Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Shasta, a revised "Pike-Size Train" from 1987

Before we get into more complicated SP passenger train consists, let's look at a "simple" one.

Inspiration - 29 Years Ago

In 1987, Andy Sperandeo write a lovely article for Model Railroader on "Pike-size Steam Passenger Trains" in which he covered five small 3-6 car passenger trains that would fit on a smaller layout.  Here's a pdf of the Pike-Size articles from MR.  Maybe not 4x8 because of the curves, but at least a 1-car garage layout should be able to handle these.  I very much enjoyed reading about the weird little passenger trains that once were as common in the US as mini-vans are driving around one's neighborhood today!  Ok, maybe not minivans but certainly regional transport mini-buses.

The concept of the Shasta (Nos. 327/328) as an easily modeled train was a good one in 1987, but I feel that it's time to look at it again and see what's changed in the last 29 years! 

My recreated shot of the Shasta from the MR article
Using a Sunset MT, Walthers ACF Baggage, Soho Chair 72-C, Kitbashed Cafe-Lounge, and Walthers 10-1-2 Pullman. 

To quickly recap the article, for those that don't want to take the time to follow the link above or pull their old MR out of the bookshelf.  The train in the prototype photo from 1949 shows SP MT-1 pulling 4 cars; a 70ft clerestory baggage car, a 72ft arch roof chair car, a clerestory Cafe-Lounge -  likely the 10904, and a HW 10-1-2 Pullman (article called it a 8-1-2) - by 1949 it would have been SP owned but possibly not repainted as such yet.

The suggestions for 1987 were the following; Bowser USRA Heavy 4-8-2 (out of production), a Rivarossi HW 66ft baggage car, an Eastern Car Works 1121 coach (not even sure what that was now), a Rivarossi HW Diner (ATSF prototype, but somewhat stand-in for SP HW car), and "Rivarossi 12-1 Pullman any roadname."  Basically the whole train would have had to be painted.  The Rivarossi models could be had in SP Lines lettering if I recall correctly, trying to match that color for the coach would have been a pain.

Today's Options

Let's see what my suggestions are for 2016.  I also want to provide an option for a "condensed" or "shorty" train covering the same services, but with shorter cars for smaller layouts or shorter station/yards of many small layouts.  Many of these suggested models I either have built or am in the processes of working on now, which will be the focus of their own blog-build posts in the future.

Basic Consist

Let's first look at the SP Equipment Circular Passenger Train Consist - June 2, 1946 to May 6, 1954 for the basic consist.

Here's a photo of the engine working No.327, Mike 3249.  Eddie Sims Collection, date unknown.


Mail Apt (Assumed to be a 30ft RPO apartment/baggage)
Baggage-Express (70ft car usually)
STD 10-1-2 Sleeper (Portland-Grants Pass on No.330 Rogue River, then on No.327 Shasta to Dunsmuir, then on No.19 Klamath to Oakland)


Mail Apt (Assumed to be a 30ft RPO apartment/baggage)
Baggage-Express (70ft car usually)
STD Sleeper 10-1-2 Sleeper (Oakland-Dunsmuir on No.20 Klamath then No.328 Shasta between Grants Pass to No.329 Rogue River to Portland)

Notice that they basically turned the train by moving the Baggage and RPO to the other end of the consist.  - Also the photo from 1949 in Andy's article doesn't have the Mail Apartment car in the train.

1949 Shasta

The Engine:

SP MT-4 4351 with 160-C-class tender (Balboa Engine & Tender) - Ath/Gen has offered this version in plastic.

SP MT-4 4351 with 120-C-6 tender (Athearn-Genesis tender placed as example) - Ath/Gen offered this version in plastic.

Balboa SP 3266 with Athearn-Genesis 120-C-6 tender.

