Monday, August 31, 2020

Building a resin box car

I have from time to time described relatively simple kits and car projects in this blog. My interest in and work on model freight cars is not limited in that way, however, and I want now to describe the work in building a resin car, specifically a Sunshine kit, no. 17.5, for a Southern Pacific Class B-50-14 box car.
     As it happens, I already have two of these on the layout, not an excessive number since SP built 3300 of these (and 3700 of the very similar Class B-50-13 cars), all in 1924, and all by Standard Steel Car. But for this last Class B-50-14 model, I wanted to represent one of the cars that SP included as part of its sale of the Southern Pacific of Mexico railroad to the government of Mexico. Most cars of this type in that sale were from Class B-50-13, but some B-50-14s were included too.
     These two classes of cars had single-sheathed sides and ends as built, but in the 1930s, nearly all of the Class B-50-14 cars were given Dreadnaught steel ends. This class, like B-50-13, had a range of roofs, including Chicago-Cleveland early “Viking,” Murphy radial, and Hutchins. All cars seem to have kept their wooden Camel doors all their lives. For more on class history, see my Volume 4, “Box Cars,” in the series Southern Pacific Freight Cars (Signature Press, revised edition, 2014).

The photo above, taken at Ithaca, New York in 1950, shows a 26-year old car, still with its vertical-staff handbrake; note it has one T-section truck and one U-section truck (photographer unknown; Arnold Menke collection). Nearly all the cars got AB brakes during 1947–48 but only a minority were ever equipped with vertical-wheel geared handbrake equipment. These cars survived well until about 1950, but scrapping became extensive after that year.
     The first step in a house car model like this is to assemble the basic box. Careful checking to make sure the sides are same length is essential, and dry-fitting of the roof to sides and ends, and likewise of the floor to sides and ends, is equally important so that the box will fit tightly. I assembled mine with CA, and here is is how it looked at this point.

     The next step is to apply details to the box. I chose to use parts other than the kit parts. I began with A-Line “Style A” sill steps and Westerfield scale 18-inch wire grab irons. I drilled holes and attached the grabs with CA, while the sill steps were attached with canopy glue — an adhesive that remains tough and flexible.
     Next I applied brake gear to the underbody. I didn’t apply a train line, as that is invisible on the completed model, and only installed brake rodding, since piping also would be all but invisible. The K brake would have only survived on a minimum of cars by the sale of SP de M in 1951, but was exactly the kind of car that SP would have made surplus. Note that I have excessively angled the brake rods toward the trucks to avoid interference with truck rotation.

Very visible here are the “interim truck support blocks” which are installed until the car is painted.
     Since nearly all these cars kept their vertical-staff handbrakes to the end, I decided to model the B end of the car that way. I had in my parts box a nice brake platform in brass (likely Cal-Scale), and I attached it to the proper end of the model. I then soldered a brass brake wheel to a length of 0.019-inch brass wire, and inserted the assembly into the brake platform parts and to a Tichy bottom stirrup Here is what the prototype looked like, shown at Car Shop 9, Sacramento General Shops, September 1934 (SP photo).

The car shown above has had a geared arrangement added at the end sill of the handbrake shaft, making it a power brake. Many cars, however, never received this upgrade. Shown below is the B end of my model, which can be compared to the photo above, but without the geared detail. Obviously I still need to add the retainer and ladder.

     Completing the sides and ends with the ladders, installing coupleers, and building the running boards will be the next steps. I will address them in a following post.
Tony Thompson

Friday, August 28, 2020

Restoring a Devore kit, Part 2

Only the older readers of this blog will have personal memory of the kit line from Devore, which were cast metal kits of various kinds. I showed an example of their distinctive kit box in my prior pjost about a Devore model of a depressed-center flat car that I have been working on ( here’s a link: ). Dating as they do to the early 1950s, these models certainly qualify as classics.
     When I last reported, I had cleaned up the car body, replaced the grab irons, and added sill steps. Next I needed to figure out how to install couplers. The Devore body has small molded holes as might suit escutcheon pins, and aside from the undesirability of such an attachment, they are not located so that they would attach a Kadee coupler box.
     To install a Kadee box, I simply used canopy glue to attach Evergreen scale 6 x 10-inch styrene strip to serve as an attachment pads between the center sills, then drilled the pads. Finally, I used a bottoming tap (sometimes called a “gun tap”) to tap the blind holes for 2-56 screws. Here you can see the white pads at each end.

