Sunday, November 17, 2019

Tehachapi Operations : Part 2 - The "Mojave Shorts West"

For over a year I've been debating how I want to broach the next steps in the topic of the freight symbol system we use at LMRC and spotting guide for the various 'signature blocks' which the LMRC Car Clerks and Chief Dispatchers use to determine what the restaging work should do and what the new symbol will be returning onto the modeled portion of the layout.  I don't believe any one post will be able to cover any serious depth in these topics, so I'll start nibbling away with a post in-depth on one symbol or type of car movement at a time, hopefully that I've been able to get some decent photos of to keep the posts 'pretty'.

In the last post (Tehachapi Operations: Part 1 - Mountain Work Train) we looked at the extreme close-up action of the Mountain Work Train doing its work and only lightly touching on the supporting system of 'Shorts', through freights that do basic pickups and setouts between Mojave and Bakersfield.

Mojave Yard Engine works local cars on the Mojave Shorts West. January 14th, 1953.

So today we'll take a closer look at the "Mojave Shorts" train symbols, what they do, what they carry, and what sets them apart from the other 'overhead' traffic which moves over Tehachapi Pass without doing work between the major yards.

Overview of the "Shorts" System

The basic 'Shorts' system is the concept that one symbol will be used between LA and Bakersfield to handle all the heavy lifting of the local traffic across the Division.  This will reduce the weight and engine required on the locals that work over those areas to one engine.  The mid-point at Mojave became the focal point for most of the locals working in three directions (Mojave Sub, Tehachapi Sub, and Jawbone Branch).  The "Shorts" trains work from their originating yard (Bakersfield or LA) to Mojave, where the whole train is left behind to be worked by the Mojave Switcher.  The crew of the Shorts train picks up the new train which was classified by the Mojave yard engine over the previous 24 hours from the arriving cars on the locals and any through cars which came in on the arriving 'Shorts' train from the previous day.  The new train departs and works from Mojave to the terminal (either LA or Bakersfield) where the train will be again classified.

Ideally, the 'Shorts' trains carry no through cars.  Any cars being classified at the end terminal will be local cars from the Division heading to points beyond the Division.

So, let's get into the details by starting out Los Angeles:

LA-Mojave Shorts West (LA-MSW-14)

Starting in Los Angeles Yard the LA-MSW works to Mojave working blocks at Saugus, Palmdale, and then drops the remaining consist at Mojave to be classified.  The crew then takes the engine and switcher moves the caboose over to another track to pick up the new MC-MSW which has all the westward cars that arrived over the previous 24 hours into Mojave Yard from the Owenyo Local, KI Local, "Blitz" (Palmdale) Local, and Searles Turn (Trona Rwy interchange).

Sample Consist List for LA-MSW-14 (which covers two sides of a switch list).

Photo of LA-MSW-14 switchlist handled by SP 6245 with caboose 1142, and 50 freight cars.

The setout work west of Mojave needs to be blocked at the head-end for: Monolith, Tehachapi (KI), Caliente, and Bena.  Pickup may also be made at these stations and will be noted on the crew call and by switch lists with routings at the stations. - Currently in 2019 LMRC doesn't have enough freight cars to really fill out the Mojave Shorts trains, and have enough cars to drop the whole consist.  The result is the MSW and Mojave yard crews need to make a quick 'pass' on the train to pull out the Mojave cars and the 'setout' cars for short of Bakersfield, then a quick second pass will be made on the 'setout' cars to get them in the right order for easy setout from the headend of the MSW.

On January 14th, the incoming LA-MSW-14 at 50 cars has a number of through cars for Bakersfield, and the Chief Dispatcher decided to keep the MSW crew on duty and wait for the switcher crew to work the train over and make MC-MSW-14.  Because LA's hump yard at Taylor Yard is still a couple years in the future, the consist is a real mixed back which each yard will have to sort through to get their cars out.

Check out "Westward SP Symbol Freights" from my previous blog post.

The SP 5300 switches LA-MSW cars at Mojave  to get them blocked for setout en route.

So let's look at the consist in detail:

