Monday, April 30, 2012

Waybills-18, resources: update

A major source of detailed information about prototype waybill procedures, which I didn’t include in my previous post about sources (available at: ) because I hadn’t then seen the book, is entitled The Station Agent’s Blue Book, by O.B. Kirkpatrick (Kirkpatrick Publishing, Chicago, 1928). It contains more than 500 pages and is phenomenally detailed in some areas, such as minutiae on how to do daily accounting reports of passenger ticket receipts, credit and debit analysis, cashbook entries, etc., etc. But its big attraction for me is a perfectly pitched chapter on waybills and the procedures which go with them, along with several chapters on freight handling.
     Here is what the book looks like. It is a hefty volume, with pages of 7.75 x 10.5 inch dimensions, and is nicely printed and securely bound.

     Although the book can be found in the on-line listings of a number of internet booksellers, it is not particularly cheap. There is a digital copy of it on line, at the Hathi Digital Library, at:;page=root;view=image;size=100;seq=5;num=i . This site shows you a single page at a time, and you can download a limited number of pages, but you are not allowed to download the entire book. Here is the contents page, so you can see what may be interesting for your own use, and choose pages to look at in the on-line version.

I have really pored over chapters 8 to 15, and 19 to 23, on freight handling, and chapters 31 and 32 on waybills, but have barely skimmed much of the rest. It’s a great resource in some parts, and I would say anyone interested in these topics would benefit by at least a look-see, but its value may not repay a purchase for everyone.
Tony Thompson

Friday, April 27, 2012

Waybills-23, cuts of cars: update

In the first post about handling cuts of cars, I referred to Ted Pamperin’s article in Model Railroader (February 2012, p. 45) and his citations of how coal was handled, for example for cleaning and sizing, after leaving the mine but before being sent off to customers. (The post can be viewed at: ) Ted’s article showed a Montour mine ticket of this kind, in a somewhat fuzzy version. I wondered, and had an e-mail from a reader who wondered, if a sharper and more readable version was available anywhere.
     My good friend Larry Kline let me know that this exact subject had been discussed on the Yahoo Group for the Montour Railroad (you can find it on the Yahoo Groups home page under montour_rr), and that these mine tickets had been posted to that group. He also sent me copies of two of them, which are from the collection of Gene P. Shaeffer and originally were provided to the Montour group by Bryan Seip. I contacted Mr. Schaeffer for permission to reproduce these, and he was kind enough to send more, along with explanation of how they were used.
     They are indeed more readable than what MR showed in Pamperin’s article, and moreover were not white, as reproduced in MR, but were green or bluish (known on the Montour as “green bills”). Interestingly, the Montour prepared these as two-part documents, perforated down the middle, so that one side could be retained by the shipper, while the other side went to the railroad.
     Here is a blank bill, showing the two sides.

     Here is how Gene Schaeffer described the use of this document. “It was used in the movement of ‘Stop Off’ coal between the mines and Champion Preparation Plant. The green bills were provided by the Montour RR and taken to the shipper’s office at each tipple. The coal company shipper would usually stamp the mine info on the lines reading ‘From’ and ‘Mine.’ The shipper filled out car number, date and type of coal. On the Montour it was either MET or STEAM coal. The conductor filled out the bottom of the form. The left portion of the bill was taken to the Montour RR Yardmaster at the Champion Preparation Plant, who kept track of what tracks the cars were on and when dumped at Champion. After dumping, the left portion of the bill went to the Montour Agent at Champion who wrote up all of the car numbers on a billing sheet. It and the right portion of the bill ended up at the Office at Champion Preparation Plant where the bill for ‘Stop Off’ coal was given to the coal company for payment.”
     Here is the left side of one of those “green bills” after use:

The car is Montour hopper 8145.
     In the 1950s, P&LE used a somewhat similar form for moving cars from an on-line mine of the Montour to be weighed at Montour Junction. Here are two examples. You may wish to click on the image to enlarge it.

Both cars here are Montour hoppers, numbers 16319 and 17125. Most of the information is pre-stamped. Note the cargo is shown as “BLOCK COAL.”
     Finally, there was also a B&O form of this type, used for movements from the Champion Preparation Plant to the B&O at Snowden on the Library Branch. This car was lake coal, destined to Lorain, Ohio.

