Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Waybills, Part 50: in-transit shipments—prototype

The subject of waybills for shipping goods “in transit” is complex, so I will try to offer a simplified summary. The basic idea here is that many products may undergo processing, modification, or storage at an intermediate point on the way to their final destination, and a fair tariff should reflect that. The reason this is of concern is that freight rates were typically markedly higher for short movements (if you compute on a per-mile basis), compared to longer movements. This was justified by the ICC on the basis that there were economies on longer trips, But the point of transit waybills was to eliminate the (rate) disadvantage of stopping at an intermediate point, thus turning a long trip into two short ones, whatever the reason for the stopover. Instead of paying for two short moves, the shipper could receive a reduced through rate.
      The waybill process for this kind of shipment, under transit privileges, could be as follows (there were several possible ways to arrive at the same final result). Let’s imagine that the initial shipment is wheat, which is going to be made into flour. The wheat would move to a mill at the normal rate for that cargo as wheat, but when the load went onward as flour, the billing would be as though the flour had moved at the through rate for the entire distance, and then the amount paid for the first, shorter shipment would be deducted. The rate for flour is a little higher than that for wheat, but the important part is that the cost of a through rate for either one is significantly lower than the cost of two short-haul rates.
     Arrangement like this, and many others, are thoroughly described in the fine operations resource, The Station Agent’s Blue Book, by O.B. Kirkpatrick (Kirkpatrick Publishing, Chicago, 1928). It was shown and discussed at some length in a previous post (you can read my description at this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/04/waybills-18-resources-update.html ). I have taken the illustration below from that book. Here is a statement of the key pair of provisions, as excerpted from a prototype railroad document, shown in the book just cited, page 123:
“(1) Shipments will be waybilled from initial point to storage point at full tariff rates.
“(2) Shipments will be forwarded from the storage point to final destination at the remainder of the through rate from point of origin.”
This is a compact description of what I said in more words, in the preceding paragraph.
      I will give a numerical example, taken from Figure 32 in Kirkpatrick’s book. Here, two different  carloads of wheat were shipped from two different towns in Illinois, to a mill in St. Louis, to be milled into flour, and then sent onward to a company in New Orleans for sale. The rates, on wheat vs. flour, were different, but the more important difference was between short-haul and long-haul rates. Note that there was also a small “transit” charge, of one and a half cents (per hundredweight). The total through rate is calculated, 46 and a half cents, then the wheat rate is subtracted (26 cents) to get the net rate for the shipment of 34,000 pounds of flour. (You can click to enlarge.)

If we want to model such paperwork, the critical difference in this waybill is the inclusion of the lower part, the Inbound Reference, which gives the points of origin and dates, waybill numbers (for the notional AB&C Railway), commodity name, and weight applied. The latter item is the amount of wheat from that shipment, contained in the final flour shipment. Finally, the inbound rate is shown, which is subtracted from the through rate.
     As modelers, most of us won’t want to try and create all those data on model waybills, and I will take up creation of transit waybills for modeling in a following post. For now, let me stay with the prototype, and identify the breadth of commodities that could be moved under transit privileges. The processing or storage steps were permitted to extend for up to a year.
     The obvious ones are agricultural products which undergo processing, as in the wheat-to-flour example used above. Grains may also be cleaned, bleached, shelled, graded, sacked, etc. Barley may be made into malt; oats into animal feed; corn into corn meal; and so on. Some products, such as cottonseed and nuts, may be processed into oils. Even hay and straw may be inspected, graded, baled, compressed, or stored. Cotton also may be cleaned and compressed into bales. All these qualify under transit privileges.
     Forest products are another transit category. Logs may be milled into lumber or shingles, and lumber itself may be re-sawn, milled, kiln dried, stored, and so on. Lumber may also be creosoted or otherwise treated with preservatives, for ties or construction use. Other materials qualify too. Steel shapes may be machined, straightened, welded, assembled into components, painted, or stored, and castings or forgings may be machined. Stone such as marble or granite may be cut or dressed.
     Livestock may be grazed, fed or fattened in transit, even for spring vs. fall movements. And practically any product may be packaged or stored in transit.
     These categories serve to show how varied might be the use of transit privileges. With the time span of transit privileges extending for up to a year, it can be well imagined how extensive were the record-keeping requirements for all this, not only for the combination of multiple carloads into a single shipment, as in the wheat illustration shown above, but also for the combining of different products, for example formulation of paint, for which the various components could have arrived under different inbound tariff rates. Luckily as modelers, we don’t have any reason to model any of that bookkeeping detail, but can simply streamline the waybill information. I’ll discuss that aspect in the post which follows in this series.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Portraying geology on the layout

