Monday, January 29, 2018

The Bay Area Layout Design and Operation Weekend

The title of this post is the official name of what we usually call the “LDSIG/OpSIG meeting,” because it’s effectively hosted by the local adherents of the Layout Design and Operations SIGs (Special Interest Groups) of NMRA, and it’s always held on the football-deficient weekend before the Super Bowl. It’s been organized and run for years by Seth Neumann and David Parks, with help from a number of the usual Bay Area suspects and some from farther away, such as Bruce Morden. It normally comprises a Saturday of clinic presentations, with layout tours on both Friday and Saturday nights, and operating sessions on Sunday. Typical attendance has been around 100 people. I have posted before about this event, including a description of last year’s version (you can see it at: ).
     I was among the four speakers at the Saturday session, presenting a new talk about modeling traffic on the layout. This talk called for a moderately extensive amount of facts to be cited, so I prepared an electronic handout. That of course was the reason for my post on January 26, which can be found at: .
     This year, I hosted a Saturday evening open house for my layout, as I have done in previous years when the Saturday meeting was in the East Bay, for convenience of travel (you can read an earlier post about hosting an open house, at: ). This year, I think about 30 people came by, though I didn’t really count them. I always enjoy this kind of face-to-face meeting with visitors, because I can answer their questions directly, and can readily discuss layout examples.
     I also hosted a Sunday operating session. One never knows who has requested a slot to operate on your layout, and sometimes it may include someone with minimal operating experience. When that’s the case, a layout owner may wish to simplify or reduce the work load of the operators; but of course, if they turn out to be fully experienced people, they will not only be a little bored but will finish work fairly quickly. I decided not to simplify my normal session significantly, and luckily, the people assigned to operate were all experienced, and pretty much breezed through the session.
     Two of the operators were Al Daumann, who has operated on the layout before, and Ron Westlund, who you see in the photo below (Al is at left) setting up to start work at Ballard. The various cars visible in the photo all have waybills for work to be done, and Al is consulting the schematic map of Ballard in the timetable.

     The other pair of operators were Hilding Larson and Paul Deis, knowledgeable operators, who did an impressive amount of planning their work in each town, and then pretty rapidly carried it out with few false moves. Here they are (Hilding at left), sorting cars at Shumala.

     After each crew completes work in the town where they started, the local freight returns from Ballard with all its pickups, to the junction at Shumala, where crews usually choose to trade jobs. That way, both crews get to work both sides of the layout. In the second half of this session, the crews did exchange jobs, and here are Al and Ron doing their turn at Shumala.

     As often happens, I marvel at the creative solutions people have to particular switching challenges. In several sessions, including this one, I have seen switching moves I have never seen before (and would not have thought of myself), but they all get the job done. Makes it fun to watch a session.
     The session went pretty well, meaning that hardly any gremlins of significance reared their ugly heads. I did find a disconnected wire (which had been connected all right when I tested the previous evening!) but these things are pretty easy to fix. There were a few small confusions on switching procedures, probably due to my insufficient explanation of what was intended, so that can be cleared up the next time the layout is operated.
     This annual weekend event is always well organized, well run, and entirely enjoyable. The success this year just confirms the pattern. I look forward every year to this meeting, and am more than happy to contribute my bit when I can.
Tony Thompson

Friday, January 26, 2018

Handout for traffic talk

This handout is for a new clinic presentation about prototype traffic and how to model it. A major part of the handout is the references to the various published articles and books mentioned in the talk, along with a few links to prior posts in this blog on related topics.
     No, this clinic isn't about waybills (except in passing). It's about freight traffic, and the point is that the needs of traffic give rise to waybills, not the other way around. To create realistic traffic flow on a layout, the starting point is understanding each layout industry, then creating traffic patterns to serve each industry's needs. One can then add as much detail as desired, drawn from knowledge of each industry type, and resources to do so are described. Examples from a wide range of industries are included as illustrations. 
     One source of information emphasized in the talk is the four Kalmbach volumes by Jeff Wilson, a series entitled Industries Along the Tracks. Complete citations for the four books are given in the bibliography below under the author’s name (Wilson). Here are the four covers.

Listed next are the contents or topics included in each volume, six topics in every case.

