Monday, April 1, 2024

Hotfoot Motors (Part 1) - The New Plan Concept, Operations, & Rolling Stock

So I've been thinking long and hard about getting some more operations into my layout.  The Jawbone just isn't cutting it for me anymore traffic-wise.  I really want some more switching and operations.  Not having Lone Pine and a larger "town" is a problem.  I want some denser activities, so for inspiration, I'm winding the clock back in my mind to a couple layout concepts I had back in the late 1990s and combining them!

Prototype Car Float

NWP at Tiburon in 1949 switching SP fuel-oil tank cars on/off car float. Kevin Bunker collection

The SP subsidiary Northwestern Pacific serviced the San Francisco Bay Area interchange partners WP, ATSF, & State Belt by car float, the SP's interchange at Schellville was a standard land-side interchange, but much of the Bay Area interchange was by water.

NWP's Tiburon Yard complex, which was on the northwest edge of the San Francisco Bay.

Looking at the NWP Tiburon facility maps, the facilities are spread out across the waterfront more than a shelf layout will really be able to accept with the width restrictions.  So my Hotfoot Motors layout concept will be more of a spiritual interpolation of the functionality of a float yard.  The plan view here is interesting in that there's a very long lead (second to the left, below the turntable) and pretty clearly allows the yard engine to pull the yard or float in one shot and shove to the other without obstructions. 

This makes since as each yard track will probably be for a single classification direction or interchange.  The Tiburon Car Float interchanged to at least three other car float terminals, so there would have to be at least that many tracks to sort into.  Then each track would probably be a full float's worth in length.

Only two pairs of tracks have run-arounds - one with a transfer platform, the other pretty clearly an arrival/departure track - or more likely just arrival and engine escape track.  The rest of the four yard tracks are stub-ended.

My Concept Layout - Hotfoot Motors Auto Plant & Car Float Layout!

What happens if a new auto manufacture set up their new assembly plant near Tiburon, California?  Auto-parts by water!  Combining two of the most traffic dense focal points of modeling together!  Will this reach critical mass?  But first a message from my sponsor for this blogpost, "Hotfoot Motors"!

My new layout will be modeling the plant for Hotfoot Motors, which will be building a new series of quality automobiles for the 1953 year.

New product line of commercial truck and coupes for 1953!

Among our new commercial customers will be PMT, buying a new fleet of tractor trucks to put into service with their expanding TOFC LTL overnight shipping plans around California, Nevada, Arizona, and Oregon!  While the star of plant are the new Hotfoot Coupes, coming factory equipped with Nitro-Wings that will make your cars fly down the strip or around the track!

My recent posts on PRR and SP Automobile cars reminded me of a layout concept that I've had rattling around for 20-25 odd years.  Back then, I thought about building the "1930s" Automobile Plant that was featured in MR around 1997 iirc, planned to fit in about 8x6ft L-shape.  but I also had some interest in car floats when Walthers came out with their series of kits around the same time.

3d render of the conceptual Auto Plant-Car Float layout.

So of late, I've been having a bit of fun pondering another shelf-layout design in the computer.  I started thinking about what would happen if they were combined into one layout, slightly larger 13x8ft, with 24" wide shelves, but with the same rough layout of the Auto Plant. The size increase would also be needed to have the required switching lead lengths.

Operations Overview

The rough idea is that one switch engine could do everything, but if a friend showed up to join you, they could take a second engine and divide the work of the Auto Plant and the Car Float jobs.  Some of the ear-marks of this concept still are eastern road based, like the large pier warehouse that B&O used next to some of their car float operations, or the large automobile plant one-road across from a car float and pier.  I don't know how many prototype auto-mobile plants even were paired with car float operations, but it could be a fun way to pull cars from "staging" into the layout.

A top plan view of the new layout with notes.

The rough outline of operations are listed above, with track capacities, etc.  I expect that this will be worked by two two-man crews.  The second person on each crew will be the switch foreman, keeping track of what cars are going where, while the engineer keeps up with moving the engine.

The mascot of Hotfoot Motors is the USS Providence, one of the fastest top'sl sloops of the 18th Century!

A fifth person will probably be needed to keep track of the paperwork for the interchanges and restaging of the car floats with the tug boat (Yes, I want to get my nautical modeling in here too!) and making sure that none of the car floats sink!  I've operated on a layout similar to this concept at Bill Kauffman's State Belt north of San Francisco, which models the wharf-rail freight traffic and car float operations north of 1st Street (SP's 3rd & Townsend Station), which uses 5 people to function during operations.  The State Belt is the other end of one of Tiburon's car float interchanges.