My layout is set in the Central Coast area of California, near the city of Santa Maria. But in its previous incarnation, when I lived in Pittsburgh, PA, it was set a little farther south, in the area of Surf, California. My coastal town then was Jalama, an actual place, and I visited Jalama State Beach a few times to see the area and take photos to guide scenery choices. I also collected a few rocks, chosen to be typical of what was exposed in rock cuts along the Southern Pacific main line, very close to the sea in that area.
     As I soon learned, the geology of coastal California is dizzying in its complexity, because much of it is the result of the North American tectonic plate overriding the Farralon and Pacific plates over eons of geologic time, thereby “scraping” up sea-bottom sediments along with the eruption of fresh volcanic rock among everything else, then extensive faulting and folding. The older rocks along most of California’s coast are called the Franciscan Formation, a jumble of igneous and metamorphic rock, difficult to interpret in many cases. Near the coast at Jalama, what is found above the Franciscan is known as the Jalama Formation, and it is much younger, some of it as young as the Miocene. These sandstones were the rocks I saw exposed in railroad cuts.
     I carefully read the book about California geology by John McPhee (one of my favorite authors), which is titled Assembling California (1994) and decided I did not really need to understand all the intricate sequences of deposition and deformation, but could simply copy the rocks I had collected. They are what are called “hand samples,” meaning they fit easily in your hand. Here is a photo of two of them, showing both the basic cream color of this formation, along with the orange-brown streaking in many layers. My dad was trained as a geologist, and no doubt he would describe these by saying “looks like country rock to me.”

[Incidentally, for those interested, all of John McPhee’s series on the geology of the United States, from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific, approximately along the fortieth parallel, is available in trade paperback, most still available new, all available used at reasonable prices. Here are the titles, shown in geographical order from east to west, though not in chronological order of publication  (two were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Non-Fiction).

In Suspect Terrain, 1983, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, New York (New Jersey and Appalachians)
Rising from the Plains, 1986  (describes the Rocky Mountains)
Basin and Range, 1981  (describes the Great Basin from Utah to the Sierra Nevada)
Assembling California, 1993 (Sierra Nevada to the Pacific)

There is a final title too: Annals of the Former World (1999) which collects these four volumes into one and adds the missing section from the Appalachians to the Rockies. It won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Non-fiction, and one reviewer wrote that it “is our finest popular survey of geology and a masterpiece of modern nonfiction.” Those wishing only to read about their area of interest can choose the relevant volume, while others may like to have all five segments under one cover.]
     When I made my seaside cliff just east of the town of Jalama, I intended to have a rock cut with this distinctive local sandstone appearance. I used rubber rock molds, and first poured plaster into them and let it begin to set. Then I could apply the mold with its stiffening plaster to the contour of the underlying hillside. The mold could then complete setting shaped to the hill. I have seen modelers struggle when starting with pre-cast rocks and somehow try to fit them to a cliff or hillside. But with the “setting plaster” method, they naturally conform to what is underneath them. I didn’t invent this idea, I learned it from master scenery modeler C.J. Riley.
     Once the plaster had set and molds were removed. a little paper mache was applied around the edges to blend with the hillside, and then I carefully colored the plaster rock, even inclining the strata as I had seen at Jalama. Here is a view of that rock face.

The SP section house at right completes the scene.
     Unfortunately, relocating the layout locale 50 miles north means that this scene no longer represents the correct geology; but I was so pleased with the result I obtained, and the overall look of the scene I had been aiming for, that I have left it as it is. I just think of it as a small warp in space at that end of the layout.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Operating on the SCN

