Monday, August 6, 2018

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - (Part 4) - SP Locals

While Tehachapi is generally considered to be a 'Bridge Route', as we've see with the last two posts (Part 2 - SP Westward and Part 3 - SP Eastward), there was a sizable amount of local traffic working out of both the SP Bakersfield and combined SP/ATSF Mojave yards.

Locals Out of SP Bakersfield

SP 2587 works a packing shed complex somewhere with a large string of PFE reefers, a similar scene would have happened at Edison. - Eddie Sims Collection

Most of SP's locals working out of Bakersfield went west towards Fresno, with a hand full working radially out from Bakersfield.  For the purposes of these blogs, I'm defining a 'Local' as a job which used road crews (with Conductors and Brakemen), not yard crews (with Foremen and Switchmen), and regularly worked all or most industries in towns along their route, and all 'regular' business.  Many of the towns along the Southern Pacific's San Joaquin Valley Division had a booming harvest season and then would drop back to a 'normal' rate during the 'off season' with only the regular supporting industries and businesses in the town receiving or generating lower traffic levels.

Porterville Local (PVL)

SP 5306, a dual-ended RSD-5 road switcher, delivered in March 1953.

The Porterville Local usually leaves Bakersfield about 6 PM with various cars for the valley and Porterville.  The PVL then returns by mid morning before the crew expires on the 16 hour law.  In March 1953 the new RSD-5s arrived, including three with dual controls for operation on stub branches.  The Porterville Branch often used one of these engines.  Before March of 1953, various other engines could be used, anything from M or C-class light steam to F-class 'Decks'.

Sunset Rwy Local (Taft Local)

The Sunset Rwy was owned jointly by the SP and the Santa Fe, and swapped operationally every five years.  The branch split at Gosford, a few miles south of Bakersfield.  The Taft/McKittrick Branch was built to support the earliest oil fields in California, the Sunset Oil Fields, which gave the railway its name.  Pipelines took away most of the outbound oil traffic, but the railway continued to bring in construction materials and machinery for the oil fields and towns.  The other branch at Gosford was the Buttonwillow Branch, to the west, which served more of the open agricultural area of the Southern San Joaquin Valley, as the irrigation projects expanded.

Apologies, I don't have a photo of SP 2914 currently that I can share here, so this one of sister 2915 will have to do. - Eddie Sims Collection.

The SP used the 2914 for many years as the regular engine on the Buttonwillow Branch and the Taft Branch when the SP was operating the latter.  The SP considered their C-class engines to be too heavy for the branch, thus the only engines allowed on the branches were M-6/8/9 class 2-6-0s or the TW-8 class 4-8-0s of the low 2900-series.  The Santa Fe used small steam or GP7s after they're delivered.

Switchers At Bakersfield

Yard crews work at Mt. Vernon Ave. as a BK-VXE beet train prepares to leave and a Santa Fe Arvin Turn rumbles past Kern Jct.

The switching jobs at Bakersfield formed a general pool of switchers jobs which could work any of the geographically separated assignments.  I'll be listing the jobs based on the maximum number of engines.  On lower traffic days some of the crews can be 'cut off' and only run on selected shifts.  If one of the main jobs was getting short on work, then they could be directed to make a turn out to Edison or Oil City to work and then return.  This also covers the night passenger operations, when only one or two jobs would cover the main freight yard, and a crew would be sent over to West Bakersfield to work the baggage/mail cars for a couple of hours instead of calling a "City" job for only a few hours.

Bakersfield Yard diagram for the Yardmaster.

"Mt. Vernon" Switcher

The SP 1486 works the heavy switching job at Mt. Vernon Ave.

The Mt. Vernon Ave. switcher is the primary 'heavy classification' job in Bakersfield Yard, usually working all three shifts.  This job has access to the longest lead in the yard at the east end, and can pull large strings of cars for classifying.  Then the Mt. Vernon Switcher is in the perfect position to use the east end of Track 7 as a short lead while classifying cars onto Tracks 7-16 and the Ice Decks from the east end.

SP 4508, an 0-8-0, during the 1950's at least one photo shows three of these in the Bakersfield roundhouse. - Eddie Sims collection.

The Mt. Vernon Switcher is assigned the heaviest available switch engine because this job works the largest cuts of cars during heavy classification.  Generally this means a big FM switcher, S12, or Mk-2/4, C-class, or SE-4 class steam switcher.

"Haley St." Switcher

The SP 2850 today works the Haley St. job.