This bill also has the dimensions of a lengthwise-folded 8.5 x 11-inch sheet of paper, but turned 90 degrees. (Waybills were often folded that way.) Like the other slips shown above, the individual car information is mostly filled out by hand.
     As I said in the previous part of this post, my own interest is not in coal traffic, but in any movements of cars not involving the normal waybill. In these forms, you can readily see the analogies which I picked up to use with the log bills for Otis McGee’s layout, but my use of the empty boxes to write in numbers of cars, is straight from Ted Pamperin’s own design of a C&O empty car order.
     These forms strike me as but one example of how much prototype paperwork is actually out there, in the hands of various former employees, collectors, and enthusiasts, not to mention modelers, but which rarely surfaces unless donated to a museum—and even then, only if the material is discovered (and publicized) at that museum. It’s been suggested before, but I will say it again: a clearinghouse for information about these kinds of resources could be a big help for modelers.
Tony Thompson

Monday, April 23, 2012

Waybills, Part 23: handling cuts of cars

The great majority of freight car movements were directed by paperwork for each individual car, in the era of interest to me (1950s). This paper would be a waybill for loads and for some empty tank cars, while empty cars were moved with a Empty Car Bill on most railroads. But there were occasions when those kinds of documents were not needed. The obvious ones involve groups of empties, whether it was a cut of coal hoppers being moved to mines, log cars returning for reload, refrigerator cars to an area with multiple packing houses, or any other similar empty movement of interchangeable cars in a group.
     On the other hand, practically all loaded cars would not be handled in groups, since each one carried revenue cargo, and the individual waybills were part of the carriage and billing process. In fact, a waybill is a legal document and expresses a contractual relation between the railroads moving the shipment. But even here, there can be exceptions. Unit trains are the obvious example, such as an entire train of coal loads to a  power plant, where all loads would be the same size and class of coal. A single document could express the total cargo delivered and all charges.
     Prototype methods of handling coal cars were discussed clearly and helpfully in Ted Pamperin’s article in the February 2012 issue of Model Railroader (pages 45 to 49). Moreover, anyone who has heard Ted’s fine clinic on this subject has learned even more about the subject. His research into Chesapeake & Ohio coal traffic has produced illuminating information, and the MR article summarizes it, though necessarily briefly.
     However, I’m a modeler of a railroad, Southern Pacific, with little coal traffic. Why would information like Ted’s be of interest? There are two reasons. First, on my own layout I model sugar beet traffic. Empty sugar beet cars would likely be handled as a group of cars, just like coal hoppers for loading. Second, on Otis McGee’s layout, there is some log traffic, and log cars too are interchangeable as empties. Here is how I have addressed this issue.
     Let’s start with the log traffic. On the prototype Shasta Division, Long-Bell Lumber was harvesting timber on the northeast side of Mt. Shasta at the beginning of the 1950s. Their extensive woods operations, centered at the town of Tennant, were primarily rail until 1956, and had a rail connection to the SP at Leaf, California. From there, logs were moved by rail to their mill at Dorris, California. SP locomotives and crews moved the log trains between Leaf and Dorris through a contractual arrangement. All the log cars were owned or leased by Long-Bell.
     Here is a photo of a Long-Bell log train, just entering the SP at Leaf, in a 1950s view from the U.S. Forest Service. This photo is also reproduced in John Signor’s book, Southern Pacific’s Shasta Division (Signature Press, 2000), page 167. The logs are California white pine.

     At the same time as the Leaf–Dorris operation just described, the old Fruit Growers Supply mill at Hilt, California was still producing box shook for wooden citrus boxes, but had exhausted the timber near the mill. They were buying logs from Long-Bell to feed their mill, and again, SP moved the log trains between Leaf and Hilt. All this traffic is modeled on Otis McGee’s layout. A typical operating session includes trains to carry out load-empty cycles of log cars between Dorris and Leaf (which are both modeled locations), and between Hilt and Leaf (Hilt is in staging).
     My first goal was to deal with empty log cars. The C&O Empty Mine Car Route Order shown in Pamperin’s article was a starting point. As with coal hoppers, an SP conductor only needed to know the number of empty log cars being moved, so that is emphasized on my log form. Although we are still experimenting with this form on Otis’s layout, the present arrangement is shown here. Most of the model log cars are 40-foot FL types, but the form allows for others. We’re making the form yellow to conform to the SP Empty Car Bills in use. The conductor can fill out the form when starting the job, or it can be filled out in advance of the operating session.

     There is an interesting prototype mine ticket form shown in Pamperin’s article, from the Montour Railroad. It deals with in-transit cleaning and sizing of coal. Once those operations were complete, of course, the individual loads were waybilled, but it seemed to me that the prototype SP log traffic to be modeled would not need waybills, as charges could be prepaid, just as for in-transit waybills. I used elements from the Montour in-transit ticket to construct a Log Transfer Route Order for loads, modeled on the Empty Log Car Route Order shown above.

     Since this log transfer is a regular occurrence, the shipper and consignee names are pre-printed on the form (both are Long-Bell on this form). In the Hilt-Leaf operation, the shipper and consignee differ but still remain the same for every trip. Thus the form can still be preprinted with those names, as shown here.

