Monday, August 6, 2018

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi (Part 2) - SP West

This is the second in a new series of blog posts on the operations at the La Mesa Model Railroad Club in San Diego, CA.  In the last post, {Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi (Part 1) - My Story} I covered some how I started in 'Operations' and also how the club's Operations have evolved over the last 30 years.

I'm planning to cover in this series of posts which will cover each of the symbols that operated over Tehacahpi by railroad and direction.  I'll also be pointing out how they connected to the Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and out of Mojave both to Barstow and beyond and to Los Angeles and beyond into the nation-wide system of freight movement.

ATSF SWG arrives at Kern Jct. in Bakersfield.  Many SP symbols are spread across the SP Yard. - How many symbols can you recognize? 

"The cars become like drops of water.  When they're put into an operating fleet, it's like putting your drop of water into a swimming pool. --- But each drop has a story, a reason for being where it is, and for what it is doing there."  Many years ago, in discussions with other friends at the La Mesa Model Railroad Club this quote came out.  The railroads developed 'rivers', if you will, paths that moved individual cars en mass from one place to another.  Like the drops of water in a river, a train passing by doesn't seem to be made of single cars, it is one massive thing.  But what is the story of each of the cars or drops?  Did it come from a mountain spring or was it a great cloud burst?  Has it seen only the open fields or has it jumped down steep mountain slopes?  Did it linger a while as a snow flake and then in a massive snow pack before melting and getting moving again?

So how did the real railroads move their cars?  How can we simulate that in model form?

Symbols and Schedules


SP 4279 leads a VXE freight eastward over Tehacahpi Pass in 2007 at LMRC, San Diego, CA

One of the interesting things about the railroads that I learned was how the railroads set up "Symbols" to move or 'protect' certain traffic under agreement with the shippers on certain 'schedules'.  I should stop and rephrase that.  These 'schedules' were actually a series of 'cutoff' times by which the traffic would have to reach the next major yard in time to continue to move on the 'guaranteed movement' provided by that 'schedule' for that 'symbol.'  I talked about how I started learning about operations in my previous post (Two Years of Blogging) the basic books on the subject from the 1980 era, which were still about all there was in the 1990s.

General SP Symbol Format


The Southern Pacific used date suffixes after the Symbol to denote which day of the month they originated.  If multiple sections of the same symbol depart or are planned (forecast) to operate they will show section numbers before the date as follows: "1/5" for the First section of the 5th day, followed by "2/5" for the second section of the symbol, etc.  A prefix will be added if the symbol is originating at an intermediate point, and not the 'normal' origination point.

Most PFE perishable loading was governed by the Ogden Gateway Agreement, which directed that all traffic solicited for destinations east of the Mississippi River by the SP north of roughly Fresno would be routed via Ogden and the UP transcon to Omaha.  Only "Long East" traffic from south of Fresno could be routed via the SP through Los Angeles and the Sunset and Golden State Routes to the east.  An important note is that the short traffic for points west of the Mississppi River could be routed which ever was the shortest route, so there would be southward traffic from north of Fresno heading to So. Cal. and traffic from Los Angeles heading north to the San Fransisco Bay Area or east of Roseville on VXW or 'Long North' on NCP to Oregon, Portland and beyond.

It should also be noted that the PFE cars could also be used in canned goods service basically in what is now considered insulated boxcar (RBL) service.  Cars in this service were not specially handled at the headend for icing like perishable-service reefers.

The SP Symbols that operated over the Tehachapi Pass during the 1950s were as follows:

Westward Tehachapi Sub.


VMW - "Overnight"


VMW running as No.447 with SP 4185 leading blasts westward between Ilmon and Bena.

The SP's 'hottest freight' over Tehachapi would technically be the "Overnight" from Los Angeles to Fresno.  Calling it a 'freight' is somewhat questionable, as the VMW symbol usually runs as Second Class schedule No.447 from Los Angeles to Bakersfield, then runs as No.445 to Fresno.  The VMW symbol usually consisted of SP's famous black "Overnight" l.c.l. service cars distributing express merchandise from LA and eastern companies to the San Joaquin Valley.  The VMW also moved express reefers, both loaded and empty west out of LA.  The loads could be perishable or other high priority loads, such as news print, news papers, etc.  The empty cars would be loaded in Bakersfield and Fresno, often returning east on the VME or other routings on passenger or mail trains.

TOFC - Trailer-on-Flat-Car




Of special interest is in March 1953 the SP started using re-equipped F-70-7 flatcars with tie-downs for 22ft PMT trailers.  Both of these models have been produced by the SPH&TS under the Espee Models name.