CDLX 1008 (Insulated Tank) is hauling fuel oil to Trona - Route to Searles Turn
SHPX 8795 (Tank) is an empty-to-load (x-ld) to the Agent at Bakersfield, who is then going to forward it to Taft Cotton Compress for cotton seed oil loading.
ETCX 225 (Insulated Chem tank) is loaded with chem's for the Antioch-Martinez petroleum district, routing is to AW-symbol.
UTLX 76787 (Tank) is loaded with fuel oil for the fuel dealer at Porterville, on the Porterville Local  out of Bakersfield.
UTLX 77640 (Tank) is loaded with fuel oil for the fuel dealer at Cocoran on the ATSF 55 "Super Local".
SP 63752 (Auto-box) is loaded with House Hold Goods (HH Goods) is heading to the Oakland area on the AW.  This is an example of a 1950's cross-country moving van before the interstate highway system and moving vans became common.
NP 20104 (Box) is loaded with Freight Forwarder cargo to the Acme Fast Freight at Bakersfield SP Freight House.  Acme was the freight forwarder that was associated with the SP.
GATX 51121 (Tank) is empty heading to Oil City, out of Bakersfield on the Oil City Switcher to be loaded.
FTDMS 14007 (Box) is loaded with another load of House Hold Goods (HH Goods) also heading to the housing boom around Oakland to be forwarded at Bakersfield to the AW-symbol (West of Tracy, CA).
NP 20107 (Box) is loaded with Frt Fwd to the Mojave Freight House.  LA's Freight House would send out consolidated freight forwarder traffic in 'captured' foreign cars en route towards their home railroad.  In this case, a NP boxcar takes a load back towards Roseville and Eugene, Oregon.
UTLX 78022 (Tank) is loaded with fuel oil for the bulk dealer at Taft.  Routing to Taft on the Sunset Local out of Bakersfield.
SP 69234 (Auto-box) is loaded with Aircraft Parts for Plant 42 in Palmdale.  Routing to Palmdale on the "Blitz" Local.
GATX 50984 (Tank) is loaded with fuel oil for the narrow gauge industries, which will be interchanged or moved to tank semi-truck at Owenyo on the Jawbone Branch, and will be setout at Mojave.
SP 83142 (Box) is loaded with hay for Bena, which will be blocked at Mojave and setout en route.  Alternately the car could be blocked with the Caliente S/O and the KI Local will make the run to Bena.
CDLX 1075 (Insulated Tank - Wine Service) is empty-to-load in assigned private car service on the Porterville Branch wineries.
PRR 601185 (Box) is loaded with Aircraft Parts for Air Force planes at Muroc AFB, it is routed for transfer to ATSF at Mojave for the Boron Local.
SAL 19499 (Box) is loaded with Freight Forwarder to Oakland area on the AW-symbol.
SOU 14675 (Box) is loaded with Freight Forwarder to Oakland area on the AW-symbol.
CBQ 62199 (Box) is loaded with Hay for Tehachapi Hay & Grain, is routed for S/O at Mojave and blocked for KI for the KI Local to spot.
LSI 2241 (Box) is loaded with Machinery for Trino on the Arvin Branch, will be interchanged to ATSF at Bakersfield.
SAL 11984 (Auto-box) is loaded with Furniture for the Acme Fast Freight at the SP Bakersfield Freight House.
CNW 46583 (Flat) is loaded with Tractors for the Team Track at Porterville.
SSW 85082 (Flat) is loaded with Farm Equipment (Plows and Seeders) for the Tehachapi Lumber & Supply Co. and will be blocked for KI at Mojave and setout en route for the KI Local to spot.
WM 28237 (Box) is more HH Goods for Pleasenton (West of Tracy) and routed AW at Bakersfield.
SP 69215 (Auto-box) is loaded with Rocket Bodies for final assembly and testing at Inyokern-China Lake NWS, the car will be setout at Mojave and routed on the Owenyo Local.  Some cases the Inyokern-China Lake railroad connection can be an extension of the Searles Turn, as heavy rail ends at Inyokern for larger movements of cars than the Owenyo Local can handle.
MP 90426 (Box) is loaded with Hay for Bealville, setout at Tehachapi (KI) en route for KI Local to spot.  KI, Woodford, Bealville, Caliente, and Bena are importing winter hay for the ranch horses and cattle.
SP 63678 (Auto-box) is loaded with Hay for Caliente.  This car will be blocked at Mojave for Caliente and the KI Local will make the final spotting near the Corrals for the local ranchers' trucks to unload team-style and transport to the ranches.
SP 19020 (Box) is another carload of Hay for Caliente, same as SP 63678 above.
MP 34813 (Box) is loaded with Freight Forwarder traffic for AW-symbol out of Bakersfield.
PRR 81209 (Auto-box) is loaded with more Aircraft Parts for Muroc AFB, setout Mojave for ATSF Boron Local to Muroc.
CO 15347 (Box) is loaded with Engine Components destined for the aircraft assembly at Plant 42, Palmdale, CA.  Routed to Blitz Local at Mojave.
CNW 85160 (Box) is loaded with Grain for the Tehachapi Hay & Grain for S/O at Mojave or KI for the KI Local to spot.
PHD 1509 (Box) is loaded with Freight Forwarder to the depot at Tehachapi, also S/O at Mojave or KI for the KI Local to spot.
TNO 52152 (Box) is empty-to-load for Monolith, setout at Monolith or Mojave for KI Local to spot.
TNO 55610 (Box) is empty-to-load for Monolith, setout at Monolith or Mojave for KI Local to spot.  These two cars are effectively 'home road cars' which are being ordered by the Monolith Agent to fill loading requirements for the 15th.
BO 380934 (Box) is loaded with Freight Forwarder for the Mojave Freight House.
PRR 198082 (Hopper) is loaded with coking coal for Kern Steel at Bakersfield.
TP 5298 (Flat) is loaded with steel beams for the California Highway Department's earthquake repairs of the Hwy 466 Bridge at Woodford.
SP 151379 (GS-Gondola) is empty-to-load for the Owenyo Branch for loading with boxite at the 'Beet' Trestle at Owenyo from the narrow gauge interchange.
HOLX 1267 (Covered Hopper "CH") is empty-to-load for the Owenyo Local which will be loaded at Bartlett, CA.
SCMX 902 (Tank) is loaded with chemicals for processing of oil on the Oil City Branch.
TNO 52146 (Box) is empty-to-load for Agent Mojave.  This car is currently unassigned, but the Agent at Mojave has ordered it for his pool of cars to protect the various locals which work out of Mojave.
UOCX 8022 (Tank) is loaded with petroleum products for the Union Oil of California bulk dealer at Bakersfield.
NCStL 42185 (Gondola) is loaded with cable for the Searles Turn, and interchange to the Trona Rwy for West End Chemical.
SP 45962 (GB-Gondola) is loaded with Company Materials for SP Company Lumber Shed - Bakersfield.
SP 152344 (GS-Gondola) is loaded with Engine Service Sand for the Bakersfield Roundhouse Sand House.
SP 19026 (Box) is empty for the Agent at Monolith, probably to be loaded with bag cement, and will be blocked for setout at Monolith.
SP 19023 (Box) is empty for the Agent at Monolith, probably to be loaded with bag cement, and will be blocked for setout at Monolith.
ACY 1195 (Box) is loaded with Machinery for the mineral processing plant at Trona and West End, which will be setout at Mojave for the Searles Turn.
SP 1142 (Caboose) - Live.  This is the working caboose, which the conductors riding in.  Sometimes we'll list the caboose, other times just listing it at the top of the switchlist next to the engine if there will be other cars added to the list and the caboose will be moving around.

Mojave Yard Work

At Mojave the train was reblocked into four pieces: Mojave Yard, Bakersfield (MC-MSW-14), and Setout blocks; Monolith, KI, and Caliente, which are put on the head-end of the MC-MSW-14.  Separate switchlists are written for each of these blocks so that at each setout station a simple drop of the cars into a setout track and dropping the switchlist for the KI Local to work later is all that is needed.

Edit: I should add the note here that the crew laws of the time allowed 15:59 hours of service per day and 8 hours of rest, allowing the crew to maximize their service pay.  The normal trip times for freights of the late 1940s and early 1950s was in the 12-14 hour range.  Probably resulting in the very fast consist swaps at Mojave and very limited en route picking up and setting out of blocks at four to six stations.
I'm sure that some days the Chief Dispatcher would make the call that no set outs would be made at Monolith or KI due to how late the Shorts West was running out of LA.  On those days the KI Local could be given a 'short helper' out of Mojave to get their heavier train up to Monolith or Summit before returning light to Mojave.  The switchlist routings would be superseded to instruct Monolith and KI cars to be kept at Mojave and not added to the front of the MSW train in the afternoon, and instead would have been put out on the KI Local in the morning.
This 'short helper' could range from a protection local engine (usually several laying over at Mojave for the three locals which worked out of there), usually a C or light Mk class engine up to an one of the AC-class.  Often one or two AC's would work out of Mojave on a rotation basis for the Searles Turn and working 'short helper' or 'through helper' to Summit or Bakersfield.

ATSF BAW-O works Mojave Yard on January 15, 1953.  Loaded Searles Turn cars are visible with their loads of white minerals at the far left.

The old LA-MSW-14 list stayed at Mojave with the yard there as a point of record.  The new MC-MSW-14 list including the extra 14 cars picked up which the Mojave Yard Engine had already classified with full transfer of the car routings for all the Bakersfield and beyond traffic.  Unfortunately I didn't get to photograph those switchlists.  Pretty much those lists will look like the LA-MSW-14 list, but with any reference to the setouts at Mojave are dropped because those have already now been done.

En Route to Bakersfield

Once the Extra 6245 West departed Mojave pickups and setouts are made at Monolith to and from the Center Siding for the KI Local to spot.  The train continues to KI where another set of drops are made into the double-ended track off the westward main track.  In the future S/Os will probably be made into the No.3 Siding once it is made double-ended.

