Monday, January 17, 2011

Modeling freight traffic: Coast Line, 1953-Part 2

In my previous post with this title, I described the main features of SP mainline trains in 1953, summarizing operation of scheduled freights and passenger trains. I excluded extra trains, including various types of local freights, from that description. In this post I discuss those trains.
     The most important exceptions to the previous description of scheduled freights arose seasonally with perishables. Perishable trains were operated as required in harvest seasons and not year-round. In 1953, seasonal trains included the “Watsonville Perishable Block” (WPB), originating Watsonville Junction and destined Colton for consolidation with Los Angeles perishables as Colton Perishable Block (CPB) trains, which departed on the Sunset Route. On the Coast Division, the WPB was consolidated with the “Coast Line Manifest” (CLM) or “Los Angeles Manifest” (LAM) as needed.
     The “Salinas Vegetable Block” (SVB) operated from Watsonville Junction to Roseville daily, for consolidation with “Roseville Perishable Block” (RPB) trains, Overland Route, or “North Coast Perishable” (NCP) trains, Shasta Route. Both the WPB and the SVB would operate as full perishable trains if large enough.
     The “Santa Maria Vegetable” (SMV) originated at San Luis Obispo or Guadalupe, as needed, destined Los Angeles. (In later years, this train was informally called “The Smokey” with timetable authority as number 916, and usually departed San Luis Obispo as locomotive and caboose only, picking up at Guadalupe and beyond. Departure times varied over the years, but were usually late evening or midnight.) Santa Maria perishable cars destined Oakland were consolidated with the “Golden Gate Manifest” (GGM) as needed.
     Empty refrigerator cars returning to Watsonville Junction or Coast points were blocked as “Empty Watsonville Refrigerators” (XWR) or “Empty Salinas Refrigerators” (XSR); “Empty Santa Maria Refrigerators” (XSMR) were destined San Luis Obispo. These blocks were often consolidated with manifest scheduled trains.
     As stated in the previous post, cars were not set out or picked up by symbol freight trains except in the yards at San Jose, Watsonville Junction, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. The same was generally true of “drag” through freights, which on occasion might operate as extra trains. All local traffic between those yards was handled by local trains and haulers as needed.
     In SP parlance, a “turn” operated from a major yard to a point perhaps halfway to the next major yard and returned, with the return in many cases occurring the following day. A “local” was a regular job operating over a shorter distance, usually on a single day.
     On the SP, “hauler” trains were used to service large shippers (like auto plants) or to handle large blocks of cars for pick up and delivery. Switching would usually be accomplished by the corresponding local, which would set out cars for the hauler to pick up, and would deliver cars brought by the hauler, to their local destinations. In effect, the “Smokey” was a hauler to Los Angeles in perishable season.
     On the Coast Division, the Salinas Subdivision was served by a King City turn from Watsonville Junction, and the Santa Margarita Subdivision by a King City turn from San Luis Obispo. Eastward from San Luis Obispo, there was a Surf turn, and also a Surf turn from Santa Barbara.
     Locals were also operated. From Santa Barbara, for example, a Goleta local served the extensive packing sheds west of Santa Barbara, and from San Luis Obispo, a Guadalupe local served industries between San Luis Obispo and Guadalupe.
     Consequences for my modeling are as follows. First, perishable trains or large perishable blocks in manifest trains are expected. Second, both a Surf turn and an Guadalupe local will operate on the segment of main line which I model. Unfortunately, I will not operate a “Smokey” unless I decide to model nighttime operations, which I don’t currently plan.
     Sources of the foregoing information are the same as in the preceding post: 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


  1. A bit late in the day here, but hopefully this question will come to your attention, Tony.

    You refer to the "Smokey" as a train that left light from SLO and picked up loads at Guadalupe and beyond. Was there a "return" version of this train, ie one that came back with empties via the same locations, and finally returned to SLO with only a caboose? If not, how did the empty reefers return to Guadalupe et al for re-use, and would the power and caboose used for the Smokey just return in other train assignments?

    Thanks as always for any information.

  2. As I understand what I have been told, no. Cuts of empty reefers came back to Santa Barbara and SLO as available, and were distributed to smaller towns with packing houses, in the usual turns and locals. The power and caboose for the Smokey would simply go back into the freight pool.
    Tony Thompson

  3. Thanking you, Tony. This really helps a lot in getting my head around planning for my own layout. Very grateful, as ever.

  4. I hope you don't mind my resurrecting this very old post, but I'd like to ask: you mentioned the Goleta Local working west of Sta Barbara, would you happen to know what worked east/south? I'd imagine that went all the way to Ventura or Oxnard, if not further?

  5. I haven't researched LA Division operating practice, but certainly Oxnard would be a good guess. A turn to Simi might be another possibility.
    Tony Thompson