     I mentioned sugar beet cars earlier in this post. I intend to use a variation of the empty log car form to deliver empty gondolas to the beet loader on my layout. But that is still in the future.
     As I said, these forms for cuts of cars are still experimental on Otis’s Shasta Division layout, but they form an effective starting point for handling log trains. They have the obvious advantage in practical terms of avoiding waybill cycles for these identical, repetitive moves of interchangeable cars, almost all of which are owned by Long-Bell Lumber. If the forms evolve further, I will report on it in a future post.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Replacing snap-in trucks: comment

I received an interesting email in response to my post about this topic (available at: ). It asked how I fitted the solid Plastruct rod as a filler for the old truck snap-in hole.
     The rod I use is 4 mm in diameter and is a little too large for the holes in the Varney/LifeLike 37-foot reefer bodies. Accordingly, I file and sand it down a bit, checking against the hole size, until the rod will just press-fit into the opening. I have sometimes chucked a length of this rod into an electric drill, to act like a lathe, and then used a file to reduce the diameter, but doing it by hand seems to work about equally quickly and easily. Coarse sandpaper works too; surface finish isn’t important here.

     I use Plastruct’s plastic solvent cement “Plastic Weld,” which seems to be well named and to create a really strong bond, to coat both the rod and hole interior generously, then press the rod into the hole. I then make sure the rod is perpendicular, by use of a small machinist’s square, as shown here, while the joint sets.

Once the joint is fully set, for which I usually allow a couple of hours, I use a razor saw to cut the rod off flush with the original bolster surface.

A light touch with the fine-tooth file, and the bolster surface is smooth. I then “center-punch” the glued-in rod (using a scriber) and drill #52, then tap for 2-56, my preferred truck screw size. This photo shows the tap in use.

Now the car body is ready to receive trucks, and if in doubt about the height of the bottom of the car floor, a necessary dimension for correct Kadee coupler box installation, I would put on a pair of trucks and check that height at this point (this was shown in the prior post). The body shown in the photo above was already checked, coupler pads have been thinned, and Kadees are installed.
     That's all there is to it. Simple to do, and quick as well. Don’t let those old snap-in trucks prevent you from upgrading an otherwise useful car body!
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Weathering cement hoppers

As part of a general program of weathering, there are certain cars needing separate attention, often because of their cargoes. One such car type is the cement hopper. In the 1950s, the great majority of covered hoppers were assigned to cement service, so a 1953 modeler like myself knows that those cars dominate the covered hopper fleet.
     The cement cars got dirty overall, of course, and a good start to the process is a light to moderate “dirt” color (my approach is the usual acrylic wash, colored with a mix of Burnt Umber, Neutral Gray, and Ivory Black; for more, you can read the joint handout by Richard Hendrickson and myself, available at: ).
     Once the base “dirt” is in place, some amount of spilled cement needs to be added, ranging from just a modest suggestion, to serious spillage. In later years, these cars sometimes had quite a buildup of cement around hatches, and with natural moisture available, this turned into lumpy patches of hard cement. In my modeling era of 1953, however, spillage was still on the lighter side, so I have limited myself to staining and streaking only.
     Natural cement is light gray, and this color might seem like the best choice for showing cement stains. Indeed, these cars for many railroads were painted a gray color which was intended to show as little of the cement spills as possible, but in fact the cement  streaks typically looked lighter than the car color. Accordingly, I believe a somewhat lighter “cement” color should be used in the weathering process for these cars.
     Here is a prototype image, taken a long time after the period I’m modeling, and naturally I don’t wish to show quite this much cement staining. I took this photo at San Luis Obispo in 1992.

Note that the original lettering and SP emblem on this Class H-70-10 car is still visible, although the car has been renumbered (this was the only class of open-side covered hoppers on the SP).
     In indoor lighting on a layout, it is often necessary to exaggerate effects somewhat, and I believe that cement staining is an example. In my acrylic method for these cars, I’ve mixed Titanium White with Neutral Gray, to get an intermediate color, followed by some very minor highlighting with straight white. I have weathered a number of cars but will only show two.
     First is an SP car, which is an InterMountain (IM) model of SP’s Class H-70-8. It’s photographed alongside the depot at Ballard. The car is barely two years old in my modeling year, so has modest cement marks.

I also added some cement staining to an IM model of the early Santa Fe cars with external roof carlines (Santa Fe Class GA-65). It is also in Ballard.

On this car, the freight car red color shows the staining far more prominently. The two cars together look like this, with a more overhead angle.

