Thursday, September 15, 2016

Overview of 1950s Time Table Operation Session (Part 1) La Mesa Model Railroad Club

I thought today, I'll write and post on something a bit different than building models.

A while back I uploaded a video over viewing the basic 1950s Time Table & Train Order (TT/TO) recreation that La Mesa Model Railroad puts together every two or three months.

I joined the club in 1996 and joined the Operations Department in 1998, helping to set up for the nationwide group, known as ProRail to come and operate the layout over a weekend (24 hours).

Hopefully you'll all enjoy a look at how I see this fantastic layout, which is at its best during the regular TT/TO sessions: "It's like going to a zoo (museum) seeing the dragon (layout) in its cave sleeping most days (Public operations), but during a full TT/TO session the dragon's awake, flying around, and breathing fire!"

History of the Layout


SP Malleys in their natural habitat, lurking in the trees of the Tehachapi Mountains at Walong "The Loop".

For people that are not familiar with what the La Mesa Club has built over the last 34 years I'll describe some of the basic statistics of the exhibit.  The club decided several years before moving to the space in the Casa de Balboa building to build as accurately as possible the Tehachapi Subdivision of the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe "Joint Line" between Bakersfield and Mojave, California in HO scale.  This dream, from the start, was to be a fully working replica of the Tehachapi Subdivision as it looked and worked during the 1950s.

To have space in the building, it operates for the public 6 days a week (Closed Mondays) and usually has a few trains running from various eras.  Regular lap times are well over 1-2 hours depending how much of the railroad is open and how many crews are available on a given day.

Detoured Coast Daylight (Second 52) is passed by a very long (70-ish car) 800-series freight with a PFE block of reefers 

In many ways, the club has exceeded the original dream as the railroad was built, tweaks and changes to "The Plan" were made, increasing the complexity and scale of the model built.  Hundreds and thousands of more hours of research during construction of the model also means that the Operations Department, the core group of people researching the historical Tehachapi Pass, have learned more about how the traffic moved, what the sources and destinations of the traffic was, etc than they had originally planned.

History of the Real Railroads - SP and the ATSF on Tehachapi


The Southern Pacific built the railroad connecting the San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles in 1876, only 7 years after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Point, Utah, in 1869.  The Santa Fe Rwy signed trackage rights agreements in January 1899 to use 67 miles of Southern Pacific track over between Bakersfield and Mojave.


An Extra Westward Santa Fe freight pulls out of the 3-way meet at Caliente, locking Second 52 in the siding.

The layout now uses about 7500 sq ft of space on two levels.  On the real mainline about 2/3s of the 68 miles of track is double to allow trains to move unrestricted by opposing traffic.  The modeled mainline is about 30 miles long, about 50% of the modeled mainline is single track.  This requires trains to wait at sidings for opposing traffic to clear.  Using TT/TO operations, the trains receive orders from 5 station telegraph (phone) operators that copy verbal orders from the Dispatcher onto written orders using carbon paper.  Clearance Cards are issued once the complete set of Train Orders are assembled. These orders are issued to train crews and prescribe any changes that effect their operation for their train.  These orders may change schedules of trains, meeting points, number of sections, inform the crew of additional sections of scheduled trains, and providing for them to move farther against opposing traffic than if the orders were not issued.

In later years TT/TO was replaced on high traffic divisions, such as Tehachapi, by a system called Centralized-Traffic-Control, or CTC, This allowed the Train Dispatcher to removely control the signals and siding switches to route trains and increase traffic density on a section of railroad.

The Video -

I should mention that this video is about 25 minutes long, so grab a bag of popcorn and enjoy the show.


The opening and closing footage is of the club's San Joaquin Daylight pulled by a set of dual service F7 ABBA units.  I will at some point do some posts about the cars, and various upgrades and techniques I used on some similar MTH and SC&F models.

There's mixed footage of westward trains waiting at Tehachapi for opposing traffic to clear onto double track.  I didn't really get into helper operations or the variety of operations the 1950's TT/TO sessions have.  I hope to get into that more in the future.  The track work is still newly completed in these filmed views of Tehachapi.

There's about 7 minutes of our Train Order Dispatcher issuing orders and receiving OS reports of train movements.

Towards the end of the video footage, I show some switching at Caliente with SP 3259 assigned to the KI Local.

In future installments of this blog topic, I'll be covering various aspects of the 1950's operation at La Mesa Model Railroad Club.

Extra 4255 West in the classic vintage pose at the 'upper grade signal' above Caliente with a westward freight.

I'm going to leave this blog post here for now.  I have more material that I would like to go into detail on, but it would make this post WAY too long.

Jason Hill

No comments:

Post a Comment