Sunday, September 29, 2019

Upgrading an old PFE model

Way back in July 1987, I had a short article in Railroad Model Craftsman, which happened to receive the Dremel Kitbashing Award for that month. The article described how I had kitbashed a distinctive Pacific Fruit Express car, from Class, R-70-2, which was 52 feet long. I was lucky enough that one of my photos of the completed model was selected for the cover of that issue, as you see below.

     I’ll begin with the car itself. I will only briefly describe the kitbash, as it was straightforward. I took two Athearn wood-side reefer kits, cut out the middle of one and used the ends of the other, to make up a long enough car body. Of course the doors had to end up in the center of the new body. I did the same with the two kit roofs, again keeping the Athearn interlocking piece above the door in the center. I didn’t replace the Athearn ends, which are wrong for a 1932-built car, partly because at that time there was no very good replacement Dreadnaught end.
     The prototype car had a relatively deep fishbelly underframe, which I created out of 0.020-inch styrene sheet, with cap strips of scale 2 x 4-inch styrene. I chose to re-use the Athearn truck bolsters and coupler boxes, as you see below. Obviously at this point I already painted and lettered the model.

You may also note here that I have narrowed the Athearn side sill by about 50 percent.
     Next I added the cross-ties and Cal-Scale AB brakes. This PFE class was built with K brakes, but most of the cars were upgraded in the 1940s to AB brakes. The brass wire piping isn’t visible in this view, though you can see part of the brake rodding at right.

     That brake update stimulated me to think about the fact that when PFE did significant shop work on cars in the 1940s, ordinarily wood running boards were replaced with steel-grid running boards. This class would certainly have been built in 1932 with wood running boards, and that is how I originally modeled this car., using individual stripwood boards. (You can click to enlarge if you wish.)

     My chance to make this more realistic, with a replaced running board, came about when Peter Aue made some custom etched-metal running boards. I jumped at the chance to get one, and when it arrived, promptly cleaned up the edges and painted it boxcar red. I attached it with canopy glue, one of the perfect applications of this adhesive, as I have discussed before ( ). The glue remains flexible and can accommodate the thermal expansion and contraction of the metal board.

     I like being able to represent a car which has already had some changes since it was built (iin addition to the more obvious signs such as a later paint job). This car is just one example.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Roco flat car, Part 8: additional armor

I showed an example of a Sherman tank as a load on a flat car in the previous post, and there was only a single tank on the car because, as a 50-ton flat car, it could carry only one tank of the roughly 35-ton weight of a Sherman (that post can be found here: ). This series of posts, however, is primarily about the Roco heavy-duty flat car, with a capacity of 100 tons, and thus suitable for two vehicles of the weight of a Sherman.
     I do have several Roco Sherman models, but wanted to add some variety. Roco over the years have also offered an M7 vehicle, which was a howitzer mounted on the M4 Sherman hull. This was a 105-mm howitzer, making the vehicle essentially a self-propelled gun. As such, it offered great flexibility compared to towed artillery, and remained in use through the Korean War. The M7 was often used in tandem with tanks in Korea, and accordingly would have been in training use at Camp Roberts, on the SP Coast Line not too many miles north of the locale of my layout.
     I have modeled a Roco M7 similarly to the Sherman I showed previously, adding decal lettering from Microscale set MC-4279 and also similar blocking for transport as was done for the Sherman. Here is a view of the M7 model, with attached blocking.

In this view, the ring mount for a .50 caliber machine gun is prominently visible, but these guns would not have been in place during shipment.
     Shown below are these two vehicles, a Sherman and an M7, suitably blocked on the Roco heavy-duty flat car. The typical M7 only weighed about 25 tons, while a typical Sherman was more like 35 tons; obviously their combined weight was well within the 100-ton capacity of the Roco flat car.