I next added the Kadee boxes but not the couplers, so that the boxes would be painted along with the rest of the body. I also added a Tichy brake wheel on a brass wire staff. Then I applied Tamiya “Fine Surface Primer,” to serve both as a witness coat and an undercoat for the final color.

Note here that the model is resting on what I have called “Interim Truck Support Blocks,” for painting and other work prior to adding the final trucks that the car will have in service. I have shown what these look like in a prior post: .
     For the final color, I chose Tamiya “Red Brown,” TS-1, which although more brown than most boxcar red shades, will not be very noticeable after weathering. Once that paint was dry, I added Kadee no. 158 couplers, pretty much my standard for new coupler installations. In fact, I buy them in the 25-pair “bulk packs” because I also use them steadily for replacing off-brand Kadee copies on RTR models as well as sometimes replacing Kadee no. 5 couplers on a car in the shop for other work.
     I should mention that I feel no particular need to replace no. 5s in my fleet, because in my experience at least, they play perfectly well with no. 58s. But I do prefer the smaller heads of the no. 58 style, and gradually that type is coming to dominate my fleet.
     One of the railroads that owned a 40-foot depressed-center flat car like this was Milwaukee Road. By the time I model, most Milwaukee heavy-duty cars had been renumbered with six-digit numbers, but I will use the original number on this car, MILW 67025 (later 601025). I used a mixture of old Champ sets for the lettering, then added paint patches for reweigh and repack stencils.
     Lastly, I chose a pair of Tahoe Model Works trucks, 70-ton capacity (TMW-110) for the car, since I know from the Equipment Register that it was a 70-ton car. After attaching the trucks, the model was then weathered, using my usual combinations of acrylic washes (for more on that technique, see the “Reference Pages” at the top right of this blog post). Note that the car decks at each end are wood planked, and accordingly are weathered differently.

     Although I don’t want to address it in the present post, I bought a load for this car back when I first owned it (never mind exactly when that was!). It is a transformer load by Cliff Line, and it has suffered a little wear and tear over the years, so it too will need some restoration. More on that later.
     With these steps completed, the Devore flat car is ready for service. I had stored this model in a somewhat derelict condition, still with the Varney dummy couplers on it that I had used as a teenager, and have finally gotten to the restoration, It was fun to work on, and satisfying to complete.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Another family operating session

Though for obvious reasons few if any operating sessions are taking place on most layouts, and haven’t taken place for some months, I did devise a way to do at least a little operating on my layout. That took place because our granddaughter was visiting for two weeks in mid-July. I wrote about those sessions in an earlier post (see it at: ).
     After a few weeks back at home, the granddaughter returned for two more weeks with us (also providing a change of scene for her parents, both of whom are working). Once again, as we did in the first round, the goal of the operating sessions in part was to include one of the Accurail models I had helped her build, a Santa Fe box car, that naturally she was delighted to see in service.

The model, of course, is very much a stand-in, having almost nothing in common with the prototype Santa Fe Class FE-15 “whalebelly” cars for which it’s lettered, except double doors and 40-foot length. But naturally that’s not of interest to the owner.
     I mentioned in my previous post about operating with her, that though she is eight and a half, she is pretty skillful with an NCE throttle, so it was natural to assign her as the engineer for a session. But she had paid close attention in that previous pair of sessions, and was clearly beginning to understand switching and waybills.
    So once again, I devised a simplified, cut-down range of work for a session, just as I had done before, but now I added a little complexity. In fact, the two of them, my wife Mary (as conductor), along with the young engineer, were both getting better, so further challenge should be a good addition.
     This went well in the first new session, taking place entirely on the side of the layout where the town of Shumala is located. They had more run-around moves to figure out and carry out, but handled them pretty well. Here you see the engineer (standing on a step-stool) and Mary at work.

     This all went so well, in fact, that I proposed we have a further session a few days later, and that we promote the engineer to conductor. (I think Mary did not love the conductor’s job, though I tried to offer constructive suggestions.) So once again, I set up a simplified session, this time on the other side of the layout at Ballard, but with distinctly more switching than the first time they had worked there, including running around and some car-sorting challenges. Looks like the engineer is still getting the hang of that throttle.