The MSW-14 continues as a 'normal' road freight westward to Caliente where the KI Local has blocked a pickup and the setout for Caliente and Bena are made for the next round of the KI Local.

The last work between Mojave and Bakersfield complete, the MSW-14 heads west to Bakersfield to be broken up and sent to the four winds.

Notation on the Switchlist

I should mention the difference between "Empty" or "X" in the load column and "X-LD" or "Empty-to-Load".  "Empty" is a car that is not assigned, if it is a foreign car en trained then it is a car moving on reverse rights towards its home railroad.  SP "Empty" cars are either moving on SCO (Service Car Order) "Tidepool" move or just back to the nearest yard to be assigned.  The "X-LD" or "Empty-to-Load" means a car which is currently empty, cleaned, ready for loading and also assigned to the industry for loading by the Freight Agent. 

The "X" cars could also be shown as to which Agent wants the car, and they will make the assignment.  At LMRC there are East and West Agents, if the movement is being grabbed within the Agent's work area, then the clerk will just go ahead and mark the list of where he wants the car to go.  If, for example, I'm sending the car as the East Clerk, and I don't need the car moving west, I can mark the car as an "Empty" to the Bakersfield Agent, and then the Yardmaster will ask the Agent where the car will go.  Bakersfield also tries to keep a small pool of empty home-road boxcars available to protect the loading.  I'll talk about the Bakersfield Agent's responsibilities in a future post.

Obvious road name abbreviations include "P" for PRR, "Q" for CBQ, and "AT" for ATSF.  I also am very careful on the LMRC layout when using the abbreviation for Bakersfield.  I NEVER use "BK" as we have a Santa Fe symbol "BK" which is a priority Bakersfield-Kansas City-Chicago symbol.  As a result ALL of our clerks know to ALWAYS use "BAK" if they mean Bakersfield (City/Station) and "BK" for the freight symbol.

Oddities of SP & ATSF Clerk Nomenclature

The Southern Pacific always called double-door boxcars "A" on the car classifications.  The Santa Fe would use "B5D" or "B4D" to indicate 'Box 50 Double Door" or "Box 40 Double Door".  A number of our guest operations will mark car type based on the AAR type on our lists as "X" for boxcars and "LO" for covered hoppers.  The Santa Fe clerks I've talked to say they always used "CH" for covered hoppers and "H" for the hoppers, then the number indicating bays in the hopper.

Staging Yard Block Shuffling Making New Symbols

Mojave "Shorts" West in 1953 with brand new RSD-5s working west at Cliff

I was the clerk that wrote this list, so I'm adding comments about the routing and what the car was doing.  I should make it clear, the cars available in the East Staging Yard (LA) is rather limited, so the East Clerk/East End Staging Yardmaster had to have a good idea of what cars will work on a symbol such as MSW and then make the rough cuts in the arrived freights in his yard to make a reasonable starting point for the new symbol.  Therefore, the question of 'do you switch the train first or do you choose the cars, and then switch it?' is rather a chicken and egg kind of question.  The answer is that both happen at the same time.

The East Staging Yardmaster/East Clerk also obviously makes up all the westward freights from the eastward freights.  Normally, through cars for Bakersfield proper and beyond, to points short of Roseville will be sent on the TMW (Tehachapi Manifest West) symbol freights.  The TMW symbol does not have the additional 24 hour layover switching time in Mojave Yard.  So the LA-MSW-14 list shows as somewhat of a combined TMW/MSW symbol.  If we had more cars in the pool and more time to shuffle the blocks then full consists of TMW and MSW can be made and sent out one per day.  As it was on January 14th, we had already sent a TMW during the previous 12 hours, so we needed a MSW symbol.


LA-MSW-15 with SP 4264, 15 cars, and SP 286 caboose.  Jan 15, 1953.

This is the following day's LA-MSW-15's consist, a much lighter day with only the SP 4264, AC-11 class working the train out of LA.  Pretty much a smaller version of the Jan 14th, 1953 list, however this time we have three CH's in assigned service to Monolith, which already have "X-LD" routing.

Other Traffic on the MSW Symbol

Mojave Shorts also moves other large blocks of traffic which the Jan 14th, 1953 train didn't have.

Mineral Service

MSW in 2012 is shown here with loaded hoppers full of potash and soda ash from the plants at Trona and West End, off the Searles Turn 6 nights a week.

The mineral service from the Owenyo transfer trestle (Narrow Gauge connection), Bartlett, Saltdale, Trona, West End, Cantil, etc. was handled predominantly by steel GS-Gondolas, Open Hoppers (which we have a pile of T&NO H-70-5, three-bay models in service), and new covered hoppers of NAHX (American Chemical & Potash Corp) and SP company cars (H-70-4/6/8-series).  General Service boxcars certainly were still in use for smaller orders of bagged minerals, as the use of the new covered hoppers only started in 1947-48 and was 'boarded' with "When Empty Return to Agent Trona, Calif."  The SP's Mojave Agent would control the pool of SP boxcars and covered hoppers and order cars to be pulled from the empties track by the yard engine to make up the locals.

Most of this loaded traffic moved to the Port at Long Beach on the MC-MSE or Oakland area on MC-MSW to Bakersfield and then on AW to Tracy and Oakland.  Potash was heavily used in fertilizers in the farming areas, so carloads could be seen moving to various farming areas around the US.  Generally this traffic would be forwarded east of LA easily enough from the MC-MSE routing.  Other possible routing include Roseville on the MC-MSW to Bakersfield, then forwarding on the TMW to Roseville.

Sulphuric Acid Traffic

Tangent's made some lovely Gengeral America acid tank car.

One of the interesting specialty traffic cars is the acid tank cars from the sulphuric acid needed at the West End plant in the refining and binding process of getting the various minerals from the Searles "Dry" Lake.  At least two (20k gallon) cars of this were needed at Trona in 2002, working backwards with the train sizes of the 1950's, I estimate that it would have been between two and four cars per week.

Industrial Fuel Oil Shipments

One of the 'Signature' blocks of the Shorts trains over Tehachapi is the dozen or so SP fuel-oil tank cars.

We're starting to wonder why there's a discrepancy between the eye-witness traffic flows of the Consolidated Mojave Pipeline loading facility at Mojave supplying the fuel oil needs of the massive plant at Trona, CA.

One of the largest tank cars in large numbers were the SP's O-50-8/9 class tank cars with 12,500 gallon capacity.

However, photos of the Shorts trains during the 1952-53 era show a large number of tank cars working over Tehachapi Pass, which would suggest that these carloads are not going to LA Harbor, Long Beach, but we're starting to think that there was damage to the Bakersfield-Mojave Oil Pipeline from the 7.5 Earthquake.  More research is needed, but that would explain why regular movements of dozens of tank cars would suddenly show up, but most crews at Mojave for years remember the Trona fuel cars coming from Mojave's own loading facilities.

Cement Traffic - Monolith

Santa Fe No.7 blasts through Monolith on January 14th, 1953.