     This post is only intended as a suggestion of a way to weather cement hoppers, and your choice may be to do heavier or lighter suggestions of cement spills. But whatever you do, cement hoppers do need at least a little of this characteristic staining, even when relatively new.
Tony Thompson

Friday, April 13, 2012

Waybills, Part 22: handling empties

Over the past year, I have received several emails about handling empties in a prototype manner. The most recent and most specific questions were from Bob Sterner, who writes a fine Soo Line blog of his own (for example, at: ). So I thought I might be useful to say a little more about the subject. I don’t think I have left anything out in prior posts, but evidently I didn’t manage to describe things very clearly.
     Sometimes a questioner asks about the connection to the Car Service Rules, which I’ve discussed in two prior posts (these can be viewed at: and also at ). Surveys in the 1950s found that the Car Service Rules were being obeyed in about two-thirds of all cases, so they are certainly not something a modeler has to rigorously observe (you would be outdoing the prototype!). But the rules do not say much about empty cars. You can find these rules in the back of any Official Railway Equipment Register since at least the 1930s.
     By the way, if you would like to know more about those rules, you will probably enjoy the fine book by E.W. Coughlin of the AAR, entitled Freight Car Distribution and Car Handling in the United States (AAR, 1956). He explains the rules in some detail, and describes many of their implications. As I said, these rules are mostly for the selection of cars to be loaded (although Rule 2 provides that empty foreign cars at a junction with the owning road should be delivered directly to that road, regardless of prior service route).
     But let me clarify empty handling. If you have a foreign empty in your yard, don’t need an empty to load, and want it off your rails to avoid per diem, there is only one place (assuming your yard is not an interchange with the owner of that car) that an interchange railroad would accept it: the junction where they gave it to you in the first place. Try to hand it off to any other road or any other junction and the receiving road had the right to refuse it. So reverse routing wasn’t just a possibility, it was enforceable, and you can see why: no one wanted to pay for moving an empty which they hadn’t benefited by when it was loaded. Freight mileage was only billed on loaded cars.
     Interchange points maintained huge books called “jumbos” (I have a monthly one from Bieber, California, where GN and WP met) and kept track of all cars passing through in both directions. That was one way you knew if you wanted to refuse a car or not.
     Another method used by some railroads was the Home Route Card (sometimes combined as part of the Empty Car Bill). I showed an Erie Railroad example, which is simple in its Home Route portion, in an earlier post (see: ). Here is an example of another railroad’s version of this form, to show a much more complex approach to the Home Route information (click on it to enlarge).

     This one is the size of an Empty Car Bill and would be the size of a stack of ordinary waybills, folded the long way (about 4 x 11 inches). It would be attached to the waybill of a loaded car, in principle, and would get filled out as that car moved to its destination. Then all the junction information would be handy for returning the empty. The idea of the home route card was to provide a simple record with the car of routing information, so it was easy to direct the car homeward. But these tended to get lost or damaged, or incompletely filled out (Coughlin discusses this), so not every road used them, or used them consistently.
     When the empty was successfully transferred to another road via its service route, it then might be chosen by the receiving road to be loaded, or it might be moved further along the reverse route to the next railroad in the chain, and so on.
     As modelers, I think use of either an Empty Car Bill or a Home Route/Empty Car Bill (reduced appropriately to convenient model size) does confer some realism in handling empties. They should of course be directed to the interchange from which they came to reach your layout, so the Empty Car Bill which you make for the car (or to balance a loaded move) needs to have been created along with the waybill, so the two will match.
      A further point for those modeling interchanges is that the famous “midnight shove,” to get as many cars as possible off of your railroad and onto someone else’s railroad, and thereby avoid paying tomorrow’s per diem on the cars, is only realistic if the empties in question came from that interchange as loads. Otherwise, as noted, the receiving railroad can refuse them. In other words, the “midnight shove” did not simply clear out all empties in the yard and dump them on an interchange track, though I have seen layout operations in which that was done. The exception, of course, would be a short line’s yard which is that road’s sole connection to the outside world, making it necessarily the interchange at which all cars are received.
     These considerations for prototypical handling of empty cars, though perhaps less interesting than handling loaded cars, are nevertheless part of realistic and prototypical operations. They aren’t hard to implement, and if you are not already doing so, I recommend you give it a try.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Coast Line operations (1953) for my layout