This went well, but I think the newly promoted conductor found that doing the entire job of planning the switching was a little bigger than she expected. But she very clearly understood what she was doing, and rarely made a false move.
     Again, as before, I believe fun was had by all. I found it interesting to work through what was needed for an interesting but not too complex session, and Mary and I helped our granddaughter have fun on the layout (and of course seeing and switching her own box car in service). Maybe this fall we will do more of these sessions!
Tony Thompson

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Handouts: Tank car waybills

This post serves the purpose of a handout for a talk. Virtual handouts have the advantage that they can include live internet links and are thus much more convenient to use. This particular post relates to the “Hindsight 20/20” virtual RPM meeting of today, August 22, during which my talk was entitled “Tank Car Operations with Realistic Waybills.”
     This talk topic is interesting in that it combines two complex topics, tank cars and tank car operations in the prototype, and waybills, as they are specifically used for tank car traffic. Both topics readily provide material for full-hour talks or more, and in fact I have given such talks. This particular presentation was an effort to talk about the two topics together, necessarily briefly. Here are the further resources:
     For the tank car portion of the talk, there is a fairly complete tank car handout, containing the drawings shown and other images, at this post, linked to Google Drive.

In addition, I wrote a two-part article for Model Railroad Hobbyist (MRH), which appeared in the issues for February and March, 2016. These are still available for free, to read online or to download for your own use, at their web site, . The first article is about prototype tank cars, the second article is about tank car modeling.
     Lastly on tank cars, I have written blog posts about any number of model tank car projects, and they can most easily be found by using the blog search box at upper right, using such search terms as “tank cars” or perhaps “tank car models.” Below is shown one of my favorite photos from the clinic, a Stauffer acid tank car (Richard Hendrickson collection), clearly showing the distinctive dome of such cars.

     The waybill part of the talk has even more background. I have written several articles for publication, two of the most recent being one in MRH, the issue for January 2018 and still available, like the articles mentioned above about tank cars, and one for The Dispatcher’s Office (magazine of the Operations SIG on NMRA), in the issue for October 2016.
     More significantly for the present moment, there are some on-line resources. These are in two forms: first, handouts for talks, and second, collected batches of posts, which may also be helpful. Here is a link to a recent handout, likewise available on Google Drive.

This above link also provides links to an earlier handout, with somewhat different material.
     Secondly, as I mentioned, there are some collected sets of waybill posts. Mike White collected my first 26 posts on the topic, as available at this link: . Subsequently Mike also collected the next 20 posts, along with some related posts about operations which touched on waybills, and that set is available here:

Since those posts, I have slowly added perhaps 20 more beyond what Mike collected.These are readily found in the blog archive by using the search box at upper right of this post, and using a search term such as "waybills," or better yet, using the series title, “Waybills, Part,” which is how I have named each numbered Part.
      Included in the talk was a brief mention of the larger (5 x 7 inches) waybills I have recently assembled for a friend’s layout, and no, I am not heading that direction myself; below I show one of the small waybills (2.5 x 3.5 inches) that remains standard on my layout, at left, and at right the larger format. Both bills were chosen to be for tank cars. (Development of the larger form was described in a previous blog post; you can find it here: .)

     Beyond this, if there are still questions, please contact me directly and I will be happy to try and answer or clarify any issues.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Railroad crossings, Part 3

In a previous post, I mentioned my article in the July 2020 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist or MRH, which was about railroad crossing signs, known as crossbucks. In that post, I included a photo of one of the three railroad crossings that I described in the article (you can see that post here: ). I followed that up by describing two railroad crossings in my town of Santa Rosalia, different in that they required less complete crossing protection (read that post at: ).
     But the layout has still other railroad crossings, beyond what I have already shown, and some have challenges in design. This post presents one of them, chosen because it involves a little more than just installing a pair of crossbucks.
     One of those additional crossings is Alder Street in East Shumala on my layout. Alder St. passes between two industries, Caslon Printing and Phelan & Taylor Packing, and heads out of town. The two tracks that are crossed are sidings, and sometimes such crossings don’t receive crossbucks, but if Alder St. has much traffic, they should certainly be there. I will add them.

As you see below, Alder St. has an intersection with Pismo Dunes Road at the gas station (note street sign at corner). As you can see, the complication here is that the crossing is only a short distance from the intersection

This short distance means that motorists don’t have much warning after turning the corner from Pismo Dunes Road. A crossing like this would be marked with an Advance Warning Sign if there were sufficient distance (100 feet minimum), but there is considerably less distance here than that.
      The signage solution to this problem is a sign on Pismo Dunes to provide this warning. For an example of the prototype signage of this type, here is a sign alongside U.S. Highway 101, just north of Willits, California, and the railroad near the highway that is being protected is the Northwestern Pacific.