The Portland Cement Plant at Monolith was built originally 1908 for the new California Aqueduct, which was also the reason for the construction of the Jawbone Branch to Owenyo and the Red Rock Canyon Railroad branch out of Cantil.

SP's H-70-series covered hoppers introduced in the late 1940's specifically for the highly perishable cement traffic.

The Monolith Cement Plant was still heavily using boxcars, but the new covered hoppers certainly were taking a larger and larger portion of the traffic by 1953 as soon as they could be built and put into service.  Most of our SP and ATSF 2-bay covered hoppers are predominately assigned to Monolith cement service.

The SP's CH pool is based at Mojave CA, any extra eastward empty CH's are sent to Agent Mojave Yard for holding until requested.  Westward empty CH's are routed to Agent Mojave Yard and then forwarded on MSW or KI Local as directed by the Chief Dispatcher.  ATSF 2-bay CH's are also based out of Mojave and are worked likewise by the N-34 eastward and BAW westward.  A small pool of boxcars would also be kept at Mojave ideally to cover any holes in the CH pool to cover the loadings at Trona, Monolith, and the Owenyo branch.

Other Monolith Traffic

Monolith of the 1950s was fueled by a natural gas pipeline.  The coal-fired fueled plant wasn't built until the 1970s, with the large rotary kilns and sorting tower.  However coal-ash is needed for the processing of Portland Cement, so foreign cars with coal-ash would have also been accepted by Monolith of the 1950s.

Closing Thoughts

The SP also ran 'Shorts' up the San Joaquin Valley in both directions, and there's of course the Mojave Shorts East.  I may get around to covering these in detail with their unique quirks at some point, but for now, they're basically doing the same thing.  The Valley Shorts works between Fresno and Bakersfield in both directions and the Mojave Shorts East works between Bakersfield and LA doing the reverse of the Mojave Shorts West, which we've just looked at.

The KI Local sets up a pick-up for MSW-7 by shoving it into the Tejon Ranch Co. Spur at Bena on January 7, 1953.

I'll be flagging this post on my Tehachapi Freight Symbols Index 'page' at the top right of the blog page, this will provide an easy way for readers to return to this post and see updates.  I'll come back and make minor updates and add additional comments about the traffic when I get the chance.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Tehachapi Operations: Part 1 - Mountain Work Train

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - Index Page

West Bakersfield: (Part 1) - Laying Out Industries

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Tehachapi Operations: Part 1 - Mountain Work Train

Over the last 20 odd years I've been involved in the operations at La Mesa Model Railroad Club I've worked on coming up with the MW work assignments for the Mountain Work Train using what equipment we've had available in service at the club.  Over the years I've built a number of SPMW cars, a few ATSF work cars, and am currently working to expand the equipment and activities options for the clubs' 1950's TT/TO Operating Sessions.

Previous Work Train Jobs

SP 3765 with a string of work cars in tow rolls into Walong on Jan 6, 1953.

During the preceding days company service cars have been spotted by the KI Local and various points along the Sub Division where the T&M (Track and Maintenance) folks had specified that they needed work done.  Likewise B&B (Bridge and Building) Department had also ordered replacement timbers for a wood trestle.

Earlier this year rip-rap had been sent in to the lower Caliente Creek area to shore up some of the fills from the early winter storms.  No wash-outs had occurred yet... a little bit of preventive maintenance work is worth days of fixing the problem after the railroad is shut down.

The T&M and management still vividly recalls only 3 short months before when the line was finally reopened on the restored alignment through Tunnel 5 after the 7.5 Earthquake shut the railroad down for about a month, requiring the daylighting or modifications to four tunnels and a quarter million cubic yards of material moved.

Jan 14-15, 1953 - A day on the Mountain Work Train

Bakersfield Chief Dispatcher & Clerks Work

So let's take a ride with the Mountain Work Train on January 15th, 1953.  The Chief Dispatcher assigns a suitable engine for the Mountain Work Train, which today will be assigned the SP 3666, an F-3 class 2-10-2, or "Deck" as they're known on the SP.  A crew is called on duty a bit later than usual at 8:50AM in Bakersfield.

A file photo of SP 3666 shot at Bakersfield as she is preparing to run west on a Valley freight in late 1952.

The Bakersfield Yard Office Clerk finished up a set of work instructions for the Mountain Work Train crew.  Lets see what the work looks like for today.

Here's the work instructions to the crew on Jan 15th, 1953. (click on the image to enlarge)

A consist switchlist form is used for today's message.  Nothing too fancy, SP also used telegraph pads or even old train order forms which were obsolete by rules changes.  Whatever was easy to hand to write on.  At the club we've even used a plain sheet of paper folded over to issue the work messages.

Let's break the message down:

Mountain Work Train, 8:01AM, Jan 15, 1953.

Engine is left blank, but the 3666 was assigned from the "Valley" pool of 'Decks' after this message was written.

"RUN TO CALIENTE" (Directs the Mountain Work Train to start working at Caliente)

"SPMW 5879" (Flat with Burro Crane SPO-257)
"SP 151272 G BRIDGE TIMBERS S/O TIMBERS FOR B&B" (Gondola with Bridge Timbers, S/O)

"RETURN TO CALIENTE" (Directs the Mountain Work Train to return to Caliente once the first task is completed.  SPMW 5879 and the emptied GS-gondola are dropped off at Caliente.)

"SPMW 5549" (Bunk Car - for the T&M ballast gang)
"SPMW 635" (Foreman's Car)
"SPMW 312" (Tool Car - used to haul any tools or supplies needed to do the work)
(There were 5 or 6 SP ballast hoppers and gondolas in Caliente for this work.)

"(Spread) BALLAST  BETWEEN MP 335.6 AND TUNNEL 2 FOR 30 MINUTES."  (This work is on single track east of Caliente up to Allard.)

"SETOUT BALLAST CARS AT BEALVILLE WHEN FINISHED" (Dropping off the emptied ballast cars frees up the 3666's pulling capacities on the 2.2% grade for other work later in the day.  No need to keep the extra weight and train length on a train which needs to stay small and flexible.)

"RUN TO WOODFORD AND P/U BALLAST CARS" (Pretty obvious, continue east to Woodford and get the 3 SP and one ATSF ballast cars from the Corral Spurs there.)

"SPREAD BALLAST BETWEEN MP 346.0 AND MP 345.25  FOR 30 MINUTES."  (West Switch of Woodford and 2nd Crossing of Caliente Creek, just east of Rowen.)



"RUN TO KI AND TIE DOWN (for the day)."

Looks like enough to keep the crew busy for a while.  While these three ballasting operations and one unloading operation with the crane wouldn't take very long, the fact that the Dispatcher has to make time in the flow of regular scheduled trains and a number of freights, makes it challenging.   I often liken this Mountain Work Train during TT/TO operations as the proverbial, 'Cat in a room full of rocking-chairs, trying to get its work done without getting its tail pinched by any of the rocking-chairs!'