The Haley St. job usually works at least two shifts a day primarily pulling the rear parts of eastward freights off and pulling them back into the 20's yard for helpers to be cut in.  In addition this job changed the cabooses on eastward trains, and moving cabooses back and forth across the main track to the caboose servicing tracks in the PI Yard.

The Haley St. Switcher usually was assigned a medium size engine: an Alco S2, C-class 2-8-0, SE-class 0-8-0, M-class 2-6-0, or S-class 0-6-0 switcher.

"City" Switcher

The City crew works out of the 70's Yard in West Bakersfield.

The Bakersfield "City" Switcher works all the industries around Bakersfield Yard.  Operations of the 'City' Switcher, 'Oil City' Switcher, and often the Sunset Rwy/Taft Local, and Buttonwillow Local often work out of the 70's Yard in West Bakersfield.

SP 4627 switching SP 6011 baggage at Bakersfield.

The "City" Switcher usually also works the passenger and freight house switching when it is on duty.  The "City" Switcher usually works the day shift for the industry spotting work.  Most of the Passenger switching is done at night, sometimes by the Haley St. job or the Mt. Vernon crew as directed by the Yard Master.

The City Switcher usually was assigned one of the lighter engines.  Usually this was; an Alco S1, M-class 2-6-0, S-class 0-6-0, or EMD SW1 or SW900.  The Alco switchers were more common in Southern California and the SW900s didn't arrive until 1954.

"Oil City" Switcher

SP 1247 at Bakersfield commonly used on the Oil City, City Switchers and occasionally Edison Switcher. - Eddie Sims Collection

The Oil City Branch is North (RR West) of Bakersfield and is only seven miles long.  On those seven miles, are hundreds of oil wells.  While most of the oil is shipped out by pipeline, rail service still moved smaller quantities of oil and inbound construction and machinery shipments.  The branch was limited to only the smallest switch engines, such as 0-6-0s and Alco S-1 diesel switchers due to the light track on the branch.

SP 973 'Caboose' converted at Bakersfield in 1954 from an old 60-C class coach, primarily used on the Oil City Switcher.

The Oil City Branch was co-owned by the SP and the Santa Fe.  During our era, we're having the SP run the branch.  Also at the current time (2018), we're expecting to have the SP connection done before the Santa Fe connection complete.

"Edison" Switcher

Edison will soon have about 80-car spots of packing sheds and a winery in the foreground.

The Edison Switcher worked out of Bakersfield Yard to work about eight fruit packing sheds, and a winery about 6-7 miles east of the main yards.  Edison was within was was known as 'Switching Limits', which meant that 'yard crews' would do the work, not 'road crews'.  These yard crews would be sent over as needed by the Yardmaster at Bakersfield when the customers needed empty cars delivered or picked up ready for shipment.

SP 23486, one of the B-50-6 class boxcar "cabooses", which were only allowed in switching service by union agreement.

Because the Edison job was worked by yard crews, they were not subject to the same union agreements for certain specifications for their 'caboose'.  The SP's 'War Emergency' cabooses from the late 1930s and WWII conversions of B-50-6 class boxcars did not meet the post-war union agreements for appliances and safety equipment.  Several however remained in service into at least the late 1940s on yard jobs such as this where the 5-7 man crews (Engineer, Fireman, Foreman, and two or four Switchmen) would be crammed onto the switch engine.  Instead, use of a suitable riding car for the Foreman and extra Switchmen was very useful.  The plan at LMRC's 1950-era session will be to use one of these beautiful Westerfield Models 'Boxcar Cabooses" in this service.

The Photos show the usual engine run out to Edison on this job was any medium or light steam engines, including; C-class 2-8-0s, T-class 4-6-0, M-class 2-6-0, S-class 0-6-0 switcher.  There's no reason that some of the other diesel switchers could run out.  These could include the regular Alco S-2 switcher.

Edison was on a rotating agreement with the Santa Fe to swap operations between the two Railroads every couple of years.  Currently the plan is to operate Edison with SP crews and PFE reefers.

Arvin Branch Operations

ATSF 966 leads an Arvin Turn across the Edison Hwy at Magunden, entering Algoso with a string of express reefers for loading.

The Arvin Branch during LMRC 1950's operation sessions is run by the Santa Fe, therefore I'll be covering it in the Santa Fe yard and local operations.  The Arvin Branch did trade between the SP and the Santa Fe, but because the Edison District is going to be SP operated, we're trying to balance the demand on the PFE and SFRD fleets of cars, so that each will eventually have an 'on-layout' destination for switching, in addition to sending unused excess cars on west into the staging yards to come back as cars loaded west of Bakersfield in the 'Valley'.