NCP - North Coast Perishable


The NCP was the 'hottest' train between Los Angeles (Taylor Yard) and Portland (Brooklyn Yard) protecting perishable traffic and other higher priority loads on the 3rd day delivery.  The NCP arrives at Bakersfield 4:15pm.    The NCP does not normally work at points short of Roseville, at Roseville it may fill with traffic from East and West.

Advance-NCP - "Bananas" (Mondays)


Derailed PFE "Banana Loading Only - PE Rails. - Return to Los Angeles Harbor when Empty" - Unknown Photographer (Sorry, if someone knows, I'm happy to credit - too good a photo of Banana cars not to show)

It should be noted that the NCP symbol on Mondays usually had an Advance-NCP which operated with 20-25 carloads of Bananas, originating on the PE from the Port of San Pedro (South of Los Angeles).  These special banana trains dropped a few cars at a time over the way to Roseville.  Other Banana trains operated out of the San Fransisco Bay area out to Roseville, then north and east.  The Banana ship fleets was decimated by the US Government requisitioning the temperature controlled ships in later WWII to function as morgue ships bringing soldier's bodies home.  Even into the early 1950-era the ship service was not fully restored all the way to the north pacific coast ports of Portland and Seattle.

Rider Coaches rest between trips at Bakersfield, CA - commonly seen in photos from the 1940-50s.

These trains used a rider coach for the 'Banana Messenger' (Agent) who was charged with ensuring that the loads were kept in the proper temperature ranges.  The cars used on the Banana trains probably continued for the whole route of the train, unlike the cabooses that were swapped at the end of each Division.  - Bakersfield usually seems to have 2-4 coaches assigned for use on perishable trains originating from the Valley.

VXW - Valley eXtra West


T&NO 910 prepares to leave Bakersfield with a VXW to Roseville.

The Valley Extra West symbol, SP LA to Roseville train that runs out of LA early in the morning, ahead of the NCP, and arrives at Bakersfield at about 6 or 7am.    Like most of the westward symbols I describe here, originates in Los Angeles's Taylor Yard and runs to Roseville Yard.  The VXW's primary use was protecting perishable and livestock traffic from LA and Bakersfield to Roseville, which then would be forwarded east or west.  The VXW also handled normal merchandise traffic and could be filled or combined with the TMW symbol between LA and Bakersfield.

The VXW symbol could be directed to pick up reefers at Tehachapi and Caliente for movement west.

XMUG - Empty Lumber Cars


A SP F-unit set pulls into Bakersfield with the XMUG heading to Roseville, while Santa Fe FT-set pulls a BK-symbol eastward.

The XMUG or "Empty Eugene" symbols were the primary symbols used to return all of the SP's lumber cars used in the Pacific North West - Los Angeles and Southern CA building boom of the post-WWII era.  Of course this traffic was also sent to the San Fransisco Bay Area as well.  These trains would consist of SP, WP, NP, GN, SP&S, and other smaller northwest railroads that interchanged with the SP.  LA-XMUG starts at Los Angeles (Taylor Yard) and picks up additional cars at Roseville (from the Bay Area).  Some XMUG cars could be cut out at Roseville and sent to the NWP interchange at Schellville or back to the WP/SN in Sacramento or Oakland.

SP F-50, F-70, and lumber boxcars make up most of the regular XMUG consists.

Returning empty lumber cars from local industries in the Southern San Joaquin Valley and points short of Los Angeles (Saugus) returned to Bakersfield and were forwarded west to Roseville on the TMW or filling VXW symbols.

The Santa Fe also returned SP lumber empties interchanged to them at Bakersfield on reverse-rights routing.  This traffic was also forwarded westward towards Roseville on the TMW or VXW symbols.

At LMRC we try to combine the lumber-type cars into a TMW-block before leaving Bakersfield.  This makes the Valley Staging Crew's time much easier to turn the traffic and swap whole blocks instead of reclassifying the trains for their eastward trips.

BK-OK-R - PFE Reefer Drag


A monster river of reefers, a BK-OK-R snakes its way down through Bealville and Allard in November 2004 at LMRC.

Westward Empty Reefer (PFE) drag of "OK" cars for loading coming out of the Colton PFE shops for distribution in Bakersfield and points short if Fresno.  The BK-OK-R symbol operates from Los Angeles Yard (Taylor Yard) to Bakersfield.  The 'OK-R' symbols over Tehachapi could easily exceed 100 cars per train and sometimes up to 120-135 cars.  Cars not needed at Bakersfield continue west to Fresno as FN-OK-R symbol.

FN-OK-R - PFE Reefer Drag


SP 6151 leads the BK-OK-R as it arrives on Ice Deck 2, Bakersfield, Calif. at LMRC in 2005.

