Sunday, July 8, 2018

West Bakersfield - (Part 1) Laying Out Industries

In this post I'm going to be looking specifically at the industries which are served along the sides of the yard at West Bakersfield and need to be modeled.  In previous posts I've talked about the operations in and around Bakersfield Yard in Busy Times at Bakersfield (Part 2).  In this post I'm going to take a few steps back and talk about the process of researching and building as historically accurate model as possible.  Many people think that the Tehachapi Pass didn't have much in terms of industries, but several locations did have a significant amount of rail-served traffic.

The "City Job" working hard sorting and spotting cars around the "70's Yard" in  West Bakersfield. circa 2017 photo

The main track is ballasted with gray ballast.  The next track closer is the Bakersfield "Running Track" or siding, used to hold-out arriving trains.  North is to the right side of the photo, as we're looking west.  Jackson St. is off the layout to the right and Sumner St. to the south off the layout to the left.  In the left foreground will be the Southern Banana Distributor, and an Automobile Dock.  In the far distance will be several additional industries.


For those that believe that it's possible to make a perfect 1:87.1th scale model of something as large as a whole yard or sub-division, this post will be pointing out (sometimes in close detail) exactly how the compressions have been made to the La Mesa Club Layout specifically in West Bakersfield, if you can't handle seeing the little man behind the curtain, you might want to turn away now... before it's too late!

Researching & Maps

Over the years I've spent at the La Mesa Club in San Diego, I've been involved with some of the research and laying out of 'selectively compressed' footprints for construction of models to fit the character of the prototype's look at feel.  It's certainly a challenge sometimes, but the club's amazing collection of research materials provides a great start.  As always... the research is on going and continuing to yield new fruits for our efforts.

Sanborn Fire Maps and SP Company 'Valuation Maps" are great sources for research data for prototype modelers. - LMMRRC Collection

The Track Plan

The La Mesa Club's Chief Engineer is a former ATSF Civil Engineer, and he's done an excellent job compressing the prototype down to fit our space in Balboa Park.  Thankfully the research by the membership has produced amazing information.  So in many ways the choices of the tracks and proportions have been already put in place, and are not going to be changing.  The challenge facing our modeling of the industries is how much compression and adjustment is needed in location of the various businesses along the right-of-way.

West Bakersfield - Sacramento St. vertically in the center of the drawing - LMMRRC Collection

In the model of West Bakersfield the industries along the southern side of the yard are shifted east compared to those on the northern side.  The only real place this shows up is Sacramento St.  On the south side of the yard Sacramento St. is between the Kern County Land Co. on the east and King Lumber on the west.  On the north side of the yard Sacramento St. divides Shell Oil of Calif. with Kern Rock Co. Ltd. to the east and Union Oil of Calif to the west, and Bakersfield Building Materials Co. farther west next to Union Ave.

Operations Dept Industry Chart for West Bakersfield - circa 2011 the complex opposite Oil Jct. has not been built.

On the model the north side of the yard has been compressed more, with the western Shell Oil spur being eliminated.  The plan is to combine the eastern spur with the warehouse with the western buildings with the storage tanks all on the east side of Sacramento St.

Laying Out the Buildings and Lots

Many years ago (around 2008-2012) I marked the centerlines (CL) for the roads and painted rough outlines of the pavement onto the layout.  Sacramento St. is the main anchor point east-west for this extreme western portion of the West Bakersfield scene.  The crossover from the Main Track to Track 70 which was in the street crossing forms this anchor point.  From new research, it appears this crossing was removed and the street closed off in 1950.  The property outlines can then be worked out off of the tracks and longitudinally from the roads and other features, such as switches, etc.  Let's look at the marking out of the land plots.  Note: I'm going to go by industry with the challenges that each presented, not necessarily a step-by-step of general concept.  Mix and match the following concepts to suit your situations.

Bakersfield Building Materials Co.

The Bakersfield Building Materials Co. (BBMC) on the prototype map only has a small corner that connects for rail service, so only having one spot is pretty much correct.  The north side fence reaches all the way to Kentucky St. and on the west side is bordered by Union Ave.  The rest of the boundaries of the property are a jagged combinations of other business properties.  Unfortunately, most of the sprawling complex of warehouses and material yards won't be able to be modeled, as they would land in the operator's aisle.  So what we will be able to model will be a great little shallow scene, which should be able to fit on anyone's model railroad.

Map of Bakersfield Building Materials Co. - LMMRRC Collection

The SP's standard clearance point is 13ft CL to CL, or same rail to same rail.  I measure the clearance point and marked the gate for about 13'6" or 14' clearance.  The fence line to the west tapers away from the 70's lead.  The fence line wraps around the spur.  On the model the Union Oil spur tends to over lap the BBMC spur more than the prototype drawing.

Bakersfield Building Materials Co's single spot spur.

The dark marked outline is southern 24ft wide warehouse for BBMC, with the dashed line forms the edge of the platform on the west side.  Pencil lines represent the fence lines.

Union Oil of Calif.