SFRD's loading at the potato sheds in Arvin.  A few express reefers are in the foreground on a storage track.

There is some discussion and planning for the LMRC operations to trade operating companies on the Arvin and Edison Districts.  However, instead of trading every year or two, perhaps the train will happen every 7-14 operating days, which will take about 1-2 years in real 2018 time.  This should achieve the 'feel' of a major change when one day all the SP crews pull the PFE cars off the branch and ATSF crews take the SFRD reefers out to the branch.

Locals Out of Mojave 

Mk-2/4 class 2-8-2s formed the main Mojave local engine pool.  Eddie Sims Collection

The Locals out of Mojave were worked by a pool of engines, generally three or four smaller Mk-2/4 class 2-8-2s.  This basic pool was protected by one or two heavy Mk-5/6 class 2-8-2s (such as SP 3266, the only Mk-5/6 rated to Owenyo) or C-class 2-8-0s off the Tehachapi helper pool out of Bakersfield.  Mojave was also the base for two or three AC-class 4-8-8-2 'cab forwards' or "Malleys" and before 1949, at least one early AC-3 class 2-8-8-2 "Mudhen" on its final regular assignment, as I discuss below.

SP 4255 and 4230 prepare for a trip over Tehachapi

These larger AC-class engines rotated and were cycled through out of Bakersfield.  A Palmdale helper was also filled with an engine, often an AC-class, and sometimes other smaller classes.  The Palmdale job was hated by the crews because it involved living out of a dug-out tent "bunker", which was built to provide some level of relief from the 110+F temperatures, for three days of 16 hour shifts.

KI Local (Tehachapi)

The KI Local goes on-duty out of Mojave around 8-9 AM and can work up to 15:59 hours during their six day a week trips over the Tehachapi Sub.  One of the main customers the KI job serves is the Portland Cement Co. Plant at Monolith.  The KI's usual operations at Monolith were focused around moving cars for by the SP and Santa Fe 'Shorts' symbols.  This meant moving the cars into the plant and spotting them and pulling the outbound cars from the plant, reclassifying them and blocking for pickup the next day by the 'Shorts'.  This could take a couple of hours.  The SP KI Local works pulling and spotting the Santa Fe cars because of a reciprocal agreement with the Santa Fe, where any work outside of Switching Limits at Bakersfield or Mojave is handled by the SP's Local, (not counting limited simple pickups and setouts as directed by through trains).

Monolith's complex of bag loading into boxcars and bulk loading into covered hoppers, with the center setout-siding in the back round.

Next the KI would move to the town of Tehachapi and work any of the local industries there; fuel dealers, grain and feed dealers, general store, lumber yard, and seasonally several apple packing sheds.  The cars for Tehachapi generally were also dropped off and picked up by the SP 'Shorts' trains or the Santa Fe's N-34 or BAW.  The PFE reefers would be dropped by the "Shorts East for the SP.  SFRD's from Bakersfield would arrive on any suitable freight for the Santa Fe, probably the SCX or BAW, which were the lower class symbols which could be delayed.

The KI Local would pull the reefers if possible and spot them for easy pickup by eastward trains.  The PFE cars would be picked up for movement east by any of the perishable blocks (RV, F, or SJ-blocks) and the SFRDs would usually be picked up by the BK-symbol for Kansas City or Chicago or the SCX for San Bernadino, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

SP 3259 running west with the KI Local at Walong

The KI Local was also shown to continue westward as far as Caliente, if traffic required.  This would include seasonal hay service for the ranches near Woodford, Bealville, and Caliente.  Company service and materials cars (MOW) traffic might also need to be moved in support of the Mountain Work Train.

SP 73317, one of SP's most common S-40-series stock cars. (based on RedCaboose/IMRC model)

Livestock traffic for both SP and Santa Fe could also need to be worked at Woodford, Bealville, Caliente, or Bena, and coordinated with other through trains for expedited handling on the 24 or 36 hour Rules toward their destinations.

The SP 'Shorts' symbols and the Santa Fe's N-34 and BAW usually did their pickups and setouts for the KI Local at Monolith, Tehachapi, and Caliente, where there was space to leave cars out of the way of normal train movements.

Once the KI Local had worked as far west as needed to cover the service, the KI would return east towards Mojave, working any back hauling and dropping off anything en route.

KI Local with the SP 3259 works eastward at Allard, while making a runaround move for spotting at Bealville.

Caliente was the farthest west the KI would go, so most westward cars would simply be left there for the MSW or BAW.  Eastward tonnage was more limited on the Local, so cars not requiring work between Caliente and Mojave would be left for the MSE or N-34 to pick up.