Westward Empty Reefer (PFE) drag of "OK" cars for loading coming out of the Colton PFE shops for distribution points at Fresno and short of Roseville.  The FN-OK-R symbol operates from Bakersfield to Fresno Yard.  Cars not needed at Fresno can continue west to Roseville or to the Bay Area over Altamont Pass, via Tracy.  At LMRC, the "Valley OK's" usually are limited to about 60 cars, and use double-headed "10-coupled" steam engines due to the scaling factors of engines pulling trains on flat grades.  Often these trains are cut up and rearranged in the Valley Staging Yard.

TMW - Tehachapi Manifest West


SP 4255 leads a TMW west at the upper signals between Tunnels 1 and 2.

The Tehachapi Manifest West handled the local merchandise traffic gathered at Los Angeles for points short of Fresno, radiating out of Bakersfield.  The TMW is basically the westward train symbol that runs to Bakersfield, is completely torn apart, and is scattered to the various locals in the area.

MSW - "Mojave Shorts" West 


The MSW led by a bunch of RSD's, probably going in for inspection at Bakersfield photographed at Cliff.

The train simply referred to by most railroad employees we've interviewed called this symbol the "Mojave Shorts".  We've developed the MSW abbreviation to delineate that we're talking about the westward from the eastward "Mojave Shorts" train, which I'm sure the railroads back in the day would have easily understood from the context of the conversation.

One of the SP's rare AC-9s is captured on its way to the Modoc Line at Mojave next to the regular switcher (#1310).

The Mojave Shorts trains on the surface appear to be a duplicate of the TMW, but the "Shorts" term on the SP meant that the symbol would work blocks picking up and setting out en route.  Basically no cars would be conveyed between terminals.  All cars that would be dropped off before the terminus or picked up en route.  The Mojave Shorts West would come out of Taylor Yard and drop its entire consist at Mojave, bound for local destinations and interchange to the Trona Rwy.  The engines and caboose then would be moved over one track and the same crew would depart with a new consist of westward cars originating at Mojave from the local trains working from there.

A typical example of one of SP's fuel oil tank cars.

Basically, if a through car was sent via MSW, then it would take an entire extra day en route because of the way the cars were set out and completely switched out in Mojave.  The MSW usually handled the empty potash, trona (mineral) and soda ash cars from the Port of Long Beach back to Trona, via Mojave.  Likewise the MSW would pick up the same loaded traffic cars heading towards the San Fransisco Bay area, which would forward from Bakersfield on the AW symbol to Oakland via Tracy.  The Mojave-Bakersfield section of the run also often handled SP fuel oil tank cars.

During the early 1950s the Covered Hoppers were still a new and specialized service car. First used at Trona, and then Monolith.

Empty cars for the Monolith Cement Plant from Los Angeles were sent to storage at Mojave Yard or straight to the plant at Monolith.  The cars for the plant would be dropped off at the center track at Monolith for spotting by the "KI Local" operating out of Mojave.  The MSW would then pick up loaded cement cars for the San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area from the center siding at Monolith, arranged by the KI Local for movement to Bakersfield and then forwarding to Fresno and Tracy on the AW symbol to the Bay Area.  A few cars of cement could be routed to other Short destinations of Fresno in the Valley or around Bakersfield.  I currently believe (2018) that the Kern Rock Co. Ltd. could not receive shipments in covered hoppers, but probably was still receiving their cement in boxcars.

This MSW is handling some of the other boxcar traffic which could be in either cement or hay service among other things.

The Mojave Shorts trains also could handle seasonal (Nov-March) hay shipments for horses in plain boxcars to the ranches on the north slope of the Tehachapi Pass from the greater Los Angeles area, although some shipments would have also come from the San Joaquin Valley on the MSE.

"Valley Shorts" West


Here a heavy "Valley Shorts" prepares to leave Bakersfield behind 3696 and 3701. Note the mixed up consist of freight cars.

This train handles distribution of the PFE and local destination cars west of Bakersfield short of Fresno.  Basically the next step in the system of 'Shorts' trains west of the TMW and MSW.  On some RR's this train could have been known as a 'Peddler' but on the SP they're known as 'Shorts'.  Often at Bakersfield this train is made up of iced empty PFE reefers and a spattering of XM (plain) boxcars, composite GS gondolas (for beet loading), and a few petroleum or fuel oil tank cars for local fuel distributors, and even a couple carloads of cement - these would probably in boxcars, but possibly covered hoppers as well.

AW - Altamont West


The Altamont West handled all the interchange traffic for the Bay Area from the Santa Fe and any from the SP as well.  Basically the Santa Fe's yard at Richmond was not very large, so the cars  for SP destinations in the Bay Area would be interchanged to the SP at Bakersfield.  We believe that the Santa Fe preferred to accept this 'short haul' of the traffic over the added congestion to the yards at Mormon (Stockton) or Richmond.