Immediately east of the BBMC is the Union Oil of Calif. facility.  It shares a fenceline with the BBMC on the west side, thus there's no more room to compress it on that side.

Union Oil of Calif's modest facility at Bakersfield - LMMRRC Collection

On the model, our Sacramento St. immediately abuts on the east side as well, trimming the prototypically long tail off at two car lengths.

Union Oil of Calif with the platform, warehouse and pump stand marked out.

The Union Oil of Calif. industry will also be compressed down to only two spots, not the 3-5 car length spur that the prototype had.  We'll also be loosing the tank farm, truck loading rack, and front office off the front of the layout but it will still be a workable model of the real thing.  Remember that some industry models are reduced down so far (as we'll see later) that only a 'flat' of the building track-side will be able to be modeled.

Union Oil of Calif with a 'full spot' of two cars.

There will be room at Union Oil of Calif for one boxcar and one tank car.  The petroleum companies would both function as a bulk oil distributor and also receive crates or boxes with smaller quantities of lubricants, etc., thus both tank cars and box cars will bring materials to this type of industry.

Like on the BBMC, the fence lines will be laid out around the south and east sides.  A gate will be placed on the western side as the spur closes into the switch on the lead.

Shell Oil of Calif.

Shell Oil of Calif's split complex at Bakersfield - LMMRRC Collection

Shell Oil of Calif.'s interesting facility splits the dead-ended Sacramento St. The tank car unloading area seems to be west of Sacramento and the warehouse is on the east side.  Most of the west side is still in use as of 2016 or so by Shell Oil, as seen in the Google images below.

Modern image from Google Maps showing the western half of Shell Oil's facility.

Google Maps can be useful for buildings and facilities which are still in existence.  "Street view" and similar software can be useful for getting ground level views of points of interest as well.

Shell's west Sacramento St. facility in "Street View" on Google Maps.

It's unfortunate that one of the few businesses in Bakersfield that actually had a lawn and ground's keeping besides the Southern Pacific's "Company Village" 'Park' will have to be compressed out.  One possibility might be to flip this scene and have it on the east side of Sacramento St.

A possibly layout for the warehouse, pump house, and tanks if placed east of Sacramento St.

If everything is compressed east of Sacramento St. the main warehouse would either occupy the whole area, or if it was reduced, as shown above, it is compressed to the eastern corner.  (Note: we're looking South in this photo.)

Shell warehouse and shed east of the previous photo.

This is the eastern section of the Shell property, with the warehouse and a small shed with the fence line wrapping around, following the spur.

Needless to say, the Shell Oil of Calif. facility will be one of the more challenging and controversial structures to model.  In future updates, I'll be showing what we decide to do with it.

Kern Rock Co. Ltd.

The Kern Rock Co. has been a very challenging industry to research.  First, let's look at what the drawing we have of West Bakersfield shows.

Kern Rock Co. Ltd.'s facility as drawn in or around the 1950's - LMMRRC Collection

We believe it is a concrete batching plant.  It's pretty clear from the drawing that there's a warehouse between the track and the main elevated storage bunker for the sand and rock.   There's also a prominent steel tank and conveyors stretching out to the east.

A second drawing showing Kern Rock Co. Ltd. - LMMRRC Collection

In this second drawing we have in the club collection, shows a driveway going under the steel tank (F295), which would presumably be the loader for the cement trucks.

Kern Rock Co. Ltd. as photographed in the 1980s before it was torn down. D.F. Willoughby photo

In this photo we can see the elevated rock/sand bunker.  It would appear that many additional silos and vertical conveyors have been added since the drawings we have were made.  Unfortunately, it was torn down sometime after the 1980's.

Western end of the Kern Rock Co. Ltd. plant

As I was much more unsure of this complex as of early June 2018 than most of the others, I decided not to permanently mark anything on the layout top itself, but instead make paper cutouts for the proposed building sizes and conveyors.  These could easily be moved around and changed, also making good visual aids with the rest of the members.

Eastern end of the Kern Rock Co. Ltd. plant

Much of the Kern Rock plant could scale out to be in the isle, but for the interest of having such a unique industry modeled, it should be possible to push it slightly towards the spur.  One point of interest is that the warehouse is not aligned to the spur, which suggests that it might not be rail served.  The unloading facilities for the plant on the drawings are also showing as 'Truck Dump', etc.  Also not suggesting rail served traffic, yet the spur is still here.

One thought on the conveyors which should be almost in the isle would be to put it as a 'flat' against a piece of plexi-glass along the front edge of the layout, which would protect it from getting bumped by any operators in the isle.  The 'Steel Tank' is in the center of the paper cut-out up and right of the steel rule in the photo above.  The conveyor would be about where the steel ruler is and extending off to the left of the photo, past the end-of-track.

Covered Hoppers?

SP 90642, a Kato covered hopper model of H-70-6

While the SP was starting to invest in Covered Hoppers, there is a possibility that Kern Rock didn't receive covered hoppers of cement, but still received it in box cars.  The cement plant at Monolith certainly would be a highly likely provider of the cement used.

