Sunday, April 28, 2019

Another PFE Class R-30-16, Part 2

This post continues a description of building a Terry Wegmann / Red Caboose kit for PFE’s Class R-30-16 rebuilt refrigerator cars. The previous post presented the early steps to construct one of these kits, with some particular goals in mind for the completed model (you can read it at: ).
     The R-30-16 class is very interesting historically, as the first of the PFE rebuild classes in which the superstructure was steel-framed, though retaining wood sheathing on the outside. It also was the first rebuilt class with a “solid steel roof” (the PFE term), which is the vital addition that Terry Wegmann created for this kit. And finally, with 3554 cars in the class, it is not only ne of the larger PFE rebuild classes, but a survivor too, with 3400 cars still in service in January 1953. Since I model 1953, it was essential for me to add another model of this class, as I mentioned in the prior post.
     In the previous post (link provided in the first paragraph of the present post), the car body had been assembled and painted Daylight Orange. I now built up all the details on the kit ends. One thing to choose here is what kind of handbrake would be used. On its rebuilds, PFE often used Equipco power handbrakes, though not always. Shown below is an E.R. Mohr photo of two PFE cars at Salinas, California in 1958 or 1959, with the nearer car being a member of Class R-30-16 and providing a good view of its Equipco hand brake. (You can click on this image to enlarge it if you wish.)

Note, incidentally, that after PFE ceased washing its cars in the early 1950s, that they became rather dirty in a few years. Show this photo to anyone who thinks your weathering is “overdone.”
     Modeling this handbrake well is easy today, because we have the superb Kadee rendition of this brake wheel in HO scale. Below is my kit end with details added, including the Kadee hand wheel.

     I also decided to letter the car body while it was still unassembled. This is a particular advantage for car ends, because the separate end can be laid down flat on the workbench (as you see it above), instead of having to stand the car model on its end to apply decals.
     I next turned my attention to the roof filler strips at the ends. The stock Wegmann roof leaves a gap at the top of the car end, which has to be filled. The kit contains a piece of 0.040 x 0.080-inch styrene strip. My previous experience is that the gap may not be exactly this size, as I mentioned in describing a previous R-30-16 build (you can see that description at: ). In that previous build, I filed the roof so that the 0.040 x 0.080 strip would fit at both ends. In the present build, I used the 0.040 x 0.080 strip at one end, and two pieces of 0.015 x 0.080 strip at the other — in other words, the gap at that end was actually 0.030 x 0.080 inches.
     With the body in its correct Daylight Orange color, it was time for decals. True to the comments I made recently about PFE lettering (you can read post at this link: ), I used Microscale set 87-501 in the current version with Dick Harley’s excellent, recent artwork upgrading this set from older versions.

The 7-inch end lettering was applied, as it was still standard for wood-sheathed cars with wood ends in 1950.
     In the photo above, the fully lettered car is still on its interim truck support blocks but is otherwise ready to be weathered (I weather truck sideframes at the same time as the rest of the model). When first rebuilt, this class of cars largely retained their original T-section trucks, but as deadlines approached to remove these from service, more and more PFE cars got conventional AAR trucks. My model was equipped that way.
     All that really remains at this point is to weather the car, add some suitable chalk marks and route cards, and make a fresh paint patch where the reweigh data can be placed. Here is the result of those steps, pictured alongside the loading dock of the Guadalupe Fruit Company in my layout town of Ballard. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)

     I now have two model PFE cars representing the 3554 cars of Class R-30-16. That’s a good start, but still falls short of my goal of having one model PFE car for every 1000 cars in the prototype PFE car fleet. Luckily I have one more of the Wegmann / Red Caboose car kits for this class, and one of these days, I will add that third -16 car to my fleet.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A yard entry signal

My layout models a branch line of the Southern Pacific (a mythical one), and does not have a yard in the usual sense. But yard-like work has to be done at the branch’s junction with the Coast Route main line, despite the limited trackage, and accordingly the junction town, Shumala, is located in yard limits. On the main line, these limits extend beyond the modeled portion on the layout, but only extend a short way on the branch itself. There is a yard limit sign at that point, as I described in an earlier post (you can view it at: ).
     On the prototype, yard limit rules permit any train or engine to enter the protected yard, operating at restricted speed and prepared to stop short of obstacles. (Rule 93 for yard limits was quoted in the post cited just above.)  But in some circumstances, including limited visibility into the yard, a number of railroads provided a signal indication at or  near yard limits, to inform train crews as to whether the entry track was clear. I decided to do the same.
     Since dwarf signals are often used in yard situations, I decided to use that type of signal. And since my layout models Southern Pacific, I wanted to use an SP-style signal. For an example of how Southern Pacific dwarf signals looked, one can consult the ample prototype photography that exists. Shown below is a detail of a Robert Hale photo at Lathrop, California, taken during the transfer of the through chair car from the Sacramento Daylight to the San Joaquin Daylight in 1955. (The power on No. 52 happens to be SP 4449.) The dwarf signal is located between the tracks.