The “SCN” of the title is Jim Providenza’s Santa Cruz Northern layout, a proto-freelanced railroad jointly owned by Santa Fe and Western Pacific, and set in 1971. It operates over the route of the former South Pacific Coast narrow-gauge line to Santa Cruz over the mountains, standard-gauged by Southern Pacific about 1906 and abandoned in 1941. The idea is that the line was purchased by WP and ATSF and operated with limited success by the SCN company. That’s why Jim’s official title on the SCN is “Receiver.”
     The layout has long been known for realistic operation, for more than 25 years. Articles about it have appeared throughout the hobby press, and sometimes even get reprinted. Among the best-known was one published in Model Railroader in May 1996, and reprinted in summer 2012 in the excellent Special Issue of Model Railroader, entitled “How to Operate Your Model Railroad” and still available from their on-line store, as I’ve described previously (at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2014/03/another-useful-publication-on-operation.html ); I recommend the entire issue as interesting an informative.
     Back in 2013, Jim hosted a final operating session for the layout as it then was, preparatory to reversing the direction of the entire upper level (making east always to the right), with the help of a removable bridge across the kitchen doorway. I was lucky enough to be there for that session (read about it at this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2013/06/an-operating-session-at-jim-providenzas.html ), and by now, operating crews are getting used to the changes in the layout.
     I was present last weekend for the latest operating session of the new layout, interestingly devised as picking up where the fast clock of the previous session had left off, at 9:30 PM, and thus operating through the nighttime schedule. This meant the session began with movement of the daytime trains that were finishing up their work, and normal nighttime work and ballast trains. It was an intriguing variation on the traditional session in which we start the fast clock at a time first thing in the morning. One of the big nighttime jobs is the log train, and in this photo Paul Weiss is the conductor, signaling the engineer how to handle the cuts of log cars at the town of Laurel (previously named Dougherty’s).

     Jim also has a new sand plant at the siding of Ilium, and here is Mike Roque with the train sent out from San Jose to switch the plant. As you can see, the spur to the plant comes off the top of the helix.

     Bill Kaufman was yardmaster at San Jose’s Mac Street yard, and with the lighter night traffic, was not overwhelmed with incoming trains. Here he is at a relaxing moment, beverage at hand, and yard fully organized.

     As no one volunteered to dispatch, Jim had to do so. Here he is in The Chair, located in the kitchen adjoining the layout room (which is the garage when crews are not operating). Communication is by phone.

     Everyone had a task or tasks. It being nighttime, the operator for Laurel and East Rica was off duty, so the Fallon operator had the only open office on the railroad. That happened to be my job, and as always with an operator position, it was interesting and fun, especially when orders were issued for the work train and the sand plant extra to run against each other.
     Like any operating session anywhere, time spent this way truly is fun, with an entire crew doing a wide range of tasks, all integrated into a pretty good representation of a working railroad. Thanks to Jim for hosting this one, and to all the crew who did all the jobs. I continue to believe that operation is the highest use of our modeling efforts.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Vehicle loading on flat cars

This post discusses one approach to the interesting issues and challenges when various kinds of vehicles are loaded on railroad flat cars. One can rely on prototype photos for how this is done, or if one has access to them, one or more of the Loading Rules books. Rules for loading open-top cars with a variety of cargoes were originated by the Master Car Builders’ Association or MCB in 1896, first as recommendations, then advanced to Standard in 1908. Thereafter, revisions were issued from time to time by the American Railway Association (ARA), whose Mechanical Division was the successor to the MCB. In 1934, when the Association of American Railroads (AAR) succeeded the ARA, these rules became AAR rules.
     In an earlier post, I showed one of Richard Hendrickson’s flat car loads, with surplus Army trucks on a flat car (you can find it at this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2015/09/more-richard-hendrickson-open-car-loads.html ). Richard owned a full set of AAR Loading Rules booklets, and always was careful to use those loading diagrams for loads like this.
     Many years ago, I acquired a white metal kit for a Euclid scraper. It was simple to assemble, but a challenge to paint in the prototype’s light green. I had a good, well-lighted photo of a prototype Euclid machine and finally got my model to look like the same color. I can’t possibly describe the mix, I made so many additions of tiny amounts (“too light,” “no, too dark,” aw, too yellow,” etc.). The kit also included Euclid decals to complete the model.
     The Euclid Company of Euclid, Ohio introduced its first scraper in 1924, and prospered with a series of models thereafter. In late 1953, they were purchased by General Motors, which wanted to get into more earthmoving equipment, a deal finalized on January 1, 1954. This means that my model year of 1953 would still feature Euclid-built equipment (though GM continued to use the Euclid name as long as they owned that company).  Next, I wanted to have my model on a flat car, being shipped.
     One can find out how this would be blocked by looking at the ARA or AAR Loading Rules. Shown below is a diagram of how equipment like this was to be shipped, dominated by wheel chocks. Shippers were permitted to add tie-downs or other extensions of the loading diagram, but the diagram shows the required minimum.

     I show below a prototype photo of something like this, though unfortunately the scraper is not in the immediate foreground. But you can see the blocking on the road grader nearest the camera. This is an SP company photo, taken in 1943 (Arnold Menke collection). Here, side strips have been installed alongside wheel chocks.