Athearn-Genesis MT-series 4-8-2, with skyline casing and either 120-C-6 tender, or 160-C tender to fit what photos you have.  Alternately brass MT-series or Balboa Mk-5/6s could be easily used if you want to use budget brass instead of the Athearn-Genesis models.  Here's a links to the TSG  Multimedia review of the "San Joaquin Daylight" version of the Genesis MT-4 with 160-C tender.  They also compared a Genesis 4-8-2 vs. brass MT 4-8-2 model in this Video.  There is also this older review of the black MT-4 4349 with 120-C-6 tender.

Baggage Car

Ex-EPSW 70ft Clerestory Baggage car: 

Walthers AC&F 70ft baggage repainted as SP 6515 in 1946 Lettering

Walthers ACF HW 70ft baggage car is a very good model and is quite close to the ex-EPSW car in the photo.  I have modeled one of these cars already and finished it as the SP 6515 in Dark Olive Green.  While not the usual "Harriman" Arch-Roof type of baggage car, the 10 ex-EPSW all-steel baggage cars that were transferred to the SP create a unique contrast.
Walther's had produced the ACF baggage in SP Two-Tone Gray (TTG) for modelers that want to fudge a few years.  The Shasta was discontinued in 1952, two years before TTG became the standard general service scheme.  In theory TTG replacing the SP Dark Olive Green, but many SP cars lasted most of another decade and were scrapped in green paint.

Another option of course is a 70-B-series arch roof baggage.

SP 70-B-series Baggage car, this is a painted Soho model.

Southern Car & Foundry makes very nice and surprisingly easy one-piece bodied resin kits for the cars.  Soho has made these baggage cars as well.  One option for the hard-core kitbashes out there is kitbashing them from Athearn/MDC "Harriman" 60-B-9/10 Baggages (as seen in their unkitbashed form below).

My old 6490, before it was repainted and decalled. It is a kitbashed MDC baggage car.  I did not add the side windows, as some cars had them plated over by the early 1950s.

For a "Shorty" train, I would use an Athearn/MDC 60ft "Harriman" arch-roof baggage car, which are correct for SP's 60-B-9 and -10 cars.  

Athearn-MDC "Harriman" 60ft Baggage car with rebuilt underframe, but still with Athearn Express Trucks.

They are available in SP Green, but it's a little off of the SP Dark Olive color I prefer.  

Repainted Athearn-MDC "Harriman" 60-B-9/10 baggage car with replacement Walthers Trucks

Weathering could hide some of this.  While the Athearn Express Reefer trucks are close to the right ones, I prefer the look of the Walthers 8ft Pullman 4-wheel trucks and moving the bolsters farther towards the car ends to be more prototypical.

Coach or Chair Car

SP 72-C-1/2/3/4 series "Harriman" Arch-Roof Chair Car:

Soho "Transom Window" 72-C-1/2/3/4, I've been modernizing this car with A/C and other parts. I have painted-over the transom window glass. Ideally you can find one of the ones with solid metal plates over the transom openings.

The best starting point for one of these cars is a brass Soho Modernized 72ft SP coach/chair car.  These are reasonably easy to get your hands on at least one in the $75-150 range.  I usually spend more time on these cars to upgrade the underframes, etc.  Custom painting and decalling is usually needed to fix the problem of Floquil Pullman Green paint color that I covered in my previous blog post about my original SP 1051.

My SP 1050, a Walthers Paired-Window coach.

Alternate cars that could have been seen in the same grade of service would have been either ex-EPSW 70ft coach/chair cars, such as the SP 1050, or sister cars.

My model of SP 2337 as a stand-in for 73-C-1 class cars.

SP 73-C-1 cars can be modified with some new windows from the same Walthers Paired Window Coach as the ex-EPSW cars.  Walthers has released their Paired Window Coach in SP TTG, for modelers after the change in 1954.

For a "Shorty" train I would use the Athearn/MDC "Harriman" coach or Model Power 67ft coach.

SP 2701 "CHAIR" car, I think by the photo of this car in about 1952 it was considered a coach!