Equipment Photos

Let's have a quick look at the cars we'll be working with today.

Engine: SP 3666

SP 3666, Eddie Sims collection.

Today's engine assigned is a Sunset Models F-3 class 2-10-2 with 160-C class tender.

Bena Bridge Timber S/O

SPMW 5879, a old F-50-11/13/14 series flatcar fitted with rails for Burro SPO-257 to run back and forth on.

This car was made from two Tichy 40ft flatcars kitbashed to make a reasonable stand-in for an SP 53ft straight side-sill flatcar.  A Tichy boom tender tool-box was added, along with some extra stirrup steps and grabs to match a photo in Richard Petty's Southern Pacific Maintenance of Way book.

SP 151272, a standard SP GS-type gondola, today loaded with  heavy bridge timbers.

This model is a Red Caboose steel GS-gondola model which is correct for SP's G-50-22 class cars.

T&M Outfit:

The outfit cars are a combination of kitbashes and repaints of standard models which are easily available.

SPMW 5549, an old 12-1 Pullman sleeper.

The SPMW 5549 is a conversion of a heavy weight Pullman sleeper which was acquired by the SP and made into a "BUNK" car for crews to live in.  I didn't add the air conditioning ducts from NERS, but did add some vents on the roof and a T-shaped smokejack off an Athearn caboose parts sprue.

SPMW 635, made from an old A-50-series auto-boxcar.

My kitbash of the SPMW 635 stopped short of replacing the large side doors with a more distinctive truss sheathed side with windows, which the prototype had.  This car started as an MDC/Roundhouse 50ft automobile boxcar.

Roof patches of tar-paper and vents have been added, along with some MDC/Roundhouse "Overton" passenger car tool boxes, which I had laying around.

SPMW 312, from a B-50-13/14 class boxcar.

The SPMW 312 started life as one of Accurail's pre-painted FCR (red-oxide) painted "TOOL CAR" data-only models, which I then cut windows in and added the reporting mark decals to.  Tichy Andrews trucks are used as well.

Ballast Cars

The club's current ballast fleet is made up of GS-gondolas, TM/Walthers Hart work gondolas, and heavily kitbashed ballast hoppers from the 1980's by club member Chris Hollinshead.

SP 12585, one of my kitbashed K-brake equipped W-50-3 class Hart-Convertable Ballast Gondola.

Unfortunately not many of the Hart Gonds were left in service by the 1950s, but Robert Bowdidge made a nice 3d printed model which is correct for SP's style car.  The TM/Walthers car has issues, including being 5-boards high, when it should only be 3, and much shorter.  I did kitbash the underbody to narrow the structural members of the car.

SP 165585, a stand-in ballast hopper 1980's kitbash.

A bit late for our 1950's steam era session, these very nice for 1980's kitbashed ballast hoppers by Chris Hollinshead and subject of an RMC modeling article from 30+ years ago are still in service.

Let's Get Going!

The conductor walks out of the yard office and over to the SP 1021, his regular caboose.  Meanwhile the engine crew of SP 3666 brings it over, coupling up, makes a quick air test, and departs Bakersfield as a 'Cab Hop' to Caliente under a standard "Run" order and made the trip in good time between 9:30 to 10:01AM, I'm guessing.


(Note: other applicable right-overs, etc were used against the westward extra freights and light engines working down the hill at the time would have been included, unfortunately I didn't grab a full set of the Mountain Work Train's orders!)

Off to Bena... Again!

SP 3666 with assembled bridge timber movement ready and waiting at Caliente, 1:44PM, Jan 15, 1953.

Once at Caliente, the engine 3666 sat for several hours as multiple sections of Santa Fe 23 passed and No.51 rolled by.  While this was going on, the Dispatcher began working on carving out a hole in the flood of trains for 20 minutes working time, plus running time, between Caliente and Bena.  That time came around 1:55PM.

Again, unfortunately I didn't grab a photo of the Work Extra order which was issued to the crew.  The order gave the 3666 time to work between Caliente and Bena, not protecting against Eastward trains before a given time, and protecting and clearing EXTRA ATSF 215 WEST and EXTRA ATSF 226 WEST, basically as soon as it reached Bena.  The Work Extra order was set to expire at a reasonable time, as I recall, about 3:01PM, which is when the afternoon eastward scheduled passenger trains need the railroad back from the Work Extra 3666.

The "WORK EXTRA" form of order allows the Work Extra to work back and forth as needed between the named points until the time given, at which point the Work Extra's authority to occupy the main track expires.  Note that a "WORK EXTRA" and a "WORK TRAIN" are not the same thing.  A "Work Extra" is a form of order allowing the train to move as needed within the limits until the time specified.  A "Extra" is formed by a "RUN EXTRA" phrasing, in which the authorization is only to move in one direction between the points named, and not to make repeated back and forth moves between points therein.

Work Extra SP 3666 with its three cars at Bena pulls into the clear just after arriving.

The 3666 made its way to Bena and protected itself from westward freights Extra ATSF 215 West and Extra ATSF 226 West with plans to clear into the center track at Bena when they arrived at their flagman's position.

If the crew of the 3666 had noticed, there was a westward ATSF freight coming into Caliente as they left!

The Extra ATSF 215 West picks up a copy of the "Work Extra" order of the 3666 at Caliente, and approaches the "Work Extra 3666" in Ilmon prepared to stop and get them to clear at Bena per the order.

Extra ATSF 215 West comes to a stop for the Work Extra 3666's flagman just west of Bridge 330.04.

  It turns out the Extra 215 West was right on the 3666's heels out of Caliente.  No sooner had the 3666 dropped the flagman and pulled up to the bridge to start setting off timbers, than the ATSF 215 arrived and made the 3666 pull into Bena's center siding.

Extra ATSF 215 West, with a large blog of auto boxcars, common on Santa Fe's 59-symbol freights waits for 3666 to clear at Bena.

The Extra ATSF 215, with (Symbol) 59-L (Autos & Autoparts block) arrived at the protecting flagman at 2:04PM, at which point the Work Extra 3666 moved to Bena to clear up for the Extra ATSF 215 West.

Work Extra SP 3666 tucked into the clear at Bena as Extra 215 West accelerates by on green signals towards Bakersfield.

By 2:06PM the 3666 was in the clear and Extra ATSF 215 West charges through Bena.

Unloading is finished!

With the first of the trains out of the way that the 3666 was ordered to clear for, she returns to unload the timbers.  With that complete she heads back to Caliente before her "Work Extra" order time expires.

East of Caliente?

The 3666 returns to Caliente and the crew drops off the SPMW 5879 and SP 151272 in the "short siding" and picked up the ballast cars and MW outfit cars for their next work east of Caliente at 4:02PM.

Extra 3666 East heads up the hill to start ballasting while the KI Local finishes working at Caliente. at 4:02PM.

The Extra 5303 West (KI Local) arrived at Caliente while the 3666 was working its cars and started switching the regular revenue cars and continuing the positioning of SPMW cars for future Mountain Work Train assignments.