The loaded car is shown in a train on the siding at Shumala on my layout, with the SP’s main line in the foreground.
     Another prototype example, in this case Sherman tanks almost exclusively loaded on 50-ton flat cars, thus one tank to a car, is this photo from the Southern Pacific in Indio, California, of tanks being unloaded for desert training in 1942. (U.S. Army Signal Corps photo)

     I want to vary my armor loads, since I don’t plan to try and operate any full trains of military equipment. Instead, my loads will depict individual vehicles being moved from one training facility to another, or perhaps in a repair cycle (waybills of course will reflect that).
     The waybills I use for military moves on SP’s Coast Line take advantage of the presence of Camp Roberts, home of the 7th Armored Division at the time I model. Here is one example of a waybill I might use for the two-vehicle load shown above. It is a U.S. Government waybill since this is government property:

This bill, which happens to have been filled out with a Teletype type face, reflects a movement from what was the primary Army armor facility in 1953, Fort Hood, Texas, to Camp Roberts.
     Armor loads allow some indication of the recent (for my layout) Korean War and training in its aftermath, and in addition are suitable for my layout’s locale on SP’s Coast Line.
Tony Thompson

Monday, September 23, 2019

Fixing fragile sill steps

Most of us are familiar with the fragility of styrene sill steps on freight cars, and even when tougher engineering plastics are used for these parts, they simply are not really durable. Now, a person who builds models for a display case, or who only operates his layout himself, may not break very many of these steps, but a layout that has various populations of visiting operators from time to time will certainly break a fair number.
     Before saying more, I should credit my late friend Richard Hendrickson, who insisted that the first thing one should do with a “ready-to-run” (RTR) freight car — which he always referred to as “ready-to-finish” — was to slice off those fragile sill steps, and replace with sturdy metal, such as A-Line bronze steps. So in this context, when I say “fix” the steps, I really mean “replace.”
     Alas, I am not so meticulous or rigorous as was Richard, and I must confess that often I have put new RTR freight cars into service (after weathering, which was Richard’s second step). It’s only occasionally that I take the trouble to replace sill steps before operating a car.
     But naturally in due time, in the course of multiple operating sessions, the original sill steps do break. On the prototype, a missing sill step would be immediate cause to direct a car to the repair track, but I may wait until two or more steps are missing before sending the car to the workbench.
     Once there, cars may accumulate until I am in that “fix the darn steps!” mood, and then I undertake a whole batch of cars with the same repair need. I’ve described my technique in this blog previously, but will repeat part of it here, while showing another feature of my approach.
     Because I find I don’t have the accurate drilling ability to drill into and parallel to the car side, thus locating new steps right where the old ones were, I begin instead by gluing styrene blocks behind the sill to serve as backing. I usually use HO-scale 4 x 4-inch styrene for this, cut to fit the length of the new sill step. Here is how it may look at this stage.

     Then I drill into the styrene block, or between the block and the car side, with an appropriate-size drill in a pin vise. For most freight cars, this drilled hole will reach all the way into the car interior, which is helpful for steps with long attachment pins. Usually I then put a little CA onto the step and slide into the holes, or, if not confident of the smoothness of installation, I install the steps, then add a drop of CA at the surface, to wick into the hole and complete the joint.
     For the car you saw in the photo above, I decided to use some of my stash of Tuttle Industries sill steps, a marvelous product that unfortunately did not survive long in the market. These are so-called “Style B” steps, meaning the leg toward the car center is angled. This is written on the package label.

     These have a great looking cross-section and nice, sharp corners, unlike A-Line steps, though I will admit that when painted a dark color, such as boxcar red or Pullman green, details like corner shape are hard to appreciate. But on some cars, I do like to use the better steps. Here are two of the Tuttle steps, just having been inserted into the styrene blocks as described above.

The completed car, with steps unpainted so they will show up better, looks like this (it’s a Proto2000 model, quite close to the Southern Pacific’s Class A-50-14). You may wish to enlarge the image by clicking on it.

     I don’t wish to give the impression I don’t like or don’t use A-Line steps. I certainly do, by the dozen. Here is just one recent example, again unpainted, on a PFE express car. It’s an InterMountain model, with trucks modified to represent the Chrysler trucks used on 25 of these conversions of Class R-40-10 reefers (for more, see my post about creating these trucks: ).

     As I see it, this kind of step replacement (really, step upgrade) is a necessary part of maintaining the layout car fleet. Occasional damage such as the loss of a sill step, is a small negative, when measured against the fun of operating sessions, and in any event, the resulting repairs are not difficult.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Comments on modeling the Fifties

I was stimulated to think about my approach to modeling the 1950s recently when I received an email from a modeler I know slightly, asking for advice on how to go about modeling the transition era. He is not old enough to remember it himself, and has liked some of the 1950s layouts he has seen, so wondered what I would advise. He does want to capture the “look and feel” as well as he can, and hoped I could recommend resources.
     To some extent, this same question could be posed for any decade of interest: what are the resources you need to model accurately? As I have just hinted, this will depend to some extent on how serious you are. Plenty of what I suppose could be called “modern modelers” seem content to include locomotives and rolling stock typical of the 1970s to the 2010s, all in one layout. But let’s imagine that you are serious. I will illustrate for the 1950s, though I think principles here are broad.
     My first comment to my correspondent is that there are at least two excellent publications out there that focus on the 1950s. I will start with what I still believe to be the best of these, a Special Issue of Model Railroader from 2011 (and like all the first four Kalmbach publications mentioned in the present post, still available for purchase on-line at Kalmbach; I just checked).