Such signs, of course, are made in both left-handed and right-handed versions. The one that I am going to use is right-handed (meaning protecting a right turn), as shown below.

This sign was reduced to HO scale, printed out on a color laser printer, cut out and attached to a white post and placed on Pismo Dunes Road, visible as drivers would approach the intersection, though at a distance considerably compressed relative to what the prototype would do. This post looks kind of oversize, so may be replaced.

     Then of course a pair of crossbucks, one each side of the tracks, is added on Alder Street. This street is imagined to extend some ways beyond the tracks, so both sides need warnings. Stop lines were also added on the pavement. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)

     With these installations, my Alder Street crossing is properly protected. I have found it interesting to try and search out how the prototype handled situations like the ones we find on our layouts, and then to try and implement them. I have a couple more yet to do, and will touch on them in future posts.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Freight car guy stuff, Part 5

I have been writing a series of posts on related topics, all subsumed under one title. These topics stem from having once been asked at a model railroad club, “Are you the freight car guy?” I have explored what various things that description might mean (for my original post with the history, you can use this link: ).
     Most recently, I showed the Northern Pacific reefer that is part of a group I am repainting and relettering for Paul Weiss’s Central Vermont layout, replacing some ancient paint schemes that could not have existed in his modeling year of 1956 (that post is at: ).
     As I mentioned in that Part 4 post, the remaining four of the five total reefers being refinished were to be two each of American Refrigerator Transit (ART) and Pacific Fruit Express (PFE). For PFE, the post-1953 scheme with all-orange sides was chosen. For the ART cars, it seemed reasonable to letter both in the post-1951 scheme that had the emblems of both railroad owners, Wabash and Missouri Pacific, on each side.
     As was shown in the recent book about ART (American Refrigerator Transit, S.T. Maher, G.J. Michels and Gene Semon, Signature Press, 2017), this scheme was supposed to have the MoPac emblem toward the B end of the car on both sides of wood-sheathed cars, but many photographs show the reverse.Here’s one example (Gene Semon collection):

Note that grab irons and ladders are yellow, but door hardware is still black. In the middle 1950s, the door hardware became yellow, and stripes around reporting marks were discontinued.
     Many of the older ART cars were rebuilt during 1953–58 and renumbered into the 50000 series, such as this car, with “correct” emblem placement (John Maxwell photo at Denver, 1958, Dick Kuelbs collection); note that the deep center sill was retained. Side sills and steps are black.

     With that prototype background, here are the two models I painted and lettered. I chose two slightly different lettering schemes (you can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish), with the newer one being a little less weathered. Decals were the Mask Island product sold by the Missouri Pacific Historical Society.

     For the PFE cars, I chose the post-1953 scheme. The prototype photo below of a Class R-30-9 car (Charles Winters collection) clearly shows the body appearance of this class, which I was choosing to represent on the Accurail body. Note that side hardware is all orange.
     The photo , however, actually shows the 1950 paint scheme, with the emblems identically placed on both sides. In 1953, the SP emblem moved so that it was always placed toward the B end, and stripes and periods in reporting marks were dropped. In addition, side sills and steps became orange.
     (For extensive information on PFE paint schemes, see the Dick Harley’s PFE section of the Southern Pacific Freight Car Painting and Lettering Guide, Dick Harley and Anthony W. Thompson, SP Historical & Technical Society, Upland, CA, 2016.)

The changes to the original Accurail models were to replace the fishbelly center sills with straight styrene strips, and to add geared vertical-wheel handbrakes in place of the original staff handbrakes. The cars were then lettered with the modern version of Microscale 87-501, incorporating Dick Harley’s artwork (do not use old versions of this set!). Shown below are the left side of the car at left, and the right side of the car at right.