4:26PM finds the SP 5297 and 5303 waiting at Caliente for orders to follow the 3666 up the hill.

The Extra 5297 East (the other KI Local engine, for the eastward trip) is seen making the last moves before it starts up the hill following the ballast dumping operation.  (I'm not quite sure why the Dispatcher decided to let the slow ballasting Mountain Work Train out ahead of the KI Local which had nearly finished its work, but that's what happened.)

Woodford and More Ballast

I was able to get a couple photos of the 3666 at Woodford, but I loose track of how they progressed after this point.

The SP ballast cars at Woodford.

6:01PM finds Extra 3666 East at Woodford.

Did They Make It?

I talked to the crew of the Mountain Work Train at the end of the day's operations.  They reported that they did make it to Tehachapi easily by 8:01PM and tied the train down in the No.3 Siding out of the way.

SP 5297 & 5303 work spotting ballast cars at KI for the next Mountain Work Train late on Jan 15th, 1953.

The empty ballast cars with the 3666 in Tehachapi will be set over for one of the 'Mojave Shorts' trains to pickup for another load of ballast.  The KI Local of the 16th will go round up the other ballast cars that were left at Bealville and Woodford, moving them to either Caliente, Tehachapi, or Mojave for forwarding on the 'Mojave Shorts' train.

Where to Now?

The SPMW 5879 has now been released from its assignment to unload the bridge timbers.  It will likely be reassigned to help with the track laying at Edison or perhaps some other job.  Our MW fleet is almost always being moved around actively to some job or assignment, then sitting a while to get all the pieces there.  To carry on a thought from my previous post in Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi: Logistics and Planning, the logistics we get to play with which continue from session to session, week to week, adding to the feeling that things are being done for a reason.  Each step leads to the next, and from there to the next, and so on.

SPMW 4049, a 25-ton crane, SPMW 1413, and SPMW 8079 will be used for the track work at Tehachapi in coming days.

More track construction work at Tehachapi will continue in the future week as No.3 Siding is going to be extended west, a new house track extension stub is going to be put in, and about 80ft of one of the packing shed tracks is going to be removed for more 'Company Village' bunk housing to be built.

Closing Thoughts

Extra 3666 East makes a break for KI and dumping more ballast at Cable.

And the maintenance of the railroad is never done... something always needs replacing, renewing, adjustment, or repairs.

I hope you've enjoyed this passing snap-shot of a day in the life of our Mountain Work Train's "cat in the room of rocking chairs" life.  I know I still enjoy marking up the messages for the crews at La Mesa Model Railroad Club, and the same TT/TO road switching crews keep coming back for more.  Perhaps this will spur you into putting a bit of realistic challenge into your sessions by running the occasional work train to fix things on your railroad sometime...  And who knows, maybe you'll find out that you like a rocking chair on your tail!

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - Index Page - Navigate to any of the multi-part post on SP and ATSF freight symbols used at LMRC and a bit of my history learning operations.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi (Part 8) - Logistics and Planning

In the previous six posts I've laid out the system of freight symbols that the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe used over the Tehachapi Pass 'Joint Line' between Bakersfield and Mojave.  Now that the foundation is laid, I'll be launching into the discussion on the Logistics and Planning sides of the operation.  The La Mesa Club is one of the few clubs in the country operating a scale model of a railroad operation, with many logistical considerations also modeled in real time with humans, not computers, providing the routing and traffic movements.

Clerks' paperwork for a TT/TO 1950's serssion in Nov 2004.

The symbols and schedules relating to them are not in public or employee timetables.  These 'schedules' are on an agents symbol schedule with cut-off times and show the number of days between certain points for each symbol.  This was used as a marketing and logistics planning schedule, but it did not convey any 'Timetable Authority' to move trains.

LMRC's ATSF "Valley Division" Symbol Freight Train Schedule of 'Cutoff' times. (Note this is the 12-hour version)

The symbol's 'schedules' formed a pattern of regular movements for the priority symbols.  Something like the BK Auto-block runs in the mid morning, after the WGFX with the auto block from Richmond arrives and the transfer from the SP of their auto parts are moved over, then the car inspectors and carmen need to fix any minor problems (usually takes an hour or two minimum) and then the train is 'scheduled' out.  As long as the SP's cars make the cutoff time shown in the symbol schedule then the Santa Fe has no excuse if they don't move on the 'scheduled' connection that day.

LMRC's SP "San Joaquin Division" Symbol Freight Train Schedule for 'Cutoff' times. (Note this is the 12-hour version)

The symbol schedule also gives the framework for the symbol date system.  When exactly does NCP out of Los Angeles leave?  Until what point does the NCP of the previous day run on that date and when does the Advance-NCP of the next day start, before the regular NCP cutoff time?  Should the Chief Dispatcher call another NCP today and run a Second NCP for today, or should the cars be held until tomorrow's NCP cutoff?  How many traffic is expected to arrive before the NCP cutoff time?  Does all of that justify a second NCP to run today?  Do we forward the extra cars on something other than an NCP... maybe a VXW.

These are the questions that having a symbol schedule helps sort out for the logistical people in the Traffic Dept, and the Chief Dispatcher.  From the plan each shift of each day, every 8 hours a new 'Lineup' is formed for the next 8-24 hours, with the information getting more vague the further out in time the line up goes.

Serious Game or Real Work?

I often describe the 'Operations' at La Mesa Model Railroad Club as, "A game of 4-dimentional team chess with 30-50 people, over 1800 playing pieces, and almost 8000 square feet of 'game board'."  The challenge really becomes working with every other 'teammate' against the railroad or 'Manificent Monster' (as some call it) as it tries to trip up the operating crew with all sorts of challenges from DCC, to failing switch motors, to dirty track, to bad handwriting!  I often compare the layout to a 'sleeping dragon' when talking to folks when the layout's in the 'normal' weekday operations and not under TT/TO conditions when it truly 'comes awake and breathes fire'.

Situation Card - 'Turntable Fails for Three Hours.' = "Oh boy! I can't use any of those engines...."

In this game, situation cards aren't used or needed.  Nothing can 'simulate' the failure of a turntable motor better than the turntable actually failing in the middle of operations for three hours until one of the electrical department crew shows up and tinkers on it for an hour.  One of our regular crew commented on this that what he'd really like is an "Anti-situation Card", basically a 'Get out of Jail Free' card.  Which can be played once or twice when you look at the situation and just say, "No, we just can't have that fail right now... I'll burn my 'Super card' on this problem."

Operator at Kern Jct., one of five stations operators who function as the Dispatcher's eyes and mouth.

Communication, I believe, is the most critical aspect of operations on a railroad, and so it is also true on our scaled down version of the real thing.   Let's look at some of the positions people who (almost) never touch a throttle, but through their choices make the railroad run.