SP 5304 and 5301 pause at Bena, west of Caliente, on a return trip from the 'shops' at Bakersfield.

Occasionally the KI Local would be used to rotate the engines back to Bakersfield for inspection, shopping, and repairs.  Occasionally at LMRC the Dispatcher will send the KI Local down to Bena.  Often the work at Bena's simple enough that the Mojave Shorts West can handle the moves with trailing point moves.

Mountain Work Train

SP 3765 leads a Ballast Outfit out of Bena, heading to work farther up on Tehachapi Pass.

The Mountain Work Train generally was used to directly support the local MW Section Gangs and specialized Mobile Gangs.  The mobile gangs generally consisted of ballasting operations, bridge replacement, etc.

Mt. Work Train's work list for Jan 6th, 1953.

Continued reverse side of the switchlist for the Mt. Work Train's work list for Jan 6th, 1953.

The Mt. Work Train was supported by the MSE and MSW dropping off and picking up blocks at Monolith, Tehachapi, and Caliente.  The KI Local then moves the cars to the closest spur to where the Mt. Work Train and work crews need them.  The lists (above and below) give an idea of the regular work which is done on Tehachapi Pass.

The SP had a Mt. Work Train which worked all MW duties between Bakersfield and Mojave.

The "Jawbone" Branch

Mojave, the west end and junction of the 'Jawbone Branch' with the mainlines of the Tehachapi and Mojave Sub's.

The Owenyo Branch, or as it was commonly called, the "Jawbone" Branch was worked by two symbols out of Mojave, the Owenyo Local and the Searles Turn.  Both trains operated at night, mostly to minimize the heat in the high desert.  Searles Valley and Owens Valley are only one or two valleys away from Death Valley, where temperatures easily reach 120+F during the day.  Add that air temp to the additional 130F in the cab of a steam engine, which is painted black... and you'll have a couple of broiled enginemen before too long!

Owenyo Local ("Long Haul")

SP 3203, one of the regular Mk-2/4s to work the Owenyo Local, here seen at Owenyo. Eddie Sims Collection

The Owenyo Local usually drew a Mk-2/4 class 'small' 2-8-2s, if that failed a C-class 2-8-0 would protect the assignment.  This job worked the 143 mile long branch.  Traveling up one day for 15:59, then laying over for the night at Owenyo before returning.

SP CS-25A class ex-fuel oil tank car, turned 'Canteen' for extending the range of steam engines in dry and desert conditions.

The Owenyo Local while using steam engines, often carried a water 'canteen' car behind the tender, as there was no water for the engines laying over at Owenyo, and only 2-3 water stops on the whole branch!

SPNG 9 and 18 at Laws Museum in Sept 2017. - Jason Hill photograph

Most of the industries along the branch were various mining operations by the 1940s and 1950s. harvesting dried salt-cake from the desert lake beds.  Owenyo was the northern end point, connecting with the Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge operations, which still extended about 70 miles north to Laws and 13 miles south to Keeler.  Ores and minerals produced off the narrow gauge include: talc, tungsten (a "strategic material" for machine tools, lighting, and military ammunition) from west of Laws, and various other ores and salt.

Back on the standard gauge, the station of Lennie also shipped out a few carloads of timber (and possibly logs) from the cutting operations around Kennedy Meadows, which continued into the late 1970s.

At Inyokern, the "Jawbone" branch interchanged with the US Navy, in servicing the China Lake Test Range.  The early 1950s saw the early development of air-to-air guided missiles, which within 10-15 years would be seeing combat on Navy aircraft.  Before the Interstate Highways, the railroad was really the only way to move materials to the test range.  Even after the abandonment of the branch north of Searles Station, the US Navy ordered a new trans-loading facility built on the Trona Rwy to keep a rail connection to the China Lake base.

Searles Turn

Excursion Train time lead by SP 3237 & 3266 at Searles Station - 5-30-52 - Carl Blaubach photo - Brian Black Collection

The Searles Turn was a 40-odd mile transfer run up 2.2% grades to interchange 40-50 cars six nights a week with the Trona Rwy at Searles Station.  This symbol averaged 12-13 carloads of fuel oil from Mojave or Bakersfield for the drying plants at Trona and West End at Searles Lake.  Most of the rest of the traffic was empty boxcars and covered hoppers for the soda ash, potash, and borax that was mined from the "dry" Searles Lake, or new machinery going to the plant.

An AC-3 model by WSM, which will be assigned to Mojave as a helper.