Automobile and Auto-Parts


An example of a 50ft Automobile boxcar with Evans Auto Loader (indicated by the white stripe on the door)

The hottest of this traffic included Auto-Parts cars (both boxcars and gonds/flats with autoframes) and empty Automobile boxcars (with auto-loading racks).  These cars were a guaranteed connection off the Santa Fe's 59 and 99 symbol trains from Chicago.

Cement Covered Hoppers


SP H-70-series covered hopper built in the late 1940s for cement service and other special assignments.

The AW also could handle the cement traffic to the bay area, although some days that traffic could be sent on TMW via Fresno to Tracy and over that way on a lower priority symbol.

Westward Locals & Switching


The SP 3259 works the KI Local at Bealville, Calif. with a couple of stock cars, boxcars and gondolas of company material.

The other SP symbols that work on the Tehachapi Sub are primarily locals, other branch line trains, and switchers, which I'll cover separately as they usually operate in both directions while preforming their duties.

In Closing 


SP Bakersfield Yard after landing trains off the road at the end of a TT/TO 1950s Session, resulting in the "Overloaded" condition.

Due to the size and scope of this topic, I'll be setting up one of the fixed pages to act as an Index for this series of posts and that should allow easier access to the various symbols and information.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:


Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - Index Page

Freight Symbols over Tehachapi (Part 3) - SP Eastward

Freight Symbols over Tehachapi (Part 4) - SP Locals & Switching

Busy Times at Bakersfield (Part 1)  - SP Roundhouse Operations

Busy Times at Bakersfield (Part 2) - SP Yard Overview

A Trip Over Tehachapi on the SCX-BI - A rather 'normal' trip over the Tehachapi Pass during a 1950's TT/TO session.

Triple Trouble on Tehachapi - A Weird Day on the Hill - Exceptions to and bending the rules

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi (Part 1) - My Story Learning Operations - Overview of LMRC growth in operations and my 20 years learning about prototype historical operations.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Triple Trouble Tehachapi - A Weird Day on the Hill

Operations on the Railroad always lead to interesting and unexpected situations and dynamic solutions.  Over the years, railroads learn and put out standing instructions relating to bad ideas which have been found to make those situations worse, so as to prevent employees from trying them.

SP 4255 works a freight into Caliente, with helpers coupled farther back in the train.

In a recent discussion, there was a question about double heading AC-class engines on SP freights.  The conversation turned to the SP's general standing orders were to NOT double-head AC-4-12 class engines on freight trains.  This was because of the high likelihood of breaking the couplers near the front of the train.

The topics then moved to showing a few examples where things didn't go as planned, and obviously the SP men "bent" the rules, and of course someone was there to record it... This is one such story.

A "Normal End" to an "Everyday" Day?


Normal SP freight operations in the early 1950's with four F7s on the front and ACs helping.

Heavy freights and passenger trains were being handled in the normal way over the pass in early January 1953.

On January 4th, 1953, freshly serviced SP 3765 was assigned to the Mountain Work Train, and departed Bakersfield.

A few track related issues required operation of a work train starting around January 4th.  Ballasting operations continued on the 5th as the SP 3765 was turned at Summit at the end of the day for a planned trip back to Caliente with a full day's work.  The 3765 works for several days away from the engine house until it needs fuel and servicing.  Watering of the engine is not an issue with the regular water columns available at Caliente, Woodford, and Tehachapi.

Hand written instructions for the Mt. Work Train for ballasting and staging materials.

The KI Local working from Mojave is used to stage carloads of material near-by for the Mt Work Train to actually do the work with the Maintenance-of-Way crews.

Consist for Extra 3765 departing Tehacahai and instructions for unloading ties.

The Mt Work Train works during daylight hours, which means shorter work periods during the winter months.

Extra SP 3765 drifts out of Tunnel 10 at Walong on January 6th, 1953.

As the sun set on the Tehacahapi mountains, Extra 3765 arrived at Caliente and spent another couple of hours arranging the empty ballast hoppers and other cars at Caliente for the local and the Mojave Shorts West to pick up on the 7th.  By 8:01PM the Mt. Work Train had tied up for the night.

Trouble Afoot



It's late in the evening of January 6th, 1953 as the First 808, a third class train pounds through Caliente and resumes the climb up Tehachapi Pass.  A powerful AC-7 class cab-forward, SP 4171 leads First 808 tonight with the VME-6 symbol hauling express reefers and returning "Overnight" boxcars to Los Angeles.

First 808 with SP 4171 pulling the express VME "Overnight" train at Allard

The first sign of trouble comes with a call to the Dispatcher by the head brakeman of First 808 at Bealville.  The 4171 is having trouble and can't pull the 16 car train out of Caliente.  This is strange, as the 4171 is rated for 17 cars out of Caliente to Tehachapi Summit.  They inform the Dispatcher that they're flagging backwards down into Allard siding and will wait for rescue.