I have been working on an overall pattern of operation for my layout, which models a mythical Southern Pacific branch line, and also includes a segment of the Coast Division main line. This means that through freight and passenger trains pass by the branch line junction at Shumala on the main line, but only the locals and turns would do any switching there.
     I received an interesting question from Brian Moore in England, about the frequency and type of trains passing and stopping on my main line, as well as how they would be switched (e.g, whether there would be an allocated switcher, or would the train loco do the work, etc). I have touched on these questions in prior posts, but haven’t pulled it all together in one place, so I’ll endeavor to answer Brian and also give some links to the prior posts which touch on this subject.
     On my layout, the junction of the main line and the branch, called Shumala, is only a few miles south of Oceano and accordingly is not a train-order station (for a brief discussion of my layout locale, here’s the previous post about it: ). The depot therefore houses an agent but not an operator. For that reason, there is of course no train-order signal at the depot.
     Moreover, passenger trains, even the mail train, would not ordinarily stop there (I might consider occasional flag stops.) In daylight hours, there were just two trains: the Daylight in both directions, and the mail train in both directions. I’ve discussed the trains themselves in an earlier post (see: ).
     As I’ve pointed out previously, SP practice on most divisions was to operate through freights, that is, freights which ran from division point to division point, without any intermediate switching. These were usually scheduled trains, with additional sections, and sometimes extra trains, as needed. I will duplicate this on my main line by having freights which simply pass by Shumala in both directions.
     The mainline schedule therefore shows, in effect, the freight and passenger trains which pass Shumala without interacting. I have cut and pasted from various SP prototype employee timetables to achieve the content I want. My timetable deviates from the prototype in 1953, in that I have shown the westward scheduled freight trains from a year or so earlier. (By 1953 westward freights on this subdivision were all extra trains, although still operating at about the same times; in other words, my schedule does reproduce a correct number of trains and their times.)
     I have also included non-prototypical data for the mythical Santa Rosalia Branch (bottom of schedule), and of course for Shumala on the main line. The number of stations on the subdivision has been seriously compressed; the stations omitted are not on the layout anyway. Here is my timetable in its present form:

This timetable provides the basic framework for my mainline operations.
     I should mention that although there are four first-class and four second-class trains shown in each direction in this timetable, these operate around the clock. For daylight hours of operation, which is my practice, those scheduled freights operated in late night or very early morning hours would not be seen, leaving me with at most two scheduled freights and two scheduled passenger trains in each direction, during daytime.
     There was another pattern on most SP divisions, that a “turn” would be operated to switch most industries between a division point, and a town about half-way to the adjoining division point. The train would operate to that turnaround town and then return to the division point. In my area of the Coast Division, there would be turns out of San Luis Obispo north (railroad west) to King City and south (railroad east) to Surf. From Santa Barbara, there would be a corresponding turn to Surf, and from the north, there would be a King City turn from Watsonville Junction. At Shumala, the only turn encountered would be the Surf turn from San Luis.
     Supplementing the turns would be local freights to serve areas with more intensive work, enough that a turn might be overloaded with work from that one area. From San Luis Obispo, a Guadalupe local operated eastward, relieving the Surf turn of the switching at Oceano and Guadalupe and also handling much of the interchange traffic with the Santa Maria Valley Railroad. This Guadalupe local would be the source of traffic to and from the branch at Shumala. I discussed these non-schedule freights in a previous post (link at: ).
     In busy harvest seasons, there were two Guadalupe locals a day, one departing San Luis at mid-morning and one at mid-evening. These would return to San Luis, respectively, in the early evening, and about dawn. The bulk of the work of the local train(s) would be perishables, both setting out empties and picking up loads, and since the predominant crop in the area is vegetables, harvesting spreads over a long season. I have presented information on these Santa Maria-area vegetable crops and their seasons in a previous post (see: ).
     This means that in my normal operating session, which is in daylight hours from early morning to late afternoon, there could already be cars set out at Shumala by the previous night’s local, ready for switching, even before the morning local arrives. Or for simplicity, I can operate just the one morning local. But in the hours I operate, I will only see one local, the morning one outbound from San Luis Obispo. The Surf turn would simply pass by, since local work in the area of Shumala is the responsibility of the Guadalupe local, not the turn.
     The likely arrangement of how the local would pick up and set out cars for the branch would be for the local’s locomotive to do that. This would mean that the cars to be picked up would be already be sorted and made ready for pickup. Shumala is only 17 miles from San Luis Obispo, so it would certainly be a logical possibility to switch the branch as a job out of San Luis. It might leave San Luis as a caboose hop and then work Shumala and the entire branch, returning also as a caboose hop, or it could handle some cars between San Luis and Shumala.
     But there is also another possibility, that a locomotive (or two) might be stationed at the branch, as SP did with some branch lines elsewhere on the system. In that case, all switching at Shumala would likely be done by the branch locomotive, permitting the Guadalupe local to simply pick up and drop off.
     I’ve chosen this possibility, and accordingly have locomotive servicing facilities at Shumala (I have briefly described what I’m doing and planning to do with my engine terminal, and progress to date, in a previous post at: ). The Shumala locomotive(s) would be responsible for switching, but would probably be a road locomotive such as a Consolidation, not a switcher, since it has to operate the entire branch.
     This then is the skeleton of my operating pattern. It is subject to modification as operating progresses, but for now it feels realistic and is practical to carry out. Those, of course, are important goals for any operating scheme.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Waybills, Part 21: understanding waybill patterns