The ModelPower 67ft car is actually a bit more accurate I would say, still has some major shortcomings, but it at least is the right length.  The class I feel they are closest to is the 60-CC-1 chair cars.  I built a model of the SP 2701 as it appeared around 1950, still lettered as a "CHAIR" and wearing the pre-1946 "SOUTHERN PACIFIC LINES" on the letter board. - If you want more train length, a second 60ft coach would be a nice option.
The Model Power cars are not available in SP, but the 7 foot and one large window shorter MDC cars are available in the Athearn/MDC Green.

A 60-C-5, SP 1005 "CHAIR" car as it appeared in 1952. Still with its green transom glass intact and not painted-over.

Another 60-C-5 coach, SP 2310, "Moderized" by plating over green glass transoms and end windows.

Soho also makes "budget brass" models of 60-C-9/10s which can easily be back dated to as early as 60-C-5.  These models should run about $75-150 if you wait for them.  I usually spend more time on these cars to upgrade the underframes, etc.

Cafe-Lounge Car

SP 10904, an ex-72-O Cafe-Lounge (converted from an old 72-O observation):
Cafe-Lounges were a unique mix of cars.  On routes that couldn't justify a full 36 or 48-seat dining car and a full 30-36 seat lounge car.  The 10904 seating 18 in the cafe (dining) section and 16 in the lounge section, the Cafe-Lounge was the perfect answer!  The kitchen and pantry areas were correspondingly smaller than a full dining car.  

On a train like the Shasta with only one Pullman's worth of passengers and possibly a few coach/chair passengers that want to pay for the sit-down food.  Many trains featured a News Agent (basically a snack and magazine vendor setup in the coach or chair car) selling a sandwich for 10-15 cents.

Unfortunately the SP 10904 is a rather weird car when you look at possible kitbash starting points for it.  One would be an ACF Diner by Bachmann Spectrum with lots of cutting.

My heavily kit-bashed model of SP 10913 from MDC parts.

Another option is to simply choose another car that's similar and claim they're using a different car.  Another photo of the Shasta SP Passenger Cars Vol.4, (SPH&TS, 2010) pg 366 show SP 10913, an ex-72-D-2 arch-roof diner converted to a Cafe-Lounge, working on the train in early 1952.  I have started on a second body of one of these arch-roof Cafe-Lounges shown here.  While it's a lot of cutting, if you want to put the effort into a single car for a unique train, I would say a Cafe-Lounge would be the car to do it on!  I will cover modeling one of these cars in more detail in a later post.

A future project of mine, kitbashing ex-EPSW diner SP 10123-10125 from a Bachmann Diner

For "Shorty" train, I would probably still use something in the 80ft range, probably the Bachmann car would be the easiest stand-in.  SP had 3 such diners built by ACF for the EPSW.  The were renumbed when built to SP 10123, SP 10124, and SP 10125 and were painted in SP Dark Olive.  In 1940 they were modernized with A/C.  All were converted to Hamburger Grill cars in 1955.  I will post more about modeling one of these ex-EPSW diner in a later post.

Athearn-MDC makes a 60ft "Harriman" diner, which is a much compressed caricature of some sort of arch-roof diner-loungeish ... thing.  I usually immediately cut up the MDC Diners to get parts to do other things!  If you have no choice but do a sub-70ft car you might have to use that car, but I'd sooner think about using an old Athearn BB 72ft heavyweight diner.

Pullman HW Standard 10-1-2 Sleeper:

Pullman STD 10-1-2 Lake Cary - Room Side

This is one of the biggest changes in the hobby since 1987, both Branchline (now Atlas) and Walthers have produced an entire line of heavyweight Pullman sleeping cars.  Branchline offered HW 10-1-2s in SP TTG for post-1954 painted cars.  Again these are too late for the Shasta, as it was discontinued in 1952.  Branchline offered some kits in plain Pullman Green "Pool" service lettering.
Walthers has offered the car in the same TTG for SP, and also in Pullman Green "Pool" service lettering.  The model photo here is of a Standard 12-1 painted in the Green "Pool" scheme with the car name "Coronado" is made from cutting up letters and applying them.