It covers not just rolling stock, but structures, vehicles, and even operations. I cannot praise it too highly for anyone wishing insights into the 1950s.
     What I would call the “other best” publication on this topic, Modeling the ’50s, subtitled “The Glory Years of Rail,” is also from Kalmbach, and packed with excellent material.

     There are two additional publications I would mention on this topic,more narrowly focused but still very fine, both from Kalmbach. The first I would mention is a typically good Tony Koester book, Modeling the Transition Era, focused more on rolling stock, but well illustrated and quite complete. (I am not an entirely neutral commentator here, as I contributed some of the photos in the book).

     Last of these four titles is what to me is an important aspect of model railroading, freight cars, has been very skillfully and surprisingly completely covered by Jeff Wilson’s book, Freight Cars of the ’40s and ’50s, published in 2015.

     Another excellent source, though not restricted to the 1950s, is the Jeff Wilson series of “industry” books published by Kalmbach. I showed the covers of all four in a prior post, and mentioned a little of what is in them. This is a very useful set of snapshots of how industries worked (see my post at this link: ). These are the only publications mentioned in this post that are not all in print, but any not in print at Kalmbach are readily purchased from used book dealers on line.
     That “industry” series is now being supplemented from Kalmbach with separate full books on some industries, such as coal, livestock, produce and so on. You will recognize these easily on their book sales website at: .
     Finally,  I want to mention a Kalmbach publication I have recommended before, but will mention it again because it addresses another aspect of model railroading that I find vital to the hobby, operation. Now there are lots of books on operation, but as an introduction, I find this Special Issue of Model Railroader, entitled How to Operate Your Model Railroad, to be without peer. If you are new to this topic and would like to learn about it painlessly, you should try this title.

     These are all titles I recommended to my correspondent, and he seemed pleased to be directed to some sources he could absorb at his own pace. You may wish to do the same.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Roco flat cars, Part 7: armored vehicles

I have posted several descriptions of military vehicle loads in recent posts, primarily intended for the heavy-duty Army flat car modeled by Roco and which I upgraded for use on my layout. The most recent of those loads were half-tracks, described in this post: . But of course the heavy-duty Army flat car (of 100-ton capacity) was intended for much heavier loads than half-tracks.
     The most common load that one thinks of in mentioning armored vehicles is a tank. My modeling year is 1953, and although by that time the Sherman tank, mainstay of World War II, was all but officially obsolete, it had been used to some extent in the Korean War, only just ended in 1953 (the armistice was signed in July), and was definitely still in use for training purposes in the United States.
     There have been HO scale models of the Sherman tank available for some years. From a model railroading perspective, these can be flat car loads. One can find a variety of photos of Shermans loaded on flat cars, and they are of interest if one wants to model them so loaded.
     Here is one example, a Signal Corps photo taken in the U.S. of a Sherman ready for shipment. It is loaded on an Illinois Central flat car with overhanging deck, that is, with a deck which extends out to the outer face of the stake pockets. This car, IC 60636, was a 50-ton flat car,  adequate for the various Sherman variants, which ranged in weight from 34 to 41 tons (most Shermans were in the lower part of that range). But notice that only one tank could be carried on such a flat car. Also note, incidentally, the complete lack of visible lettering on this tank. It may have been used in maneuvers.

Careful examination shows that there is a minimal chock under the front and rear of the tank treads, and a heavy timber (actually two stacked timbers) alongside the tank (probably spiked into the deck). There is a pair of steel rods from the towing hook under the glacis, to a stake pocket on each side, but this is nearly invisible even in this view, and it could be omitted in HO scale.
     This degree of blocking of the vehicle may seem rather inadequate, but was not untypical of how tracked vehicles were shipped on flat cars. Shown below is a Richard Steinheimer photo, used with permission, taken of course to show SP Trainmaster 4801 powering commute train 114 on the San Francisco Peninsula, but from the photographer’s vantage atop a lumber load, we also see a couple of heavy Caterpillar bulldozers dominating the foreground, and the blocking applied to their treads.

