Friday, November 24, 2017

Modeling an MOW Supply Train (Part 1)

Railroads are big.  So big that they spread out beyond the horizon.  How do you maintain such a monster back in the days before Interstate Highway Systems and huge semi-trailers to move dozens of tons of material around?

Well the Iron Horse, back in the day, could feed and care for itself just fine!  The railroads moved material for all kinds of domestic and military purposes.  One thing that it also carried that most of us modelers forget about is its own supplies and material.

There were two main ways that supplies and materials moved around the SP system during the 1930-1960 time frame:

One way was in simple or specialized Supply Cars.  This was the network of cars that moved from General Shop to Division Point with carloads of supplies.  These didn't run in solid trains, but instead on the lower priority freights.  These cars were often flatcars, gondolas and boxcars.

SPMW 560, an F-50-9 converted for Supply Car service in 1950, from OwlMtModels 2002 kit.

The other way, was on the SP's Supply Trains moved materials there were ordered by the local workers, foreman, clerks, agents, and officers from the centralized General Shops to the Store Houses on each Division and then from there out into the field, to every depot, section gang, and even every station (named point) on that Sub-Division.  These trains traveled continuously over the main SP routes every 60-90 days.  These Supply Trains would reload each night at the Division Point Stores House and Yard before leaving the next day to distribute those supplies along the line.  The next night this would be repeated from the next Division Supply point.  This was how the smallest shipments were regularly supplied.

These Supply Trains would also pick up what was known as "Second Hand" material or S.H. Materials to be reclaimed.  This included worn rail, tie plates, joint bars, wheels, axles, brake shoes, etc.  Anything that could be considered scrap or reused in some way.


Let's look quickly at the largest number of cars assigned to these supply duties.

"SUPPLY CAR" - Flatcars

SPMW 1413, an F-50-5 by OwlMtModels is finished here as a "SUPPLY CAR" per the January 1956 SPMW Roster.

The SPMW 1413 is an F-50-5, originally SP 41048 and retired to MW service on October 27th, 1952.  This particular model is fairly clean and its deck is not too badly torn up.   It's show in "Misc - Supply" service in the January 1956 SPMW Roster reprinted by the SPH&TS.

Here's SPMW 1413 with an early concept set of sideboards for OwlMtModels' upcoming Add-on kit.

The flatcars were used with and without sideboards or stakes to move various goods around.  With side stakes these cars could quickly unload rail, frogs or switch points along the right-of-way in a few minutes with a small gang of men with pry bars directly onto the ballast.  The section gangs could then grab the materials and move them to the standard storage areas near their section buildings.
  There were also cars specifically assigned to "SUPPLY", others to "Misc Supply" which suggests that they were assigned to the Supply Train pool or moving materials from the General Shops to the various points around the system.  

SPMW 3116 F-50-12 Wheel Car 1960 Taylor Yard- Cornell University collection - Tim O'Connor collection

Some of the "Misc Supply" cars were fitted with special racks for moving assembled wheelsets from the main wheel shops such as Sacramento General Shops or LA General Shops to the various division points to replace worn out wheels.

Side-Board "Supply Cars"

There are some great over-head shots of gons and flatcars in supply train service in the "This is My Railroad" movie footage, which I believe was released by Pentrex about 20 some years ago. - Unfortunately the Steam Version of that film is hard to find, and most places you can find it have the 1954 'Diesel' version, which glosses over the MOW aspects of the film.

Screen shot from SP "This Is My Railroad" 1947 version

In the Southern Pacific Company film "This is My Railroad, Steam Version (1947)" there is a clip showing a overhead view of a supply train running below the camera.  Several flat cars in the consist have sideboards much like SPMW 1413.

SPMW 1413 SUPPLY CAR, a typical supply service car with SP Standard sideboards

One interesting point is that the cars in the film have uncut stakes, which extend 12-30" above the sideboards, which suggests that those sideboards were more temporary in nature than the SP's standard 36" sideboards, which were designed to have lading pushing outward on the sideboards, not just incidentally pressing against them.

SPMW 229 with "non-standard sideboards" 30" high, per photos

Edit Nov 2021: I have been working on two non-standard sideboard Supply or Stores Dept. cars, the 3-board version (SPMW 229) shown above.


Here's a photo from an unknown photographer, probably sometime in the 1960's or 1970's with a switcher hood sitting on top of the flatcar.

SPMW 1274, Photographer and location unknown, Don Marenzi Collection

This car is probably an F-50-10/-12 or an earlier class car with replacement U-section trucks under it. I assume its painted in FCR SPMW scheme looking at the end sill and white lettering, so pre-1958 assignment to SPMW serivce.  The January 1956 SPMW Roster published by SPH&TS doesn't show this car number listed, so I'd have to assume that the car was withdrawn from SP revenue service between 1956 and 1958, before the SP went to light gray painted cars and black lettering on their MW equipment.