Chief Dispatcher

Eastward Chief's Sheet for Jan 7-8, 1953

The LMRC's shift Chief Dispatcher can best be described as the 'Layout Owner'.  This position functions as the main nerve center position for the operation of the whole system.  I've not seen very many operating layouts where the choices for assignment of train symbols, engines, crews, and combinations of symbols is made on the fly by someone other than the layout owner or the 'head of operations'.  The Chief Dispatcher position at LMRC is a skilled position requiring a working knowledge of engine ratings, freight train symbols, priorities for movements, and crew management.

Westward Chief's Sheet for Jan 8th, 1953.

The Chief Dispatcher works off of his own 'train sheet' where he records the 'soup' information for each planned train.  Filling in the symbol with date and section, engine(s), cars, caboose, crew names, helpers, where the helpers are going to be operated and return to, and any other special instructions or notes required.

From this Chief's worksheet, 'Soup Tickets' or call slips are made up with carbons to be given to the crew of the train and to the 'Trick' Train Order Dispatcher.  The crews take their copy with them when they show up for the train at the yard and show it to the Yardmaster and pickup their engines from the roundhouse.   Meanwhile the telegraph operator for the station is informing the TO Dispatcher that the crew is there and the status of the train, including an estimated time of the train's being ready to leave.

Car Clerks / Traffic Department

The LMRC currently uses two 'Clerks' who are qualified after learning all the car routing and flows relating to the modeled car fleet, the train symbol system, and industries, both modeled and off-layout.  These two positions mark switchlists and route the cars in trains to destinations.  The clerks also work with the Yardmasters and the Chief Dispatcher in planning movements out of the East and West Staging yards.

Switchlist for the BFX-7 which will be broken up at Bakersfield, for photo see below in the Staging section of this post.

This planning means talking with the Chief Dispatcher about what symbol materials they have in the staging yards and developing a plan for what to make up for departures in the next 3-6 hours.  Real Chief Dispatchers generally plan 8-24+ hours out.  On the model however, we can really only plan about 6 hours out at the longest.  Beyond that it becomes "After this time, and that shows up, this symbol will run."  The Chief will often give the information about incoming trains so that the Clerk can plan anything that will need a longer connection to get all it's pieces before returning.  Normally this would be done by a teletyped lineup sent to the whole subdivision every 8 hours just before shift change.

The Car Clerks are always at work shuffling paperwork! - Jason Hill, November 2006.

The Staging Crews and Car Clerks learn how to work the open loads for the club as well.  The loads are both determined by the routings and dictate the routings.  The various open loads simulate various types of loads moving generally in one direction over Tehachapi Pass.

An example of removable loads for an F&C F33 heavy-duty well-hole flatcar.


M.P. Bording works his papers and switchlists at Bakersfield on January 8th, 1953.

The LMRC has three Yardmasters who keep track of the cars in their yard, supervise switcher crews and direct movements of trains through their yards.  They also ensure the local freight traffic makes the cutoff times for certain scheduled connections.

SP Bakersfield Yardmaster

SP Yardmaster and crew at Bakersfield.

The SP Bakersfield YM is certainly the most personnel-management intensive of the three YM positions.  Often the SP YM has three to five crews working under him.  The SP Yard Jobs are best described in my post Busy Times at Bakersfield (Part 1) Roundhouse and (Part 2) SP Yard Overview.

Santa Fe Bakersfield Yardmaster

Santa Fe Bakersfield Yard

The Santa Fe YM deals with a smaller yard, but with lots of classification to do, it's always a hotbed of activity.  One of the critical things for the 'Trick' Chief and Train Order Dispatchers to remember is that there's not a lot of extra yard departure track capacity in the Bakersfield Santa Fe yard.  Once a train is called and the yard crew says its ready, it should be moved out as soon as possible by the Kern Operator and Train Dispatcher. 

The distance from the Bakersfield Santa Fe Yard to Kern Jct. is about 1/4 what it should be in scale, resulting in the longer Santa Fe trains not being able to leave the yard without fouling the east yard crossovers if the train is not cleared through Kern Jct.  Often larger Santa Fe freights are 'held in' until Kern confirms that the departing train has its Clearance and will be able to move east onto the Joint Line.

SP Mojave Yardmaster - Foot-board

Classic view of a 'footboard yardmaster', in this case riding on the engine instead of the footboard!

The Mojave Yardmaster is really a one-man show.  He works by himself as needed around the yard.  He keeps the arriving and departing trains directed and 'herds' (routes) correctly if he can be at the required end of the yard for their movements.  Sometimes two movements are required in the yard at the same time, so he directs the other movement verbally to enter a given yard track, etc.

The Mojave Yard job usually works about five through trains a day and also classifies a like number of locals to leave.  About half the trains are depart at night and half during the day, resulting in a nicely paced operation, with some dead times, and some insanely busy times when everything happens at once.

The Mojave YM works with the East Clerk who marks the lists in Mojave for car routing and can give additional direction if there's questions regarding the operations.  Sometimes during the 'dead times' the Mojave Yard crew can actually take a 'short' helper and assist a freight up to Summit and return before he's needed again to do switching.  This can be done since it's all in one aisle and any switches in Mojave are roughly centrally located during the helper operation.

Staging Yardmasters

About as photogenic and realistically sceniced as the real Famoso... here SP westward freights become eastward freights.

The LMRC uses active staging where crews re-stage trains continuously during operations.  This allows for unlimited staging of the railroad as trains finish their runs and are recycled into historically accurate trains.  Three people are needed to cover the positions in live staging:

East Staging - Boron/Lancaster & East Clerk

The East Staging YM is usually combined with the East Clerk position.  This job works on re-blocking arriving eastward trains to return.  Combining this job with the East Clerk makes since because the job requires being able to quickly look at a string of freight cars coming in and understand what pieces those can be turned to become for outbound trains.

The East Staging YM also needs to direct road crews in picking up their train from one of several staging yards east of Mojave.  Often outbound road crews are asked to make a couple of 'moves' to get their trains together or arriving crews are directed in breaking down their train to help re-blocking for outbound trains.

East Staging Yards

The yards that the East Clerk/YM uses to restage the eastern end of the railroad includes: Six roughly 100-car tracks for freight trains and five tracks for passenger trains.

The "East Staging" Yard (Lancaster-Boron) with some 'upper level' plywood over part of the body tracks. - Nov 2009.

I liked to have freight trains arrive onto Freight Tracks 1 & 2, which have mid-yard crossovers which allow for up to four 50-car trains to be held and have blocks switched around.  This usually requires 'unscrambling' the PFE or SFRD reefers off the head-end of merchandise blocks, then recombining the merchandise into realistic symbols to go westward.   Then I'll re-stage them onto the other tracks as needed.

The switchlists for trains with merchandise blocks which will be worked either en route or at Bakersfield are prepared while the blocks are on Tracks 1 & 2, while they are easier to see.

Usually my method of track assignment at the 'East End' is to have Tracks 5 & 6 (the longest) reserved for building the ATSF "Drag" (Empty SFRD Reefers) and the SP BK-OK-R (Empty PFE Reefers) blocks.  The SP's large empty lumber drag, the XUMG, is also built on one of these tracks.  Usually only two of these three symbols are in East Staging at any one time.  If all three will be there, then Track 4 is used as well.