     I have taken a similar approach, with chocks at each end of the tank treads and a scale 6 x 6-inch timber alongside. The model tank is a Roco Sherman, and the lettering is from Microscale set MC-4279. On a 50-ton flat car like this Union Pacific car (built from a Westrail kit), this would be a single-vehicle load, as already mentioned in connection with the IC flat car above. It’s shown on my layout.

     This kind of armor load is credible on my layout, with a destination of Camp Roberts, home of the 7th Armored Division in 1953 and an armor-training facility during the Korean War, located just north of San Miguel, California, right on the SP Coast Line, railroad west from the locale of my layout.
     A tank like this is of course an even more appropriate load for the Roco Army flat car. That heavy-duty flat car was intended to carry two vehicles of the weight range of a Sherman tank. I will return to armor loads for the Roco flat car in a following post.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Modeling SP passenger cars, Part 9

I have done several previous posts about Southern Pacific passenger cars, as you can see from this being the ninth in the series, and there are even more if you include the ones about specific trains such as the “Coast Mail,” along with a kind of sub-series on SP sleeping cars, that included five posts. Lastly, there was a three-part series on making various heavyweight sleepers by modifying AHM cars  (you can find any of those prior posts by using “SP passenger cars” as the search term in the search box at right).
     My present post is about head-end cars, and accordingly follows on the Part 2 post, which began discussion of those kinds of cars (you can read the Part 2 post at this link: ). Then the most recent post in the series that treats head-end cars is the preceding post (see it at: ).
     I have acquired a couple more of the old Ken Kidder brass 60-foot baggage cars, and am gradually getting them fitted up for layout service. As I pointed out in previous posts. the Kidder roof meets the car side at an angle, rather than curving to be tangent to the side, but this isn’t evident in a passing train. Likewise, the Kidder roof vent arrangements are at best unusual for SP “Harriman” cars (I have been told they are accurate for several Illinois Central cars), but again, what matters in a passing train is that there are roof vents, not the exact arrangement (at least for those other than passenger modelers, of course).
     Shown below is the kind of underbody additions that I have applied to some of the Kidder baggage cars, with a battery box on one side, brake gear on the other side, with a reservoir. The lighting makes it look like it is a light color, but is actually dark gray. And yes, those are Central Valley trucks, of which I wish I had more.

     The photo below shows another of the cars being completed, SP 6206, in this case using Athearn 4-wheel trucks. I have experimented with a more faded green, both because some SP cars had that look, and in respect of indoor lighting. The full prototype color, Dark Olive Green, looks very dark indeed in indoor lighting and I have used it only for a few cars, to suggest recent repainting. The car below has been weathered, though I note that the trucks need some more grime.

     In most operating sessions, I do include a passenger extra, or a section of the “Coast Mail,” as suits the timetable. For this, I usually choose a Class P-4 Pacific, since the train is not very big. An example is shown below at Shumala. This particular train is mostly baggage cars, with an express box car (AAR Class BX) on the head end, an RPO car behind the baggage cars, and a dead-head sleeper on the rear. The express box car is from a Sunshine kit.

     Passenger operation is not a very important focus for my layout, but I do like to include this much of a passenger train presence. And it’s enjoyable to provide this kind of a variation in what is otherwise mostly freight car modeling!
Tony Thompson

Thursday, September 12, 2019

VanRail 2019

For a number of years, the modelers in Vancouver, British Columbia, have hosted an operating weekend in alternate years. If I’m counting correctly, this year was the seventh in this series. I attended, as I have previously, and as always, tremendously enjoyed a well-run meeting with terrific layous. This year, the group returned to the nice Accent Inn in Burnaby, not used in 2017 but familiar from prior years.

     Among the most ambitious and impressive layouts I know of in the Vancouver area is Scott Calvert’s Boundary Subdivision of the Canadian Pacific. As was the case two years ago, I worked one end of the big yard at Nelson, under the able yardmastering of Travers Stavac (it was pointed out that with Canada going metric, this job will eventually be retitled as the Metermaster). Right above the yard was the new second level, and we enjoyed seeing a train up there, one of the first to run on this very recent trackage. You can see the excellent rockwork and part of a snowshed, though scenery is clearly in its early stages.

