Sunday, January 16, 2011

Modeling freight traffic: Coast Line, 1953

My modeling is set in 1953, and the location of my layout is in the Guadalupe Subdivision of the Coast Division, between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. Since I have a small segment of main line on my layout (most of the layout is branch line), I need to determine how freight traffic operated on this subdivision.
     It’s appropriate to start with the premium trains, which tend to define the framework of any schedule. The passenger trains in 1953 were numbers 98 and 99, the Daylight; 75 and 76, the Lark; 71 and 72, the “Coast Mail” (officially named Passenger), later known as “Sad Sam;” and 94 and 95, the Starlight. Of these, the Lark and Starlight operated in the middle of the night on this subdivision, while the Daylight operated late morning and early afternoon, and the “Mail” operated in early morning in both directions. Freight trains were mostly scheduled to operate in time periods left free from these trains.
     There was one freight train given first-class timetable authority, the “Overnight,” official name of which was the Coast Merchandise, C.M.E. eastward and C.M.W. westward. This also operated in the middle of the night. Since I plan only to model daytime operations, there are just two of the five first-class trains which I will operate, the Daylight and the “Mail.”
     Turning to freight trains, in 1952, SP scheduled four freights in each direction on the Guadalupe Subdivision. Eastward were numbers 912, 914, 916 and 918, listed as second-class trains; westward were numbers 911, 913, 915 and 917, listed as third-class trains. This of course means that eastward scheduled freights had authority by class over westward scheduled freights. Incidentally, the same directional division of second and third classes was true over Cuesta (Santa Margarita Subdivision) but was not true over the remainder of the Coast Division.
     Of those scheduled freights in 1952, numbers 912 and 918 eastward, and 915 and 919 westward, operated in late night or very early morning hours and would not be modeled, leaving me with two scheduled freights in each direction and two scheduled passenger trains in each direction, during daylight hours.
     What kind of trains were these freights? Did they have particular assignments? The answer is both yes and no. There were a number of symbol freights operated daily, and they  indeed had a “typical” or normal connection with these train numbers, but if a particular freight was badly off schedule–not a rare occurrence–a different timetable number might be used as authority for that particular train leaving its next terminal. In other words, the train number does not always identify a particular symbol.
     The Coast Line symbol freights in the early 1950s were as follows. Daily symbol trains normally  included the eastward “Coast Line Manifest” (CLM) and “Los Angeles Manifest” (LAM), Oakland-San Francisco to Los Angeles; and the westward “Golden Gate Manifest” (GGM) and “San Francisco Manifest” (SFM), Los Angeles to Oakland-San Francisco.
     Schedule of the CLM reflects connection at Colton with Sunset Route manifest trains, including “Blue Streak Manifest” (BSM), destined St. Louis, and “Southeaster” (SE) for traffic destined beyond New Orleans. Schedule of the GGM reflects connection at San Jose with the “San Jose-Roseville Extra” (SJR), which in turn connects  with Shasta Route and Overland Route manifest trains, including the “Oakland-Portland Special” (OPS), destined Portland, and “Overland East” (OVE), destined Ogden.
     Under normal traffic conditions, the CLM was operated as Train 918 eastward from San Luis Obispo, and the LAM as Train 914; westward, the GGM operated from Santa Barbara as Train 911 and the SFM as Train 915. Of these four, as mentioned above, trains 915 and 918 were night-time trains.
     In addition to these trains, there were also blocks of cars normally operated daily, which might be separate trains if large enough. These included the “Los Angeles Auto Parts” (symbol LAAP), Oakland to Los Angeles, and the reverse counterpart, “Empty Auto Parts” (XAP). Los Angeles to Oakland, reflecting predominant movement on the Coast of auto parts loads eastward, which had arrived via the Overland Route. Usual operation would find these blocks as part of the LAM and SFM, respectively. The lesser quantity of westward auto parts on the Coast, arriving via the Sunset Route, normally connected with the SFM.
     It is important to recognize that SP preferred at this time to operate most freight traffic as scheduled trains, although schedules other than the GGM and CLM were not usually observed very rigorously, because of the convenience provided by timetable authority. When traffic needs exceeded the capacity of the eight scheduled trains on this subdivision, second sections would be operated. In most situations, extra through freight trains were uncommon.
     The primary reason for extra through trains was perishable traffic, which I will discuss in detail in a forthcoming post. The other extra trains were the turns, locals and haulers. These performed the on-line switching throughout the division, while the scheduled through freights did no such switching between terminals. These locals I will also describe in the post about perishable traffic.
     The above description of the timetable in 1952 is the basis for my layout planning, in which I expect to operate all four of the daytime scheduled mainline freights. Two of these are the symbol freights, GGM and LAM. It will be noted that large blocks of auto parts cars should only appear in the LAM unless I operate a separate train in either direction, but the Coast Division also handled considerable traffic in assembled automobiles, separately from the auto parts traffic.
     Sources of the foregoing information: employee timetables 162 and 164 for the Coast Division, effective September 28, 1952 and September 27, 1953, respectively; SP Condensed Freight Schedules of the period; dispatchers’ train sheets; and interviews with employees of the 1950s on the Coast, notably Malcolm “Mac” Gaddis, who consented to a long, detailed and most informative interview on tape.
Tony Thompson

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