Vol. 1: grain, petroleum, coal mining, automotive, produce, livestock
Vol. 2: coal customers, milk & dairy, breweries, paper, iron ore, package & LCL
Vol. 3: ethanol, cement, sugar beets, canning, trailers & containers, team tracks and transloading
Vol. 4: salt mining, coal gas, brickyards, quarries, lumber, waterfront ops

      There are a fair number of other publications referenced or recommended in the course of the talk. Citations of all of them are listed below. Many of these books are out of print, but are readily available used from a wide range of on-line booksellers.
     Several of the topics touched on in the presentation have been the subject of multi-part threads in this blog. Starting-point links to the various posts are given below as part of the bibliography.
     This has been an interesting clinic to assemble, and as readers of this blog will know, it draws on and expands a number of previous posts developed for the blog. It’s a new development to combine the various parts into a single talk. Hopefully it proves interesting and useful to those who attend it.
Tony Thompson


Amfahr, Mark, “Bay Area Auto Shipments in the Postwar Years,” The Streamliner (magazine of the Union Pacific Historical Society), issue for Spring 2016.

Armstrong, John H., The Railroad–: What It Is, What It Does (Chapter 8, Railroad Operations), Simmons-Boardman Publishing, Omaha, 1982. [there are several subsequent editions with updates; the original is closest in time to the era I model]

Chubb, Bruce, How to Operate Your Model Railroad, Kalmbach, Milwaukee, 1977.

Coughlin, E.W., Freight Car Distribution and Handling in the United States, Car Service Division, Association of American Railroads, Washington, 1956.

Ellison, Frank, “The Art of Model Railroading, Part 6,” Model Railroader, August 1944, pp. 342–347; reprinted as “The Art of Operation” in Model Railroader, January 1965, pp. 52–55.

Frailey, Fred W., Blue Streak Merchandise, Kalmbach Books, Waukesha, WI, 1991.

Koester, Tony, Realistic Model Railroad Operation, Kalmbach, Waukesha, WI, 2003 (2nd edition, 2013).

Mallery, Paul, The Complete Handbook of Model Railroad Operations, TAB Books, Blue Ridge Summit, PA, 1979, esp. Chapter 7, pp. 133–174.

Million, Arthur B., and Paton, John C., The Pere Marquette Revenue Freight Cars, Hundman Publishing, Mukilteo, WA, 2001.

Sagle, Lawrence W., Freight Cars Rolling, Simmons-Boardman, New York, 1960.

Sebastian-Coleman, Laura (editor), America’s Driving Force, Walthers, Milwaukee, 1998.

Thompson, Anthony W., Church, Robert J., and Jones, Bruce H., Pacific Fruit Express (2nd edition), Signature Press, Berkeley and Wilton, CA, 2000.

Thompson, Anthony, Southern Pacific Freight Cars, Volume 3, Automobile Cars and Flat Cars, Signature Press, Berkeley and Wilton, CA, 2004; see also Volume 4, Box Cars, Signature Press, 2006.

Thompson, Anthony, “Freight Car Handling and Distribution,” The Dispatcher’s Office, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 28–31, October 2011.
  [correct version available at: ]

Thompson, Tony, “Operations: Demand-based car flow,” blog post, 7 November 2011, three-part series; see for example:

Thompson, Tony, “Modeling a Bulk Oil Dealer,” Getting Real column, Model Railroad Hobbyist, issue for March 2014.  (always available for free at: )

Thompson, Tony, Seasonality of Produce Shipping, see for example: and also summarized recently in Model Railroad Hobbyist for January 2018. (always available for free at: )

Union Pacific, Official Freight Shipper Guide and Directory, UP, 1938. This and about a dozen others are available from Rails Unlimited, as you can see on their web site, .

Wilson, Jeff, The Model Railroader’s Guide to Industries Along the Tracks, Kalmbach Books, Waukesha, WI. Volume 1, 2004; Volume 2, 2006; Volume 3, 2008; Volume 4, 2010.

Wilson, Jeff, Railroading and the Automobile Industry, Kalmbach Books,  Waukesha, WI, 2019.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Auto industry traffic, Part 6

In previous series posts, I described some background on the auto industry itself, emphasizing the importance of rail shipping of auto parts to decentralized assembly plants in the transition era, along with some information on the permanent equipment in both auto parts and set-up automobile cars. I also have included some photos of model cars in the fleet I am developing to handle auto industry traffic on my layout. Links to the first four posts in the series can be found in the post that preceded the present post, Part 5 (here is a link to it: ).
     In some of the previous posts, I have mentioned valuable sources of information about auto traffic. Here I want to mention one more, a superb example of a compact yet complete description of one railroad’s freight car fleet. I refer to the book entitled The Pere Marquette Revenue Freight Cars, published by Hundman Publishing in 2001.