     My own scraper model was easy to set up this way. I used a set of resin wheel chocks produced by Heiser Models (the military models firm), chocks which follow the rules for loading of armor and heavy vehicles, but they were usable here too. I haven’t been able to find out if these chocks are still offered by Heiser. They are easy to make from stripwood, however, as I have done for other loads.
     In addition to the wheel chocks, I added a crate of spare parts (or parts not installed at the factory). This was just one of the crates in the very useful Tichy set, “Wood Crates,” no. 8174. The crate also has hold-down strips on its sides. Here is the complete load on an SP flat car.

The scraper has the chocks glued to its wheels, but it is not glued to the flat car, nor is the crate. This way, I can have the scraper shipped on another flat car if desired.
     I have additional vehicle loads to set up with appropriate blocking and tie-downs, and look forward to seeing them on the layout. If any go beyond the simple approach shown in this post, I will report further.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Route Cards — 10: Southern Pacific

This post is connected with, but not about, waybills, so I have not treated it as a segment in my ongoing posts on waybill subjects. Instead, it is about routing cards.That’s a topic I introduced some time back, in a general post about these cards (see that post at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/11/chalk-marks-and-route-cards.html ). Once introduced, I went on to provide more history and details as I discovered them; here are  links to two of the nine previous posts in the series. Others can be found using the search box at the right of this text, key words “route cards.”


     Most if not all railroads had a system of using route cards in major and many minor yards, to facilitate switching and train make-up. I have wondered for some years if I could find out anything about the Southern Pacific system, though for a long time I could turn up nothing. Finally a friend sent me a photo of a switchman’s pocket card, summarizing routing numbers for various destinations out of West Oakland Yard. It appears to be a 1936 document. I still don’t know what the route cards themselves looked like (see post no. 8, link above, for some examples from other roads), but at least I know some codes. Here is the photo I received:

You can see that it is folded to make four pages, and is pocket-size. Visible here, though hard to read, are page 1 on the right, and 4 on the left. Below is shown one of the interior pages, page 2. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

     This page is more readable than most of this document, so I have transcribed the entire list, shown below as a jpeg (I can send you a PDF if you like). Some readers may be surprised at the railroad place names in a few cases, but a careful study of a Western Division map, such as the one on the end sheet of John R. Signor’s book, Southern Pacific’s Western Division (Signature Press, 2003) will locate them. A few locations, like Tie Pile for destination 77, are located in West Oakland Yard (see the map on page 95 of the book just cited). The “Desert” in destination 44 refers to Desert Yard. You can click to enlarge, or download to enlarge as you wish.

     I don’t know what these SP route cards may have looked like, but a reasonable guess, from a very simple perspective, might be something like that shown below, adopted from one of Keith Jordan’s cards shown in Part 8 of this series (link near top of the present post).

     I would love to find information from more terminals, or actual SP route cards, and will continue to look for examples.
Ton Thompson

Monday, May 16, 2016

That “bad decal” project, Part 2

In the previous post ( http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2016/05/replacing-bad-decals.html ), I showed the reason why I was replacing some bad decals, “bad” because the numerals included in that set were very unlike the prototype. The replacement decal set, the modern Microscale 87-0414, is highly recommended to anyone still hoarding an old version of this set, because the old version simply has the wrong characters.
     I will show here a few of the cars I did this replacement on, without bothering to show the old lettering — that was clearly depicted in the previous post, in my opinion. And although in what follows I will provide brief historical background on each car, there is far more in the way of specifics and photos in the PFE book (Pacific Fruit Express, 2nd edition, A.W. Thompson, R.J. Church and B.H. Jones, Signature Press, Berkeley and Wilton, CA, 2000).
     First, let’s look at the car whose number replacement I showed in up-close photos, PFE 46743. This is one of the 2000 cars of PFE Class R-40-23 built in 1947 and numbered 46703–48702. The paint scheme depicted is the original. Since I model 1953, the car is moderately dirty, but I would remind those familiar with PFE practice to recall that PFE washed many thousands of cars each year in this era, so that age of PFE paint scheme often does not correlate well with dirtiness of car.

I have added fan shafts, grab irons, and other details to these cars, in the general way described in other posts about upgrading Athearn reefers (see: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/08/ujpgrading-old-models-athearn-reefers.html ).
     After the first 2000 cars of PFE Class R-40-23 were numbered up to 48702, PFE decided to number the remaining 3000 cars of the class into the series 5001–8000, by this time occupied by few if any cars, and those very elderly and ready for scrapping. I modeled two of these cars, PFE 5135 and PFE 6352. The latter was modeled with hatches open, as described in an earlier post (at this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2013/07/modeling-open-ice-hatches-on.html ), using flat brass strip to make sturdy latch bars.

