ago to the Plantin-Moretus Museum.
     This museum is among the most remarkable and impressive museums devoted to printing and publishing anywhere. Located in Antwerp, Belgium, it includes a wide range of interesting historical artifacts, many of them unique in the world. I was able to visit the museum as a short side trip by rail from Amsterdam, where my wife was attending a computer conference.
     The museum had its origins in the printing business of Christopher Plantin, a French printer who had moved to Antwerp in 1549 (only a hundred years after Gutenberg). This business, passed down through Plantin’s descendants by marriage into the Moretus family, was active until 1876. In that year, Edward Moretus closed the business and, aware of the many historical associations of the building and contents, sold the entire property, just as it stood, to the City of Antwerp, which continues to own it today. It is thus a remarkable time machine, showing us almost literally a printing establishment of the 17th and 18th centuries, together with a fascinating historical collection from the whole time over which the business operated. 
     This is a view of the museum’s interior courtyard; the building occupies (nominally) a city block and is entirely built around this courtyard (Museum photo).



     The 16th century building which houses the Museum, two of its wooden printing presses dating from about 1600 (and five others from the 17th century), and a great many significant and ancient items of furniture, tapestries, books and paintings, all create a wide-ranging view into the past. There are offices, several workshops, a magnificent library, and a press room, all restored to the typical appearance of a patrician house and a printing business of centuries ago. And for some, the book illustrations and family portraits created by the painter Peter Paul Rubens for his friend Balthazar Moretus might be of greatest interest. 
     But the part of the museum I had come to see was the printing side. This view, provided by the Museum, shows about half of the press room, with hand presses at right and type cases in the foreground:



From these presses came workmanship  which was admired throughout the publishing world.
    The most intriguing part to me of the Museum’s printing display is its type collection. Most types used by Plantin and his successors were purchased from outside sources, and are of enormous historical interest. Many are in the form of the original steel punches, which were prepared by the type designer. These in turn were used as the first step in the process of casting lead type. The Plantin-Moretus collection of such punches from the 16th and 17th centuries, and the “matrices” for casting which were made by driving the punches into sheet brass or copper, is the most extensive in the world.  
     The punch collection is mostly stored in wooden boxes like this one. The letters are naturally backwards, so that the letters impressed in the matrices are frontwards, the cast piece of type made from each matrix is backwards, and the final letter printed on the page is frontwards (photo by Jacob Dewinetz of Greenboathouse Press):



     Early in the 17th century, Balthazar Moretus installed a type foundry in his building, and walking through it today, you can almost believe the workmen have stepped out for lunch. Tools, materials, furnaces, and working equipment of several kinds stand just as they did when the business was active. Of course, the types were produced and accumulated for the everyday use of the printing business, and would not have seemed remarkable in their day. 
     But to see at close range (and on polite request to a docent, to be allowed to handle) the punches, finished by the hand of such designers as Claude Garamond, Robert Granjon, Guillaume Le Bé, and others, is a remarkable experience and, for someone interested in typography and type history, an emotional one too. I greatly admire Garamond’s typefaces, and have used them in designing a number of books. To hold in my hand a punch which Claude Garamond had made with his own hands, almost 500 years ago, nearly brought tears to my eyes.
     This Museum has made its materials available to type designers down through the years, most notably in the digital age, as modern designers wrestle with the problems of creating a faithful representation of a metal type for computer use. One example is the widely used digital face Adobe Garamond, for which Adobe’s Robert Slimbach went to the Plantin-Moretus to work with the original Garamond punches. The result is that many typographic experts feel the Adobe version of this great typeface is as accurate in capturing the feel of the original as any ever made. 
     Located just a short walk of perhaps 15 or 20 minutes from Antwerp’s Central Railroad Station (Google Maps will show you the way), this remarkable museum is well worth a visit for anyone interested in its contents. I recommend it as a highlight for anyone with even a passing interest in typefaces and the history of books.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wine as an industrial commodity