Track 3 & 4 are usually used to store up to two trains each which are either complete or do not require consist changes before they can go back west again.  I should note here that these are the 'ideal' track assignments.  Sometimes things don't go as planned!

Passenger trains are worked from the 'headend' while facing eastward, before being turned around on the 'loop'.  This is where most of the work occurs.  At some point in the future I'll do a post about the SP and ATSF Passenger Train work in Staging.

West SP "Valley" Staging

The West Staging crew are split between the SP and ATSF in theory.  However during operations sometimes both crew are needed on the same RR or one will work both 'short' valley staging yards while the other goes 'deep' to get a train into or out of the more remote staging yards.

SP freight AW-7 departs Bakersfield for the 'Valley' and will soon return as an AE-symbol freight.

The SP Valley Staging crew works from Bakersfield Yard west via Oil Jct, Saco, and Famoso to the reversing loop.  Freight trains are staged westward in Famoso Yard and passenger trains are stored after looping, pointed east short of Saco.  At Saco a freight siding is provided for holding SP freights outside of Bakersfield if the yard can't take the train immediately.

The SP "Valley" Staging yard at Famoso consists of six roughly 100 car freight tracks and three passenger train staging tracks.  Unfortunately the Famoso Yard does not have any of the mid-yard crossovers as the East Staging Yard does, therefore all re-blocking must be done on the west ladder of the yard.

The freight re-staging usually consists of mixing the FN-OK-Rs (reefers), and "Valley Shorts" or TMW's (manifests) into suitable returning blocks for the 'Valley Haulers' from various towns, BFX (eastward Shorts & "junk"). 

Usually the cars from westward TMW and XMUG are rotated mixed so the consists don't become 'stale'.  These cars then form the eastward loaded lumber traffic for Adv-PSS and PSS (lumber blocks 40-70 cars), mixed with merchandise cars from Oregon the OCM, and lumber traffic for Bakersfield local industries, East to ATSF destinations (SCX, BK), and SP's "Mojave Shorts" trains.

Also of note, there is a substantial amount of Santa Fe interchange traffic at Bakersfield coming over to the SP for destinations in the Bay Area.  These cars move into 'Valley' staging on AW (Altamont West) or the TMW.  The traffic is switchlisted, possibly re-blocked, and returned on AE (Altamont East) and BFX to Bakersfield for reverse routing on empties.  Santa Fe's hot 'Automobile & Parts' blocks are included in this and are the "cutoff block" for for the AW-symbol.  These auto blocks do have regular 'cutoff' times and a pseudo-schedule to move on.

Thankfully the 600+ car capacity of the Famoso Yard allows for large blocks of cars to be 'stored' here awaiting re-blocking and movement back on to the railroad.

West ATSF "Valley" Staging

The Santa Fe's Valley Staging crew works west of the Santa Fe Bakersfield Yard through Landco to the Rosedale reversing loop.  The Rosedale loop is rather limited in capacity to only two 60-car tracks plus the main track.  The two or three yard tracks at Landco are planned to be used for passenger trains once the Bakersfield Roundhouse for the Santa Fe is operational.

Both ATSF and SP 'Valley' Staging Yards do connect and allow for movement to 'deep' staging.  The deep staging is planned to be used for the long term storage of trains that don't immediately return to Bakersfield, this usually includes the various 'all day' valley locals, which will be out for 12 or so hours.

Restaging at the ATSF "Valley" Yards mostly consist of converting AT "Drag", 1st District Locals, BKW, and possibly NCX trains into appropriate eastward symbols of various WGFXs, SCX, and "Fruit Pickups" from various towns.  Merchandise cars off of the 59/49/99 symbols can also be shifted over to the CWE, and WGFX symbols for classification at Bakersfield and beyond.

Train Dispatcher

The Timetable & Train Order Dispatcher works 'the sheet' and actually issues and receives the orders adjusting the movement authority of both SP and ATSF trains over the Tehachapi Sub-Division.

In the video clip above the Dispatcher is working with five train order offices in real time, receiving reports of trains passing those locations.  The communications also cover the status of trains preparing to enter the Tehachapi Sub. 

Also during this clip the Dispatcher is starting off by preparing holding orders for three westward trains at Caliente (Extra 6135 West) so the KI Local can make the run to Bena and return (SP 5303 East).  However he quickly realizes that the SP 6135 is already at Caliente. 

The Dispatcher then dictates Order 71 to the Extra ATSF 226 West, the Extra 6245 West, and the Extra 5303 West giving the Extra 5303 East right over the Extra ATSF 226 West and Extra 6245 West Bena to Caliente.  He also makes note in the order that Order 71 is to Extras ATSF 226 West and 6245 West at Caliente.  The latter statement is to warn the Extra 5303 East that the trains waiting at Caliente may (probably) will be holding on the main track.

The Caliente Operator then reads back Order 71 to the Dispatcher to confirm that it is correct.  Then the Operator prepares the clearance for Extra 5303 West.  However before the clearance comes in, the Woodford Operator breaks in to give an OS report of a No.7 with ATSF 66.  The Tehachapi Operator then catches up his reports by reporting when No.7 was by his station.  Unfortunately I was hoping to get more video of the Dispatcher working, but alas, my memory card chose that moment to fill up!

From this breif 7 minute clip, we can see the various chores the Dispatcher keeps track of throughout the day.  Crew call slips are also handed to the Dispatcher by the Chief Dispatcher with all the information about upcoming trains: Crew, engines, car count, caboose, helpers, where the helpers are cutting in, out, and ordered to go after helping the train.  All of this data is then transferred to the Train Sheet for permanent record.

Learning more about Dispatching

Cover of 19 East, Copy Three.

More information about Dispatching trains in TT & TO style operations can be found by picking up and reading "19 East Copy Three - by David Sprau" by NMRA OpSIG<- Link to buy a copy.

Wrapping Up

Back in the "Early 2000's" LMRC's operation sessions were getting back on their feet after two years of construction (building the upper deck) and the future extensions above Tunnel 8 were still under construction, which would more than double the size of the railroad.  In the photo below all of the prepared and cross checked switchlists are layed out.  These were the days when all the lists were done ahead of time as the sessions were less than 8 hours.  In the next 15 years the operations have expanded and in some ways 'slowed down' to a comfortable pacing.  We now do these lists in 'real-time' and have the option of 'continuous operations', although not many folks have volunteered for the 'night shift' to keep the trains running for a straight 36-48 hour session!

CTC Dispatcher's office with all the switchlists and papers for a TT/TO session in 2004. - It's grown since then!

Hopefully this post will help you understand some of the 'behind the scenes' positions that are needed to make a historical recreation of railroad operations function in 'real time'.  Hopefully this will also open some doors for future posts where I'll be going into some more detail about certain aspects of the freight car flows and operations at LMRC.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - Index Page

Busy Times at Bakersfield - Part 1 - 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 pass on a low-priority Santa Fe freight train during a 1950's TT/TO session at LMRC.