The Dispatcher contacts the Chief Dispatcher to arrange a helper for First 808.  The Chief knows the Work Train's engine, 3765, is still at Caliente and suggests that the Dispatcher hold No.56, the Mail, and have SP 3765 coupled to the front to get to Allard where First 808 will be waiting.

The action really kicks off at Caliente as No.56 arrives.

The Dispatcher gets back to his desk just as speaker announces "Caliente, coming East."  That's No.56 approaching.  The Dispatcher orders No.56 to be held and to get the crew back from beans and on the 3765.

The crew on 3765 backs out and onto the main track.

Train No.56 already has an AC-class and GS-6 helper 4462 on the point.  The 3765 will make it a "Triple Header"!  You know there's got to be some rules being bent at this point.

Coupling up nose-to-nose - A triple header!

There's no wye at Caliente to turn the 3765 for the eastward movement.  It will have to back up the hill, coupled on the front of No.56.  The F-5 class "Decks" have a speed restriction of 30MPH while running in reverse.  Thankfully, the whole run from Caliente to Summit will be made at less than 30MPH.

Clear Board! Ready to go, like a heard of elephants!

The crew of 3765 works a light throttle leading the Mail train up the hill.  I was able to get a video clip as the triple-header rounded the curve at Caliente.


Meanwhile up at Allard, the 4171 is back in the siding.  After a few minutes the triple-headed No.56 pulls up beside the 4171.

SP 3765 cuts away...

... and moves east of the cross-over.

No.56 waits a few minutes next to 4171

A close quarters 3-way meet at Allard.


On The Move Again



First 808's head brakeman 'lines the crossover back to the main track and No.56 blasts out of Allard.

Coupled and ready to go again.

Once the 3765 and 4171 are coupled up and ready to go, they resume the trip to Summit.  Second 808 is just reaching Caliente as the First section gets underway again, still several miles ahead.

High ball!

No problems here. --- Just another day on the railroad.  --- The weird stuff started later... but that's not a operations related story.

Jason Hill

P.S.


This is an example of how operating sessions have their own problems that aren't planned, and the various people in the positions normally ignored in operating scheme planning are actually some of the more challenging jobs.  Why be a layout owner, when you could be the Chief Dispatcher?  The 'behind the scenes' people are the ones that solve the problems and keep the action on the railroad realistic.  

The SP 4171 is rated to handle the train, the Chief had a sneaking suspicion that he should have 'helped it' with another engine.  It turns out that the cause of the stalling was that one of the cars is a track cleaning car, which should rate at about three standard car tonnages, not one, which put the train over tonnage.  This drama wasn't planned, but it makes a great story to tell.  And sometimes those are the best kinds!

Related Articles

Busy Times at Bakersfield (Part 1)

Busy Times at Bakersfield (Part 2)

A Trip Over Tehachapi on the SCX-BI

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - (Part 1) My Story Learning Operations

This week, I thought I'd start the series of blog posts about operations and the use of Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi with an overview of the history of operations at the La Mesa Model Railroad Club.  The operational roots of the club dates back to the late 1960s and the formation of the club.  During those days, the real railroads still moved under Time Table authority and Train Orders were still being written on a daily basis!

Operations at Kern Jct. with a Santa Fe freight heading over to the Santa Fe Yard. While an SP 5000-class ready to leave the SP Bakersfield Yard taking a 'Valley Shorts" to packing sheds short of Fresno. June 7, 2015 Operator D.F. Willoughby

I think one of the most interesting philosophies of the La Mesa Model Railroad Club is the fact that it's been under nearly constant construction for about 38 years now, but has remained operational over that entire time to keep interest up and comply with the requirements for keeping the space open to the public.  During most of this time the prototype recreation sessions have continued with only minimal disruption!  This was made possible by a system of progressive 'phased' expansion with hidden reversing loops and even 'portable staging yards' to keep most or at least some portion of the mainline functional for the operations.

SP's West Coast descends into Caliente, while a westward freight waits to be passed in the siding. - Feb 2001

My involvement started in 1996 and joining the club quickly pushed the limits of my abilities to get research materials in the areas of prototypical operations, outside of a few out-dated books on 'general operation'.  What followed was 4-6 years of intense learning from senior club members about the railroad and historic operations in California.  A study which continues to this day with regular research trips to various museums, talking with various 'old heads' who worked on the railroad in the areas and related areas of interest (which is actually quite large).  As my involvement continued it has been very interesting to see and experience how the layout and operations has also grown to fit the progress of the railroad construction.

My Pre-LMRC Operation Resources


This is one of the things that sometimes is intimidating is prototypical operations.  I know in the early days of my experience reading about "Prototype Operations" in various books such as:

How to Operate Your Model Railroad
, by Bruce Chubb, 1977 Kalmback..