(The Hale photo is from the M.D. McCarter collection.)
     My dwarf signal is intended to control entry to yard limits when arriving from the branch. I decided that the right location would be alongside the yard limit sign. I made up a level pad on the hillside slope below the tunnel that leads to the branch, as you can see at the lower center of the photo below. The yard limit sign is across the tracks from the pad.

     Digging around in my catalogs of detail parts, I found a perfectly appropriate model, a Century Foundry kit for a Union Switch and Signal dwarf. Here are front and back views of the kit package, showing how the signal is intended to look when assembled. The sketch of the assembled kit, right, looks just like the SP prototype shown in the photo at the top of this post.

This kit originally contained clear plastic rod, intended as a light pipe so that the signal could be illuminated. But in my layout situation, the signal is aimed into the tunnel, so that approaching train crews could see it. That in turn means that model railroad operators cannot see it. I will need to provide a signal repeater panel for operators.
     This signal kit is still available, in the Century line now owned by Showcase Miniatures. They have revised the kit so that LED lighting can be installed right in the signal body, instead of with a light pipe, and it is now identified as kit no. 2194. You can see it on their website if you’re interested (the relevant page is at: ). This is the package label.

     The Century Foundry kit is simple, with just four parts. I cleaned them up with a small file, and assembled them with CA. I then painted the signal, and its junction box, with silver paint, to suggest the usual SP practice of aluminum paint on such appliances. I added an Alexander battery vault cover, their part no. 3110. Below is shown the installation. Because it needs to be aimed into a curved tunnel, it is some ways from the track, instead of right alongside, as it would be for tangent track.

     To portray the signal more in layout context, I took a photo looking down the track toward the yard, with the yard limit sign on the right. This is about the view that could be obtained standing on the hillside next to the tunnel.

     As I mentioned, now that the signal is installed, I need to make a repeater panel for the layout fascia, so that arriving train crews have a signal indication without craning their necks to try and see the signal itself. That repeater installation will be described in a future post.
Tony Thompson

Monday, April 22, 2019

Panel-side hopper car, Part 2

In the previous post, I described some of the background to the rebuilding of United States Railroad Administration (USRA) hopper cars on the New York Central system. I always liked the look of hoppers rebuilt with the pressed-out side panels, and although my layout only has occasion to host hopper cars from time to time, I wanted to have such a model. That first post is at this link: .
     In that prior post, I showed the painted but unlettered Tichy panel-side hopper car that I had acquired. I now had a small dilemma. The largest group of NYC System cars converted with panel sides was the P&LE set of 1419 cars (described in the previous post), thus the likeliest to be seen off-line. But partly because there is a good Tichy decal set for the NYC cars, I leaned toward making my car an NYC car. After all, NYC had several groups of these cars, one of them comprising 250 or so cars.
     I went ahead and ordered Tichy decal set no. 10282. Its lettering is an excellent match to the 1933 appearance of the NYC panel-side car shown in the previous post. So before checking the history (no doubt you can see where this is going), I jumped in and decaled one side of my panel-side hopper.

This looks nice and I was enjoying how well it was turning out. Then, unfortunately (in one sense), I decided to check some background while waiting for the decals to be totally dry so I could do the other side of the model. I soon discovered some problems.
     By 1940, these cars were being renumbered into the 832100–832599 series, and before the end of World War II, there were no more cars remaining in the 416000-series numbers. Not only that, but the distinctive, spaced-out initials and car numbers in the scheme shown on the model above had been superseded by a more conventional NYC lettering arrangement.
     Obviously this means that the decals I had applied represented a scheme that was long gone by my 1953 modeling date. But being neither a NYC fan as such, nor much of a hopper car enthusiast, I considered whether I could simply ordain a modest time warp for these cars, so they could retain their 1930s car numbers and paint scheme. Reluctantly, I decided not to add to the many existing compromises already present on my layout by having a completely unhistorical paint scheme and number on this car.
     Instead, I considered whether I should go with the P&LE option. For my 1953 era, P&LE is a better choice anyway; not only did the cars keep their as-rebuilt car numbers in the 37000–38418 range, but 1389 of them were still in service in 1953. By contrast, NYC was scrapping many of its USRA hoppers by 1953, including the panel-side ones. I hunted through my decal stash and came up with Champ set HN-19 for P&LE reporting marks.
     The Tichy decal set could then be used for various capacity data and for its much superior car numerals. It also has a nice NYC emblem, though its lot number is wrong. But I used it. Here’s why. The Tichy decal lot number is 387-H, the correct lot for the cars when they were original USRA hoppers, but lot numbers in the 600s were applied when the panel side rebuilds were done. In cases like this, I adhere to one of Richard Hendrickson’s principles: the important thing is that some kind of lettering is visible above the NYC emblem. Few if any modelers will try to read lettering this small on a passing model.
     Now I went ahead and painted out the reporting marks and car number that you see above, and replaced that lettering with the P&LE material from the Champ HN-19 set.