Waybill systems for model railroads have a number of components. In several prior posts on this blog, I have discussed design and preparation of various waybill formats which are more prototypical. I have also discussed the scheduling of car movements which are controlled by those waybills (for example, at: ). A full analysis of repeating cycles of movement, however, may be needed to recognize patterns which can develop. These may be the intended and desirable patterns, but they could also be unexpected and undesirable patterns.
     Such a problem arose on Otis McGee’s layout, and I will describe it, and its apparent solution, not because Otis’s layout is necessarily typical of anyone else’s, but because it illustrates the point of analyzing how scheduling patterns develop over multiple sessions, and then to decide, if the pattern is undesirable, how to counter it.
     I will begin with a schematic of Otis’s layout, in fact the schematic which has been prepared for visiting operators and posted at various places around the layout, especially at Dunsmuir Yard, where train make-up takes place. As you can see, the layout is operationally Y-shaped:

Trains coming from the south (railroad west) leave Redding staging and arrive at Dunsmuir, where they are sorted into trains to travel over either of the two northward (railroad eastward) routes, the Siskiyou and Cascade lines. Also separated out are cars for on-layout switching, which are handled by various locals and turns.
     (To see the physical layout and a moderately current track plan, the best published version is in the 2011 issue of Kalmbach’s Great Model Railroads, pp. 36 to 43.)
     The destinations listed on the schematic, shown beyond the names of the three staging locations, are intended to help visitors know which waybills go to which line, even if they are not familiar with northern California and Oregon geography. Example: where does a car waybilled to Medford, Oregon, go? The schematic has the answer. And note that although cars can reach Eugene, Oregon via the Siskiyou line, through cars for Eugene or beyond would normally move on the Cascade line, which is why the name “Eugene” is grayed out on the Siskiyou branch of the map.
     Now consider a train from Redding, arriving at Dunsmuir, with a mix of car destinations. They will usually be about half to two-thirds Cascades, since that was the “main route” north and carried the bulk of traffic, and the remainder will be divided between Siskiyou and local cars. As more trains arrive, eventually there are enough cars in Dunsmuir yard to send out trains with all Cascade cars, or all Siskiyou cars, and these traverse the layout and go to their respective staging. So far, so good.
     In the next operating sessions, those Cascade and Siskiyou trains will have had their waybills cycled. If, as is presently the predominant case, they have just a pair of waybills or Empty Car Bills in their sleeve, the “other” bill will direct them southward (railroad westward) via Redding. When they arrive at Dunsmuir, these trains can be forwarded as-is to Redding staging. Again, so far so good.
     The problem arises in the next session. Now, each train at Redding, when its waybills are cycled, will contain all Cascade or all Siskiyou destinations, carried over from their previous sorting at Dunsmuir. This is not good, both because it’s unrealistic, and because it eliminates switching work at Dunsmuir. There are a number of solutions, but one of them, to switch and rearrange trains in staging, is neither practical nor desirable.
     Here is what we are doing about it. A certain proportion of cars have been given additional pairs of waybill documents in their sleeves, so that when waybills are cycled, say after reaching Cascade staging and returning to Redding staging, the next cycle brings into play a waybill for a local or Siskiyou destination. Two cycles after that, it will again be a Cascade destination. Creating additional waybills is also an advantage for any car which is at all distinctive, so that, for example, that Lake Superior & Ishpeming car doesn’t always carry a load from Bend, Oregon.
     Creating the additional waybills need not be onerous, since the existence of a “pairs list” for Otis’s freight car fleet (as I described earlier at this link: ) makes selection of additional origins and destinations easy.
     For example, let’s say we have this southward boxcar load, with the car returning empty to Portland for loading (a Cascade Line cycle):
   from: Gladding McBean, Portland, OR;   cargo: glazed tile
   to: Valley Brick & Tile, Fresno, CA
Now I can go to the pairs list and find a Siskiyou Line cycle to balance it:
   from: Southern Oregon Plywood, Grants Pass, OR;   cargo: plywood
   to: Litchfield Lumber, Glendale, CA
and of course there would again be a northward Empty Car Bill for loading at Grants Pass. This box car will now travel alternately on the Cascade and Siskiyou lines. 
     As already stated, these problems, and the steps to their solution, are specific to a single layout, but are intended to show the importance of understanding how repeated cycles of car movement with waybills need to be examined, and any patterns understood, to ensure that the desired patterns are being achieved.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Improving kit accuracy

