Monday, August 10, 2020

More crossbuck installations

In a previous post, I mentioned my article in the July 2020 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist or MRH, which was about railroad crossing signs, known as crossbucks. In that post, I included a photo of one of the three railroad crossings that I described in the article (you can view that post at this link: ).
     To give an another example of the “full crossing treatment,” as described in the MRH article, here is Nipomo Street in my layout town of Ballard, crossing the Santa Rosalia Branch. There are crossbucks on both sides of the array of tracks, as well as double stop lines and a vestigial center line painted on the pavement. (With any of these photos, you can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)

     But my layout has additional railroad crossings, some with interesting complications, that go beyond the article. This post presents two of them, chosen because they include variations in the standard crossing arrangement, beyond just installing a pair of crossbucks. Both these additional crossings are in my layout town of Santa Rosalia, and involve roads near their end, and moreover, roads which only cross an industry spur.
     I based my treatment of these crossings on historic photos I have examined, most from SP’s Coast Route, showing crossings of minor roads like these. The standard arrangement of pavement markings may be simplified or eliminated, and sometimes a crossbuck was replaced by an Advance Warning Sign (I showed examples of both of these situations in prototype photos in the MRH column cited in the first paragraph of the present post).
     One of the Santa Rosalia crossings is Laguna Street, which crosses the industry spur and immediately becomes a dirt-surfaced entry to the team track area adjoining the depot.  It has a single-stripe “stop” line and a crossbuck, but no signage on the far side of the track, serving the team track. My assumption is that there is enough traffic to the team track to justify a crossbuck, but none on the far side for those returning from the team track.

As I always do on my layout, the name of the street is shown on the layout fascia in the foreground. In the photo, there is a field truck unloading at Coastal Citrus, the structure at left in the photo. In the background at right is the fish cannery, Martinelli Brothers.
     The second crossing is Corralitos Lane, an even more minor street, and it ends at the tracks, just beyond the Richfield bulk oil dealership at left (that’s Coastal Citrus at right). I showed the “road ends” sign and barrier in an earlier post (you can read it here: ). For this crossing, I made no stop line at all, and only the Advance Warning Sign.

     Though these two crossings have reduced warning signs and pavement markings, they are consistent with contemporary photos from my modeling era (1953) and with the photos in my MRH article, so I am confident they are prototypical. Now to finish the remaining crossings on my layout. Those with features beyond what I have already described will be shown in future posts.
Tony Thompson

Friday, August 7, 2020

Paint patches, Part 2

Paint patches on railroad freight cars occur for all sorts of reasons, but especially in the transition era, few cars were without them in the areas of the car where reweigh dates and places had to be stenciled, along with journal repacking dates. The first problem is to make such a paint patch, by hand with a brush, or with decal panels, as I showed in the previous post (it can be found at: ).
     In this post I want to show examples of these applications, and to make a few comments on paint “matching.” Most reweigh events occurred on the owning railroad of the car; after perusing many hundreds of car photos for the transition era, Richard Hendrickson estimated that at least 80 percent of all reweigh symbols were for a car’s home road. (For background on reweighing, see my blog post at: .) Repacking, however, was much more frequent and happened all over the country.
     To clarify, truck journals had to be repacked periodically, in the days before roller bearings, largely done on the basis of need, but with solid or plain journal bearings, this was done at intervals of a year or so. Like the reweigh date, the repack place and date was stenciled on the car, normally over the right truck.
     This brings up a second point. Though sometimes a reweighing and a repacking would occur at the same time and place, thus having matching stencils, this was not usually true. And unlike reweighing, which required a scale, journals could be repacked at the smallest yard or junction. Often at such places there was not a selection of paint colors, but only one — usually black. Here is a prototype example (Richard Hendrickson collection). You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.

Note that the reweigh patch (at left) very nearly matches the car color, unlike the repack patch at right, which appears to be black. The date, location and photographer are unknown; but the reweigh location symbol, CR, indicates Cedar Rapids (Iowa), in August 1950.
     Another example is below, an aluminum-painted car. Obviously few scale tenders or yardmen would have aluminum paint handy, and you can see here the black rectangles that resulted. The load limit and light weight have both been changed (at Bakersfield in February 1961); the black rectangle just to the left of the door is where the trust plate has been removed. A black repack rectangle is at right, above the truck.

This is a Wilbur C. Whittaker photograph, taken at Dunsmuir, California on June 10, 1962.
     Obviously we can easily capture all these details of paint patches, using some of the techniques I described in the previous post (see link in the first paragraph of the present post). Let’s look at some examples. I will start with a model of a Boston & Maine box car, built from a Sunshine kit, with brighter boxcar red paint patches for both reweigh and repack. Here the paint patches are a little different color, either because they are cleaner, or because the location where the work was done did not have a paint matching the original body color. Both would obviously be common circumstances.