Awhile back, when I showed the first train operated into Ballard on my layout (the post describing and showing this “landmark event” is available at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/12/ballard-3-first-train.html ), Jim Lancaster offered a comment asking about wine transportation, since in that post a conventional RS reefer could be seen standing at my Ballard winery. I replied that I was working on a post about railroad transportation of wine, and here it is.
     The classic idea of winemaking, and often a valid description, is an operation which grows, crushes and ferments its own grapes, then ages its own wine, all on its own property, and eventually bottles it for sale. But not all parts of the wine business work this way. The variations, which may be familiar to enthusiasts who enjoy and are knowledgeable about wine, but not so evident to others, are worth describing. I do so below.
     And incidentally, if you would like to read more about all this, I can warmly recommend a book describing a great deal about how wine is produced, entitled A Very Good Year, by Mike Weiss (Gotham Books, 2005), and subtitled “The Journey of a California Wine from Vine to Table.” It’s available in trade paperback. For a dauntingly complete description of the wine business as it was in the 1950s and ‘60s, you may enjoy Wine, by M.A. Amerine and V.L. Singleton (University of California Press, 1965). A revised edition from 1977 is also available in trade paperback.
     The first point worth emphasizing is that wine grapes do not all get made into wine on the property where they were grown. Not only do many wineries buy and sell harvested grapes, to balance out the properties of their crop in a particular year (such as sugar content and other variables which affect the final wine product), but there are vineyards which make no wine at all, but simply grow grapes, and sell all the grapes that they grow. So in any wine-growing area there is a lively market in harvested grapes at harvest season, as each winery tries to have just the right balance in their “crush.” These grapes may also move longer distances, for example in refrigerator cars, which is relevant to the question of railroad transportation, but the market in grapes is primarily a local market.
     A second point is that there are wineries capable of blending and fermenting grape juice, but which do not have crushing facilities. That creates a market in fresh juice from harvested wine grapes, produced by those who do have crushing facilities but may not need all the juice they produce. This juice also might move longer distances, likely in tank cars, but this is a relatively small market.
     Third, once grape juice has been fermented and made ready to age, it will be stored in various kinds of tanks or barrels. Formally speaking, this is wine already, though it is usually pretty raw and would not seem drinkable to most people. Still, the expert winemaker can taste and analyze this raw wine, and it too may enter the market for blending purposes. Of course, a prospective purchaser might prefer to buy aged rather than raw wine, but the price will be distinctly higher. Either way, this kind of completed wine can and does go to market, regionally or even nationally.
     Where was wine blended or bottled, far from the growing areas? Almost everywhere in the country, as it happens. Some local operations would buy a particular bulk wine and bottle it under their own label; others would buy a range of wines to blend and then bottle. The blending might be needed to raise quality. An example in the steam and transition eras was New York state wine, which suffered from a growing season which was usually unable to produce enough sugar in their grapes. Accordingly, large amounts of California wine were imported (most in tank cars) to be blended with the local product and, presumably, improve it. That bulk wine was far from gourmet quality, but could lend considerable body to a poor wine base, and the California wines were generally cheaper than the local ones, keeping the price down. (Most wines so blended in either Ohio or New York State were usually labeled “American” wines, rather than as Ohio or New York products.)
     A familiar example of this kind of bulk wine movement was the Chateau Martin wine brand, owned by Eastern Wine Corporation of New York. Wines were moved in bulk from California to be bottled in the Bronx. In fact, the wine was sometimes moved in uninsulated tank cars. For much more on Chateau Martin, I highly recommend the web page Jim Lancaster has put together. Here’s a link, if you haven’t already seen Jim’s compilation: http://coastdaylight.com/chatmart/cmwx_roster_1.html . The Chateau Martin cars, painted a vivid burgundy color, are extensively pictured on Jim’s page, but here’s a photo he doesn’t include, by Morris Abowitz at Los Angeles in 1964, from the Bill Sheehan collection:


These cars contained internal tanks and thus were classed as tank cars despite their external appearance. Laconia Industries years ago made an HO scale kit with correctly-colored sides for this kind of car, and I have one in my fleet.
     Before World War II, nearly all bulk “wine” shipments were fortified wine, that is, with brandy additions to raise the alcohol content, which were then usually bottled as a cheap product. After the war, this practice continued, although some table wines were also being shipped. Table wine shipped for blending may have moved occasionally in insulated tank cars, but much more commonly was shipped in barrels. This Will Whittaker photo has long been a favorite of mine, and Will stated that the workmen told him it was a cargo of wine (photographed at San Francisco in 1938; PFE Class R-50-1):


This is easy to model, provided of course that you make sure your barrels are not too big to make it through a 4-foot door opening on a swing-door reefer. Here is how I modeled it for my town of San Ardo:


As was often true, this reefer is in ventilation service, with hatches latched open, presumably meaning that temperatures in transit are expected to be moderate. [Note; this photo is corrected from the one originally posted. For an explanation of why this was done, you can visit this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/07/my-erroneous-model-photo.html .]
     Wine tank cars, of course, have been familiar to modelers for many years. One sometimes hears the opinion that wine traffic wasn’t extensive, perhaps the West Coast equivalent of pickle traffic, but as a counter example, I would offer the following photo, taken at Fresno, California in the late 1950s (Southern Pacific photo, courtesy Richard Hendrickson).