     Next I show one of the cars in rebuilt Class R-40-24. These 2610 cars were rebuilt in the 1947–1948 period, mostly from older R-30-13 and R-40-4 cars. Their car numbers ranged from 65921 to 68532, and were all originally rebuilt with plywood sides. That is what is depicted here, by the simple expedient of removing the rivets on the Athearn sides. The Athearn molding has a slight ridge marking panel lines, which is a lame depiction of overlapping steel sheets, but turns out to be just about right for the metal seals PFE used to try and seal its plywood sheet joints. I also replaced the Athearn steel-car door hinges with long-strap wood-car hinges (the hinges PFE preferred on wood-sheathed cars). This model approach does not give quite the correct plywood panel widths, but does convey the general appearance.

This paint scheme is that of 1949, when most side hardware became orange instead of black, but the UP emblem remained in red-white-blue.
     The plywood seemed to work out well at first, but with time in service, water began to work into the seams between sheets, and gradually caused the plywood to swell, delaminate, and curl. At first, plywood sheets were replaced, but before long, the directive went out that any car with failing plywood sheathing was to be re-sheathed with conventional tongue-and-groove (T&G) siding. I decided to model one such car, using the Athearn wood-sheathed reefer as a stand-in (several of its features don’t rally match PFE practice), and it looked like the photo below. Athearn’s rendition of T&G siding is really coarse, but as a stand-in, I decided it could remain in service.

     Last, I modeled PFE 5135, one of the R-40-23 class in the number series 5001–8000, with hatches not glued in place. The loose hatches can be simply set so that they are resting in place to look closed, as in this photo:

But they can also be laid on their backs, as they would be during icing, so that an icing scene can be photographed with open rather than closed hatches. Note that hatch plugs have been placed inside the hatch covers, and locking hooks (as the hatch plug/cover assemblies for Class R-40-23 did have) are also modeled.

     These five cars, though not as well detailed as other possible sources of PFE cars, such as InterMountain for Class R-40-23, and the Terry Wegmann/InterMountain models of Class R-40-24, or for a number of good resin kits (Sunshine and Stan Rydarowicz, for two), can serve as part of a much larger PFE fleet on my layout. And now that I have fixed the poor car numbers shown in the prior post (cited at the very top of the present post), I can put them to work.
Tony Thompson

Friday, May 13, 2016

Replacing bad decals

In my title, I don’t mean “bad decals” in the sense that they have come apart, or detached themselves, or gone all silvery. Those things are bad, but not what I mean in this post. Here I refer to decals which are bad representations of the correct lettering. The specific case I will comment on has luckily been addressed, and the decal maker now makes a correct set or sets, but unfortunately I applied some decals from a prior set. I decided to replace them.
     The decals are for a Pacific Fruit Express refrigerator car. Just to clarify things, shown below is a detail from a prototype photo (PFE photo, my collection) which clearly shows the lettering style, and in particular the numerals, which in typographic terms are relatively condensed, compared to the alpha characters.

This is a steel ice car of Class R-40-20, one of the 500 cars built by General American in the 1000-car order. Note that the numerals in the car number are not perfectly spaced; these were done number by number in a hand-held stencil.
     The offending decal set is the 1980s version of Microscale set 87-0414. It was evident even then that the lettering was not really right, but there were no good alternatives, including the Champ set of the day, for some items in the Microscale set. Here is a photo of a model with the lettering from this Microscale set; a comparison with the photo above should clarify the problem. The “PFE” initials are also a little small here.

The lettering is too light overall, and the numerals in particular are too extended. I would submit that the differences are evident even if you don’t find type interesting. (By the way, the capacity data are different quantities and differently arranged because there are two different car classes shown, though there is a missing digit in the Load Limit. For photos of all relevant PFE car classes, please see the book, Pacific Fruit Express, 2nd edition, Signature Press, 2000)
     Having some otherwise okay models which I didn’t like to operate because this lettering bugged me (to repeat an earlier confession, I’m a bit of a type geek; see: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/11/type-and-typography-on-layout.html ), it was time to replace the bad decals. The simplest way is to just paint over the offending car number, but this is also an opportunity to replace all the capacity data (also deficient in the old 87-0414 set), as the prototype did when lettering was deteriorated. I used fresh Daylight Orange to paint a block on the car side, either to cover just the car number, or to cover the number and the entire data block, or to cover the car number and selected data replacement, as happened sometimes when a car was reweighed. I did all three on different cars.
     Here is the new car number for the car shown in the photo above. I have left the too-small PFE initials alone.

