Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - (Part 2) - SP West

This is the second in a new 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'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.

ATSF SWG arrives at Kern Jct. in Bakersfield.  Many SP symbols are spread across the SP Yard. - How many symbols can you recognize? 

"The cars become like drops of water.  When they're put into an operating fleet, it's like putting your drop of water into a swimming pool. --- But each drop has a story, a reason for being where it is, and for what it is doing there."  Many years ago, in discussions with other friends at the La Mesa Model Railroad Club this quote came out.  The railroads developed 'rivers', if you will, paths that moved individual cars en mass from one place to another.  Like the drops of water in a river, a train passing by doesn't seem to be made of single cars, it is one massive thing.  But what is the story of each of the cars or drops?  Did it come from a mountain spring or was it a great cloud burst?  Has it seen only the open fields or has it jumped down steep mountain slopes?  Did it linger a while as a snow flake and then in a massive snow pack before melting and getting moving again?

So how did the real railroads move their cars?  How can we simulate that in model form?

Symbols and Schedules

SP 4279 leads a VXE freight eastward over Tehacahpi Pass in 2007 at LMRC, San Diego, CA

One of the interesting things about the railroads that I learned was how the railroads set up "Symbols" to move or 'protect' certain traffic under agreement with the shippers on certain 'schedules'.  I should stop and rephrase that.  These 'schedules' were actually a series of 'cutoff' times by which the traffic would have to reach the next major yard in time to continue to move on the 'guaranteed movement' provided by that 'schedule' for that 'symbol.'  I talked about how I started learning about operations in my previous post (Two Years of Blogging) the basic books on the subject from the 1980 era, which were still about all there was in the 1990s.

General SP Symbol Format

The Southern Pacific used date suffixes after the Symbol to denote which day of the month they originated.  If multiple sections of the same symbol depart or are planned (forecast) to operate they will show section numbers before the date as follows: "1/5" for the First section of the 5th day, followed by "2/5" for the second section of the symbol, etc.  A prefix will be added if the symbol is originating at an intermediate point, and not the 'normal' origination point.

SP Bakersfield Yard during a busy afternoon in January 1953.

Most PFE perishable loading was governed by the Ogden Gateway Agreement, which directed that all traffic solicited for destinations east of the Mississippi River by the SP north of roughly Fresno would be routed via Ogden and the UP transcon to Omaha.  Only "Long East" traffic from south of Fresno could be routed via the SP through Los Angeles and the Sunset and Golden State Routes to the east.  An important note is that the short traffic for points west of the Mississppi River could be routed which ever was the shortest route, so there would be southward traffic from north of Fresno heading to So. Cal. and traffic from Los Angeles heading north to the San Fransisco Bay Area or east of Roseville on VXW or 'Long North' on NCP to Oregon, Portland and beyond.

It should also be noted that the PFE cars could also be used in canned goods service basically in what is now considered insulated boxcar (RBL) service.  Cars in this service were not specially handled at the headend for icing like perishable-service reefers.

The SP Symbols that operated over the Tehachapi Pass during the 1950s were as follows:

Westward Tehachapi Sub.

VMW - "Overnight"

VMW running as No.447 with SP 4185 leading blasts westward between Ilmon and Bena.

The SP's 'hottest freight' over Tehachapi would technically be the "Overnight" from Los Angeles to Fresno.  Calling it a 'freight' is somewhat questionable, as the VMW symbol usually runs as Second Class schedule No.447 from Los Angeles to Bakersfield, then runs as No.445 to Fresno.  The VMW symbol usually consisted of SP's famous black "Overnight" l.c.l. service cars distributing express merchandise from LA and eastern companies to the San Joaquin Valley.  The VMW also moved express reefers, both loaded and empty west out of LA.  The loads could be perishable or other high priority loads, such as news print, news papers, etc.  The empty cars would be loaded in Bakersfield and Fresno, often returning east on the VME or other routings on passenger or mail trains.

TOFC - Trailer-on-Flat-Car

Of special interest is in March 1953 the SP started using re-equipped F-70-7 flatcars with tie-downs for 22ft PMT trailers.  Both of these models have been produced by the SPH&TS under the Espee Models name.