In my post on upgrading an SP box car model from Red Caboose (see: ), I alluded to use of prototype photos to determine correct details for the car. I have had a couple of e-mails about this topic, asking about further projects, so this post addresses a couple of recent kits I’ve assembled and applied correct (or better) details.
     One is a Gulf, Mobile & Ohio box car, from a Red Caboose kit. I should mention that this prototype has a long history with me; one of the very first freight cars I built as a teenager was a GM&O box car, using a set of Red Ball paper sides and a scratchbuilt wood body. That model is long gone, but I wanted to include a box car from this road in my fleet.
     The Red Caboose kit is numbered 8808. As it happens, this is no accident but reflects a Wilbur Whittaker photo of this exact car, which I include below. The photo was taken in 1947.

The photo helpfully does show that these cars had Youngstown corrugated doors, which is one of the choices one has to make in the RC kit.
     I communicated with Ed Hawkins, who has access to a certain number of AC&F builder photos and records, to ask about the handbrakes. He was able to find this image of the car end, clearly showing an Equipco brake wheel (detail of AC&F photo, Hawkins-Wider-Long collection). The entire car series, GM&O 8000–8999, was equipped the same way, and, as seen here, had black ends and roofs.

The trucks have been whitewashed for this builder photo.
     As I did on the SP car, I used the outstanding Equipco brake wheel from Kadee to replace the kit brake wheel. When it was all done and weathered, here’s what it looked like:

     Another car I’ve recently worked on is an Erie box car, from the group which had Viking roofs, number series 78500–78999 (Des Plaines Hobbies offered a kit for this car, with a new roof added to a Red Caboose kit). Here again, a builder view (below) shows that the cars had Youngstown corrugated doors. When built, the cars had unpainted galvanized roofs, but repaints in subsequent years painted the roofs black, matching the black ends. The Des Plaines kit does reproduce a later paint scheme, with the large Erie diamond emblem, so it should have and does have a black roof. The cars also had Ajax hand brakes (which are in the kit), National B-1 trucks (I used a pair from Proto2000), and rectangular-grid steel running boards.
     Here is a builder photo, showing the doors, hand brake, and trucks clearly (AC&F photo, Hawkins-Wider-Long collection), though this is the original paint scheme with the small diamond. Info on the cars was helpfully supplied by Richard Hendrickson.

I have modeled the car to follow the information from the photo. Running board is an etched metal part from Overland. The completed car is shown here being unloaded at the winery in Ballard.

     Some readers may be thinking, “Swell, but what would I do in the absence of good prototype photos like these?” There are resources in lots of places, probably most conveniently on line, which can help. Among these are the Ed Hawkins lists from the Railmodel Journal issues of the 1990s (now available  from “Trainlife” on the web, at: ). There are also large tabular collections of car data at the Steam Era Freight Car site (see: ).
     I have shown these two cars just to illustrate the need to determine correct details, not because of any great intrinsic importance of the particular models, and both happened to cross my workbench recently.
Tony Thompson

Monday, April 2, 2012

Helium cars, Part 1

There have always been modelers’ jokes about helium cars, all the way from “what’s with the carload of torpedoes,” to the creaky old saw, “it’s lighter full than empty” (not close to true, by the way). And some modelers seem to think that helium cars were as rare as hen’s teeth on the prototype. But helium had a number of aerospace uses, starting with U.S. Navy blimps for coastal patrol work, and much more extensively in rocket engine and experimental science work. Since there were a number of aerospace facilities in California after World War II, the helium car is actually a realistic and characteristic freight car for modelers of any west-coast railroad and certainly the Southern Pacific.
     The “torpedoes” are in fact high-pressure tanks. The helium is shipped under considerable pressure (3000 to 4000 pounds per square inch), and the thick-walled tanks (30 in number in most of the helium cars) added up to a very substantial weight, around 235,000 pounds, an extremely heavy car in the 1950s. Many of the cars still exist, some at museums; a number were still in service just a couple of years ago (helium is still used for several purposes at Cape Canaveral).
     Most helium in the U.S. is found in natural-gas fields in the Texas-Oklahoma Panhandle region, and thus is shipped from there to wherever it is needed. Originally helium extraction and sale was controlled by the federal government for Navy use. Major plants were located on the Santa Fe and the Rock Island. A listing of the principal plants, and some of the major destinations, is included in the Jay Miller web page cited just below. Today, however, the federal government is no longer the supplier of the helium.
     There are a number of resources on this topic; I especially recommend the sensible and complete summary page prepared by Jay Miller for the website of the Santa Fe Historical & Modeling Society. It can be viewed at: . At that site you can also download a copy of Jay’s clinic handout. Jay includes a 1953 photo of car 1019 as it was at that time (perfect, of course, for me, since it matches my own modeling year). Here is that image:

The car is lettered for the U.S. Navy, reporting mark USNX, and at that time all the cars in service were Navy-owned.
     The large doors at the A end of the car provided access to the fittings on the end of each tank. Here is an unloading view of that area with doors open.