     For another example, here is a car with the light weight and load limit both changed, but only in the last three digits of each. This was often seen when weights had not greatly changed. The reweigh is shown as occurring at San Luis Obispo in October 1952.

     As I mentioned, not every place that may stencil a freight car can achieve color matching. I showed earlier how I make paint patches of other colors, such as yellow (see that post at: ). Below is an ART rebuilt reefer (Accurail model) with patches that are yellow (reweigh at left) and black (repack at right). 

     Last, I will show another example of a black repack, over the right truck as usual, though the reweigh patch (above the word “Pacific” on the side sill) is boxcar red. This model is a Red Caboose product, representing the SP Class F-70-7 prototype. The repack stencil here is taken from a Sunshine decal set. The Euclid scraper load is from a Stewart kit, which I have described in an earlier post (find it at: ).

     I have usually applied boxcar red patches for both reweigh and repack, but do vary both patch colors on some cars for variety. That same variety is readily visible in prototype photos, and of course that’s the goal of this kind of project: making freight car models look like the prototype.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

New Signor SP book published!

John Signor’s books about Southern Pacific are the “gold standard” for many SP enthusiasts, and so it was great news that his long-gestating “mega-book” project, Los Angeles Division, was going to be published. John grew up in Southern California, and after he began working for SP in 1974, the Los Angeles area was one of the places he marked up.
     This can only be described as a “really big book,” 584 pages in length, 8.5 x 11-inch pages, hardbound, weighing in at five and a half pounds, and including more than 1000 photographs and 76 maps. Even just browsing through it, it does “go on and on,” and I mean that in a good way.

     Published by the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society (1523 Howard Access Rd., Suite A, Upland, CA 917886-2582), the book is available through the Society’s website, , priced at $80 plus $10 shipping for members. At the moment, the book is still shown as a member’s pre-order, but as soon as all existing pre-orders have been filled, the book will be available for general sale, probably at a price increase for non-members. But the book and its massive content of vivid historical material is a total bargain, and in the modern world of specialized books, actually rather cheap.
     Signor fans will know that his SP books are always focused on a specific geographic place or area, such as (in this case) an entire division, and present the history from the 19th century until the descent into the Black Hole on September 11, 1996. John’s interest, beyond the considerable specifics of the geography of each subject, is operations, and this book is rich in operational details.
     The book is divided into five large chapters. First is “Early Days, 1869–1900,” followed by “Expansion, 1900-1929,” then by “Depression & War, 1929–1945,” ”Postwar, 1946–1970,” and “Retrenchment, 1970–1996.” And though the material included in the book is indeed massive, in his Introduction John states that the amount on “the cutting room floor” is big enough for another volume as large. May we so blessed as to see that volume some day!
     I know a lot about the SP, compared to many people, but I continually came across things in this book that I now understood more clearly, or even discovered for the first time. As an example of “understanding more clearly,” the 1947 LA map on pages 254 and 255 brought my nose to the page for many minutes. I reproduce part of it below to show its richness, depicting all the many yards and interchanges of SP, Santa Fe, Union Pacific, Pacific Electric and LA Junction Railway, but also the many instances of joint trackage among these railroads. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish, though this image cannot do justice to what is in the book.)

     John has included some photos from his earlier books that touched on Los Angeles, from the Tehachapi and Beaumont Hill books, to the Coast Line volumes. This is entirely proper, so that all the best photography is in one place. But the great bulk of the photography here will be new to almost everyone, and there is gem after gem. Not every gem is major; I love the photo below (page 420), just because I had not seen a view of the Cornfield Yard at this angle, looking toward North Broadway (photo from the Jack Seeback collection). The locomotive is SP Consolidation 2531.

     I will note in passing my mild surprise that there are a number of fine Richard Steinheimer photos from the Los Angeles area that John has not included, but doubtless they are among those mountains of material on the cutting room floor.
     I will mention once more that the amount and detail of historical information here is just immense. Moreover, if operations is your topic of interest, you too will find a great deal of value here. And what not everyone may appreciate is how much information is included that forms the history of communities served by the SP. I would guess that many local historians, even if not railroad buffs, will also find this a rich treasure trove of information.
     I am sure it’s obvious that I am not a neutral reviewer here, having not only known John for many years, but having handled production of a few of his books, and helped with others, when he published with Signature Press. Nevertheless, I want to emphasize that I am delighted to see this book, which I know is a labor of love, finally in print, and I hope it is a best-seller, for John’s sake, for the SPH&TS, and for SP fans everywhere.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Tank cars in service