Car Float Operations

I know the three "Float Yard" tracks look like a mess of track work, but there really would need to be some room to sort out the Float traffic. The Float 2 & 3 tracks actually have enough room alone to equal the car float.  This would leave the Main Track (Float 1) open to pull the cars off the float with.  The Float 1 track is long enough to leave 5 or so cars on if needed, while feeding cars to the Plant Engine via the Plant Ladder or Runaround tracks, before the Float Engine shifts over on the South Main and shoves Float 2 on to the Car Float, then pulls back and puts Float 3's cars onto the float.  Alternately, the Plant Engine itself could be the engine on the South end pulling the cars off the float back into South Lead, and then allowing the Float engine to only need to do the reloading of the Float.

Hotfoot Motors Operations

The original MR plan calls for the following traffic per 8 hour shift:
Inbound Loads:
6 boxcars, auto parts
1/2 boxcar, batteries (spot and hold for 2nd shift)
1/3 car, cleaning solvent (spot and hold for 3 shifts)
4 gondolas, coil steel
1 boxcar, rear axles
6 boxcar, sheet metal stampings
2 boxcars, tires
2 boxcars, transmissions
78 cars in per day

Outbound Loads:
112 cars finished autos
1 gondola, shredded steel scrap
1/2 car, heavy steel scrap
1/3 car, solvent waste
345 cars out/day
Totaling 423 cars per day, or 141 per shift.

The original MR article would have a problem spotting & pulling 112 carloads of finished automobiles per shift.  Their track plan could only hold 3-5 cars on three tracks, so about 12-13 cars per spot, very close to my design, which is 15-16 cars, which would still require 7 spots per shift to get 112 cars through.  That's respotting each of the four auto loading tracks every 69 minutes. 

The solution - The B&O Auto-Loader! - Ebay photo of Athearn model

One option to solve the 69-minute spotting to load 15-16 cars in less than an hour, would be the circus-style end-ramp loading of the Auto-Loader.  The B&O model shown here could be the answer for Hotfoot Motors!

With a total of 423 cars per day through the plant, it would require a minimum of 25 car float trips with 17x40ft cars per trip, with at least 1/4 of the cars being 50ft loaded automobile cars, so probably more like 30 car float trips.

Thoughts on Car Float-Auto Challenges

So free movement of the auto cars from the car float to the plant and back will be critical.  The design of the Float Yard is designed for quick in and out movements of cars from the car float into the yard, doubling cars off the float and pulling it into the float yard, while at the same time taking cars from the float yard and shoving them back onto the car float.  

Also remember that all of the car counts moved by car float will be doubled, as the second half of the cycle also needs to be figured into the operation.  All of the loaded parts cars coming in have to leave going back to the parts plants and the empty automobile cars have to be set out around the country loaded.  So float operations will end up requiring more like 25 minute turn-arounds to get in the return traffic!

Other Operational Options

REV-B version of the concept with an extension on the Southern end to fit a staging yard.  Size 13ft by the extended 11ft space.

Another optional thought is the two center tracks (South Main & Lead) at the SE corner of the plan, can be adjusted to Free-Mo or other modular standards. This layout could then be an end-of-branch module for a larger layout, which may actually help the Auto-Plant thru-put of freight car traffic and give more places for the freight cars to go than only out through the Car Float.

More Water Operations

The pier warehouse-freight house will be another fun traffic generator/consuming industry, which can take a good string of 7 odd 40 and 50ft boxcars every 2-3 hours, including perishable Express reefers if I have a land-connection off the South Main end of the layout.

The Spur along the water-side of the Pier could be fun to stage other marine ship models "lumber ship", freighter, etc. Tank cars could be fun to spot there too for a coastal oiler, or barge, etc. when the Car Float wasn't in place to supply cars to the layout.  In addition all sorts of heavy equipment, and freight could show up on the wharf side of the pier to load onto ships or barges.  The Pier track can also serve as an "off-spot" for cars that need a place to stash until the customer wants them, or room in the Float Yard opens up.

Engines & Rolling Stock

The engines that would ideally work this could be as small as the Spectrum GE 44 or 45-ton switchers, up to ALCo S-series, or EMD SW8 or NW-series switchers, or 0-6-0 steam engines.  The point is that they should be small, and able to work 6-8 car cuts around the layout easily.


Sunset S-12 0-6-0 switcher

The classic option for 1920s and all the way into the 1950s would be an 0-6-0 switcher.  If I built this layout concept as an actual layout, something like the 1213 would fit the bill nicely.  They have great low speed operation, and can be fitted with extra power-pickups.  21st Century tech would even allow direct blue-tooth communication and Keep-Alive tech would allow holes in the power pickup over the complicated trackwork to get into some of the industries.