I submit that even a cursory comparison of the three photos in this post clearly shows what I am talking about for the car number. I have four other cars with the old Microscale numerals and will replace the car numbers on all four.
     The current version of Microscale set 87-0414, meticulously researched and drafted by Dick Harley, is impressively complete and correct. I naturally turned to it to replace the bad old lettering shown above. As I have said before, should you happen to be hoarding an old Microscale 87-0414 set, trash it at once and buy a current version. The new lettering is just so much better.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

An operating weekend

About a week ago, I enjoyed an operating weekend in San Diego. I won’t bore you with a personal account of each day, other than to offer some appreciation of the layouts I enjoyed. It’s always a revelation to visit someone else’s layout, even if not for the first time, especially if you get to operate, and this weekend was no exception.
     One of the layouts was the La Mesa Club Tehachapi layout, an icon of our hobby and an unequaled monument to what is possible in model railroading. The layout now has its main line complete (some 30 years after construction began), and it is a remarkable accomplishment, even with some scenery and cosmetics still to be completed. I volunteered for one of the jobs I really like on the layout, being an operator, and was delighted to be assigned to Woodford. Located a little below Tehachapi Loop, the scenery from the operator’s chair is outstanding and because it is a busy railroad, there are plenty of trains in a typical operating session.
     Here is the operator’s position, a suitably old desk, with headphone, scissor-extension mouthpiece, levers to operate the train order board at the depot (the black square at the back of the desk, photo center), and of course the timetable, train record sheet, and pads of blank train orders and clearance cards. There is also a foot switch for “push to talk” conversation on the party line with the dispatcher.

The view from this position is excellent, now that the scenery in the area is well along. The roads continuing onto the backdrop from the three-dimensional scenery look poor at this angle, but from a straight-on view in the aisle, are well aligned and look fine. Note the depot train order board, set to “stop” in both directions, as was SP practice.

     Just uphill from the operator’s position is the Loop, and when two large trains are meeting at Walong, as you see here (you can click to enlarge), it’s a scene almost impossible to duplicate anywhere in model railroading. A great experience to be there and be part of operations. If you have never been there, do not miss a chance to see this layout.

     The other layout I want to mention is Jay Styron’s re-creation of Southern Pacific’s Friant branch. Though not a large layout, it captures a number of elements very well, and our crew had fun operating the trains. I will just show a few views. The main town on the branch is Clovis, nicely rendered with plenty of space between the industries, as is realistic in a small town like this.

Here is another view within Clovis, showing how nicely rendered the scenery is. This alone makes a layout fun to operate, though Jay’s layout ran well and had a good amount of switching (which I like). Most, maybe all, of the Clovis industries are named for actual ones in the region.

Last, I will show what I thought was an excellent treatment of the space inside a loop, always an interesting challenge in layout scenery design. Jay has modeled a field with plants just sprouting, located in a way typical of this area, above an embankment, as you seen here. It’s a superb example of something often seen but not often modeled. (The depot just beyond the field is at Friant, end of the branch.)

     This was a great weekend in a number of ways, not least the two excellent layout I’ve shown here. There were a number of others, either operating or open for tours, but I decided to concentrate on these two. They illustrate what you can learn from visiting as well as operating.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Electrical wars: Part 9: contacts for a turnout

Nearly all the turnouts on my layout are hand-thrown, and most rely on point-to-stock-rail contact for electrical continuity of the route through the turnout. In almost all cases, this works all right, with some need before each operating session to carefully clean that contact area where the points and stock rails touch. But in a few cases, contact is stubbornly bad, or worse, bad sometimes and fine other times. This post is about one solution to the problem, without resorting to a switch machine.
     I should mention that I prefer hand throws on other than mainline switches, because that was how the prototype worked. Naturally a turnout far from the edge of the layout, that would require a long reach among structures and other scenery, to operate a hand throw, is an obvious choice to operate with a switch machine, but other than that, I want to retain hand throws as much as I can. I am gradually changing over my old Caboose Industries “giant” ground throws to the smaller and better operating Bitter Creek ground throws (see my post evaluating these ground throws at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/09/electrical-wars-part-3-hand-throws.html ).
     In the post just cited, I also discussed adding electrical contacts to ensure reliable behavior of a turnout, in that case alongside the track but concealed inside a structure. But one does not always have a handy location for such a concealing structure. Instead, the contacts have to be placed underneath the layout. This post shows how I did that recently for one of my problem turnouts. But the challenge was, the turnout is already installed and ballasted. There was no hole beneath the throw rod for an operating rod to contacts underneath.
     Creating that hole seemed like the first order of business. As I have done in other such cases, I first drilled a hole a ways from the location of the throw bar, 2-3/4 inches to be precise.