The Searles Turn usually operated with a later AC-class "Malley" as road engine, with an older AC-3 class 2-8-8-2 helper eastward to Searles until the last one was scrapped in 1949.  After which time a second regular AC-class would be used as a helper.

SP 5477 leads the First 801 at Vincent (summit), on the Mojave Sub in the early 1960s. - Brian Black Collection

It's a little unclear after most of the freights on Tehachapi were dieselized what happened to the road engines on the Searles Turn, while it's possible that 4-unit F-units were used until the 44 new SD9s were assigned to Tehachapi in 1954.

"Blitz" Local (Palmdale Local)

SP 3259 leads the 'Blitz' out of Mojave.

The "Blitz" as it was called, worked south (RR east) from Mojave as far as Saugus if needed, working all industries.  Normally the 'Blitz' was worked by a heavy Mk-5/6-class 2-8-2, one of the pool of Mk-2/4s, or if all else failed a C-class 2-8-0.

The MSW and MSE would be able to drop and pickup blocks at the larger towns, such as Lancaster, Palmdale, and Saugus, as needed.  The 'Blitz' goes on-duty about the same time as the KI Local, in the mid-morning and returned in the evenings.

Among the traffic on the Mojave Sub. Div. the station of Fleta, a few miles south of Mojave had a scrap dealer, probably due to the 'low property costs!'  Just south of the Ansel Hill, was the station of Rosamond, where a sugar beet dump was located to load beet racks and GS composite gondolas.

Moving farther south (RR east) was the aircraft assembly complex known as Plant No.42 north of Lancaster.  The plant was built out of the municipal airport during WWII.  The aircraft parts arrived in auto-boxcars, standard boxcars, flatcars, and tankcars of aviation gasoline and jet fuel would have also been needed.

The largest 'towns' along the Mojave Sub, was Lancaster and Palmdale, which had the usual compliment of a bulk fuel distributor or two, a general store - which would have supplied construction materials and animal feed, the station with a team track, l.c.l., and freight forwarder services, and probably a lumber yard.

Switcher at Mojave

SP 1310 switches tank cars at Mojave Yard

Mojave's regular switcher for many years was the SP 1310, an NW2.  When the 1310 was in the shops, the switching crew would use just about any engine laying over at Mojave.  The time books of one engineer at Mojave, shows the SP 4287, an AC-12 class "Malley" being used as the switcher!  The 4287 was probably laying over between assignments as either a short helper or Searles Turn engine.

The Mojave Switcher at LMRC is a 'foot-board yardmaster' position, where the rolls of YM and switching crew is combined into one person.  The Car (traffic) Clerk (East End Staging-Master) assists in keeping track of marking lists for car routing and paperwork in Mojave Yard, but does not give direct instructions to the Mojave 'foot-board' YM as to how to do the job.

In Closing

SP 1765 with a 1955-56 era painted wooden C-30-1 caboose, probably in local service. - Eddie Sims Collection.

That does it for this post about the SP's Symbols for Locals and Switching on the LMRC layout.  At some point in the future, I may come back and address each of the jobs that I've covered in this post, in more detail with its own post.  At that time I'll talk more about the traffic flows and patterns unique to that particular job.  For now this should cover the basics of these jobs.  Next time on the topic of Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi, I'll be getting into the Westward Santa Fe Symbols.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

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.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - (Part 3) - SP East

This is the third in my 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 cover the SP West Symbols in Part 2.

SP 4249 helps a freight upgrade into Caliente with a VXE-symbol freight.

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.

Eastward Through Symbols

In this post at first glance, we'll be looking at many 'duplicate' symbols.  However, as we looks deeper at the various eastward SP symbols over Tehachapi Pass, the different 'levels' of service show themselves.  Basically, selection of the symbol (grouping of similar service traffic provided by that symbol and connections to routing getting to the destination), the published 'protecting' categories of type of car, the load, and the physical routing show what symbols do what.  The SSE for example is a much faster symbol moving through yards and 100-mile inspections, compared to even trains like VXE.  While most of these symbols move as 3rd Class schedules on the Timetable, or occasionally as Extras with basically the same speed limits on the road, the 'hotter' symbols make faster trips from Roseville to Los Angeles because of the shorter dwell times at the intermediate yards at Fresno and Bakersfield.

VME - "Overnight"

SP 4293 leads the VME-29 up through Bealville with a large number of express reefers on the 29th of December, 1952.

The VME symbol runs from Fresno to Los Angeles with express reefers loaded with perishables and mostly empty returning "Overnight" express boxcars.  The VME usually runs as No.446 from Fresno to Bakersfield, but the prototype ETT's show the Second Class schedule ending there.  The VME symbol would then continue either as an Extra train or be run under one of the Third Class, 800-series freights, probably a section of No.808 in the evening after a 6:00PM cutoff time.  I'll get more into Cutoff times in a future post.