Bachmann S4 ALCo switcher

Another thought would be the S4, such as Bachmann makes, these would be right at home switching California auto plants, either in the Bay Area or north of Los Angeles.


Proto2000 SW8 switcher

Although a slightly later era, the SW8 would also make a great light switcher for a small industrial layout like this.

Boxcars - Autoparts & Automobile Cars

In the late 1990s I started collecting various automobile boxcars and auto-parts cars.  Over the years I've also picked up a few others, which would allow a good variety in cars servicing the Auto Plant.

While many of my older cars, I've since found out to be inaccurate, mostly in the diagonal ribs or door arrangements, there are a number of models that still hold up.

PRR 81348 is a newer Bowser product for the X31F.

Modeling an automobile assembly plant is one fun way to get a bunch of these interesting auto cars in a very small space on the layout.

Branchline BluePrint-series 40ft boxcar (now owned by Atlas)

The Pennsy used both 40 and 50 foot cars in auto-parts service.

Branchline BluePrint-series 50ft boxcar (now owned by Atlas)

PRR X32-series double-door car by Bowser.

They also used double door cars in both lengths.

Another older Bowser X31 with the plain roof.

And single-door X31s from Bowser..

Tangent's new B-50-28+ class boxcar could be used in auto-parts service.

The SP also used 40 and 50ft single door cars in auto parts service, usually for heavier items, such as engines and transmissions, etc.

Larger 50ft single door car were often used in auto parts service.

Both SP and SSW rostered hundreds of auto parts assigned 50ft single door cars for moving large sheet metal stampings to assembly plants.

Auto-parts or finished Autos would move in cars like this P2K double door car.

Both finished autos were shipped and auto parts came in the large double door 50ft boxcars.


A variety of coil steel could arrive in eastern mill gondolas.

While I don't have steel coil loads right now, Tangent I believe has announced that they'll be producing some.  In the past, Walthers has also produced plastic steel coil loads for their cars.

Older gondolas could be used to haul the scrap away from the auto plants to be melted down and used again.

Thankfully scrap loads are pretty easy to model, as there are plenty for sale as casings and several include automobile bodies in the load!

Tank Cars

Many types of tank car would also show up.  From acid for etching and cleaning, to other chemicals, to various lubricants and gasoline.

Acid Tank Cars
This Dow-leased acid tank car is by Tangent Models

Nastier chemicals could arrive by special tank car, often these cars did not have bottom outlet valves or pipes as a spill-risk mitigation, so the loads were removed through the domes.

Lubricating Oil & Solvents
Tangent Models 3-dome GATC 6k gal tank car - Tangent photo from their website.

Various smaller batches of chemicals and lubricants could arrive by either boxcar or multi-dome tank cars.  These 6k gallon cars were divided into three 2k tanks.

Red Caboose 1949 welded tank car

One of the big oil companies would have the contract to deliver the classic "1 gallon per car" of fuel that they would be shipped out with.  These companies for California could include: Richfield, Union Oil (of California), Associated Oil (aka Flying A), Standard Oil (aka Cheveron).  I obviously don't know which one would be dealing what to the assembly plant, but it's interesting to think about.

Standard Oil Cars (UTLX)
Rapido's X-3 10k gallon tank car model.

Unlike my options 20-25 years ago, today there are multiple great options for tank cars that could show up!  Plenty of gasoline and other AAR 111 liquids come to Hotfoot Motors in unassuming cars like these.

Tangent's 1917 GATC-built 8k tank car model.

The nice thing about the UTLX cars, along with the other leasing companies is that you could have all sorts of chemicals arrive without drawing attention to what they are.  

In Closing

UTLX 10673 GATX Type-17 Hercules Powder Co

Hotfoot Motors has been working secretly with Hercules Powder Company to develop the Nitro-Wings technology of tomorrow for the fastest cars on the road or above it!  Catch yours before they're gone!

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

"Modeling pre-war SP 50-foot automobile cars" - Anthony Thompson's blog post on SP A-50-12.

Freight Car Overview Index - One page with links to all my modeling blogs on freight cars.

PRR Automobile & Parts Boxcars

X31 & X32 Boxcar (Part 2) - PRR X32As from Boswer - Double Door 50ft Automobile cars.

X31 & X32 Boxcar (Part 3) - PRR X31F "Turtle Roofs" from Boswer - Double Door Automobile cars.

X31 & X32 Boxcar (Part 4) - PRR X31A from Bowser & Rapido - Single Door (incld. Auto Parts cars)

X31 & X32 Boxcar (Part 5) - PRR X31B & C from Boswer - Double-Door Automobile Cars.

April Fools everyone!
SP TCY Hamburger-Horse-Grill, the new business car for Hotfoot Motors!