Tuesday, February 1, 2022

The role of an outfit track

 Southern Pacific often designated spur tracks at various locations as “outfit tracks.” This refers to their potential use at any time for a work consist, such as a ballast renewal outfit, a tie replacement outfit, or any other set of work equipment doing company work. I included such a track in my layout town of Ballard, so that I could use it for work equipment. It’s shown in the schematic map below, alongside the diagonal main and siding tracks. (You can click on it to enlarge if you wish.) 

In principal, such an outfit track would be unoccupied from time to time, but presumably it was installed with the expectation of use, so I usually do spot equipment there, and in operating sessions, do sometimes move cars to and from the track. My approach is to move cars that would likely need to come and go, such as water cars to be refilled, or cars delivering supplies for the track or bridge gang that is working.

The car most commonly seen on the Ballard outfit track is a dining-kitchen car, which I converted from a Model Die Casting “Old-time” baggage car. A description of that conversion is in a previous blog post (you can see it at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2013/04/modeling-some-sp-mow-cars-part-3.html ).

An earlier post showed the background, construction and decoration of two other cars, a MOW box car and the water tank car seen above (that post is here: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2013/03/modeling-some-sp-mow-cars.html ). These cars are frequent visitors to the outfit track.

A water tank car, spotted at the outfit track as you see above, was primarily used for potable water for the crew working at that location. But another water car that makes an occasional appearance is a fire-service tank car. I used the beautiful Albrae Models brass car to model this kind of equipment, and showed the car in a blog post (at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2018/04/a-southern-pacific-fire-service-car.html ). 

Another type of car that is seen on the outfit track is the open-top car, for example gondolas of ballast or new ties, partial tie loads having been shown in a previous post (located at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2019/02/open-car-loads-ties-in-gondolas.html ). Full tie loads are also a regular spot on the outfit track (below). The water car is often spotted behind the dining car, as you see here.

 Additional open-top cars include the different kinds of dump cars. I did paint and letter a brass model of a Magor dump car for this use (for a description, see: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2020/09/a-magor-dump-car-for-layout.html ). 

And one more type of open load may be creosoted timbers for the bridge gang. I have shown such a load, and an accompanying waybill, previously (see that material at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2020/02/operating-mow-equipment.html ).

Finally, all kinds of supplies for the work crew stationed here may be delivered in MW box cars. I have made up several of these, mostly using Westerfield kits of Harriman-era box cars, obsolete in mainline service but still soldiering on in MOW service. Here’s one of them, freshly spotted on the outfit track.

To give a single example of the kinds of waybills used here, I include below the bill for the car shown above, marked as a non-revenue bill. Southern Pacific did have a separate waybill form for non-revenue car movements, but I’ve been told that regular freight waybills were often used too. This is an example.

The outfit track on my layout, something of a passing fancy when originally designed, has proved to supply a lot of opportunities for car movements and considerable variety in cars spotted there. I’m glad I had that idea, way back when.

Tony Thompson


  1. A bit off the topic, but every time I see a photo of Ballard, I remember Terry Walsh's town of West Agony. That's a wonderful track plan, and I'm sure you've gotten many hours of enjoyment working Ballard.

  2. Yes, Jack, both I and many visiting operators have enjoyed the Ballard trackage. I wish I had seen Terry’s layout, but all I know about it is from the MR article. Are there any other sources?
    Tony Thompson

    1. Tony, I've only seen the MR article. I built the plan many years ago, and would consider it again if (or when) I need a neat, tidy little town to switch.