TOFC - Trailer-on-Flat-Car

SP 142411, TOFC equipped F-70-7 for PMT 22ft trailers. (both flatcar and trailers SPH&TS model)

The symbol picks up at Bakersfield any "Overnight" cars ready to return to LA and express reefers.  After March 1953 this could also include the PMT's TOFC (Trailer-on-Flatcar) traffic which supplemented the "Overnight" Service.  Bakersfield was among the first group of stations to receive TOFC loading ramps in March of 1953.

SSE - Sunset East

SP 4255 leads a long string of boxcars of canned goods east through Caliente.

The Sunset East symbol originates in Roseville, usually as a "cab-hop", picking up priority merchandise loads, primarily canned goods out of the San Joaquin Valley heading east to El Paso and beyond to eastern cities.  Sometimes VXE traffic (described below) would fill the SSE symbol.

Eastern 'plain' boxcars, such as this 'Wagon Top' B&O car were reloaded as often as possible when returning home.

Generally any empty cars returning on reverse-rights to eastern railroads would be moved where there was capacity, filling on VXE or running on BFX and other 'Shorts' trains.  Traffic flow during the 1940s and 1950s generally went something like this: East Coast merchandise traffic westward to consumer cities, then the foreign cars would be reloaded with what food-stuffs (Canned goods, etc) or raw materials (lumber, paper, etc) and filled in when needed with home-road cars.  So the process of having foreign empty cars returning eastward towards home on symbols which were easily accessible by the yards originating locals to the canneries and growing areas worked well.  What is not desirable is to put the foreign cars that could be reloaded on symbols that would be routed directly to Los Angeles, and eastward if there was the possibility to reload them before Los Angeles.

VXE - Valley Extra East

The VXE is the general 'catch-all' symbol used to move eastward freight from Roseville to Los Angeles (Taylor Yard), this technically also includes perishable traffic.  However, the VXE symbol is more of a family with several sub-symbols we'll be looking at next; the RV, F, and SJ-blocks.  I know it's confusing, but there are several symbols that work this way.  From what we've gathered the SP didn't use the VXE symbol name itself on the perishables blocks, favoring simply referred to them by the RV, F, and SJ-block designations, and the VXE was used for everything else, non-perishable.  I'm a little torn on the sugar beet cars, I could see them being sent on VXE since they'll be getting switched and redirected at Taylor Yard, as opposed to Colton, which is where the SJ/F/RV blocks would be sent with minimal switching, and mostly bypassing work at Taylor Yard.

M.P. Bording (YM), and his crews work the SP yard at Bakersfield making up trains per the Chief Dispatcher's directives.

The general freight routed for movement on VXE could also be 'filled' on other through symbols (OCM, PSS, etc) as there was capacity, but I'll discuss that more when we get into the advanced concepts of the Chief Dispatcher and combining of symbols.  For now just remember that the VXE exists to move general freight from Roseville to Los Angeles.

RV-n - Roseville (Reefer Block)

A PFE reefer block swings through the curve at Caliente, climbing eastward to Tehachapi Summit.

The RV-symbol was used to move loaded perishable reefer traffic from Roseville to Colton to be combined into C-blocks for movement east on the Sunset and Golden State Routes.  The symbol system used for the RV, F, and SJ blocks carried a sequential number from the first day of the year, for example RV-1 would be from the first block on 1st of January.  RV-2 would be used for the next block, whether or not it was on the 1st of January or any later date.  The numbers would continue until December 31st, when the system would start again.  This was used to keep positive track of cars and their movement all the way to the destination.  In case of combinations, the newer, shorter traveled symbol would be absorbed into the older symbol.

F-n - Fresno (Reefer Block)

No. 780 with SP 3660 works a block of PFEs somewhere west of Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley. - Eddie Sims Collection

The F-symbol was used for Frenso originating perishable reefer traffic, similar to the RV-symbol.  The traffic forming the F-symbol would have been gathered up by the haulers and locals operating out of Fresno, where as the RV-symbol traffic came through the Roseville yard 'hub'.  Visually there was basically no difference between an RV and F-block. 

There was usually a RV-block every day, F-blocks were a little more rare, as they could be combined and fill into RV-block symbols, and this would be a point I'll talk about in the future with planning and predicting traffic routings.