     The fact that this is a hopper car, and would have experienced heavy use, means that it needs to be weathered fairly heavily. I will confess I stop my weathering short of making reporting marks and numbers impossible to read, since my models are used in operating sessions where their identity needs to be discoverable. But some cars do need to be fairly dirty. I have added paint patches for the reweigh and repacking lettering.

The removable coal load above is a homemade balsa block covered with real coal of “lump” coal size. Modelers often seem unaware that coal was shipped in several sizes, at least four fairly different sizes. Industrial, steam and metallurgical coal were all normally shipped as lump. But take a glance at the photo below, taken at Williamson, West Vierginia on the N&W in 1941 (Library of Congress). ’Nuf said.

Anyone wanting to know much more about hopper cars, and for that matter about coal sizes and coal shipping, may wish to look into the late Bob Karig’s excellent 420-page book, Coal Cars (University of Scranton Press, Scranton, PA, 2007). The photo above is the frontispiece of the book.
     My P&LE hopper car model is now ready to enter service on the layout, and will usually be carrying metallurgical coal, not only from the Pittsburgh Region but from other areas where met coal is mined and a P&LE hopper car might be confiscated for loading. I discussed in a blog post awhile back, the historical fact that eastern and midwestern met coal did come out to the West Coast in some circumstances, including strikes (see that post at: ), and obviously this P&LE hopper can represent part of such an event.
Tony Thompson

Friday, April 19, 2019

Waybills, Part 63: filling out

In previous posts, I have explored many aspects of what waybills are and how they are used, always with the goal of informing model operations. Many of these prior posts can be found by using the word "Waybills" as a search term in the search box at the right. If you have particular interests within this topic, add one or more appropriate words to the search term you use.
     The present post goes back to a very basic point, and one about which I am often asked: how does a model waybill get filled out? It was stimulated in particular by a recent layout visitor, who shall remain nameless, and who phrased it this way: “How do you dream up these waybills?” Overcoming  a faint instinct of outrage at the word “dream,” I realized he really meant to ask, “where does the information come from?” That’s certainly a legitimate question.
     The first issue to recognize is that of how cars are chosen for loading. Modelers often imagine all on-line loading to be in home-road cars. If this had been done on the prototype, obviously half of all car miles would have been empty car-miles, since all arriving foreign cars would be unloaded and sent home empty, while home-road cars were loaded exclusively. It was to reduce this problem that Car Service Rule 1 was written to say, in essence: “Do not load a home-line car if suitable foreign car is available or can reasonably be obtained.”
     (For a full quotation of all six of the primary Car Service Rules, along with the necessary map of destination zones, you may wish to read my post at: . But do we need to try and follow these Rules? In the decade after World War II, AAR data showed that around 70 percent of all carloadings did follow the Rules, so it seems to me that we should strive to do the same.)
     Thus, if you model, say, Seattle and are envisioning a load arriving from somewhere in Ohio, you might think it would surely be carried in a local railroad’s car, the New York Central or Erie or perhaps the B&O. But in fact that yardmaster in Ohio would have Rule 1 in mind, and would prefer to put that Seattle-bound load into a car of a northwestern road, say Milwaukee, NP or GN, or even a railroad with nearby connections such as SP or UP.
     So if you are choosing a load of Ohio origin, say automobile tires from Akron, how do you go  about it? First, you  need to know which railroads served Akron, so that you can choose a blank waybill for one of those railroads. I like to use the Kalmbach-reprinted 1928 “Railroad Atlas” that I described in a previous post (see it at: ).
     In the Ohio map in that book, you will discover that Akron was served by the Erie, Pennsylvania, B&O, and of course the Akron, Canton and Youngstown. I have blank waybills for all four. But I like to check at this point about specific industries and whether there was a switching district. I do have the Pennsylvania Railroad “List of Stations and Sidings,” effectively a Shippers Guide, reprinted by Rails Unlimited (see their website at: ). That document shows that both B.F. Goodrich and Firestone each had two plants served by the PRR. So one option is a PRR waybill for that load of auto tires.
     As it happens, B.F. Goodrich maintained a warehouse in Seattle, served by the NP. That information comes from the Great Northern Shipper Guide, also from Rails Unlimited. So that’s a logical destination for a carload of auto tires. We could well use an AC&Y waybill for an  interesting look, but I think the PRR choice makes sense too.
     Next let’s imagine that you have a freight car needing work in your yard or in staging, such as the car shown below. This would be a good fit to the waybill we are designing, that is, to load the shipment of tires into this Union Pacific car. That is true, even though the routing will not take the car via UP (Car Service Rule 2), because the empty can readily be returned to UP in the Seattle area.