Afterward, the hole was easily plugged with some Sculptamold and a little ballast.
     Next, I could clamber under the layout and carefully measure 2-3/4 inches from the initial hole, thus hopefully locating the center of the throw rod, and then carefully drill upward, watching the chips fall from the drill bit. First they were plywood, then Homasote, then a bit of cork (I had used cork roadbed in this part of the layout). Now I knew I was up to the layout surface, while avoiding drilling up into the throwbar. The hole was fairly small diameter (same as the one shown above), so I enlarged it with a 1/4-inch drill bit, being careful again not to drill into the throw bar above.
     Now I was ready to assemble the various parts of the arrangement. First of all, I needed a set of contacts. This is easy in my case, because some of the twin-coil switch machines used on my previous layout had been replaced due to inconsistent performance, and I could harvest the nice contacts provided on them. Here is a photo of the elderly Kemtron machine I cannibalized (written on it is “bind,” which is why it was surplus):

Part of the machine can be disassembled by removing the screws that hold it together, but the pivot at left is riveted, so I had to use a hacksaw and cut off one end of the machine base, then cut underneath the contacts. When that was done, and the cuts filed clean, I had the part shown below.

The cut edge is toward the lower right. The mild steel plate here is all one piece, and was kept because it also mounts the contacts.
     There also has to be a pivot plate to provide a positive motion of the bottom of the operating rod in response to hand-throwing the turnout above. This plate can be a simple square of brass sheet, with a hole suitable for the operating rod. I fumbled around in my materials box and found some thin brass sheet, and drilled a hole in it for the “music wire” I chose for an operating rod. Here is a view of the plate, installed with a single screw, covering the hole drilled up to the throw bar. Actual size of the brass piece is about 1/4 x 3/8 inches, obviously not critical dimensions. The hole is a bit larger than the diameter of the operating rod.

     The contact installation described above ended up in a narrow corner, which I just can’t seem to photograph clearly. Accordingly, I will show a nearby one of the same type, though with a different set of contacts. I particularly wanted to show the end of the operating rod, which shows better in the alternative one I photographed. The end of the operating rod seems to get bent to a little different shape in every installation like this, because I just do what seems best at the time. Below is a clear photo of that nearby installation, with the rod slipped through a hole in the center of a trio of contact arms. (You may click to enlarge.)

In this view, the red and green wires at the bottom of the photo are not part of the contact installation; the other wires are the track feeders connected to the contacts.
     This kind of contact installation allows the turnout on the layout to still be thrown by hand, but ensures good electrical power to the frog and point rails. My new installation seems to be working correctly (touch wood), and it will be an improvement if it remains solid.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

More about caboose cards

As part of the development of waybills, many modelers also include locomotive and caboose cards. These obviously have no equivalent whatever among freight waybills, but may still have some use in model operations. Locomotive cards, for example, can contain DCC information, such as the decoder address (especially when different from the locomotive number) and identification of function keys, such as, F2 blows the whistle, etc. It would be my view that if such cards are included in train packets along with waybills, they should be a distinctive color, so that they are obviously not waybills, and might also be a different size or shape.
     Then what about caboose cards? Again, they are clearly not waybills in any sense, but do provide an identification of that car in the train. What form could they take, to have at least some prototype character? I was asked by Otis McGee to create some caboose cards to replace his old ones (which were simply blue versions of his old car cards from Old Line Graphics). My first thought was to just make plain cards with car number and little else (something like that has been tried; see: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/05/waybills-7.html ), but then it occurred to me that cabooses had equipment record cards, and had a number of regular inspections when in service. Why not create a model version of an equipment or inspection card for each caboose?
     One starting point would be the information on prototype caboose record cards, of which the SP maintained a file into the mid-1960s. Shown below are both the front and back of one of these 5 x 9-inch cards (these cards are at the California State Railroad Museum, and this particular card was shown in Appendix 2 of my book, Southern Pacific Freight Cars, Volume 2, Cabooses (Signature Press, Berkeley and Wilton, CA, 2002). The car, SP 33, second of that number, was built at LA Shops as Class C-30-3 in October 1930, and scrapped in April 1964. (You can click to enlarge.)