Scott also hosted a very pleasant social evening on the Friday of the meeting. Thanks, Scott!
     My second layout was the Pacific Great Eastern of Doug Hicks. This is a remarkable layout in the amount of trackage that Doug was able to include in a modest-sized room, and the trackage all ran well, too. The scenery was nearly complete and quite nice, and that made it enjoyable to view and to operate. I ran the North Vancouver yard, compact and busy enough to be a challenge at times, but operating flawlessly. Here’s a view looking toward the rest of the layout (the relatively few cars that are visible show why I had enough time to take a photo).

Doug has made an interesting solution to knowing how a slip switch is lined, by adding LED lights that illuminate the chosen tracks. I totally relied on this in working the yard!
     On Sunday I had he privilege of operating on Mike Chandler’s Western Midland layout, set in 1938. Though work remains in some areas, the scenery is outstanding and so was the quality of operation. I had the fun of running several different way freights, with lots of very nice switching.
     One feature I liked, and it’s one you rarely see, is that the whole fascia was used as a kind of control panel. Below is part of the fascia at Black Mountain. The color-coded circles at mid photo, and corresponding plugs at the fascia bottom, are for DC operation, something Mike rarely does.

The white lines are essentially a 1:1 track diagram, making it easy to find the pushbuttons for track switches, and there are handy racks for paperwork (in use at the top of the photo). Boxes at right are for waybills, and you can see a hand-held throttle attached to Velcro at the left bottom. Nicely thought out.
     The scenery, as I said, is very impressive. Below is the summit of the railroad’s mountain crossing, at Lofty, with a wye that you can see, along with a stamp mill for a mining operation. Fun to switch as well as very attractive.

     I really enjoyed all three of these layouts, as you can probably tell. Even so, at most of these weekends, one has the experience of hearing multiple people rave about one of the layouts, inevitably one that you did not get assigned to. I just patiently make notes, so I will know to request that layout next time! Thanks again to the Vancouver crew, who put on a terrific event.
Tony Thompson

Monday, September 9, 2019

Handling ice on ice decks, Part 5

In the first post in this series, I described how ice was moved on the decks that were used for icing refrigerator cars in the prototype, and showed what the various systems for moving ice looked like (you can read that post at the following link: ).
     I followed that introduction with two posts about prototype icing and ice decks, emphasizing the part I know best, Pacific Fruit Express, but relating also to other companies around the United States. The first of those two posts was about the making and handling of the ice (that one can be found here: ), and the second of the two was about how icing was done, the tools used and the standards for ice size, etc. (that post is at this link: ).
     In the fourth post, I showed how I built the small ice deck on my layout, a typical deck of a local ice company, and showed it in its state before adding any capability for moving ice other than on the plain wood deck (that post is at: ). The real goal, of course, was to improve that deck for ice movement, as hinted in the first post of the series (cited in the first paragraph of the present post).
     Before going farther, I should mention that I have had an inquiry in a separate email, from a questioner who wanted to know if I could supply more information about icing as it was practiced on the prototype. I suggested that he might like to go back and read a post I made quite awhile ago, quoting part of my interview with Pete Holst, retired Car Service manager for PFE, and I think it does provide a lot of insight. The post can be found here: .
     Back to modeling of my icing facility. My choice to facilitate easier ice movement on this deck was to add a sheet-steel runner, with a raised back edge to act as a guide for ice blocks, as they are pushed or pulled along the runner by a workman. I chose to make this using a styrene strip, 12 scale inches wide, with a scale 1 x6 -inch strip glued vertically along one edge. The length I chose was simply most of the ice deck.
     Now to paint the runner. I began with a good base color for steel in the open, namely the Tamiya TS-38, "Gun Metal,” in a rattle can, The first time you use this, you will probably cry out "Aaack!’ upon viewing what you painted, because it’s a dark brown-bronze kind of color with a purplish overtone and little sparkles everywhere, and it’s glossy. But a coat of flat kills both the gloss and the sparklies. Here is how it looks at this point.

You’ll notice that at the left end, the outermost part of the runner, I angled the backing strip a bit toward the front.
     My next idea was to add a little rust — after all, this thing gets wet all the time — but more importantly, the 300-pound ice blocks sliding along it will result in shiny, silvery areas along much of the length, as they polish off rust and any old oxide.
     I added the silver color by dry-brushing. This used to be a standard modeler’s technique, but now seems out of fashion. All it is, is to wet a brush with the paint being used, and brush out most of the paint onto a piece of card or other handy waste, leaving just barely any paint on the brush. Now when that brush is applied to the model being painted, only a slight highlight is added. Obviously one experiments to apply the optimum amount for any particular painting project.
     Here is a view of the completed runner, just resting on the ice deck at this point. I placed a few ice blocks on the deck to illustrate.