This post is stimulated by an email I received a few weeks ago, and I have been cogitating about it since, not because I think it is hard to answer, but maybe because it is hard to answer simply. I will give it a try in this post.
     The question was this (I’m paraphrasing): “How do tank cars operate in service? I understand that a company like, say, Dow Chemical owns tank cars and ships its products to customers in those cars. But what about the leasing companies like General American? or railroad-owned cars? How does that work?”
     As I said, this isn’t necessarily easy to answer simply, but I will try. (Background on most points below is available in my article on tank cars in Model Railroad Hobbyist, the issue for February 2016, still available on line for free, to read or download at their website, .) I have also provided a lot of facts and car drawings in a talk handout (you can find it here: ).
     These are the basics. First, essentially all tank cars carry liquid cargoes (though some are liquified gases), and liquids can leave residue in the cars. That in turn could readily contaminate a subsequent load of something different.
     Thus the first principle is that tank cars assigned in some particular service, for example, carrying heating oil, will tend to stay in that service. Tank cars certainly can be cleaned, to permit assignment for a different cargo. But this cost time and money, and was avoided as much as possible.
     So a particular car owned by General American, for example, might carry heating oil, and be assigned to a particular oil company. The car, then, would move between one or more of the oil company’s refineries, and its bulk oil dealers, delivering heating oil. It might show up repeatedly at one particular oil dealer, or only ever appear once at that dealer. But the key point is that when unloaded, it would be moved back to the refinery from which it had come.
          In thinking about such a car, it’s useful to remember that about 95 percent of all tank cars in the United States in the transition era were privately owned, with barely 5 percent in railroad ownership. And fully 90 percent of all U.S. tank cars were the general service or ICC 103 type, AAR Class TM. So that car of heating oil might look something like this, a plain black paint scheme with minimal lettering.

This photo shows an 8125-gallon ICC 103 tank car; photo from the Richard Hendrickson collection (location, date and photographer unknown).
     Another point of importance about a car like GATX 4121 is how privately owned tank cars were handled. A very clear description of the rules for this were presented in a previous blog post, concentrating on how empty cars were to be handled (see that post at: ).
     Some cars were sized to carry specific cargoes. A good example is chlorine, shipped in high-pressure cars. Because of the high density of liquid chlorine, these were usually 6000-gallon cars riding on 40-ton trucks. (To illustrate, 6000 gallons of liquid chlorine weigh about 74,000 pounds.) This means that such a car is not interchangeable with other tank cars that were designed for other cargoes. An example is below.

This photo, with date, photographer and location unknown, is from the Richard Hendrickson collection. The 1940-built tank car had a yellow body with black center band and bottom sheet, and had been reweighed in 1954. The reporting marks are TELX, a mark owned by the Pennsylvania Salt Mfg. Co. of Tacoma, Washington, a PennSalt subsidiary, so this is a car owned by the company which produces its cargoes. As a high-pressure car, it’s classed as ICC 105A-300, capacity 5900 gallons.
     A car like this, or any privately owned tank car in assigned service (as were most such tank cars), would have directions on file with the railroad agent at every place where the car might be delivered. These directions would either describe returning the car to its origin point, as I mentioned above, or would identify the owner’s preferred collection point for cars of this type. I covered this kind of car direction in a previous post (that post is here: ).
     The foregoing PennSalt car, owned by the manufacturer, was by no means the typical specialized tank car, in this case for chlorine. Many such were owned by leasing companies and then painted and lettered for the lessee. Here is an example, for Shippers Car Line (SHPX) leased to DuPont.

     Finally, it is often assumed that any railroad-owned tank cars are exclusively in company service, for fuel, lube oil, or other company needs. But this was certainly not true of all railroads. In particular, it’s known that Southern Pacific, owner of one of the largest railroad tank car fleets, only used about a third of its tank cars for company shipments. The remainder were in commercial service, sometimes under lease. To show a single example, here is SP 60179, an 8000-gallon car of Class O-50-14, photographed in Kansas City in 1959 (George Sisk photo).

This car may not be obviously leased (and indeed most cars do not exhibit leasing information), but it happens that the lessee is stenciled on the center sill, as you see below in a detail of the above photo. Anderson, Clayton & Company of Houston, Texas handled cotton and cotton products, thus the likely use of this car is to carry cottonseed oil.

This car of course would have its travels all in service of Anderson, Clayton shipments of cottonseed oil, and would be directed in its movements by Anderson, Clayton. The movement directions might be provided to agents by SP, the car owner, on behalf of Anderson, Clayton.
     I hope this summary helps understand the operation and directed movement of the majority of tank cars.
Tony Thompson