Authors Arthur Million and John Paton have done an outstanding job in these 170 pages. I have said myself, and have heard others say, “If only we had a book like this for lots of railroads!” It is simply an outstanding work.
     Of interest to the present topic is the assignments of cars to auto parts service, an important traffic segment for the Pere Marquette, which served many of the auto centers. And of course it is valuable to have good photographs of the car groups too, for modeling purposes. But I want to show some of the assignment data. For example, this table from page 78, which is primarily about renumbered car groups, but also includes assigned service:

Or this portion of the footnotes to a table on page 160, part of a summary of all PM box car classes in an appendix, showing assignments:

     There is also, of course, considerable photographic information about the Pere Marquette car fleet, usually including excellent side and end views. For example, the 50-foot cars of PM 72125–72199 wre built in 1941 with Viking corrugated roofs and end doors, as seen here on page 131 (you can click to enlarge). Note also that ends were painted black.

     As many modelers will recognize, the side view was used, without question, by Athearn to decorate one of the Blue Box 50-foot automobile car models. The Athearn model, of course, has a panel roof, not Viking, does not have an end door, and the B-end is not a W-corner post end, as the prototype had. But it can serve as a stand-in. Here is a side view.

The car has been upgraded with wire grab irons, new wood running board, and door “claws” cut off, so that appearance is at least somewhat improved.
     By the way, I have mentioned a number of times in previous blogs, that the Athearn Blue Box 50-foot automobile car curiously has an incorrect number of roof panels, twelve where there should be 13. How this happened can be speculated about, but the really odd aspect is that the predecessor automobile car model in the Athearn line, the all-metal kit, did have the correct 13 roof panels. The photo below shows the plastic 50-foot Athearn car at center, with its 12 panels. Below it is the Athearn metal car roof, and above it a Proto2000 model, both with correct 13 panels. As my good friend Richard Hendrickson would say in this situation, “go figure.”

But as I have said several places, the Athearn Blue Box models have so  many shortcomings that only a masochist would replace the roof. Either you use it as a stand-in, as I do, or you discard it.
     I continue to seek information on auto traffic car assignments so I can better model traffic with the car fleet I already have, as well as becoming aware of additional cars I might need to represent this traffic on the SP main line on my layout.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Another good Shipper Guide

In previous posts, I have referred several times to railroad documents called Shipper Guides or Industrial Directories. Especially in preparing waybills, these documents are of great value, as shown, for example, in this post:, and in following posts showing additional guides as they were reprinted: . Sometimes these documents can be found at libraries or archives, though you may have to have a long discussion with the librarian for them to understand what you are looking for. I gave the example of a Western Pacific guide in a recent post (you can see it at ).
     In my own collection at present, I am using the reprinted Shipper Guides for Rock Island, D&RGW, UP, WP, Mopac, T&P, New York Central, Pennsylvania, GN, and Milwaukee Road. All these are available through Rails Unlimited (website: ), and there are still more available there, such as New Haven. Recently I attended the 2018 renewal of the Cocoa Beach, Florida meeting called Prototype Rails, and purchased yet one more Guide, a Directory of Industries for the Chicago Switching District. Here is the cover:

Like many of the reprinted guides, this is part of a tariff series. It’s a 125-page book, and like many of the Rails Unlimited reprints, costs $29.95. In my opinion, it is a true bargain at that price, considering the astonishing density of information inside.
     A person might think, “Well, this is just one city, Chicago,” and in one sense, that is correct. But I would make two points in response. First of all, the listings cover 35 railroads which served the Chicago area in 1956, the date of this Guide. Second, this Switching District was a reciprocal switching district for the most part, an arrangement I have described in prior posts (I say “for the most part,” because a few sidings are listed as not in the reciprocal agreement, under a reference mark 2, which states “will not switch for connecting lines”). My two posts about reciprocal switching can be found at the following links;

     To illustrate the richness of information, I show below page 78 from this guide, chosen pretty much at random. Note the variety of railroads listed down the right-hand column, and note also the several instances of the number 2 in a circle, which is the reference mark described above. (You can click to enlarge.)