This is about the right length and size for what I wanted on this runner.
     The view above may not clearly show where I placed the runner on the deck. For that information, the overhead view below should suffice.

     My ice deck scene is still not complete. I need to add a few more details, as I will relate in a following post. I should emphasize that I am not trying to model active icing, only a crew on the deck getting ready to ice cars.Most of the time in any operating session, that is the right posture for the deck crew to have, so I have modeled it that way.
Tony Thompson

Friday, September 6, 2019

PFE paint schemes — again

I have commented in a number of previous posts about paint schemes for Pacific Fruit Express refrigerator cars, especially about model manufacturers’ implementation of some schemes. Any of those posts can be found easily using a search term like “PFE paint scheme” in the search box at right. Of particular interest may be a predecessor of today’s post, which can be found at: .
     Let me begin by reviewing what is very well documented and should be well known. From the earliest days of PFE in 1906, car ends were painted boxcar red (which I’ll call BCR). Roofs then were an outside wood-sheathed design, and were BCR also. When metal-sheathed roofs were first applied, they were painted black, but around 1936 or so, they became BCR again. Roof and ends then remained BCR for PFE’s ice cars until 1962, when PFE decided that all its cars, ice or mechanical refrigeration, would have the same paint scheme, black ends and silver roofs.
     Much of this information is contained, in somewhat abbreviated form, in the PFE book (Pacific Fruit Express, 2nd edition, Thompson, Church and Jones, Signature Press, 2000), but it is much more completely presented in Dick Harley’s excellent compilation, contained in the SP Historical & Technical Society book, Southern Pacific Freight Car Painting and Lettering Guide (SPH&TS, Upland, CA, 2016). The book also contains a pretty complete guide for SP cars that I wrote.
     So what’s the problem? One issue is that exceptions to the standard paint did occur, especially in the latter part of the 1950s. Ice refrigerator cars were occasionally photographed with black ends, though they should have been BCR, probably having happened when the shops were painting mechanical refrigerators (which always had black ends) and just didn’t bother to change colors when doing the ends on an ice car. There is also at least one photo of an ice car with the lettering and railroad emblems of pre-1960 PFE, but with black ends and silver roof, again, likely a shop shortcut.
     Should we model these rarities? That’s a personal call, but relevant, because nowadays our good friends at InterMountain Models release some ready-to-run cars with black ends, or in the latest release of Class R-40-25 cars, a car with black ends, silver roof, and pre-1960 lettering, as I just described. Now I know how modelers often fall in love with weird or one-of-a-kind paint schemes, so I would guess that decorating models that way does produce sales, but the more careful modeler may wish to avoid such oddball paint and lettering.
     As it happens, I have a couple of the InterMountain-produced rare-scheme cars myself (one of which was given to me, and one that I bought without realizing the color of the ends). A car or two with black ends might be okay in the late 1950s, but I model 1953, when PFE standards were still pretty consistently observed. Here are those two cars, one wood-sheathed and one steel.

The Tichy-origin wood car in the background here, in addition to its black ends, has the oddball numerals that I think InterMountain inherited from Red Caboose. They really do not resemble the condensed numerals actually used by PFE. Some readers may recall that I have expressed myself previously on this topic (see the post cited in the first paragraph of the present post).

For an example of real PFE numerals, here is a detail of a PFE photo, repeated from the post just cited. It should clearly demonstrate what actual PFE numerals looked like (compare the numbers “2” and “9” in each image).

It may occur to you that I sound a little like a type geek here. Guilty as charged. And if all this sounds familiar, it should; I sounded off similarly last spring (see this post: ).
     To correct the car ends will require painting them boxcar red, thus obliterating the old car numbers, and since I am not delighted with the car numbers on the car sides anyway, the cars will both receive new numbers, in a correct size and style, of course.
     I prepared to paint by masking off the car sides and roof. Now masking over the side ladders and grab irons might seem a daunting task, but not so if you use a really flexible masking tape. I used the Tamiya 10-mm tape that I showed earlier ( ). It goes on easily and simply gets the job done.
     Next I airbrushed the ends boxcar red, using a color I like, Star Brand Paint STR-30, “SP/UP Freight Car Red,” and then hand-painted out the offending side lettering using Star’s STR-27, “S.P./P.F.E. Daylight Orange.” This paint dries glossy enough to accept decals with no other preparation. Lettering was done with the outstanding Microscale set 87-501, the recent version with the superb Dick Harley lettering. If you have a set with this number that’s more than, say, 10 years old, please, please, replace it with a new one. You will see the difference at once.