Or another classic:

Track Planning for Reakistic Operation
, by John H. Armstrong, 1979 Kalmback,


These books were certainly helpful in my early experience with 'prototype operation' and the various levels and aspects of it.  However as I joined the La Meas Model Railroad Club, I felt woefully unprepared for the 'complexities' of what was being recreated.  One of the things that became my favorite aspects in the club's recreations was the movement of freight over the Tehachapi Pass.

A pretty full SP Bakersfield Yard on January 31, 2013, where's all those cars going? - There's a process to learning.

Unfortunately, the books and most magazines being published in the mid-1990s that I owned didn't talk about southwestern US prototype railroading, but instead focused most often on east coast and coal railroading!  Over the years, I learned the flow of traffic in the South and Western US States.  Hopefully, I can likewise shed some light into some of these areas and encourage more of you to take the plunge... or at least to learn about what really happened so you can 'tweak' your railroad to make it 'fit in' to the rest of the larger unmodeled operational world!

LMRC - An Educational Experience


Growth of the SP Roundhouse facilities at Bakersfield - Oct 24, 2006

One of the interesting aspects of the club was also the 'self-motivating' aspect of "If you want to be involved, then you need to ask to be and take the time to learn."  For someone who was rather shy at the time, it did require a bit of work on the interpersonal side to show interest and become involved, but I'm so happy that I did put in that effort 20+ years ago.  I feel I should mention a couple of the people that have helped me over the years become more integrated into the club: Ted Haas, John Cathcart, Tony Andersen, G. Luiz, Dennis Kogan, D.F. Willoughby and many more, too numerous to mention.  Being involved with an organization such as LMRC has led to meeting so many interesting people and learning so much over the years.  I would encourage anyone reading to get more acquainted with prototype operations modeling and historic research.

Phased Growth & Expansion


The Operations Department, which is responsible for the steam era prototype operation sessions' setup, has expanded over the years becoming a tome of researched material for both SP and ATSF freight and passenger operations in the late 1940s and early 1950s in Southern California.  In 1996 when I joined the club, the scale of the operations were rather limited to about 450 freight cars and sessions lasted 6 hours.  This meant about nine 50 car trains was all we could field, which was comfortable for the railroad to handle.  Some of those trains would be worked with pre-written switchlists at the SP Bakersfield yard.  Often these trains were also built as the 'pick of the litter' before the sessions car by car to give 'play value' for the yard crews to feel like they're sending cars out to the locals for industry spotting.

The long-time "Sho-fly" at Edison connecting to Ilmon before Bena and Sandcut were built. - 8-27-2004

I think many people today forget how small the LMRC railroad was at the time.  There was no West Bakersfield, nothing between Edison and Ilmon, and the entire second level of the layout did not exist, even the floor wasn't there! There was no Mojave Yard, other than a six-track "portable staging yard" with a small number of secondary tracks for a few helper engines to layover after being cut out.

"Porta-Mojave Yard" aka Bena-field, aka Mojave-ford, lands after 20 years in its final location as an East Staging Yard "support yard" - 12-25-2004

Originally this "portable yard" was used at the west end of the railroad where Bena is today... and it was called Bena-field.  This was before my time.  When I joined Bena-field was moved to about the floor level of what is now Woodford, and called "Mojave".  The story for that yard continues as it was eventually placed in a 40ft storage container behind the museum for several years as the mezzanine was built, and then used again as a "Temporary Mojave Yard" while the final Mojave Yard was built in 2008-or so.  Eventually it stayed where it was, with the reversing 6-track loop being dismantled and scrapped and became a storage yard.

But back to the story, at that time in 1996-1998, no real effort was made to ensure that the cars switched were recycled into other trains after exiting to staging yards.  Some of the through trains would be recycled and run the opposite direction as another symbol, which had been researched to be similar in consist. - Basically the prototypical 'reciprocal' train that the prototype used to return the cars to the shippers.

SP 4464 leads No.59, the West Coast, through the Caliente Narrows during a session in Feb 2001.

In 1998, we expanded the operations scheme and started regularly 'turning' trains in staging.  This involved working out the scheme of what the returning symbols were.  This eventually became a system of 'core blocks' of cars that stand out when you know what they are.

Texaco's TCX 4593 is regularly assigned to the GCF-BTX cycle.  Find this car between Bakersfield and Mojave, and you've probably found the GCF or BTX depending which way it's going!

A few examples might be the Texaco and other Texas-based petroleum cars, which usually arrived in CA on the Santa Fe's GCF (Gulf Coast Forwarder) and returned on the BTX (Bakersfield-Texas Extra/Expediter) which handled a lot of petroleum traffic along with all the other California-Texas traffic.