     This is actually one of the most informative Shipper Guides I have, just because Chicago was such a powerhouse industrial city, and both shipped and received so many products at so many industrial sidings. Using a Guide like this will greatly enrich your database of industries to use in filling out waybills for your layout.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Produce shipping boxes, Part 8

In this series of posts about the shipping boxes used for various kinds of produce, I have shown information for the range of box sizes and shapes of prototype boxes for a wide range of produce in my era (see that post at: ). I have also discussed model boxes, both individual boxes and stacks; and have devoted some space to description of modifying prototype labels for use on my layout. Those posts are easily found by using the series title, “produce shipping boxes,” as the search term in the search box at the top right of this page.
     I now want to show one last example of modifying a produce box label, because it is one that I think does not work — as I decided after I had done  all the work. Here is the original, a striking if somewhat old-fashioned image:

Once again, it was easy to remove the Collins Fruit Co. packing house name and substitute the name of my layout fruit company:

Looks nice, I thought. But when reduced to HO scale and assembled into a stack, the colors are just too pale and uniform. You can see that in the grouping below, though this image is not as small as the HO version.

I decided to go ahead and make a stack with these labels, just for variety, but this particular label really does not do what I wanted. You can see below that my expectation, that the color and pattern were simply too subdued, is fully borne out when the stack is in place on the Guadalupe Fruit Company loading dock.

     Finally, I want to show one last example of a label which can readily be used in model form, but one which needs no modification to its lettering (I’ll explain why below). This one also is from an original in my collection, and has considerable generality in its broad term “vegetables,” instead of naming a particular vegetable.

Some brokers and wholesalers maintained their own brand names, and would arrange to have their labels applied at the packing shed. So a label like this, for a Los Angeles distributor, could well show up on loading docks in growing areas. I will probably make a stack of model boxes with this label.
     As I progress with my box projects, as I have been describing in this series of posts, I continue to try and create realistic loading dock details. These shipping box labels are only part of what is needed for those realistic details.
Tony Thompson

Monday, January 15, 2018

Auto industry traffic, Part 5

This topic of auto industry traffic is a significant one for most of the United States in the transition era, because auto parts moved in all directions (primarily from the upper Midwest) to assembly plants all over the U.S., and assembled automobiles moved, to a significant degree by rail, from those assembly plants, not only to their immediate region, but for specialized or less numerous models such as convertibles, perhaps from quite distant plants to a particular area.
     I began my thread on this topic with a general traffic description, along with sources of  information, in a Part 1, and followed that up with sample waybills for such traffic, in Part 2. Both these posts can be readily reached from Part 3, which described the prototype equipment inside auto-industry cars, and it can be found at this link: . Then in Part 4, I showed a selection of the model cars that are part of my fleet handling auto-industry traffic (see it here: ).
    One immediate question that modelers ask is, which railroad’s cars would be carrying this traffic? By my modeling year, 1953, auto traffic pools were formalized and well established, with the railroads along each route agreeing (in most cases) to supply cars to each pool, in proportion to the percentage of the route’s miles on each railroad. Sometimes a railroad would decline to participate; I have a copy of a Southern Pacific memo mentioning that the CB&Q had declined to participate in a pool which moved over their lines. No reason was given.
     This description of how most pools were formed makes it obvious that in the Far West, you would certainly expect to see SP, UP, and Santa Fe cars among the auto traffic, because they served the Western end of the routes. But what about other roads? Here is a most informative sample of traffic moving to northern California plants (I’ll describe the source in a moment):