SP's post-1948 repainted STD 12-1 "Los Angeles" in SP Dark Olive Green bringing up the marker on No.57.

My other 12-1s are post-1948 when the SP painted their name spelled out on the letter board, replacing the "PULLMAN" lettering.  As the photo of this train's consist was taken in 1949, there's a good chance that the painting crews have not had a chance to repaint the car in your train, if you decide to model 1949's consist.

1952 Shasta

SP 3249, a regular on the Shasta. Eddie Sims collection

The SP Passenger Cars Vol.4, (SPH&TS, 2010), Pg 366 photo of Mk-6 #3265 with 120-SC- "whaleback" tender leading a three car Shasta, No.328, in early 1952.  

SP Mk-5/6 with 120-SC-tender similar to photo of SP 3265 with No.328 in 1952.

The consist is a SP 6236 60-B-9/10 baggage car, SP 10913 Cafe-Lounge, and a 72-C-5 chair car.  

SP 60-B-9/10 class baggage car, Athearn-MDC with Walthers Trucks and rebuilt underframe

Left side of SP 10913, ex-72-D-2 diner converted to Cafe-Lounge.

SP 2313, 72-C-2 rebuilt with A/C and painted-over transom windows.

The Pullman is missing from the consist on that day.  The cars in this train are discussed above in greater detail, but it is interesting to see what the train looked like at a different time.  This is one reason why I'm offering suggestions of other more easily modeled cars that the SP very easily could have used in place of the "regular" cars.  One interesting point made in the caption of the 1952 Shasta photo is that the train's consist was not turned on a wye at the end of the run.  Instead each car was uncoupled and swapped around to switch the order of the cars for the return trip.  This resulted in the Cafe-Lounge being "backwards" half of the time!  This was also likely true for the West Coast after 1949 when being 'turned' at Sacramento.

Closing Thoughts

A closing thought on the "Shorty" car consist for the Shasta.  I should mention that all of these commercially available models currently have provision for "swing" coupler boxes, allowing operations on tighter curves.  While I build my models for at least 36" radius curves, I hope modelers that have tighter curves will be able to model some fun passenger trains that will be able to fit their railroad

That pretty well wraps up this post about modeling the Shasta with fairly easy to find models and also at fairly affordable prices as well.  I'm planning to do several more articles like this on modeling other SP trains from the 1940-1955 era.

Jason Hill

Links to Related Blog Posts:
Modeling SP's Starlight (Nos. 94-95) - Pike-Size Train (Part 5)
Modeling SP's Mail Train (Nos.55-56) "Tehachapi" - Pike-Size Train (Part 2)
Modeling the Owl (Nos.57-58) Pre-1950 (Part 1)


  1. WOW! Thanks Jason for the wealth of info. Just acquired an Athearn MT-4 skyline 4-8-2 and am now putting together my own pike-sized Shasta consist. Think I'm going to go with the 70' Walther's baggage, Walther's paired window coach, a Bachmann Dinner and the Walther's 12-1 Pullman. Really like the gylight on the tailgate. Should be a real eye catcher if illuminated with a Soundtraxx's car sound unit controlling the lighting FX. Yes, it's a little big for running on my home layout, however it should be right at home on the Northern Virginia Model RR club layout in Vienna. Will share photos when it premiers during an open house next year and thanks again for all the info.

  2. Hi Jason - found an interesting shot of the Shasta circa 1947, and I have an idea for a kitbash of the Café-Lounge as pictured - any way I can send that to you for identification? Can't seem to find anything online - it's a little different from the 9-window Café-Lounges as you describe in the blog. Thanks, GENE

    1. Sure, send email to nightowlmodeler at gmail. There were a couple of other cars which were converted to Cafe-Lounges which had different configurations. The 10912-10915 were the largest group of similar cars, which could be modeled with the MDC parts I had on hand.

  3. Sorry for posting on an old topic, but how did you make the gyra light/ marker light at the end of the train, like the example of the Los Angeles 12-1?


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