NCP - North Coast Perishable

The NCP was the 'hottest' train between Los Angeles (Taylor Yard) and Portland (Brooklyn Yard) protecting perishable traffic and other higher priority loads on the 3rd day delivery.  The NCP arrives at Bakersfield 4:15pm.    The NCP does not normally work at points short of Roseville, at Roseville it may fill with traffic from East and West.

Advance-NCP - "Bananas" (Mondays)

Derailed PFE "Banana Loading Only - PE Rails. - Return to Los Angeles Harbor when Empty" - Unknown Photographer (Sorry, if someone knows, I'm happy to credit - too good a photo of Banana cars not to show)

It should be noted that the NCP symbol on Mondays usually had an Advance-NCP which operated with 20-25 carloads of Bananas, originating on the PE from the Port of San Pedro (South of Los Angeles).  These special banana trains dropped a few cars at a time over the way to Roseville.  Other Banana trains operated out of the San Fransisco Bay area out to Roseville, then north and east.  The Banana ship fleets was decimated by the US Government requisitioning the temperature controlled ships in later WWII to function as morgue ships bringing soldier's bodies home.  Even into the early 1950-era the ship service was not fully restored all the way to the north pacific coast ports of Portland and Seattle.

Rider Coaches rest between trips at Bakersfield, CA - commonly seen in photos from the 1940-50s.

These trains used a rider coach for the 'Banana Messenger' (Agent) who was charged with ensuring that the loads were kept in the proper temperature ranges.  The cars used on the Banana trains probably continued for the whole route of the train, unlike the cabooses that were swapped at the end of each Division.  - Bakersfield usually seems to have 2-4 coaches assigned for use on perishable trains originating from the Valley.

VXW - Valley eXtra West

T&NO 910 prepares to leave Bakersfield with a VXW to Roseville.

The Valley Extra West symbol, SP LA to Roseville train that runs out of LA early in the morning, ahead of the NCP, and arrives at Bakersfield at about 6 or 7am.    Like most of the westward symbols I describe here, originates in Los Angeles's Taylor Yard and runs to Roseville Yard.  The VXW's primary use was protecting perishable and livestock traffic from LA and Bakersfield to Roseville, which then would be forwarded east or west.  The VXW also handled normal merchandise traffic and could be filled or combined with the TMW symbol between LA and Bakersfield.

The VXW symbol could be directed to pick up reefers at Tehachapi and Caliente for movement west.

XMUG - Empty Lumber Cars

A SP F-unit set pulls into Bakersfield with the XMUG heading to Roseville, while Santa Fe FT-set pulls a BK-symbol eastward.

The XMUG or "Empty Eugene" symbols were the primary symbols used to return all of the SP's lumber cars used in the Pacific North West - Los Angeles and Southern CA building boom of the post-WWII era.  Of course this traffic was also sent to the San Fransisco Bay Area as well.  These trains would consist of SP, WP, NP, SP&S, UP and other smaller northwest railroads that interchanged with the SP.  LA-XMUG starts at Los Angeles (Taylor Yard) and picks up additional cars at Bakersfield and Roseville (from the Bay Area).  Some XMUG cars could be cut out at Roseville and sent to the NWP interchange at Schellville or back to the WP/SN in Sacramento or Oakland as needed.

SP F-50, F-70, and lumber boxcars make up most of the regular XMUG consists.

Returning empty lumber cars from local industries in the Southern San Joaquin Valley and points short of Los Angeles (Saugus) returned to Bakersfield and were forwarded west to Roseville on the XMUG. 

Extra SP 6188 West at Marcel on Jan 8, 1953 heading back to the Pacific Northwest with a string of empties.

The Santa Fe also returned SP lumber empties interchanged to them at Bakersfield on reverse-rights routing.  This traffic was also forwarded westward towards Roseville on the XMUG symbol.

At LMRC we try to combine the lumber-type cars into a XMUG-block before leaving Bakersfield.  This makes the Valley Staging Crew's time much easier to turn the traffic and swap whole blocks instead of reclassifying the trains for their eastward trips.  As the modeled XMUG pool of cars is growing, the plan is to break the arriving LA-XMUG up into no more than 60 car blocks at Bakersfield, which a AC-4/5/6 and 2-10-2 or 4-10-2 can handle doubleheaded.  The remainder of the through LA-XMUG cars and any locally picked up cars will form the BK-XMUG for the valley.