     Another interesting aspect is routing. This is potentially a very complex and sometimes arcane topic, but I simplify the problem by choosing a direct route via major railroad lines (which are indicated in the 1928 Atlas). Putting all this together, we might arrive at something like the following:

My blank waybills are Photoshop tiff files, and they are filled out using the Type tool in Photoshop.
     There are of course many options that go into a final result like the above waybill, as I have tried to indicate in describing the preparation process, but few of them are “wrong” and the modeler can, within limits, please his or her personal preferences. Obviously a great many railroad car ownerships could be chosen in place of the UP car in this bill, and other routings could be chosen. And as indicated, one of the other railroads serving Akron could be the source of the blank waybill.
     You may notice in particular that I used two Shipper Guides in this process. I have copies of these most helpful documents for 12 railroads, most of them obtained from Rails Unlimited. There are other sources of information about industries in different locations, but I find these the most convenient. The real point is seek out and use such information for waybill purposes. 
     This post describes a fairly typical example of the process by which I make up my waybills. The information sources are ones that are readily available to anyone who wishes to follow a similar process, and the guiding principles, such as Car Service Rules, are well documented. But I should emphasize that no “dreaming” need be involved.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Lumber loads: an additional gondola

I have mentioned several times in past blog posts that gondolas were often used for lumber loading along Southern Pacific lines. These were of course less convenient to load as well as to unload, but were pressed into service when there were not enough flat cars. Many prototype photographs testify to this practice, and I will include here one such photo, one I have shown before. The reason to repeat it will be evident in a moment. It is an SP company photo in southern Oregon (negative N1660-14), of a train headed to California with many loads of lumber.

Note in this photo that there are at least 7 gondolas carrying lumber. But of particular interest is the one nearest the camera, which is a Louisville & Nashville gondola. Naturally the reason(s) this car was in Oregon and could be confiscated for loading are lost to time, but cars like this were certainly free-running cars and could have been loaded anywhere, and then moved anywhere else.
     I decided I would model one of these cars, and use it for lumber loading, among other things. How much can we learn about this car from the photo above? Here is an enlargement of just the gondola (you can click on these images to enlarge them further, if you wish).

     The car number can’t be read in its entirety, but clearly the first two digits are 74. Note also the center panel of the car side, which has no diagonal brace. This is a well known spotting feature of the composite GS gondolas designed by the USRA (United States Railroad Administration) in connection with World War I.
     It’s thoroughly documented that L&N received 1000 cars of the USRA composite gondola, numbered 74000–74999, and these cars remained in service, still with wooden side sheathing, into the 1950s.They were accompanied by an additional 1000 cars that were USRA clones, the 73000 series, and as late as 1950, 1523 of these original 2000 cars were still in service.
     I had an InterMountain styrene model of the USRA gondola, so decided to letter it for L&N. (I don’t know if IM has ever offered this model in that lettering.) I had an old Champ set, no. HN-72, and used the lettering there for this car. The lettering obviously is simple, so this was a quick job. Once lettered, I weathered it fairly strongly, on the basis of how the car looks in the photos above, and in view of the car’s age.

     This car was chosen for modeling on account of the lumber load in it, in the photo at the top of the present post, so I decided to see how the recent Owl Mountain “narrow” lumber load would fit into it. (I reviewed this kit a few posts ago: .) As I had hoped and expected, it fit fine, as shown below.