Generally cars like the GN 41741, often operates north of Bakersfield on the GWS-SWG or NCX/SCX symbols.

Another would be the Santa Fe's GWS (Great Northern-Western Pacific-Santa Fe) and SWG (Santa Fe-Western Pacific-Great Northern) which you guessed it... ran over those three railroads in that order, these two symbols often had mixes of WP and GN cars in them, with some Santa Fe cars as well.

An AC-10 helps a Valley Extra East (VXE) as it climbs the grade and enters Caliente.

During 1998 the operation days extended to 8 hours for a 'regular session' and we started having 12+12 sessions over a weekend for large events like ProRail.  The 12+12s required guesstimating the time required at Bakersfield to switch symbols that needed work, or just the regular times to get helpers and engine changes done.  We found that this only worked reliably about 6 hours out.  Any farther out that 6-8 hours (which is how far a 'solid' lineup on the prototype was) would be conjecture as "Sometime after 6pm this symbol will be run."

Now think about where ALL of those cars to keep track of.... and remember, each one has a place it's going and a path to get there.

It was during the planning phases and setup for the 1998 ProRail that I seriously started getting into learning the freight train symbols and the 'feel' of the various symbols.  Each of the cars going one way actually had different stories to tell, even though on the modeled section of the railroad they might appear to be going the same place.  Even if they're going to the same place, there is a big difference between; a perishable-loaded PFE reefer, a boxcar load of newsprint, an empty cement service boxcar, and an empty automobile parts car, even though they're all heading from Bakersfield to Mojave, each will probably be routed to a different train symbol.  This is some of the stuff I learned early on, and one of the main topics of future posts in this series.

Expansions Abound!


Bakersfield "City Yard" under construction in 2004 in West Bakersfield.

In the early 2000's the layout began expanding in both the 'Valley Staging Yard' (2003) and up the hill through Cliff and a new east end staging yard (2002).  Around 2003-2004 Edison and Bena extension was put into service.

New construction of the Loop at Tunnel 9 about six months before being put into service.  Nov 3, 2004.

Then in 2005 the new mainline from Tunnel 8 (east of Cliff) to Tunnel 10 (Walong "Loop") entered service.  This addition also put into play the Train Order station at Woodford and four new sidings.

New Operating Schemes


Completed Walong "Loop" with Tunnel 9 and Tunnel 10 to the far left.

The changes to the railroad from doubling the number of single track sidings was evident.  Freights now often took 1-2 hours to negotiate the railroad from Bakersfield to the Mojave Yard.

A nearly plugged Mojave Yard doubling as East Staging Yard on Nov 29, 2009 between operating sessions.  The new East Yard under construction at Right about 18" lower.

By about 2006 we had the final Mojave Yard under final construction and back in operations.  Further east expansion happened in 2009 or so as a new East Staging Yard was built, and Mojave calmed down to the 450-car mid-division railroad yard that it historically was.

The Dispatchers desk during the days before an operating session with dozens of switchlists being prepared. - Nov-2004

In the photo below is a great example of how the La Mesa Club's gradually expanded the operation of the layout and kept it working while major construction continued.  This photo was taken about a year before we opened the new ATSF Bakersfield Yard, which is visible behind Matt Menker (wearing black) with drawings, etc on top of it.  During this short period of time the ATSF trains were operated through the SP Valley and were minimally worked at West Bakersfield (70's yard).   There's a westbound Santa Fe passenger train at the depot.  Also several sets of ATSF 'Red Nose' passenger diesels and ATSF way cars (cabooses) are also seen in the 70's yard, laying over between trips.

Jason Hill, Steve Miller, and Matt Menker busy at West Bakersfield in June 2012. Robert Bowdidge Photo

In addition, a westbound AW-symbol freight with double-headed F and SP-class heavy steam under the watchful eye of Steve Miller (Valley Div. Staging Guru) heading for Tracy, Altamont Pass and Oakland.  It looks like I'm consulting with Steve, probably as Chief Dispatcher with lineups and crew call sheets, about the next trains which will be moving to or from 'The Valley'.  Matt Menker, who often works as one of the Yardmasters (probably 'General YM' during this construction phase), looks on from the Santa Fe aisle with a switchlist next to the 'City Switch' engine.  In the photo we can also see the dark gray 'pavement' of Sacramento St. on each side of the yard and many of the spurs on the painted top of the layout.  No buildings and only vague names written on the top of the layout suggest what industries will eventually be there.

Two ATSF 2-10-2s prepare to leave while Car Clerk Matt Menker works car-card experiment on Dec 14, 2012.

Operations since the 1996 era, when Bakersfield SP Yard was built, had always required that the Santa Fe trains use the yard as well.  By 2012 this era was coming to a close with the construction of the new ATSF Bakersfield Yard across the aisle and west of Kern Jct.