Of interest in this photo is the bottom operated coupler pin with Carmer type cut lever still in use.  There's also what looks to be a badly worn and faded "Safety First" slogan near the center of the car.  There's some heavy beams under the car that hang lower than the normal needle beams, which suggest that the car might have at one time had extra tool boxes slung under the sides of the car.  The sub-deck blocking's loosing its paint allowing gray-silver wood to show through.  I'd almost wonder if this was FCR paint showing through the later gray paint, but for the sides and ends of the car having such intact FCR color and the white lettering shows the car's still in the pre-1958 SPMW FCR paint scheme.  - If anyone recognizes this photo, I'd be happy to edit this post with more information about this car.

Partly completed SPMW 2186 "Ready Flat" converted F-50-9 in March 1941 from OMM 2002 kit.

Many flat cars in SPMW service are listed in the 1956 Roster as "Rdy. Flat" for "Ready Flat" without any assignment for what service they're in.  This means they're generally in the pool of MW cars that could be loaded and sent anywhere with materials.

Partly completed F-50-5 as Dec 1944 converted SPMW 3605 "T&M" assigned flatcar from OMM 2002 kit.

Some Ready Flats were specifically assigned to Departments, such as "T&M" - Track & Maintenance.

"READY GON - SHOP" - Gondolas

SPMW 1902, modeled from a kitbashed Bachmann-Tyco 40ft Gondola with new ends and underframe.

Many of the gondolas in the SPMW, but were more or less in a large pool of cars under the "Ready Gon" sub-heading and assigned to the "Shops".

Here's SPMW 1902 was converted from G-50-3, SP 53482 on April 8th, 1940.  It was assigned to "SHOP" as a "READY GONDOLA", or in the 1956 Roster as a "Rdy. Gon."   This would mean the car normally shuttled back and forth between the shops with various materials and equipment.  These cars were probably used to move various equipment for engines such as: feedwater heaters, injectors, air compressors (cross-compound), traction motors, etc which required small cranes to lift on and off the car and wouldn't easily fit in a boxcar.

The SP tended to like shipping larger qualities of ties in gondolas so as to prevent them from shifting and sliding off of flat cars, even with stakes.  The same can be said for rail as well if it was moving to a Division Point.  They would only load it onto a flatcar if it was going to be unloaded near by, within 60-100 miles or so of the Division Point.


The boxcars were sometimes rebuilt with windows and racks inside becoming a moving warehouse, while others were left nearly unchanged to carry bulky or rough goods.

SPMW 2272 - B-50-6 'Ready Box'

SPMW 2272, a B-50-6 "READY BOX" converted from SP 24114 on Feb 25, 1941.

The SPMW 2272 was converted from a B-50-6, SP 24114 on Feb 25, 1941.  According to the Jan 1956 SPMW roster the 2272 was assigned as a "Ready Box".  While not exactly a 'Supply Car', I've not been able to justify building enough proper supply cars to put together a proper Supply Train just yet, so a few cars will be pulled from other assignments, such as this car. - After all, it is a "Ready Box", so it should be ready for any service that is required of it!

This model started as a Westerfield kit that a friend built many years ago.  However, he realized after he'd built it that most of the B-50-6s were gone from revenue service by the early 1950s.  So he gave me the completed, but not yet painted model.  I did the painting and finishing with the general dirt-dusty boards and faded weathering.

SPMW 2681 - B-50-13 'Supply Car'

This is my 20 old-year old SPMW 2681, which I finished and lettered as a "SUPPLY CAR" to match the one second long view of it in the "This is My Railroad - Steam Version" by Pentrex if I remember correctly.  The SPMW 2681 has stirrup steps at the left hand (opening) side of the door and a couple of grab irons up the car side beside the door to make it safer and easier to get into and out of the car. 

I'll probably do some retouching and patching to the lettering on this car to make it legible again.  As this shows, some of my earlier weathering was a bit heavy handed for a Supply Car that would be seeing the store houses every couple of weeks.  This is a car I last worked on around 1998 or so.  It's held up pretty well over the years I would say!

Most of our model railroads could have several boxcars, a couple of gondolas and some flatcars lettered for SPMW 'Supply Car' service running at the rear of our regular freight trains between major Division Stores Dept material yards and store houses.  These cars can also provide some extra traffic for that extra little bit of track across from the engine terminal or a small 1-2 car stores house building.  Remember that your own railroad produced and consumed a large amount of materials to continue operations.

The Supply Train

Next I'll touch quickly on the other types of cars used in the standard Supply Train consist which is printed in Bruce R. Petty's "Southern Pacific Lines - Maintenance of Way Equipment" soft cover book published by STEAM AGE EQUIPMENT CO., Dunsmuir, CA. Copyright 1999. on Pages 28-29 the center fold of the book shows the diagram from 1946 of how the working section of the Supply Train should be laid out on 45ft coupled car centers.  This is primarily so the section crews can set up their old and S.H. materials to be picked up and space for the new materials to be dropped off as follows:

Car #1 - Flat - Loaded push cars, velocipedes, signs, etc.