In the 'Valley' Staging Yard, the 60 car XMUG turns to become a PSS, then the second block of cars can turn into the lumber section of an OCM and the balance of the cars can be turned and combined to form the BFX for Bakersfield local destinations and ATSF interchange lumber traffic.  Note: this exact cycle could be mixed up so the same group of cars don't always go to local destinations and the Santa Fe.

BK-OK-R - PFE Reefer Drag

A monster river of reefers, a BK-OK-R snakes its way down through Bealville and Allard in November 2004 at LMRC.

Westward Empty Reefer (PFE) drag of "OK" cars for loading coming out of the Colton PFE shops for distribution in Bakersfield and points short if Fresno.  The BK-OK-R symbol operates from Los Angeles Yard (Taylor Yard) to Bakersfield.  The 'OK-R' symbols over Tehachapi could easily exceed 100 cars per train and sometimes up to 120-135 cars.  Cars not needed at Bakersfield continue west to Fresno as FN-OK-R symbol.

FN-OK-R - PFE Reefer Drag

SP 6151 leads the BK-OK-R as it arrives on Ice Deck 2, Bakersfield, Calif. at LMRC in 2005.

Westward Empty Reefer (PFE) drag of "OK" cars for loading coming out of the Colton PFE shops for distribution points at Fresno and short of Roseville.  The FN-OK-R symbol operates from Bakersfield to Fresno Yard.  Cars not needed at Fresno can continue west to Roseville or to the Bay Area over Altamont Pass, via Tracy.  At LMRC, the "Valley OK's" usually are limited to about 60 cars, and use double-headed "10-coupled" steam engines due to the scaling factors of engines pulling trains on flat grades.  Often these trains are cut up and rearranged in the Valley Staging Yard.

TMW - Tehachapi Manifest West

SP 4255 leads a TMW west at the upper signals between Tunnels 1 and 2.

The Tehachapi Manifest West handled the local merchandise traffic gathered at Los Angeles for points short of Fresno, radiating out of Bakersfield.  The TMW is basically the westward train symbol that runs to Bakersfield, is completely torn apart, and is scattered to the various locals in the area.

MSW - "Mojave Shorts" West 

SP 2819 on the point to help SP 4287 out of Mojave on the MSW-7, on January 8, 1953.

The train simply referred to by most railroad employees we've interviewed called this symbol the "Mojave Shorts".  We've developed the MSW abbreviation to delineate that we're talking about the westward from the eastward "Mojave Shorts" train, which I'm sure the railroads back in the day would have easily understood from the context of the conversation.

The MSW led by a bunch of RSD's, probably going in for inspection at Bakersfield photographed at Cliff.

The Mojave Shorts trains on the surface appear to be a duplicate of the TMW, but the "Shorts" term on the SP meant that the symbol would work blocks picking up and setting out en route.  Basically no cars would be conveyed between terminals.  All cars that would be dropped off before the terminus or picked up en route.

One of the SP's rare AC-9s is captured on its way to the Modoc Line at Mojave next to the regular switcher (#1310).

The Mojave Shorts West would come out of Taylor Yard and drop its entire consist at Mojave, bound for local destinations and interchange to the Trona Rwy.  The engines and caboose then would be moved over one track and the same crew would depart with a new consist of westward cars originating at Mojave from the local trains working from there.

A typical example of one of SP's fuel oil tank cars.

Basically, if a through car was sent via MSW, then it would take an entire extra day en route because of the way the cars were set out and completely switched out in Mojave.  The MSW usually handled the empty potash, trona (mineral) and soda ash cars from the Port of Long Beach back to Trona, via Mojave.  Likewise the MSW would pick up the same loaded traffic cars heading towards the San Fransisco Bay area, which would forward from Bakersfield on the AW symbol to Oakland via Tracy.  The Mojave-Bakersfield section of the run also often handled SP fuel oil tank cars.

During the early 1950s the Covered Hoppers were still a new and specialized service car. First used at Trona, and then Monolith.