These data are from several 1951 and 1956 trains, perfect for my use. This graph comes from a superb article by Mark Amfahr, entitled “Bay Area Auto Shipments in the Postwar Years,” which appeared in The Streamliner (magazine of the Union Pacific Historical Society), issue for Spring 2016.
     First, many railroads had pieces of multiple pools, so you could not necessarily guess which automobile company’s parts were in a car. But there were exceptions. The DT&I served Ford’s immense River Rouge plant outside Detroit, and typically interchanged cars to the Wabash for westward movement, making those two roads prominent in Ford traffic pools. On the other hand, both NYC and PRR predominantly served GM plants, and many GM parts moved over Illinois Central and Rock Island, while Ford parts moved heavily on Santa Fe. These details are found elsewhere in that issue of The Streamliner. and elsewhere (see Part 1).
     One sub-topic in this subject is the locations from which assembled vehicles might be moved to the Far West. Of course the primary such location is the “home” plants in Michigan for all the auto makers. But there were a number of major assembly plants closer to California. For example, Kansas City was home both to a major Ford plant (primarily assembling pickup trucks), called “Kansas City Assembly,” and a General Motors plant called “Fairfax Assembly,” under the Buick-Oldsmobile Pontiac Assembly Division.
     In the period I model, General Motors had introduced two separate management structures for its assembly plants, called either Chevrolet, or else Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac, abbreviated B-O-P. But this description only identified the plant management, and a particular plant did not exclusively assemble the vehicles implied by its management name. A B-O-P plant could assemble Chevrolets, and vice versa. The terminology, then, does not tell you what a particular plant would assemble.
     Information like this is readily accessible via Google or other search engines. Any city or region in which you are interested can be easily investigated for dates and locations of auto assembly plants.
     Now I will turn to some of the model cars in my auto-traffic fleet. Having shown a Wabash 40-foot double-door with wood sheathing, typically used in auto parts service, here is a similar car, except for being all steel. It is SP Class A-50-13, and was built from a Sunshine resin kit. The prototype car was built in 1936, but the model paint scheme depicts a postwar repaint.

     Cars of the 40-foot length were also used for set-up automobiles, and when equipped with auto loading racks, naturally had the white door stripe. The model shown below was converted from a Trix styrene model by Richard Hendrickson.

     There were also 40-foot cars used for auto parts, which also had end doors. These simplified loading, as the large end door allowed full access to the entire interior, and it could be loaded from the B  end through to the A end without having to allow space at the side door location to facilitate unloading. This 1930-built car is interesting because of its radial roof and relatively low height, no problem for the heavier range of auto parts. The model was built from a Yankee Clipper resin kit.

Incidentally, the Pere Marquette, which had been controlled by C&O since 1928, also received essentially identical cars to this C&O car in 1930. It should be remembered that the PM and its extensive network of trackage in Michigan was C&O’s connection to auto industry traffic at its most prolific sources in Michigan. In 1947, PM would be merged entirely into C&O. I will have more to say about PM in a future post.
     Though not mentioned yet, there were significant numbers of 50-foot double-door cars equipped with end doors, for truly bulky cargo, such as highway trucks and buses. Such cars usually had the same kinds of chain tie-down equipment as auto rack cars, but usually without the racks. An example from my fleet is this Santa Fe Class FE-23 car, rebuilt in 1941 from an FE-S car with new steel roof and sides, and a pair of end doors. The model was given to me by Richard Hendrickson, and has a “return when empty” notice for the Rock Island at St. Joseph, Missouri, signaling pool service.

     One car type not yet mentioned is the car for frame loading, either a flat car or a gondola. Here is an example, one of Santa Fe’s War Emergency gondolas, with a frame rack in place.

     The variety of freight cars used in automobile industry traffic was considerable, as I hope I have illustrated in this series of posts. I intend to offer one more post, addressing additional sources of information about this traffic.
Tony Thompson

Friday, January 12, 2018

Cocoa Beach 2018

Last week the 17th running of the Prototype Rails meeting at Cocoa Beach, Florida was convened. It was hosted and managed, as always, by Mike Brock, ably assisted by Marty Magregian and Scott Dam, and of course program chief Jeff Aley, who also serves as audio-visual troubleshooter. Registration remained at $35. As always, it is pleasant to travel to Florida in January, though this year, outdoor temperatures hovered in the 50s. More important, at least to me, was the indoor activities, which were really excellent this year. And despite severe winter weather in some parts of the East, attendance still exceeded 240, typical of good years at Cocoa Beach.
     The hotel ballroom is mostly given over to vendors and modular layouts, and as always, there tends to be a considerable crowd examining the wares for sale. Among the vendors unable to attend due to weather were Funaro & Camerlengo, but partly making up for it was Ted Schnepf’s Rails Unlimited sales tables. In the photo below, that’s Ted in the orange shirt at far right.