As this image shows, wine cars were frequently multiple-compartment cars, but there were also single-compartment and three-compartment tank cars for this kind of cargo. Here’s a prototype example of a single-compartment car, of interest to me at the moment because I have the Sunshine resin kit for this car on my workbench right now. (The photo is from AC&F, courtesy of the Hawkins-Wider-Long collection)


At the NMRA National Convention in Sacramento last July, one of the convention cars was a Walthers insulated car much like this, lettered for California Dispatch Line, a large lessor of wine tank cars. Some of the convention cars are still available and will shortly be shown on the X2011 Convention store, on-line at: http://www.x2011west.org/cart/ . I’m not sure how soon these will return to the store, so check back until they appear.
     The next photo illustrates the more familiar six-compartment car, generally similar to the one above except for the number of compartments (again, AC&F photo from Hawkins-Wider-Long):


In both these photos, the domes have insulated jackets and accordingly have a bigger-looking diameter. This General American photo (courtesy Rob Evans collection) shows a six-compartment car with differently insulated domes:


The Roma lettering may remind some of the old AHM model in HO scale, but that model in fact is terribly oversize, with dimensions corresponding to something north of 12,000 gallons; actual six-compartment wine cars were usually 6000 gallons, meaning 1000 gallons per compartment.
     Here is a shot of that AHM model, and at 40 scale feet in length and with a huge tank, it really looks wrong, once you have looked at some prototype photos.


I sold this model long ago, but now wish I had kept it so it could languish in my display case, as an example of completely incorrect modeling.
     Instead, better models have been done. Precision Scale did a nice brass version a decade or so ago, and Thomas Trains did a metal car kit, more than 50 years ago. I found one of these at a swap meet, and it’s now at work in my freight car fleet. Here it’s shown at my Ballard winery, picking up some bulk wine to take elsewhere for blending use. This model, which properly is sized for 6000 gallons, can be compared to the AHM monster and to the prototype General American photo, above.


     My Zaca Mesa winery produces mostly bulk wines, and accordingly ships out mostly in tank cars and to some extent in barrels. A minimal amount of jug wine in gallon bottles is produced, and is normally shipped (uniced) in reefers, which essentially uses those cars as insulated box cars. Thus outbound loads are expected to move in both wine tank cars and in reefers. There might even be an occasional pickup by a Chateau Martin car!
Tony Thompson

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Waybills, Part 18: resources

I’ve been asked to say a bit more about prototype information resources for waybill information. I will list the primary sources I have found valuable, and for items which are less widely known, will also show photos of them.
     The first area of interest to many is to understand what the prototype did in the creation and handling of waybills. There are a number of valuable, published documents which set this out clearly. Here are two:
          John H. Armstrong, The Railroad: What It Is, What It Does
             (Revised Edition), Simmons-Boardman, Omaha, 1982.
          Lawrence W. Sagle, Freight Cars Rolling, Simmons-Boardman,
             New York, 1960.
Both of these are informative and helpful, and do spell out the basics of waybills, though neither one contains extensive detail.
     But most important in this regard (to me, anyway) is a book which is exactly about freight car movement, and which I cannot recommend too highly. It is:
          E.W. Coughlin, Freight Car Distribution and Car Handling in the 
             United States, Car Service Division, Association of American
             Railroads, Washington, 1956.
This book is often available on-line from used book dealers, typically for $10 to $20, though you may need to check regularly with booksellers like AbeBooks (http://www.abebooks.com/) or Powell’s Books (http://www.powells.com/) to find a copy. Here is a photo of my copy:


     A summary of the information in these resources seemed like a good idea to me, so I wrote one, and it was published in 2010. Unfortunately, a few things got messed up in the production process. In an earlier post, I presented a corrected version of my article in The Dispatcher’s Office (OpSIG magazine), available as a document on Google Docs through this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/01/waybills-2.html
     When it comes to what information is shown in waybills, a collection of prototype paperwork would be most valuable, but few of us have much in this line, particularly since we most want to find documents for both our modeled area and our time period. I have managed to find a few from at least the right era, thanks to the generosity of friends and acquaintances. This example was sent to me by Chet French, former railroad employee, and illustrates several points often made about waybills.