In 1955, the Navy turned over most of the fleet to the Bureau of Mines, Department of the Interior, with some cars going to the Atomic Energy Commission. The Bureau of Mines, under the title “Mines Helium Activity” or MHA, continued to produce and ship helium, now in cars with the perhaps obvious reporting marks MHAX. The cars were also repainted from their former Navy gray to silver within a few years after the handover.
     There have been three models of these cars in HO scale, to my knowledge. First was the Ambroid “One of 5000” kits, second series, which of course was a wood model with all the finishing challenges of any wood kit for a steel car, and the tanks looked like sharpened pencils. The side bracing was wood channel shapes with no rivets, and details were crude by today’s standards, though considered good when the model was released in the early 1960s. The kit could certainly be upgraded.
     The second model was the AHM plastic car. Instead of the later 45-foot length, AHM delivered a 40-foot car (correct for 1942-built cars) and used their standard 50-ton car trucks under it, but much of the detailing was far superior to the Ambroid version, with a very reasonable representation of the complex ends, even though the side and top framing is cast on rather than see-through.
     Lastly, Pecos River Brass did a brass version of these cars, but they chose a 1961-built Magor car as their prototype. It does look very much like the older cars but differs in some details. So all three models contain real compromises for a 1950s modeler, and any would have to be considered a stand-in.
     Contemplating these three models, the interesting challenge is the AHM car. It does offer a reasonable starting point for a “mainline” car, despite its cast-on details. When AHM sold these, they were often molded or painted in dramatic colors, such as New York Central bright green. This view of the box end shows the four railroad names offered, none of which were prototypical.

Here is the SP-lettered car I found at an auction, missing its running board (which is no loss). The model of course has no relation to any actual SP car.

The car for my era should be gray and have a wood running board and Ajax hand brakes. The model’s usual AHM “Talgo” trucks go into the trash–well, not quite yet, as their journal box covers are salvaged, see below–and the underframe is modified to receive proper trucks and couplers, as described in a previous post (see: ).
     Another issue to be resolved is the car weight. These cars come with a thin sheet steel weight, as shown here; this weighs only three-fourths of an ounce, and leaves the car seriously underweight.

I simply removed the weight, bent it in half and hammered it flat. This was attached to the center of the interior floor with model airplane canopy cement (excellent for joining dissimilar materials), and then I added a 5/8-inch steel nut, which weighs about one ounce, bringing car weight up to 3-3/4 ounces. Since the recommended NMRA car weight is 4 ounces for a 40-foot car, I think it’s close enough.
     Trucks are a challenge. The car really is a 100-ton car, and trucks of that type (larger journals, for one thing) are uncommon. Here is a view of a helium car which stood on a siding in Oakland, California (on the siding of Pacific Oxygen Company on West Grand Avenue) for many years, still with “period” solid-bearing trucks. The photo was taken by John Rodgers.

These trucks are remarkable in some ways: they are Andrews-design 100-ton trucks with triple spring groups, and have extensions at each end to support the clasp brake shoes (brake shoes on both sides of the wheel) needed for adequate braking of these very heavy cars.
     In later years, the cars still in service naturally got roller-bearing trucks, and here is an image taken by Gene Martin at Vandenberg AFB about 1970, showing a similar-design truck but of a more modern one-piece sideframe design. (The Jay Miller handout mentioned above has considerable information on trucks.)

In both photos, incidentally, the black-painted end sill can be seen (I will address paint and lettering in Part 2 on this topic).
     The modern trucks in particular will suggest to modelers the truck produced by Model Die Casting for their model of the SP Class G-100-1 ore gondolas, which also had the protruding “horns” at each end for clasp brakes on the 100-ton cars. It also has the triple spring groups and is thus attractive for conversion to this car’s trucks.
     You can do the conversion this way. First, slice off the roller-bearing caps with a hobby knife, then slice off the plain-bearing journal box covers from the car’s original trucks that you’re throwing away (or some other snap-in truck, if your helium car came with roller-bearing trucks). File mating surfaces flat, and attach the new box cover with CA or canopy cement (styrene cement won’t work on Delrin). Then mock up the Andrews tie bar with a piece of styrene scale 1 x 4 or 1 x 6, again using CA. The result isn’t exact but it looks about right (not yet repainted):

     That completes what I want to describe for Part 1 of this topic. I will continue with completion of the modeled car in Part 2.
Tony Thompson