Standard 40ft 10in Supply Car flat

(Probably fitted with stakes, deck fittings, and possibly side-board flatcar as on SPMW 229, shown below.)

Car #2 - Gondola - Load New, S.H. and Scrap

SPMW 229 with "non-standard sideboards" 30" high, per photos

Car #3 - Burro Crane on Flat - Magnet Crane

SPO 257 using SPMW 5879, an 52ft flatcar.  A 40ft flatcar with Burro Crane is shown in the in 1946 consist drawing.

The SPMW 5879 was kitbashed from two Tichy 40ft flatcars to replicate one of the F-50-14s converted to MW service in 1954, and a photo of which appears in Petty's MOW book.  The Burro Crane is a modified Custom Finishing's metal kit with a plastic toy crane boom replacing the finely etched, but incorrect boom.

The consist drawing in the book calls for the crane to be equipped with an electro-magnet for lifting all sorts of metal material in and out of the gondolas on either side in the consist.  The Custom Finishing model comes with a round metal electro-magnet casting as well.

Car #4 - Gondola - Load track and car scrap, new and S.H. track material, frogs, switches, guard rails, taper rails and parts for same.
(SCRAP) - Section Gang - locate scrap pile on the ground to be picked up by Supply Train.

SPMW 161 with "non-standard sideboards" 30" high, per photos

Car #5 - Box -  Load empty cans, cases, stoves, new track bolts, lanterns, scrap brass, empty oil drums, scrap dry cells (batteries), load sacks, signal materials, empty gasoline drums, wire reels, depleted battery elements, motor car parts, S.H. and scrap tool handles.

SPMW 2676, the last B-50-12 USRA boxcar in MW service in 1956.

Car #6 - Box - Load S.H. and scrap track tools.

SPMW 2681, after repaint in 2023.

Here's one of my few properly modified "SUPPLY CAR", SPMW 2681, an Accurail boxcar from class B-50-10.  I plan to modify several more to make the proper Supply Train.  Also remember that there were a large number of SPMW Supply Cars used to move materials around and support the Supply Trains en route.

Car #7 - Supply Car - Gasoline
(TOOL HOUSE) - This car is supposed to be spotted directly centered on the Section Gang's Tool House.

Plain SP O-50-13 class SP 58578 standing in for a pump equipped supply tank car.

Car #8 - Supply Car - Switch Light Oil - Place empty switch light oil drums and cans for filling with hose from tank car.

SP silver 'Diesel Fuel' lettered car standing in for the 'Switch Light Oil' lettered O-50-8s that the SP used.

Note: SPMW did have several O-50-8s modified with pumps and hoses for Supply Train service, as shown in "Southern Pacific Freight Cars, Volume 5. Tank Cars and Hopper Cars." by Anthony Thompson.

I plan to modify a couple of cars for Car #7 and #8, but haven't done so as yet, so I'll use the standard Yellow painted Athearn model here with the modified dome.  These modifications included installing pump systems and extra unloading piping under the car and in the A-end of the tank.  - This will be a blog post unto itself, I'm sure.

Car #9 - Box - Place empty cans to be refilled with lubricating oil.

A ratty looking Accurail boxcar, SPMW 701, standing in for a "SUPPLY CAR" with Andrews trucks by Tichy.

Car #10 - Caboose-Office (Not Shown in consist diagram, but photo of SPMW 740 later in the Petty book)

Left side of SPMW 740, kitbashed from an MDC-Roundhouse 80ft Palace Combine. per photo in Petty, pg 36.

Right side of SPMW 740, extra window added, grab ladder added, and 1/2 of the baggage door blocked off.

SPMW 740 was the Sacramento-Based Supply Train caboose and office car.  It was retired in 1935 and after years of service in 1952 it was retired.

The Supply Trains were usually about 25 cars based on the 1945 Supply Train consist, supplying the required items of over 3000 stock inventory items.  These "SUPPLY CAR" pool made up the remaining balance of the Supply Train's consist handling the general material.  I believe at the Division Points these general material cars would be swapped out for fresh cars loaded for the next segment of the run and the cars arriving, which had been loaded or unloaded would have been set out for movement on through trains back to the General Shops.

In Closing

One thing to remember about the Supply Trains is that they were the special movement, not the every day 'Work Train', their specific job was to handle the distribution of new materials and recovery of second hand material from specific points along the railroad.  A 'Work Train' would be working in a specific area, in this case depositing 'Rip-Rap' rock or ballast as seen below for example with other 'Outfit' or 'Camp Cars' for the workers to eat and sleep in.

SP Baldwin (AS-616) shuffling gondolas of rock and ballast at Caliente with SPMW 'Outfit' cars behind.  Jason Hill photo.

Hopefully this quick overview covers a brief overview of SP's Supply and Logistics scheme from the late 1940s and early 1950s.  I plan to cover more modeling more SPMW equipment in future posts.

Jason Hill

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