Eastward Lumber Symbols


NWP 4474 with lumber load near Ilmon.  (prototype OMM 3004 load shown)

The building boom in the post-WWII era in the central and southern states lead to the operation of Portland-LA and Portland-Sunset Route lumber symobls.  These symbols could also be used to move other minor traffic, but the dominant traffic out of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) was lumber related, paper, etc.

New F-70-7 class car in lumber service at Caliente. (kitbashed OMM 3001 load on RC/EspeeModels flatcar)

After 1949, the 2300 new F-70-6/7 class flatcars became dominant in lumber service, replacing the F-50-series as the front line lumber flatcars.

"Automobile" - Lumber Boxcars

SP 65301 returns to Oregon empty for another load of finished lumber.

SP was also famous for their double door 40 and 50ft boxcars (Auto-class cars) were often used for finished lumber.


SP 151830 with a prototype of OMM's 3004 lumber load kit

Gondolas of both 40, 52, and 65ft lengths, supplemented the flatcars and gondolas when additional cars were needed.

PSS - Portland-Sunset

A PSS arrives at Bakersfield with a full consist of lumber loads.

The PSS symbol operated usually one or two sections per day and occasionally an Advance Section (Adv-PSS) if sufficient traffic was ready before the normal cutoff time.  These symbols operated through Los Angeles's Taylor Yard to the east.

OCM - Oregon-California Manifest

A OCM lumber block, with helpers cutting in at Baker St. (Notice the tank cars in the lumber block)

The OCM was a more mixed make-up train with a majority being lumber product related shipments.  The OCM symbol is shown as a strictly PNW-LA traffic, which the PSS was not supposed to handle.  This resulted in a bit more general traffic in the consists.  For PNW short traffic, which was going to destinations short of Los Angeles, would be handled on the BFX, described below.

Eastward Bakersfield Sub. Symbols

The symbols which do not continue across both the Bakersfield, Tehachapi, and Mojave Sub-Divisions will take an even longer dwell time in the yards before moving again, therefore through cars generally should not be routed via these 'Shorts' symbols.

AE - Altamont East

SP 3654 working the 'flip side' of the AE, the AW between Lathrop and Tracy. - Eddie Sims Collection

The AE was the primary "direct" route from the Bay Area to Bakersfield, via Altamont Pass.  However some lower priority or slower traffic could be directed from Oakland to Roseville via the Cal-P or over Altamont Pass on other symbols, and redirected at Tracy and Fresno, arriving at Bakersfield on the BFX.

Auto-Parts Traffic

NYC 176245 operates as a pooled Auto-Parts car, returning AE to Bakersfield, then to the Santa Fe for movement to Chicago.

The AE's main traffic include returning 'Boarded Empty' Auto Parts cars from the Bay Area.  These cars were 'hot' whether or not they were loaded, which meant with full waybills, not on reverse-rights.  Also these cars were in various 'pools' often with racks inside for particular parts.  The pools were contributed to by the various RR's over which the pool operated, and the number assigned by the mileage of each RR's haul.  Most of the AE's Auto-Parts traffic routed to the Santa Fe at Bakersfield.  It wasn't uncommon to see traffic held for the auto-parts cars to make the connections, or if the traffic was split, to run a second train for even one straggling auto-parts car.

Santa Fe Interchange Traffic

Santa Fe Bakersfield yard crew pulls a string of interchange cars out of the three track interchange yard at Kern Jct.

The rest of the AE's consists mostly of returning Santa Fe merchandise cars to interchange on reverse-rights at Bakersfield.  The Santa Fe wanted to avoid congestion at their Richmond Yard, so interchanged the traffic to SP destinations in the San Fransisco Bay Area at Bakersfield.  Other traffic on the AE consisted of cement empties heading back to Monolith cement plant.  Other loads from the ports of Oakland and San Fransisco could be seen as well.  Tank cars with petroleum and petro-chemical traffic could also be seen on the AE from the various refineries along the Cal-P.

BFX - Bakersfield Fresno Extra

 An ex-EPSW, Mk-9 class, SP 3322, working No.780 between Fresno (possibly Roseville) and Bakersfield. - Eddie Sims Collection

The BFX symbol operated short eastward traffic from Roseville to Fresno and Bakersfield.  The BFX is the primary symbol for moving eastward cars for the locals around Bakersfield and Mojave.  Much of this traffic originated and came to Roseville on the Overland route from the east and from the PNW to the north. 

Petroleum Tank Cars

Union Oil of California was a large shipper of oil and petroleum products out of the North San Fransisco Bay refineries.

Petroleum and Chemical traffic could also be seen on the BFX from the various refineries along the Cal-P.