     This has been a fun and interesting project, making useful layout freight cars out of models that were totally unsuitable for a 1956 layout. (And I’ll admit it, I do enjoy applying decals.) May these cars have long and glorious careers on the Central Vermont!
Tony Thompson

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Layout models and all that

There are a few on-line email discussion groups that I’ve belonged to for over 20 years. And one topic that comes up again and again is that of “layout models,” meaning something well short of museum quality, but still . . . kind of good . . . whatever that means. I’ve been reflecting on the topic recently, thus this post.
     One aspect of this topic is the “freight car guy” perspective that I’ve written about in a pair of posts. Those posts are mostly about some car conversions for my friend Bill Kaufman’s layout, but they have a more general background than that one car fleet. Here are links to a couple of those posts:

     But now I am turning to a somewhat more general topic, though referring back to those prior posts. The models I showed in those posts are not “totally accurate,” each falling short in some way. Each has some degree of compromise from strict prototype correctness.
     Now I hasten to say that I have built competition models and entered them in the NMRA model contests, at both regional and national levels, and won some awards; I have judged in the NMRA contest at national and regional levels; and I was Contest Chair in Pacific Coast Region of NMRA for five years, supervising contests, recruiting and training judges, and overseeing judging at conventions. I think I have a fairly clear idea of what is meant by a “contest” model.
     And even in that regime, there are models and there are models. Some years ago, my Pittsburgh friend, the late Larry Kline, scratchbuilt a War Emergency B&O hopper car in O scale, with all the wood sheathing parts made of wood and all other parts made of metal; and it had working hand brakes, so that rotating the brake wheel applied the brakes. It was a superb model, and it placed First in the Freight Car category at that year’s NMRA National Convention. Not every winning contest model goes that far, of course, but let’s not neglect that end of the spectrum.
     Larry did have an extensive O scale layout, and would have been the first to tell you that he built no other models, zero, to the standard of that hopper car. It was a contest model, built mostly to prove to himself that he could do it. It was far beyond what even a craftsman like Larry would call a “layout model.”
     That brings me to a point of contrast. Let’s imagine a layout operating session. I show below part of the cover photo from the July 1960 issue of Model Railroader magazine, showing Terry Walsh signaling to the engineer who is switching that reefer on Terry’s layout. (I used Terry’s track plan for his town of West Agony, shown in that issue, as the basis for the town of Ballard on my own layout.)

     Now let’s consider rolling stock. Instead of thinking about Larry’s contest-winning B&O hopper car, let us imagine instead an Athearn 40-foot box car, unaltered, unweathered, and in fact right out of the “Blue Box,” lettered for, perhaps, Chicago & North Western. And further, imagine that this car is in an operating session, part of a local freight switching job. Does the conductor on the job examine the box car as a model? does he look at details such as the door “claws” or molded-on ladders or clunky running board?

     Of course he does not (even if perchance he’s a “freight car guy”) — he has a job to do. He looks at the car number, 77216, and the CNW reporting marks, notes that they match his switch list, and starts planning how to maneuver the car into the loading dock at Mammoth Manufacturing. That the car body represents a pre-war box car, and is numbered for a post-war car, matters not in the least, any more than the details did, or any more than the era-correctness of the lettering scheme on the model. He knows where that car is supposed to go, and he will get it there. As others have observed, the individual car in an operating session often plays very much the role of a player’s token in a board game.
     So for our operating sessions, might we just as well run out-of-the-box Athearn rolling stock and call it a day? As with so  many things in modeling, I would repeat one of the oldest mantras in the hobby: every modeler does every part of the hobby to his own satisfaction.
     I have indeed operated on beautifully scenicked layouts, on which the rolling stock was in fact totally out-of-the-box; and I have operated contest-quality rolling stock on “Plywood Pacific” layouts. Leaving aside the likely response of either layout owner, that “I haven’t gotten to that part yet,” these and many other levels of layout modeling can definitely yield a great deal of operating fun — regardless of freight car model quality.
     The same amount of fun can be enjoyed, of course, by those building models just as individual models, with only the vaguest intention to populate a layout with them. So I guess my point would be this. Modeling of anything, from scenery to locomotives to structures to highway vehicles to freight cars, is always going to span a spectrum of results. Decide where you want to be, and do your best to get there. More on this later.
Tony Thompson

Monday, August 10, 2020

More crossbuck installations

In a previous post, I mentioned my article in the July 2020 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist or MRH, which was about railroad crossing signs, known as crossbucks. In that post, I included a photo of one of the three railroad crossings that I described in the article (you can view that post at this link: ).
     To give an another example of the “full crossing treatment,” as described in the MRH article, here is Nipomo Street in my layout town of Ballard, crossing the Santa Rosalia Branch. There are crossbucks on both sides of the array of tracks, as well as double stop lines and a vestigial center line painted on the pavement. (With any of these photos, you can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)