The photo above shows both cars with their new end lettering, and a bit of weathering to match the rest of the model. Note that the wood-sheathed car, as was standard in the early 1950s, has 7-inch end lettering, while the steel car has 4-inch end lettering. And yes, all that small lettering on the lower part of the steel end is available in Microscale 87-501.
     I am happy to have removed these anomalous (for 1953) black ends from these two cars, and can now happily use them in general service on my layout. I’m sure they will be rolling in the next operating session.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Car Service organization

Most railroads had an organizational entity that they called “Car Service,” and any one that didn’t, certainly had some kind of unit that did the same work, whatever its name. What was “car service” in this context? It was primarily car distribution, that is, getting empties to where they were needed for loading, along with the record keeping of car activity, and also reporting of car movements.
     It’s hard to believe that some of the record-keeping and reporting was even possible in the day of hand-written or typed records, but armies of clerks did all the work. For example, every freight car passing through a junction between two railroads was reported back to the car owner, reports made every day, which would permit tracing of cargoes or astray cars. In that sense, each railroad knew where all its cars were, or at least the most recent junction that each car had passed.
     Those cars passing through each junction had to be recorded for a second reason: if they were returned empty via their loaded route, the usual procedure for unneeded empties, they had to be routed back through each junction they passed when loaded. And if a railroad attempted to hand off an empty at the wrong junction, the receiving railroad could and did refuse it. That ensured that those who benefited from the car’s loaded revenue, would fairly share the expense of returning the empty.
     Perhaps the most important part of the Car Service responsibility was the delivery of empty cars, not just any cars but the correct cars, to where they were needed for loading, when they were needed. The responsible official at any particular location, usually a station agent, would call a Car Distributor, and he and his clerks, having collected requests from station agents all over their assigned territory, would arrange to send the needed empties.
     The main tool used to identify the “pool” of empty cars on the railroad was a report, filed every morning by every station agent on the railroad, giving the status of cars in that station’s territory, including those expected to be  made empty that day. This enabled Car Distributors to keep track of cars of every type that might soon be available for loading, in addition to empties already in yards. You can readily imagine the scale and complexity of this task.
     Last year I showed photos from an article in the Southern Pacific employee magazine, the Bulletin, about the Los Angeles Yard Office, and though that is a separate part of the paperwork connected with freight car movement, it does add something to this topic. (You can find that post at this link: .)
     Shown below is another of the many SP examples out there of rooms full of clerical forces dealing with freight paperwork and car distribution. This one was taken in San Francisco and appeared in the October 1951 issue of the Bulletin.

Here’s an additional example, taken in the Gerber, California yard office, and almost all of these people are clerks. The photo was in the April 1952 issue of the Bulletin.

     At this point I should emphasize that neither I nor practically any other modeler would wish to reproduce the mountains of paper records once created (and stored) by railroads, nor for that matter many of the individual documents making up those mountains. But I do want to suggest the existence of that paperwork in the way I operate my layout. That is the basis for my interest in waybills, which were indeed handled by freight conductors, and dropped off with or picked up from station agents.
     I have just placed an interesting document about the topic of Car Service organizations on Google Drive. It is an article, from the July-August 1970 issue of the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad employee magazine, Maine Lines, and was furnished to me by Ed Shoben, the source for the BAR article I posted last month as part of an article about the BAR reefer fleet being leased to Pacific Fruit Express (that post can be viewed at this link: ). Here is the link to the BAR item on Google Drive:

You may notice that this article also contains information about the lease of BAR reefers to PFE during the summer and early fall.
     As I stated, most of us are delighted to ignore, in our model worlds, the great bulk of the prototype’s paperwork, and not least, most of the activities and paperwork of a Car Service Department. But recognizing what that part of the railroad did is a help in understanding how freight cars were moved. And that’s something that a lot of us want to understand better, and try to model better.
Tony Thompson