By the way, the prototype photo at top shows a load in this car which is considerably shorter than this Owl Mountain load, and I will return to shorter lumber loads in a future post.
     I now have an intriguing car to carry lumber to customers on my layout, a car owned by a railroad distant from my California setting, but one that vividly illustrates what it means for a car to be a “free runner,” as most gondolas were in fact.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Small rant: manufacturer lettering

I confess to suffering from an advanced case of “type geek” disease, which manifests itself, among other ways, in noticing when lettering is the wrong shape or proportion. Of course it also snaps its head up when wrong fonts are used, but that’s a different rant. In the present post, I will address freight car lettering, specifically Pacific Fruit Express.
     As regular readers of this blog will know, this is not a new topic for me. Some time back, I posted an illustration of lettering on a Challenger brass model of a PFE Class R-40-26 car, emphasizing how wide of the mark — to state it tactfully — the lettering was, and I included a photo of the Challenger lettering (that post is at this link: ).
     When I phoned my contact at Challenger, he admitted that the lettering has been turned over to the Korean producer, who had been directed to “match” a prototype photo. Obviously their understanding of “match” was not informed by any typographic knowledge. My solution to the problem was, as described in the post just cited, to repaint and entirely reletter that model.
     To show what we are aiming at, I show below a segment of a prototype photo of a PFE car’s initials and car number (it happens to be a steel car). The details of this Roman-style lettering were a Common Standard used by both UP and SP, and were constant with PFE for decades.

Allow me to call your attention to the proportions of the letters and the numerals, specifically the contrast of thick and thin strokes in the letters, and the somewhat condensed numerals. Sadly, manufacturers continue to ignore this kind of information.
     Today, thanks to the painstaking and meticulous work of Dick Harley, we have superbly accurate PFE decal lettering. I reviewed one of the sets with the new Harley artwork, the set for black-and-white Union Pacific emblems, Microscale set 87-501, at this link: .
     Another set, the one for lettering with the red-white-blue Union Pacific emblem, Microscale set 87-414, has been similarly upgraded, and I used it in replacing some old Microscale car numbers, from a 414 set of the 1990s, to have more correct car numerals (I showed those lettering comparisons here: ).
     Subsequently, that project was extended to a number of the older PFE reefers in my fleet, to bring them all up to “snuff” (see those projects at: ).
     Despite Harley’s fine work on PFE lettering, manufacturers apparently continue to “wing it” for PFE lettering on models. Here is a recent Red Caboose (now part of InterMountain) lettering area, which you can compare to the lettering shown above.

The numerals are too short in comparison to their width, that is, they are not accurately condensed. The number “9” shows this clearly. And the serifs on the letters P, F and E do not match the prototype.
     For an additional comparison, I show below the PFE lettering from current Microscale set 501, and you can readily see that it agrees well with the prototype photo at the top of the page, while further showing the poor qualities of the Red Caboose lettering immediately above. Again, look at the numbers 9, 7 and 6 in these two photos.

The current purveyor of both its own steel-car models of PFE classes, and of the Red Caboose wood-body cars, InterMountain, does not do much better on its steel cars. Here again, comparing their lettering to either the prototype photo at the top of this post, or to the Microscale 501 lettering immediately above this paragraph, clearly shows the shortcomings of the letters, though numerals are much closer to prototype than the letters.

     I want to emphasize also that there should be no lack of sufficient information on this topic, including copious photographic coverage of PFE, both in the “PFE book,” as it is often called (Pacific Fruit Express, 2nd edition, Thompson, Church and Jones, Signature Press, 2000), and also in the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society book,  Southern Pacific Freight Car Painting and Lettering Guide (Harley and Thompson, SPH&TS, Upland, California, 2016), which contains an extensive section, nearly half the book, about PFE, with Harley’s excellent lettering research.
     Luckily, all the problems mentioned above are readily corrected with the outstanding recent Microscale sets I have mentioned in this post. But beware, if you have some elderly Microscale 414 or 501 sets stashed away. The old ones do not have the excellent Harley artwork, which is more recent. If you are thinking of doing some PFE lettering, don’t scrimp. Plunk down the price of the new 414 and 501 PFE decal sets, and find a new home for those old sets . . . perhaps in the round file.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A panel-side hopper car

One of the most popular hopper car designs of all time was the USRA (United States Railroad Administration) design of the World War I era. About 22,000 of them were built under USRA auspices, and around 28,000 more were built in the 1920s, as copies or near copies of the original design.
     Although the original design was durable, most of the cars received a range of upgrades over the years, from AB brakes replacing the original K brakes, and geared hand brakes replacing the original vertical-staff brakes, to new sides and new cast-steel trucks.
     There have been lots of publications concerning the USRA hoppers and the later-era rebuilds, but among the helpful ones is a document by C.M. Smith, on the subject of the New York Central fleet of these cars (available on-line as a PDF at this address: ). Since NYC had one of the larger fleets of this car type, it’s an appropriate group to examine more closely.
     Shown below is one of New York Central’s USRA hopper cars, this one acquired in 1920 after the end of federal control, and assigned to the Michigan Central subsidiary (NYC photo). You can see the three cross-braces inside which were a feature of the USRA design. Also evident are the drop-style grab irons and the lever-type handbrake. Eventually NYC would own over 13,200 cars like this.