     But my layout has additional railroad crossings, some with interesting complications, that go beyond the article. This post presents two of them, chosen because they include variations in the standard crossing arrangement, beyond just installing a pair of crossbucks. Both these additional crossings are in my layout town of Santa Rosalia, and involve roads near their end, and moreover, roads which only cross an industry spur.
     I based my treatment of these crossings on historic photos I have examined, most from SP’s Coast Route, showing crossings of minor roads like these. The standard arrangement of pavement markings may be simplified or eliminated, and sometimes a crossbuck was replaced by an Advance Warning Sign (I showed examples of both of these situations in prototype photos in the MRH column cited in the first paragraph of the present post).
     One of the Santa Rosalia crossings is Laguna Street, which crosses the industry spur and immediately becomes a dirt-surfaced entry to the team track area adjoining the depot.  It has a single-stripe “stop” line and a crossbuck, but no signage on the far side of the track, serving the team track. My assumption is that there is enough traffic to the team track to justify a crossbuck, but none on the far side for those returning from the team track.

As I always do on my layout, the name of the street is shown on the layout fascia in the foreground. In the photo, there is a field truck unloading at Coastal Citrus, the structure at left in the photo. In the background at right is the fish cannery, Martinelli Brothers.
     The second crossing is Corralitos Lane, an even more minor street, and it ends at the tracks, just beyond the Richfield bulk oil dealership at left (that’s Coastal Citrus at right). I showed the “road ends” sign and barrier in an earlier post (you can read it here: ). For this crossing, I made no stop line at all, and only the Advance Warning Sign.

     Though these two crossings have reduced warning signs and pavement markings, they are consistent with contemporary photos from my modeling era (1953) and with the photos in my MRH article, so I am confident they are prototypical. Now to finish the remaining crossings on my layout. Those with features beyond what I have already described will be shown in future posts.
Tony Thompson

Friday, August 7, 2020

Paint patches, Part 2

Paint patches on railroad freight cars occur for all sorts of reasons, but especially in the transition era, few cars were without them in the areas of the car where reweigh dates and places had to be stenciled, along with journal repacking dates. The first problem is to make such a paint patch, by hand with a brush, or with decal panels, as I showed in the previous post (it can be found at: ).
     In this post I want to show examples of these applications, and to make a few comments on paint “matching.” Most reweigh events occurred on the owning railroad of the car; after perusing many hundreds of car photos for the transition era, Richard Hendrickson estimated that at least 80 percent of all reweigh symbols were for a car’s home road. (For background on reweighing, see my blog post at: .) Repacking, however, was much more frequent and happened all over the country.
     To clarify, truck journals had to be repacked periodically, in the days before roller bearings, largely done on the basis of need, but with solid or plain journal bearings, this was done at intervals of a year or so. Like the reweigh date, the repack place and date was stenciled on the car, normally over the right truck.
     This brings up a second point. Though sometimes a reweighing and a repacking would occur at the same time and place, thus having matching stencils, this was not usually true. And unlike reweighing, which required a scale, journals could be repacked at the smallest yard or junction. Often at such places there was not a selection of paint colors, but only one — usually black. Here is a prototype example (Richard Hendrickson collection). You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.

Note that the reweigh patch (at left) very nearly matches the car color, unlike the repack patch at right, which appears to be black. The date, location and photographer are unknown; but the reweigh location symbol, CR, indicates Cedar Rapids (Iowa), in August 1950.
     Another example is below, an aluminum-painted car. Obviously few scale tenders or yardmen would have aluminum paint handy, and you can see here the black rectangles that resulted. The load limit and light weight have both been changed (at Bakersfield in February 1961); the black rectangle just to the left of the door is where the trust plate has been removed. A black repack rectangle is at right, above the truck.

This is a Wilbur C. Whittaker photograph, taken at Dunsmuir, California on June 10, 1962.
     Obviously we can easily capture all these details of paint patches, using some of the techniques I described in the previous post (see link in the first paragraph of the present post). Let’s look at some examples. I will start with a model of a Boston & Maine box car, built from a Sunshine kit, with brighter boxcar red paint patches for both reweigh and repack. Here the paint patches are a little different color, either because they are cleaner, or because the location where the work was done did not have a paint matching the original body color. Both would obviously be common circumstances.

     For another example, here is a car with the light weight and load limit both changed, but only in the last three digits of each. This was often seen when weights had not greatly changed. The reweigh is shown as occurring at San Luis Obispo in October 1952.