The new Santa Fe Bakersfield Yard, seen on Nov 29, 2009, under construction.

Total freight car count during this period pushed towards 800-1200+ cars, and the numbers of trains expanded as well.  During 2012 we can see that we're about to open the new Bakersfield Santa Fe Yard, which reduced the severely overloaded SP Yard operations.  Which we figure as operating at about 130-150%, with switching crews working both ends of the classification tracks with different symbols.

Combined roundhouse facilities during January 2012.

Towards 2012, we tried for a few sessions moving minimal Santa Fe classification operations to the SP's 70's Yard west of Baker St. - However even then the SP's roundhouse then became the limiting factor.

But Car Cards! -- NO!


Car Forwarding can be taught!  Matt Menker working with Bryn Ekroot at the Bakersfield car-card experimental "Tower"

In late 2012 the system of pre-handwritten switchlists was becoming too much.  So with many operations folks from around the country suggesting, we tried two or three sessions using multi-cycle carcards and two "Car Clerks", one at each end of the RR to make lists for switching and keep track of where 1400 cars were supposed to be going.... It FAILED epically resulting in a forced march of about 8-10 people after a Saturday 12+12 weekend to get 1400 carcards put back with their cars at the right end of the railroad in the right place so we could do the second half of the weekend... (sigh)

The verdict was in.  Back to hand written switchlists we go.  However we decided to keep the two Car Clerk positions.  The East Clerk is usually combined with the East Staging Yardmaster, who both reblocks the freight trains and works out the routings for all the cars on the Eastern end of the railroad and down the Hill as far as Caliente or Bena.  The West Clerk works a 'roving' job out of Bakersfield covering the Arvin and Taft Branches, Bakersfield SP and Santa Fe Yards and the Valley Staging yards.

The new system seems to work well, and we're working to expand the number of people that are trained as Car Clerks for the "Traffic Dept."  These two positions feed information about trains entering the railroad and help the Chief Dispatcher formulate the 'Line Up' for the next 6-8 hours in real-time.  In a way the Chief and the two Clerks end up being the people controlling all of the operations 'down stream' of them.  Their choices and judgments effect everyone else's experience 4-8 hours later in the session.  I'm sure I'll be talking much more about all of the real-time operations and planning that goes on during a session.

Driving the Golden Spike


ATSF 3892 and 21LABC charge through the east end of Summit for the Golden Spike Ceremony at Summit Switch - Aug 29, 2015..

In August 2015 the mainline was completed over its final alignment which created a 38% increase in mainline run over the Division.  Continuing construction on secondary trackage and scenery will still continue for many years to come.

Golden Spike meeting of ATSF 3892 and SP 6461 (iirc) at Summit - Aug 29, 2015.

The new wye at Summit finally allows prototypical operations for the helpers to turn and be sent back west to Bakersfield if ordered to do so by the Chief Dispatcher, and additional planning required for the 'Trick' Dispatcher to work in the light engines to come back down the Hill.  The addition of Tehachapi and Monolith added several more opportunities for freight symbol operation, and messages from the Traffic Dept, Yardmasters, and the Dispatcher to coordinate which trains will stop to make pickup and setouts.

Switchlist for the KI Local departing Mojave on the 22nd of Dec, 1952 with a full day's work ahead.

The physical addition of Monolith now allows much more work for the KI (Tehachapi) Local and Mojave Shorts trains to work the cement plant.  Also the apple sheds at Tehachapi can be served.  During the last few sessions the KI Local crew often spends 10-14 real hours on duty.  No fast clocks are used!

In Closing


Reefers stored at Magunden and a pair loading at the Golden H packing shed.

At the end of the day, the scale of the La Mesa Club is daunting, however each car movement is very simple and straight forward.  We'll be looking next time at the SP's Westward Freight Symbols, what makes each special and what purpose each serves in the grand scheme of the historical operations.  We'll eventually work our way through to SP's Eastward Freight Symbols, the SP's Locals and Switch Jobs and routings.  Then in following posts I'll be turning the Santa Fe's Freight Symbols West and Eastward, and their Local and Switch Job Routings.

For now, I'm hopeful that this post gives some insights into Prototype Operations and will provide a good foundation for my future posts on the Freight Symbols used over Tehachapi Pass.  

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Busy Times at Bakersfield (Part 1)  - SP Roundhouse Operations

Busy Times at Bakersfield (Part 2) - SP Yard Overview

A Trip Over Tehachapi on the SCX-BI - A rather 'normal' trip over the Tehachapi Pass during a 1950's TT/TO session.

Triple Trouble on Tehachapi - A Weird Day on the Hill - Exceptions to and bending the rules