The car here is a UTLX tank car, and is being returned empty, with its former load (fuel oil) identified for safety reasons. Note it is to be interchanged from the Wabash to the Illinois Central at Decatur, on its way back to Standard Oil at Wesley, Illinois, on the Peoria & Pekin Union (shown as PPU).
     I have offered further discussion of these and other aspects of waybill content, and presented them in a previous post, at the following link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/09/content-of-waybills.html . That post was followed up with additional information about what is contained within a waybill, in this post: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/10/content-of-waybills-2.html .
     But there were rules about how this was done, and there were also tariff publications, giving both some of those rules, as well as a great many details of tariff categories and rates. Jerry Stewart, former car clerk, says that a typical clerk's office would have a long shelf or shelves, with something like six linear feet of tariff publications and approved routing books. None of us want to go that far, but I have found it interesting to browse the 8th Uniform Freight Classification guide that I have. It’s a big book; here’s what it looks like.


Inside are endless tables and little else, but these are the actual, legal tariff categories of cargoes. With this, one can choose appropriate tariff descriptions to the degree that one may wish. Here is a tiny slice of the contents (you can click to enlarge the image):



Whether this is of direct use, or if you just use it to browse for terminology, it at least has the strength of complete authenticity (as one of my friends said, “yes, but not in a good way”), and it’s a personal choice whether you like this kind of thing or not.
     Another book which I have found of value is this one: 
           Railway Accounting Rules, Accounting Division, Association of
              American Railroads, Washington, 1950. [numerous editions]
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “that’s the very last thing I want to model,” and I understand, because it was my first thought also. But after Guy Wilber encouraged me to get one of these, and I found a 1950 edition from an on-line used book dealer (Powell’s), I was sold. It contains terrific information and has copies of all the standard AAR waybills, including livestock, perishables, LCL, and others. Virtually all railroads used the AAR forms verbatim, so each railroad’s form was completely standard. This is my copy of the book:


     I have mentioned “Shipper’s Guides” in previous posts. These are railroad-issued documents, listing all on-line shippers and receivers, and are obviously superb resources. They tend to be hard to find, even at railroad museums,but Ted Schnepf’s “Rails Unlimited” operation has reproduced a number of them and has them for sale. Here is a link to Ted’s page for these particular documents: http://railsunlimited.ribbonrail.com/Books/shippers.html .
     Here is a photo of one of the guides I purchased, extremely complete for Union Pacific though unfortunately for 1938 instead of the 1950s, as I would prefer. It is a great resource.


As I have mentioned previously, there is a fine database of shippers and receivers on-line from the Operations SIG (the Industry Database is at: http://www.opsig.org/reso/inddb/), but be careful, as it is for a wide range of eras and is in general less complete than a Shipper’s Guide.
     These are a few of the prototype information resources I rely on, with some of the lesser-known ones illustrated. I hope this will be helpful to those searching out this type of information.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Waybills, Part 17: the “pairs list”

What the heck is a “pairs list?” That’s what I will explain in this post. First, some background. The system of waybills I use on my layout is a system using clear plastic sleeves to play the role of car cards, with waybills inserted. This was described in my magazine article in RMC (“Prototypical Waybills for Car Card Operation,” Railroad Model Craftsman, December 2009, pp. 71–77), and parts of the story have been told in more detail in previous posts in the “Waybills” thread on this blog.
     In my system, the focus in creating waybills is on loads: what loads would come into an industry, what loads would be shipped out of an industry? Appropriate waybills are then created for those loads, without consideration of which cars might carry them (since the car is designated on the waybill sleeve, not on the waybill itself, in my system). As I’ve described previously, a great source of shippers and consignees around the country is the OpSIG database, which is online, of such businesses all across the U.S. and Canada. And if you can find them, shipper guides for individual railroads are even better.
     Now of course a person may have a freight car, such as a depressed-center flat car, and then want to create (a) a load or loads for it, and (b) waybills corresponding to those loads. Or maybe you have a pickle car . . . But in most cases these specialized cars are mainline cars, not cars destined to sidings on my branch line, and thus, for me at least, represent a somewhat separate case. I will return to that below.
     One of the interesting aspects of creating a different waybill system for Otis McGee’s layout (see for example the following post, which was no. 9 in the “Waybills” thread: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/07/waybills-9.html ) is that the focus is kind of opposite. There is not a lot of on-line switching on Otis’s layout, but we have lots of cars to move. So the focus becomes finding loads to fit cars, rather than the other way around.
     To keep track of the shipper-consignee pairs I was creating in Otis’s waybills, and also to track car assignments and traffic categories, I began to keep a kind of log of these pairs, which I call a “pairs list,” thus the title of this post. Here a set of sample entries, to show what I am creating:


These particular shippers and consignees are mostly prototype ones, drawn from shipper guides and other sources. Note that the car initials and numbers for these particular bills are identified, since all waybills on Otis’s layout stand alone, that is, the car initials and number are part of the waybill. The list above is just a small sample of the existing pairs list, chosen for illustration.
     Note in the list that there are, naturally, both northward (railroad eastward) and southward loads, though lumber is southward and most perishables northward. This sample list is chosen in part to display the varieties of cargoes in the list, and some of them, such as lumber loads and cargoes like locomotive fuel, have multiple examples among the waybills. A few on-layout origins and destinations are also included.
     One advantage to this kind of record is that it allows examination of all waybills in a traffic category at a glance, and can indicate geographic areas not being served, traffic categories neglected, and specific cargoes over- or under-emphasized. The list is also readily electronically searched for car numbers, but can equally easily be searched with the naked eye, because it is in order within each traffic group by, first, car type, second, reporting mark, and third by car number. One can quickly check if a particular car is in a particular part of the list.
     Though there are no particular examples in the short list shown above, those specialized cars like depressed-center flat cars are easily accommodated in this kind of listing, because they simply fit into a traffic category like “Merchandise.” Since the list is car-oriented by design, the specialized car is a natural fit.
     Once again, this exercise has been interesting for me because of the “reverse” focus compared to my own layout, where I think about loads without respect to cars, to this focus for the McGee layout on cars which need loads. It’s always good to stretch how you think about these kinds of things.
Tony Thompson

Friday, February 3, 2012

Waybills, Part 16: dimensions

I have received two independent queries, coincidentally about the exact same topic, namely the size of the waybills I’m making. The answer is that there are two sizes, and two different systems, both of which I’ve discussed previously. The ones I make for my own layout have been described in some detail (starting here: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/02/waybills-3.html ), while the ones I have been making for Otis McGee’s layout are a different size and proportion (see: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/07/waybills-9.html ).
     I sized my own waybills to fit the baseball-card-collector sleeves, and that size is 2.5 x 3.5 inches (same as a baseball card). I like the size and proportions, and have been happy with this design in my experience so far. But there are lots of modelers with a problem similar to Otis McGee’s, namely, that the layout already has design features oriented to the “mini-bill” or Old Line Graphics system, which is about 2 x 4 inches. Here’s an illustration of the problem:


This is Otis’s yard track filing arrangement for Dunsmuir yard (incidentally, most of the waybills visible here are the new ones, as shown in the previous post cited above for Otis’s layout). The same kind of problem exists at all the other switching locations on the layout, as in this example at Black Butte:


Here you can see a mixture of new and old waybills in the slots, and obviously a full rebuild of this fascia was not an attractive option.
     There are other sizes and proportions of waybills being explored around the country, from a 4 x 4-inch document which folds vertically down the middle (like the prototype) and uses the same plastic sleeve as the 2 x 4-inch bills, to a larger bill which is about 4 x 6 inches and includes nearly all the prototype information. As with so many things in modeling, one has to choose what works best and feels best in his or her own situation.
    In effect, what I’m emphasizing is that the waybill designs I’ve advocated are not restricted to a single format, size or proportion. The key idea is using the prototype waybill as a starting point, and retaining as much of it as feasible in model form. Size and proportions can be and have been adjusted to suit conditions.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Open-car loads: bulk materials