     As I mentioned, not every place that may stencil a freight car can achieve color matching. I showed earlier how I make paint patches of other colors, such as yellow (see that post at: ). Below is an ART rebuilt reefer (Accurail model) with patches that are yellow (reweigh at left) and black (repack at right). 

     Last, I will show another example of a black repack, over the right truck as usual, though the reweigh patch (above the word “Pacific” on the side sill) is boxcar red. This model is a Red Caboose product, representing the SP Class F-70-7 prototype. The repack stencil here is taken from a Sunshine decal set. The Euclid scraper load is from a Stewart kit, which I have described in an earlier post (find it at: ).

     I have usually applied boxcar red patches for both reweigh and repack, but do vary both patch colors on some cars for variety. That same variety is readily visible in prototype photos, and of course that’s the goal of this kind of project: making freight car models look like the prototype.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

New Signor SP book published!

John Signor’s books about Southern Pacific are the “gold standard” for many SP enthusiasts, and so it was great news that his long-gestating “mega-book” project, Los Angeles Division, was going to be published. John grew up in Southern California, and after he began working for SP in 1974, the Los Angeles area was one of the places he marked up.
     This can only be described as a “really big book,” 584 pages in length, 8.5 x 11-inch pages, hardbound, weighing in at five and a half pounds, and including more than 1000 photographs and 76 maps. Even just browsing through it, it does “go on and on,” and I mean that in a good way.

     Published by the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society (1523 Howard Access Rd., Suite A, Upland, CA 917886-2582), the book is available through the Society’s website, , priced at $80 plus $10 shipping for members. At the moment, the book is still shown as a member’s pre-order, but as soon as all existing pre-orders have been filled, the book will be available for general sale, probably at a price increase for non-members. But the book and its massive content of vivid historical material is a total bargain, and in the modern world of specialized books, actually rather cheap.
     Signor fans will know that his SP books are always focused on a specific geographic place or area, such as (in this case) an entire division, and present the history from the 19th century until the descent into the Black Hole on September 11, 1996. John’s interest, beyond the considerable specifics of the geography of each subject, is operations, and this book is rich in operational details.
     The book is divided into five large chapters. First is “Early Days, 1869–1900,” followed by “Expansion, 1900-1929,” then by “Depression & War, 1929–1945,” ”Postwar, 1946–1970,” and “Retrenchment, 1970–1996.” And though the material included in the book is indeed massive, in his Introduction John states that the amount on “the cutting room floor” is big enough for another volume as large. May we so blessed as to see that volume some day!
     I know a lot about the SP, compared to many people, but I continually came across things in this book that I now understood more clearly, or even discovered for the first time. As an example of “understanding more clearly,” the 1947 LA map on pages 254 and 255 brought my nose to the page for many minutes. I reproduce part of it below to show its richness, depicting all the many yards and interchanges of SP, Santa Fe, Union Pacific, Pacific Electric and LA Junction Railway, but also the many instances of joint trackage among these railroads. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish, though this image cannot do justice to what is in the book.)

     John has included some photos from his earlier books that touched on Los Angeles, from the Tehachapi and Beaumont Hill books, to the Coast Line volumes. This is entirely proper, so that all the best photography is in one place. But the great bulk of the photography here will be new to almost everyone, and there is gem after gem. Not every gem is major; I love the photo below (page 420), just because I had not seen a view of the Cornfield Yard at this angle, looking toward North Broadway (photo from the Jack Seeback collection). The locomotive is SP Consolidation 2531.

     I will note in passing my mild surprise that there are a number of fine Richard Steinheimer photos from the Los Angeles area that John has not included, but doubtless they are among those mountains of material on the cutting room floor.
     I will mention once more that the amount and detail of historical information here is just immense. Moreover, if operations is your topic of interest, you too will find a great deal of value here. And what not everyone may appreciate is how much information is included that forms the history of communities served by the SP. I would guess that many local historians, even if not railroad buffs, will also find this a rich treasure trove of information.
     I am sure it’s obvious that I am not a neutral reviewer here, having not only known John for many years, but having handled production of a few of his books, and helped with others, when he published with Signature Press. Nevertheless, I want to emphasize that I am delighted to see this book, which I know is a labor of love, finally in print, and I hope it is a best-seller, for John’s sake, for the SPH&TS, and for SP fans everywhere.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Tank cars in service