     In the late 1920s, New York Central performed various upgrades of its own, in addition to the brake gear changes mentioned above. One distinctive change was replacement of the three cross-braces of the original design, with triangular braces on the cross-ridge at car center. The photo below shows what this looked like (NYC photo), on an original USRA-design car with vertical-staff handbrake.

     In later years, one of the most distinctive upgrades was replacement of worn or corroded side sheets with new pressed-panel sheets. These were dished so that the side sheet extended to the outside of the vertical side posts of the car. New York Central applied these side sheets to several different groups of cars, Almost 1800 cars of different ancestries in the NYC system were so converted.
     The largest group converted, some 1419 cars, was converted in 1937 at the Central’s East Rochester shop from cars of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie and its subsidiary, the Pittsburgh, McKeesport and Youghiogheny (PMcK&Y). These were renumbered as 37000–38418. One of these cars is shown below (NYC photo).

     Among the NYC cars, perhaps the next biggest batch converted, after the P&LE cars, was a group of about 250 cars on the New York Central roster, renumbered after rebuilding into the series 416100–416599. Here is how the NYC cars looked when converted in 1933 (NYC photo).

     I wanted to model a car of this kind, and wanted to be able to see the dished-out panels on the inside of the car, not just on the outside. So when Tichy Models released an HO scale model, I began to think about getting one. But nothing had happened, until I came across one of the assembled Tichy cars in an auction. Painted silver and lettered for The Andersons grain company (mark AEX), I had no use for it in that form, but realized that I could re-detail and repaint for one of the panel-side cars from the New York Central fleet.
     I began by adding the cross-ridge members inside, simply using 0.015-inch styrene sheet. This resulted in what is shown below (note the unpainted white member at car center).

    The NYC painted its open-top cars boxcar red in my era, so I repainted this model into that color, airbrushing with Star Brand STR-30 “SP/UP Freight Car Red.” This is a nice paint to use, and covers well. Trucks were separately painted grimy black.

     Next came lettering. I always enjoy applying decals or other lettering. Not only do they express some of my interests in type and typography, they bring the model to life (for me), and the model now acquires its personality and name. So this is something I look forward to.
     But for this model, complications arose (which perhaps I should have foreseen), and the lettering became a challenge in several dimensions, including missteps. Thereby hangs a tale, and I will relate it in a forthcoming post.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Lumber: Owl Mountain’s recent kit

In a previous post, I showed the loading diagram for most kinds of lumber loads, whether in gondolas or on flat cars. I also briefly reviewed the cast resin lumber loads from Fine N Scale Products (FNSP), while mentioning that these are not quite the right size for flat cars That post can be found at: . I also have explored the use of the FNSP loads for gondolas, which they fit very well; you can read that post at: . The present post returns to the topic of flat cars vs. gondolas for lumber, and a recent Owl Mountain kit for a lumber load.
     In the previous post on flat cars (first one cited above), I mentioned that the excellent Owl Mountain lumber kit no. 3001 does fit standard flat cars. But it is too wide for gondolas and pre-World War II flat cars. Owl Mountain has now released a second lumber load kit, kit no. 3004, this one for narrower lumber stacks, intended of course for gondolas and narrower flat cars. Here is what it looks like (you can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish):

For availability and price of this kit, you can visit Owl Mountain Models at: .
     The ideas behind this kind are essentially identical to the “standard” Owl Mountain lumber kit, no. 3001, except for dimensions (my review of the “standard” kit is here: ). There are four sprues of lumber, each with two “outer” layers and four hollow, interior layers. Inside the hollow layers are a range of separators, stakes, and cross-ties, more than you would likely need, but it’s nice to have plenty.

This permits your choice of stack sizes. The kit will make up four stacks of six layers each (that is, one stack from each sprue), but can also make up five-layer or four-layer stacks, meaning, for example, that you can load the car with two six-layer stacks, or three four-layer stacks (both kinds of loads are common in prototype photos), of course with separators between stacks.
     My choice was four stacks of six layers. I glued these up, then added the separators to the bottom of each stack. The photo below shows two of the stack bottoms. These go together quickly.

     I wanted to make a lumber load that could work both on a suitable flat car, and also in gondolas.That in turn meant that I needed to make the stake locations correct for the flat car. (In the gondola, the exact stake locations don’t matter.) So for this load, I chose the Owl Mountain model of an SP “Harriman” 40-foot flat car (for my review of this very nice kit, look here: ). I used a piece of cardstock and simply marked the spacing of the flat car’s stake pockets.
     Stakes were then glued on at those locations. But for anyone doing this, be sure and check the clearance in your gondolas. I can’t speak for others, but for my cars, the scale 4 x 4-inch stakes are too wide. I used the more narrow material supplied, even though I think the prototype would indeed use the larger lumber.