Among the interesting and/or useful information on the front of this standard card are built date and place, car class, trucks, brakes, and numerous special appliances. On the back is essentially a repair and paint record.
     Though this is an equpment record card, not something ordinarily carried in a caboose, it could be so managed on a layout. Then as much of this form as a person wanted to include could be used to create a caboose card. Here is an example I experimented with.

To do this kind of card correctly would require looking up the various prototype data on the actual SP cards at CSRM (corresponding to each model caboose number), which anyone could do. I did look up one of my model cars, and here is how the above form would look, filled out for it.

As seen above on the caboose card for SP 33, many entries are hand-written, which I tried to reproduce in this example.
     Another simple approach would be to create something which looked like the inspection cards inside every caboose, as I mentioned. This could have lines for inspectors to sign and date. I made up such a card for Otis to use with his caboose fleet. Here is a blank card:

Then I initialed and dated several different versions, so that it would be hard to find duplicate parts of any one date or signature. Here is one example of the bottom part filled out.

I made five sets of these, mixing and matching dates and signatures. Here’s an example for one particular caboose on the layout. Note that it has only the "interior" inspection signature and date in common with the bill shown above.

A caboose assigned to a particular terminal can then be restricted in the trains to which it can be assigned. Cabooses assigned to the terminal from which a train is departing can move in either direction. But a caboose assigned to the next division point in either direction can only move toward that division point, not in the other direction.
     These are two approaches for those who may want to use some kind of caboose card, but would like the card to reflect something about the prototype.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Trucks and snubbers, Part 3

In the first post in this series, I described truck spring arrangements, and some simple snubber designs (you can read it at the following link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2016/04/trucks-truck-springs-and-snubbers.html ). The subsequent post described a variety of trucks with leaf or elliptical springs, substituted for the usual coil (helical) springs, as another method to accomplish some snubbing action (it’s at this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2016/04/truck-springs-and-snubbers-part-2.html ), through the friction among the individual leaves in the spring.
     But also in the 1930s, more compact and simpler ways to provide frictional snubbing were also being developed. The first one, and very influential, was the Barber stabilizer design (named for its inventor, John C. Barber), first produced by the Standard Car Truck Company but soon licensed by almost all other truck manufacturers. Thus the term “Barber stabilized” truck” does not designate a truck manufacturer, it only indicates the licensed snubbing design. The drawing below, from Railway Mechanical Engineer, December 1938, shows the operating principle. The sliding wedge, highlighted in red, was forced against the vertical wear plate to create friction whenever the bolster moved up and down.

The auxiliary springs (called out in the drawing as “special side springs”) which maintained pressure on the friction wedges were located behind the main springs and thus ordinarily invisible from trackside. But the distinctive pockets in the bolster end, in which the wedges were housed, are an easy spotting feature for Barber trucks, as in this example. This S-2 truck has a spring plank.

The photo is from the Richard Hendrickson collection.
     In subsequent years, most other truck manufacturers would develop their own versions of this bolster snubbing capability, marketed under such trade names as “Cushion Ride” and “Snub-Up.” The most successful of these was the “Ride Control” design by American Steel Foundries, designated the A-3 design, which along with the Barber S-2, were by far the most popular trucks of the transition era, and sideframes of both types are being produced today in 100-ton roller-bearing versions. Below is a photo of a transition-era ASF-A-3, produced for B&O, as indicated by those initials cast onto the sideframe (photo by ACF Industries, courtesy Edward Kaminski).

In this truck, you can see there are five spring pairs, not the usual four in a 50-ton truck, and that is because the springs which exert pressure on the friction wedges are inside the outer two main coil springs.
     Even more exotic truck designs were created to provide snubbing in other ways. One interesting example, which did sell in small quantities, was the Chrysler truck, using beefed-up automotive shock absorbers to absorb vertical motions. This truck, named FRD-5, looked like this (photo from the manufacturer), and had sideframes cast by Symington-Gould. The shock absorber is at the right, with a coil spring at left, in the spring opening.

I described a modeling approach to this truck in a prior post, about a PFE car group which had them. If you’d like to see it, here is the link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2016/02/pfe-40-foot-express-cars-part-2-trucks.html .
     We have good model versions of most of these trucks (a glaring exception is the Barber truck shown earlier in this post, which we need in a postwar version without a spring plank). But many model equivalents of the trucks shown in both these posts are provided in Richard Hendrickson’s summary, available from this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2013/07/another-update-to-richard-hendricksons.html .
Tony Thompson