The model display tables are a never-failing attraction in one end of the ballroom, and this year was no exception. As he often does, Bruce Smith brought really a big group of models, centered on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Bruce’s modeling era is during World War II, which makes many of his models quite interesting. Here is an overview:

     Another nice group of models was brought by Lance Mindheim, two locomotives of different eras, of the Los Angeles Junction Railway, complete with photos of the prototypes:

     The clinic program this year was outstanding. I won’t go into detail about the whole program (you can see it on-line at: ), but will mention a couple of points. First, it is becoming common for speakers to put their “handout” on the internet instead of in paper form. This permits larger handouts without large copying expense, permits far better photo reproduction than Xerox, and allows live links to other sources of on-line information. One who did so was Tom Madden, in an excellent talk entitled, “All Heavyweight Pullmans do NOT look alike!!” Here is his (fairly typical) screen with the handout URL:

     The clinic I probably liked best was Al Brown’s talk about kitbashing and scratchbuilding an “unusual tank car.” As often happens, it began with an intriguing prototype photo, and Al set out to try and model it. It ended up comprising a shortened Tichy tank with Tangent domes, a resin underframe from a Southern Car & Foundry kit, and a variety of details, including Owl Mountain elbow safety valves. I hope Al will publish his informative account of how all this came together. Here is the model (not yet lettered):

The prototype had had its original center dome removed, leaving the riveted collar, and was divided into two compartments with new domes. You can see that Al’s model captures this.
     Lastly, I want to observe that even with chilly, windy weather, the magnificent ocean beach is still out there at the back of the hotel. Always worth at least a short stroll, even it you need a coat.

     M own feeling this year is that it was among the very best Prototype Rails meetings I can remember, and I have only missed one of them since their inception. Comparisons aren’t too  meaningful, but in the past I have always said that Cocoa Beach is a close second to the former Naperville (now Chicagoland) meeting, if considered as a kind of “Freight Car National.” This year I pretty much think that Cocoa has caught up to Chicagoland. And what could be better? That means we have two great meetings concentrating on prototype modeling to choose from! If you’ve never been to one of them, I’m sure you would enjoy attending either one.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Auto industry traffic, Part 4: model cars

In previous posts in this series, I described some resources for information about the rail traffic of the automobile industry, and showed specific information about assembly plants in California, along with information on auto parts companies; I supplemented that with a following post about waybills. Links to both those posts are in Part 3 (you can see that post at: ), which dealt with the hardware inside prototype cars that carried set-up automobiles or auto parts.
     In this post, I want to show examples drawn from the model car fleet I use to try and represent this traffic on my layout. I have described elsewhere the Southern Pacific trains that handled traffic of this kind on the Coast Route (see my post at: ).
     For this summary, I’ll begin with a fairly conventional 50-foot CNW automobile car of AAR Class XMR, with its characteristic white door stripe; the model was built from a Sunshine resin kit.

This kind of car, whether 40 feet long or 50 feet long, carried set-up automobiles. As an illustration of this, shown below is an Allen DeLay photo from the Portland Oregonian newspaper, showing 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air sedans being unloaded in Portland.

     But a great deal of auto industry traffic was in the form of auto parts moving to assembly plants around the country. Many such loads traveled in 50-foot double-door cars, but of course without the distinguishing door stripes signifying automobile racks, such as this DT&I car (an ancient Athearn metal round-roof model) in AAR Class XAP:

The football-shaped emblem at the left of the doors reads, “auto parts loading only – racks – return empty to Detroit.”
     Many railroads purchased batches of 50-foot single-door cars specifically for auto parts. Their 8-foot doors facilitated use of forklift trucks for loading and unloading. Southern Pacific was no exception, beginning with the 1941-built Class B-50-22, shown here as a Proto2000 model:

     But plenty of cars in auto parts service were 40-foot cars. Some railroads with substantial auto parts traffic, like Wabash, operated wood-sheathed cars well into the diesel era, such as this car, an Overland brass model:

Some railroads, including SP, even assigned groups of 40-foot cars with single 6-foot doors to auto parts service (presumably ones not requiring fork lift trucks for loading or unloading). For example, when SP rebuilt 600 or so of its USRA box cars, originally Class B-50-12, with new steel sides and roofs, reclassified B-50-12-A, the cars also got an additional floor stringer on each side of the center sill, described as a modification for auto parts use. Their narrow doors not being suitable for handling parts racks, most were AAR Class XM, rather than XAP, though they were carrying auto parts. Here is a photo of such a car, modeled with a Challenger brass car:

This car runs in my mainline trains with the other cars in the auto-parts cuts. Note the inset side sill, typical of cars rebuilt from single-sheathed originals.
     This is not the entirety of model car types that I use for my auto parts trains, but will suffice for now. I will add additional cars in a future post. More importantly, I will be adding some information about which railroad’s cars to include, and how I know.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Should open-top loads be removable or not?