Note that I have applied cross-ties between the stakes, but not “long ties,” connecting the stakes in the long direction. Prototype photos show both kinds of stack tie arrangements, though the AAR loading diagram, link for it cited first at the top of the present post, does not show long ties.
     Shown below is the pair of completed lumber stacks, on the Owl Mountain SP flat car. It does fit and in my opinion, looks great.

Also relevant here, of course, is fitting the loads into a gondola. Shown below is a Red Caboose composite SP gondola, and with the slender stakes I used, it just barely fits inside. So this lumber kit can indeed make stacks for both flat cars and gondolas, but you have to compromise on the stake dimensions for that to work.

     Like the “full-size” Owl Mountain lumber kit, kit 3001, this narrower kit, no. 3004, is nicely designed, goes together quickly and easily, and provides a really nice lumber load for older flat cars and gondolas. I heartily recommend it for anyone wanting lumber loads.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Patterns of SP train operation

My title today is perhaps over-general, as I am only going to discuss Southern Pacific operation in the 1950s. And not only that, but I am only going to talk about SP’s Coast Division. Within those restrictions, though, the title is accurate.
     Veteran SP employees, mostly from West-Coast operating backgrounds, and particularly Malcolm “Mac” Gaddis, who worked at San Luis Obispo in the early 1950s, have told me that the patterns I describe below were pretty universal on SP in the West, but I don’t know whether they would have extended elsewhere on SP, or on subsidiaries such as Texas & New Orleans.
     (I have reproduced the text of parts of my interviews with Mac in posts to this blog in prior years. You can readily find them by using “Gaddis” as a search term in the search box on the upper right-hand side of the present post.)
     I am presenting this summary for a simple reason. I have found through repeated instances of descriptions in oral talks about SP operations, that many do not grasp the patterns I am trying to convey. So I decided to take a shot at putting the description(s) into written form, in this post.
     That said, let me begin with a 1906 SP map of Coast Division. I use it here for illustration even though track details will not match the 1950s, because it’s an admirably clear map (you can click to enlarge it if you wish).

On the map, I have emphasized in red the two intermediate “division points,” Watsonville Junction and San Luis Obispo, as well as the southern end of the division, Santa Barbara, with the discussion to center on San Luis, the operational midpoint of the Coast Route (beyond Santa Barbara, the trackage was part of Los Angeles Division). Crews changed at each of these points.
     It was emphasized to me in my interviews with Mac Gaddis, that SP freight operations on the Coast were centered on scheduled freight trains. That meant that additional sections of through trains, and extra through trains between division points, were unusual, with the schedule set up so that freight traffic could be moved with those scheduled trains.
     The point about these scheduled trains is that they were through trains, that is, they ran between division points and ordinarily did no switching en route. The schematic below shows this kind of operation, for trains between the points of San Luis Obispo, Watsonville Junction and Santa Barbara.

To repeat what is important here, all of these were timetable trains.
     So if these through trains did no en-route switching, how were local industries served? They were switched by “turns,” trains running from a division point, to a location about halfway to the next division point, and returning, thus the name "turn.” They switched all the local industries along their route (except for certain cases described in a moment). This is shown schematically below, along with the identity of the two points at which these trains turned in this area, King City and Surf.

Thus there was a “King City Turn” out of both Watsonville Junction and San Luis Obispo, and a “Surf Turn” out of both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.
     The key thing to appreciate about this system of operation is that the turns brought everything back to the division point to be organized and blocked for appropriate through trains. So the King City Turn might pick up a car at Paso Robles, north of San Luis, that was destined to, say, Seattle. But it would be brought back south to San Luis Obispo to be put into a northbound (railroad westward) train to move it toward Seattle.
     When a turn did not have too much switching to do, it could go out and return in a day. But if there was a lot of work, the crew and locomotive would lay over at the turning point overnight, and return the next day. These turns were not scheduled trains and were not in the timetable. They were extra trains.
     Of course, the idea of a turn to handle all local switching may readily run afoul of heavy traffic for individual locations, such as interchange, or seasonal traffic at packing houses. For those situations, a local train was operated in addition to the turns. In effect, such a local supplemented the turn, and took care of excess traffic beyond what the turn could handle conveniently. I can mention two, the Guadalupe Local out of San Luis Obispo, handling all the local perishable traffic as well as interchange with the Santa Maria Valley Railroad, and the Goleta Local out of Santa Barbara, handling all the packing houses at Goleta.