Chemical Tank Cars

Shell Chemical Co. cars and Stauffer's Chemical cars could be seen also transiting Tehachapi to and from the SF Bay Area.

Liquid Sugar Tank Cars

Also the SP's distinctive 'Liquid Sugar' tankcars with the "Diamond S" on the domes operated from the cane sugar plant at Crockett.

SP's liquid sugar equipped tankcars with the "Diamond S" on the domes operated out of Crockett.

Interchanged Lumber Traffic

ATSF Bakersfield Yard with SP Lumber block (center, between the steam engine and the express reefers.)

The BFX symbols also moved lumber down from Roseville for local destinations and interchange to the Santa Fe for destinations in Southern California and east of Barstow.

'Haulers' (Pixley, Porterville, Earlimart, Goshen, etc)

SP 2349 probably working in the San Joaquin Valley on Local, Switching, or seasonal Hauler jobs. - Eddie Sims Collection

While these seasonal 'Haulers' might come very close to crossing the line into 'Locals', however they did not replace the symbols and locals which 'regularly' worked the towns.  As such, I'm going to list them here, as they're symbols that picked up and set out blocks, generally for the locals and switch engines to work within a town, while the Hauler moved on to the next town.

Wine Service Tank Cars & Reefers

California Dispatch Lines (CDLX) operated a fleet of tank cars, with a large number of bulk wine-stock cars.

Fresno, like Bakersfield, would have these additional trains called to work certain towns in the valley in addition to the BFX 'Shorts' trains working towards Bakersfield, picking up loads and distributing empties of 'normal traffic' levels to the local towns.  The 'Haulers' traffic was dominated by extra produce reefers, sugar beets, canned goods, wine cars (inbound supplies in boxcars, and outbound in reefers, and bulk wine-stock in tank cars), box shook (for the packing sheds), and various other 'generic' merchandise traffic, commonly consumed by small towns (merchandise - lcl, lumber, building material yards, fuel distributors, etc.).

SP 2850 and T&NO 910 working 'Haulers' and TMW, BFX, VXW, etc. in and out of Bakersfield.

The engines used on 'Haulers' vary as the traffic levels require, anything from a 'Deck' (2-10-2), down to a 2-6-0 or 2-8-0 were commonly seen.

Eastward Tehachapi Sub. Symbols

SJ-n - San Joaquin (Reefer Block)

SP 6461, with dual-service F-units prepare to leave Bakersfield with a SJ-block of reefers.

The SJ-blocks originated from locally gathered perishable reefers at Bakersfield.  Like the RV and F blocks moved from the San Joaquin Valley to Colton, via Los Angeles.

MSE - Mojave Shorts (East)

Rare double heading Decks, SP 3701 & 3712, prepare to depart with a MSE symbol from Bakersfield.

"Mojave Shorts" operates eastward out of Bakersfield to Mojave.  The cars in the symbol area worked between Bena and Mojave, then the consist is dropped off at Mojave to be switched.  The cars arriving at Mojave from local originations (Trona, Jawbone Branch, Blitz Local, and KI Locals) loads or empties forward on a new block out of Mojave.  Any through traffic from Bakersfield to points short of LA, but past Mojave will take an extra day to be reclassified at Mojave before continuing.

Company Materials - MoW Supply Cars

SPMW 560, assigned to Supply service, often working out of Los Angeles or Sacramento General Shops.

Traffic on the MSE commonly includes: local company service cars (MW cars out of Sacramento and/or Bakersfield), merchandise cars for points short of Los Angeles, traffic to the towns of Caliente and Tehachapi supporting local business.  The cement traffic for Monolith and Trona Rwy dominate the tonnage.

Other Symbols

Livestock Specials

Livestock Specials are operated as needed on any subdivision in either direction.  Livestock movements fall into two main categories: Pasture movement which is seasonal and Slaughter movements of the livestock moving to market.

Over Tehachapi on the SP, through livestock generally moved on the faster symbols: Westward - NCP, VXW and Eastward on VXE, or SSE

SP 2850 leads a Livestock Special, often with a 'Drover's' car, which on the SP is usually an older coach.

Legal record of keep track of the 24 or 36 hour law compliance for keeping the livestock in the cars before being allowed out to rest and water.  This record was kept Dispatchers wrote down the 24 and 36 hour times and which symbol the livestock is moving on.

SP Local & Switching Jobs

SP 2587 works some PFE reefers at a packing shed, a sight repeated in dozens of towns in the San Joaquin Valley - Eddie Sims Collection

The SP Local & Switching Jobs will be covered in Part 4.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

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.