Empty cars for the Monolith Cement Plant from Los Angeles were sent to storage at Mojave Yard or straight to the plant at Monolith.  The cars for the plant would be dropped off at the center track at Monolith for spotting by the "KI Local" operating out of Mojave.  The MSW would then pick up loaded cement cars for the San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area from the center siding at Monolith, arranged by the KI Local for movement to Bakersfield and then forwarding to Fresno and Tracy on the AW symbol to the Bay Area.  A few cars of cement could be routed to other Short destinations of Fresno in the Valley or around Bakersfield.  I currently believe (2018) that the Kern Rock Co. Ltd. could not receive shipments in covered hoppers, but probably was still receiving their cement in boxcars.

This MSW is handling some of the other boxcar traffic which could be in either cement or hay service among other things.

The Mojave Shorts trains also could handle seasonal (Nov-March) hay shipments for horses in plain boxcars to the ranches on the north slope of the Tehachapi Pass from the greater Los Angeles area, although some shipments would have also come from the San Joaquin Valley on the MSE.

"Valley Shorts" West

Here a heavy "Valley Shorts" prepares to leave Bakersfield behind 3696 and 3701. Note the mixed up consist of freight cars.

This train handles distribution of the PFE and local destination cars west of Bakersfield short of Fresno.  Basically the next step in the system of 'Shorts' trains west of the TMW and MSW.  On some RR's this train could have been known as a 'Peddler' but on the SP they're known as 'Shorts'.  Often at Bakersfield this train is made up of iced empty PFE reefers and a spattering of XM (plain) boxcars for canned goods loading, composite GS gondolas (for beet loading), and a few petroleum or fuel oil tank cars for local fuel distributors, and even a couple carloads of cement - these would probably in boxcars, but possibly covered hoppers as well.

AW - Altamont West

An SP 'Deck' leads AW-7 out of Bakersfield, heading to Tracy and Oakland on January 7th, 1953 with a string of auto cars.

The Altamont West handled all the interchange traffic for the Bay Area from the Santa Fe and any from the SP as well.  Basically the Santa Fe's yard at Richmond was not very large, so the cars  for SP destinations in the Bay Area would be interchanged to the SP at Bakersfield.

We believe that the Santa Fe preferred to accept this 'short haul' of the traffic over the added congestion to the yards at Mormon (Stockton) or Richmond.  So Santa Fe symbols 49, 59, 99, and GCF would interchange cars for AW connection.

Automobile and Auto-Parts

An example of a 50ft Automobile boxcar with Evans Auto Loader (indicated by the white stripe on the door)

The hottest of this traffic included Auto-Parts cars (both boxcars and gonds/flats with autoframes) and empty Automobile boxcars (with auto-loading racks).  These cars were a guaranteed connection off the Santa Fe's 59 and 99 symbol trains from Chicago.

Cement Covered Hoppers

SP H-70-series covered hopper built in the late 1940s for cement service and other special assignments.

The AW also could handle the cement traffic to the bay area, although some days that traffic could be sent on TMW via Fresno to Tracy and over that way on a lower priority symbol.

Westward Locals & Switching

The SP 3259 works the KI Local at Bealville, Calif. with a couple of stock cars, boxcars and gondolas of company material.

The other SP symbols that work on the Tehachapi Sub are primarily locals, other branch line trains, and switchers, which I'll cover separately as they usually operate in both directions while preforming their duties.

In Closing 

SP Bakersfield Yard after landing trains off the road at the end of a TT/TO 1950s Session, resulting in the "Overloaded" condition.

Due to the size and scope of this topic, I'll be setting up one of the fixed pages to act as an Index for this series of posts and that should allow easier access to the various symbols and information.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - Index Page

Freight Symbols over Tehachapi (Part 3) - SP Eastward

Freight Symbols over Tehachapi (Part 4) - SP Locals & Switching

Freight Symbols over Tehachapi (Part 5) - ATSF Westward

Busy Times at Bakersfield (Part 1)  - SP Roundhouse Operations

Busy Times at Bakersfield (Part 2) - SP Yard Overview

A Trip Over Tehachapi on the SCX-BI - A rather 'normal' trip over the Tehachapi Pass during a 1950's TT/TO session.

Triple Trouble on Tehachapi - A Weird Day on the Hill - Exceptions to and bending the rules

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.

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