This post is stimulated by an email I received a few weeks ago, and I have been cogitating about it since, not because I think it is hard to answer, but maybe because it is hard to answer simply. I will give it a try in this post.
     The question was this (I’m paraphrasing): “How do tank cars operate in service? I understand that a company like, say, Dow Chemical owns tank cars and ships its products to customers in those cars. But what about the leasing companies like General American? or railroad-owned cars? How does that work?”
     As I said, this isn’t necessarily easy to answer simply, but I will try. (Background on most points below is available in my article on tank cars in Model Railroad Hobbyist, the issue for February 2016, still available on line for free, to read or download at their website, .) I have also provided a lot of facts and car drawings in a talk handout (you can find it here: ).
     These are the basics. First, essentially all tank cars carry liquid cargoes (though some are liquified gases), and liquids can leave residue in the cars. That in turn could readily contaminate a subsequent load of something different.
     Thus the first principle is that tank cars assigned in some particular service, for example, carrying heating oil, will tend to stay in that service. Tank cars certainly can be cleaned, to permit assignment for a different cargo. But this cost time and money, and was avoided as much as possible.
     So a particular car owned by General American, for example, might carry heating oil, and be assigned to a particular oil company. The car, then, would move between one or more of the oil company’s refineries, and its bulk oil dealers, delivering heating oil. It might show up repeatedly at one particular oil dealer, or only ever appear once at that dealer. But the key point is that when unloaded, it would be moved back to the refinery from which it had come.
          In thinking about such a car, it’s useful to remember that about 95 percent of all tank cars in the United States in the transition era were privately owned, with barely 5 percent in railroad ownership. And fully 90 percent of all U.S. tank cars were the general service or ICC 103 type, AAR Class TM. So that car of heating oil might look something like this, a plain black paint scheme with minimal lettering.

This photo shows an 8125-gallon ICC 103 tank car; photo from the Richard Hendrickson collection (location, date and photographer unknown).
     Another point of importance about a car like GATX 4121 is how privately owned tank cars were handled. A very clear description of the rules for this were presented in a previous blog post, concentrating on how empty cars were to be handled (see that post at: ).
     Some cars were sized to carry specific cargoes. A good example is chlorine, shipped in high-pressure cars. Because of the high density of liquid chlorine, these were usually 6000-gallon cars riding on 40-ton trucks. (To illustrate, 6000 gallons of liquid chlorine weigh about 74,000 pounds.) This means that such a car is not interchangeable with other tank cars that were designed for other cargoes. An example is below.

This photo, with date, photographer and location unknown, is from the Richard Hendrickson collection. The 1940-built tank car had a yellow body with black center band and bottom sheet, and had been reweighed in 1954. The reporting marks are TELX, a mark owned by the Pennsylvania Salt Mfg. Co. of Tacoma, Washington, a PennSalt subsidiary, so this is a car owned by the company which produces its cargoes. As a high-pressure car, it’s classed as ICC 105A-300, capacity 5900 gallons.
     A car like this, or any privately owned tank car in assigned service (as were most such tank cars), would have directions on file with the railroad agent at every place where the car might be delivered. These directions would either describe returning the car to its origin point, as I mentioned above, or would identify the owner’s preferred collection point for cars of this type. I covered this kind of car direction in a previous post (that post is here: ).
     The foregoing PennSalt car, owned by the manufacturer, was by no means the typical specialized tank car, in this case for chlorine. Many such were owned by leasing companies and then painted and lettered for the lessee. Here is an example, for Shippers Car Line (SHPX) leased to DuPont.

     Finally, it is often assumed that any railroad-owned tank cars are exclusively in company service, for fuel, lube oil, or other company needs. But this was certainly not true of all railroads. In particular, it’s known that Southern Pacific, owner of one of the largest railroad tank car fleets, only used about a third of its tank cars for company shipments. The remainder were in commercial service, sometimes under lease. To show a single example, here is SP 60179, an 8000-gallon car of Class O-50-14, photographed in Kansas City in 1959 (George Sisk photo).

This car may not be obviously leased (and indeed most cars do not exhibit leasing information), but it happens that the lessee is stenciled on the center sill, as you see below in a detail of the above photo. Anderson, Clayton & Company of Houston, Texas handled cotton and cotton products, thus the likely use of this car is to carry cottonseed oil.

This car of course would have its travels all in service of Anderson, Clayton shipments of cottonseed oil, and would be directed in its movements by Anderson, Clayton. The movement directions might be provided to agents by SP, the car owner, on behalf of Anderson, Clayton.
     I hope this summary helps understand the operation and directed movement of the majority of tank cars.
Tony Thompson