The locals, though having names and regular operation, were not scheduled and were operated as extras.
     Finally, there were times, such as during harvest season, when traffic locally might exceed even the capability of a local freight. For example, at Salinas there were dozens of packing houses, and in season, entire trains of empty reefers needed to be moved there for loading, and entire trains of loads would need to be brought back to Watsonville Junction. Trains of this kind were called “haulers” by SP, and they were almost always seasonal. They too were extra trains and not in the timetable.

     Thus operation on a layout like mine, with a segment of Coast Route mainline track that is situated a little south of San Luis Obispo, might move any of five kinds of freight trains on that segment: scheduled through trains, extra through trains, and three other kinds of extras: turns, locals, and haulers. Note that everything is built around the idea of bringing all switched cars back to a division point for inclusion in a through train to move toward its eventual destination. That is the pattern of switching work on my layout, and it is designed to follow SP prototype practice.
Tony Thompson

Monday, April 1, 2019

Building another PFE Class R-30-16

The Class R-30-16 rebuilt refrigerator cars of Pacific Fruit Express were historically interesting, as they marked the introduction of steel panel roofs (termed the “solid steel roof” by PFE) for rebuilds, but retained the wood-sheathed sides and ends of earlier car designs. There has existed for some years a kit, no longer sold, by the late, great Terry Wegmann to model this car, using a roof, ends, and cross-bearers  molded in dies cut by Terry, and applied to a Red Caboose PFE car body. I did one of these models awhile back, and wrote a blog post describing the basic process (see it at: ).
     My earlier model, in the post just cited, was built to represent the first time period of rebuilding that class, in which the cars’ original K brake systems were retained (this represented about the first 1200 cars out of 3554 total cars in the class, or less than 30 percent). But most of the cars were instead rebuilt with new AB brake systems. [This and related PFE history is thoroughly covered in the book, Pacific Fruit Express (2nd edition), Thompson, Church and Jones, Signature Press, 2000.] Once rebuilt, the AB-brake cars received new car numbers, PFE 74198–76554, and I wanted to build a car from that group.
     In assembling the underframe part of the car, I simply substituted a Tichy AB brake set, located as on other PFE car classes of the time. This set of parts is very nicely molded, and I simply drilled holes for the attachment posts of the Tichy parts. The cylinder is lined up with the molded brake levers on the center sill cover plate.

In this photo, you can see the center sill and cross-bearers already installed.
     The next component to be dealt with is the car body (a stock Red Caboose molding). As shown before (see link in top paragraph), the inner ends have to be cut down to clear the roof. This time I simply scribed and snapped the segment to be removed. Once that was done, I added weight inside the car body in the form of 5/8-inch steel nuts, close to one ounce each, with canopy glue. When completed, the body at this point looked like this:

     Next the interior needs to be painted flat black, both to reduce the translucent look of the molded orange plastic body, and also to permit the choice to model the ice hatches as latched open, so that only darkness would be visible in the car interior through the open hatch.
     An alternative would be to paint the area under the hatches light gray, as the material lining the bunker was galvanized steel on the prototype, but since I don’t intend to do any interior detail or correct surface appearance inside the bunker, I will leave it black. The decision on open hatches will come later.
     For this kind of job, I usually use a rattle can, such as Orchard Supply’s Black Primer. (As with any rattle can, I test first, to make sure it isn’t releasing “blorts” of paint.)

Note I masked the top of the sides, as this is a gluing surface for the roof.
     In addition to the black interior, I know the car will look better if the sides are painted Daylight Orange (exactly the same as PFE Light Orange), rather than rely on the molded color of the body out of the box. Also, that way, I can paint the side grab irons, ladders, and sill steps orange at the same time, because I am going to apply the 1950 paint scheme that had all side hardware orange, except the edge of the steel side sill.
     For this model, I used Star Brand No. STR-27, “S.P. / P.F.E. Daylight Orange” to airbrush these parts. This paint is an excellent match to SP’s Daylight Orange paint chip.
     And by the way, keeping the assembled underframe separate to this point allowed me to achieve the needed black side sill, the original color of the model parts, without any masking. Adding that underframe to the car gave the result shown below. The sprue of sill steps is in the foreground.

The model is supported here on what I have called “interim truck support blocks,” something I often use on kits in progress for ease of handling. I described these items in a previous post.If you are interested, you can see it at: .
     The remainder of the kit work is largely following kit assembly directions. But a few little details will be worth describing in a future post, along with final lettering.
Tony Thompson