I described my method for making pipe loads in the first post on this thread, last month, using soda straws or coffee stirrers as materials. Here’s a link to that post: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/01/open-car-loads-pipe-in-gondolas.html
     In a previous post (on ore car models) I mentioned briefly  in passing how I have made my own loads of bulk materials for open-top cars (see: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/05/choosing-model-car-fleet-10-ore-cars.html ). The method is simple and easily duplicated for various kinds of loads, such as coal, ballast, sand, or ore.
     Since my freight cars are weighted in the empty condition to a proper level, I want most loads to have minimal weight. (Certainly the soda-straw and coffee-stirrer pipe loads fulfill that goal!) To explain the point, I should comment on car weighting requirements.
     I use essentially NMRA standards, which for HO are one ounce, plus one-half ounce per (actual) inch of length. A 40-foot freight car in HO is about six inches long, so this makes one ounce plus three ounces, or a total of four ounces. I rarely weight cars above this level, but do have cars with less weight, down to the vicinity of three ounces for 40-foot cars. My minimum radius is 30 inches on the layout, so the biggest problem with underweight cars, the danger of “stringlining” or pulling cars off on the inside of curves, is rarely a problem as long as weight is not too low.
     But too much weight can also be a problem. When the NMRA Standards people did experiments on car weight levels, an important finding was that the biggest problems arose with major differences among car weights, almost regardless of whether the average weight of all cars was high or low. I take this to heart in trying to keep both empty and loaded weights of cars within a consistent range, normally not below three ounces, while aiming at four ounces (all for 40-foot cars, of course).
     Back to open-top car loads. I build a balsa wood platform to sit in the car, whether it is a hopper or gondola. At one time, I carved larger balsa pieces to shape, but in more recent times have found it quicker and easier to use papier mache load shapes on top of the platform. Either way, appropriate materials are then glued on top of the load shape, whether coal, ballast, or whatever, using the standard modeling materials (for example, ballast) or “found” material in nature, as needed.
     In a hopper-type car with slope sheets, the balsa piece can simply sit on the highest point of the slope sheets. The photo below shows an example of this simplest load type, a balsa piece, with papier mache atop it for the load shape. It is of course sized for the (ore) car in which it will ride.


When “ore” material is glued onto this load, here is how it looks in the car.


     This car may be of interest. It’s built from the Grandt Line kit for a Gilpin Tram ore car, a quite small 2-foot-gauge prototype car, and is an O-scale kit (“Large Ore Car,” kit 3050, still available). But its body width is just right for HO standard gauge, and it’s a less-tiny car in HO. I simply applied HO brake gear, trucks and couplers to produce this car, and lettered it for a mining company on my previous layout. If the Gilpin sounds interesting, there is no better source of information than Mallory Hope Ferrell’s book, The Gilpin Gold Tram (Pruett Publishing, Boulder, CO, 1970).
     With most of my homemade loads, I write on the bottom which car type it was built for. If you only have a few loads, this may not be necessary, but as soon as you have a lot of open-top cars, memory may not always deliver the answer you need. The one shown above looks like this on the bottom:


     In a gondola, more of a structure is needed. I show below the kind of loads I once built, with an entire block of balsa; this one is a gravel load, sized for Hobbyline high-side gondolas.


It is simple, in that it is all one piece, and the balsa doesn’t weigh much, but this is more trouble to build (carve, really) than the papier mache type.
     The kind of gondola load I have made more recently looks like this, with supports underneath for proper height inside the car, and papier mache on top for load shape. This is a coal load for an Ulrich GS gondola.


In a previous post, describing my choices for a fleet of gondolas for my layout (see: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/04/choosing-model-car-fleet-8-gondolas.html ), I mentioned the use of domestic coal by Southern Pacific for heating in everything from caboose stoves to section houses to depots. Here is the load shown above, in a Utah Coal Route gondola (the same photo was shown in the post just cited).


     Nowadays, many cast-resin loads are available for open cars, especially hoppers, and this is a great convenience. But many of them have unrealistic colors or textures, and for those loads, a modeler may choose to glue better materials to the top of a cast load, or repaint/re-stain/re-tint the load with washes or airbrush.
     There is also the problem that using all Brand X bulk loads in a string of cars will produce identical-looking loads. In contemporary railroading, with flood loaders at many mines, this might be realistic, but in the steam and transition eras, photographs show adjacent open-top cars with clearly non-identical bulk load shapes. These kinds of images should be your guide.
     And commercial loads of scrap? Even the best resin ones need some modification of the materials in the load, and touched-up paint, if not a complete repaint, to look realistic. But this is a somewhat separate topic, and deserves its own post.
     I continue to construct my own loads for many cars, and will describe other load types in future posts in this thread.
Tony Thompson