I have shown examples over the years in this blog of a wide variety of removable loads for open-top cars, and have long believed that wherever possible, loads ought to be made removable. The simple reason is so that a car can operate both loaded and empty, in the sequence of layout operating sessions. The first real challenge to that approach came from the group of really excellent open-top cars with permanent loads that I inherited from Richard Hendrickson (you can see a selection of these loads in this post: , as well as links to related posts).
     But before I address “permanent” loads,  I should emphasize that the great majority of my open-top car loads are removable. Both for bulk materials like ballast, coal and ore, and multi-piece loads such as lumber, structural steel, or pipe, it is easy to design and build removable loads.
     An example is pipe loads in gondolas (see the method of making them at: ). Shown below is one of the loads shown in that post, at Shumala on my layout. I mentioned lumber, too, and this photo also shows a removable load of lumber in a gondola. Lumber in gondolas actually represents pretty common SP practice — probably when there weren’t enough flat cars — as was often the case.

     Some time back, I built a white metal Stewart kit for a Euclid scraper, and in preparation for using it as a load, showed the AAR loading diagram for that vehicle type on a flat car (that post is at: ). I then added the needed chocks to the scraper, and added a crate for spare parts, etc. It then looked like this:

Note that all load-restraint elements are attached to the vehicle, and are thus independent of the railcar; likewise the cleats on the crate. So when in action on the layout, this load can ride on any chosen flat car. The photo below shows it on an SP flat car in my layout town of Ballard.

     But some loads have sufficiently complex tie-downs, or are sufficiently delicate, that they really have to be permanent. A good example is this model, given to me by Richard Hendrickson, of a load of automobile frames.

The frame rack, and all the frames, are such that it does not seem like a good idea to be inserting and removing them all the time from gondolas.
     So I have come around to the idea that some of my open-top freight cars, with their permanent loads, can serve effectively on the layout without being capable of an empty move. That especially applies to cars like the Pere Marquette frame gondola just shown, because it will only operate in through trains on my Coast Route main line, not on my Santa Rosalia Branch.
    I guess this acceptance of a few permanent loads does in turn open up the possibility that I can plan other permanent loads, even for freight cargoes on my branch — though I still prefer removable loads in most cases! I just won’t continue to insist on them for everything.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New handout on weathering

Six years or seven ago, Richard Hendrickson and I put together a clinic with the title, “Weathering Transition-era Freight Cars.” I have organized a new version to modernize and update that clinic (it will be presented this week at Cocoa Beach and, later, at other meetings). But the point of the clinic remains the same. Making freight car models more or less weathered and dirty, as appropriate for each case, is essential for prototypical realism. The clinic emphasizes that there are a wide range of techniques for weathering, and to a significant extent, these are summarized in the Reference Pages shown as links at the top right of this blog page.
     Several quite different approaches, all of which work very well, are presented and illustrated in the reference pages, and are given updated illustrations in the clinic. These can be used singly or together, and viewers were encouraged to develop their own combination of techniques for weathering models realistically. The present blog post is intended to guide readers to past posts in this blog about the content of the clinic (other than the Reference Pages).
      One of the techniques explored in more depth in the new clinic is the use of artist’s colored pencils, both for varying individual board colors in wood-sheathed cars, car floors, or wood running boards, but also for overall weathering of entire cars. A recent post on the basic approach with these pencils is at this link: . An earlier post about just the running board aspect is here: .
     The original clinic had an abbreviated handout, just a single page, collecting together the various tools and materials illustrated in the clinic. In light of the various changes in the current clinic, that handout has been edited and updated. Here is the new single-page handout, as an image you can read here (you can click to enlarge it) or download from: .

     Last summer, I wrote a post about the very interesting rust decals from Weathering Solutions. This post can be found at: . These are mostly suitable for much more modern rolling stock, but some sheets of the decals are quite usable, as I showed in the blog post just cited.
     I hope these brief update comments help guide understanding of weathering approaches, while also serving to make available a handout (and some links to relevant blog posts of the past) for this new clinic.
Tony Thompson