The plant maps and aerial photos I've looked at (not very high resolution) don't show any sort of pit along the spur for unloading bulk cement.

I'm not sure if other aggregates would have been unloaded on the ground, which I think was dirt, or if they were quarried locally and shipped in by truck, which is suggested by the 'truck dumps'.

King Lumber

King Lumber had at least two lumber yards around Bakersfield.  The first is here in West Bakersfield on Sumner St. between Sacramento St. and Union Ave.  The second that we know of was near Segundo, west of Oil City on the Oil City Branch, a few miles to the north of the yard off of Sumner St.  Of interest also is the date of sale for this 2.52 acre plot as 1948.

King Lumber between Union Ave. and Sacramento St. - LMMRRC Collection

One of the early mysteries I had about King Lumber was the four long North-South items under the company name in the drawing above.  When I ordered a lower resolution scan from, I was able to tell that they were not some form of lumber shed with a roof, but material piles in their lumber yard.  This will make modeling King Lumber much easier than I'd previously thought.

Western edge of the King Lumber space on the layout, the end of the car is about where the gate will be.

Eastern portion of the King Lumber plot, with Sacramento St to the east.

King Lumber will only have two 50ft car spots, but I doubt the prototype had more than that, possibly three 40ft cars, but certainly not more than that between the end of the spur and the gate.

A mock-up of how King Lumber will look once it is populated with lumber stacks. - All lumber stacks from OwlMtModels kits.

The thought on the western end is to eliminate one of the lumber-material rows and pull the Planning Mill closer, and model at least some of it on the old 'lift-out' bridge section, which is planned to remain down and locked for the foreseeable future.  Unfortunately not much more west of that will be able to be modeled, as within a few feet the switches for the future Bakersfield SP Freight House scene starts to the west.

Kern County Land Co. Warehouse - 210 & 230 Sumner St.

Several of us at the club believe that this large 'warehouse' was originally the SP Freight House for Bakersfield.  At some point before the 1950's the SP built a new freight house west of Bakersfield Yard which became the center for freight forwarder traffic, l.c.l. (less than carload lots) traffic, and the new TOFC (Trailer-on-flat-car) ramps built in March of 1953.

Kern County Land Co. "Warehouse" - 210 & 230 Sumner St. - LMMRRC Collection

This old building seems to have gone unused for several years, including during the time when this drawing (above) was made.  On the LMRC model, we have other considerations related to the compression of the layout.  Leaving such a large 'unused' building to 'rot' simply won't do.

A "New Leaser"

ATSF's Depot with the short sections of the ATSF Freight House and Mail Docks are left after compression.

The challenge the Operating Department has is that over in the Santa Fe Bakersfield Yard, the freight house and facilities, which should be two 1000ft long spurs with freight docks are only able to be modeled about 1/5th or less that size.  This means that it will only being able to handle about 3-4 70ft baggage and express cars on two tracks, and no freight forwarder traffic in boxcars.  The Santa Fe handled the majority of freight forwarder traffic with Western Car Loading to Bakersfield during the 1950's and this was big business!

Kern County Land Co. Warehouse spotted with doubled up l.c.l., freight forwarder, and express cars!

On the model for the last 10+ years, the new SP Freight House complex has not been built.  The result is that currently the Kern County Land Co. Warehouse is being split between the SP's Acme Fast Freight (using the western 210 Sumner St section) and the Santa Fe's Western Car Loading freight forwarders (using the eastern 230 Sumner St section).

Kern County Land Warehouse - viewed from SE - Google Street View

The building still exists today, and Google Street View has some somewhat useful images.  Ive taken a few photos from the track side.  This will by far be the largest of the upcoming buildings at a compressed length of 346ft in scale and about 67ft wide.

This is one of my photos from Oct 2001.

The club plans to build the 'new' freight house for the SP and Acme Fast Freight over in its own scene inside the curve at Oil Jct area.  Once this is completed only the Western Car Loading will be using the Kern County Land Warehouse for the Santa Fe's freight forwarder traffic.

Pennzoil Co. - 300 Sumner St.

One little industry that we'd originally overlooked was the Pennzoil Co. property, just east of the Kern County Land Warehouse.

The narrow 50-odd foot wide Pennzoil Co lot at 300 Sumner St. - LMMRRC Collection

The unique challenge with the Pennzoil Co. structure is that it's almost perfectly inside a post supporting the upper level of the layout and mezzanine walkway!

What we have to work with.... Not much!

However, with a little careful positioning, we'll probably be able to 'squeeze' it in reasonably well.  This is probably the best way to 'ignor' the post, as apposed to using the post and building the structure around it.  By positioning the post in the open space between the Kern County Land Warehouse building and the Pennzoil Co. lot this should work.  In this case I believe it will be the better choice because the post and electric conduit is not square to the track or match alignments of any buildings.  Lastly, Bakersfield is mostly made up of low one and two story buildings or one-story buildings with high gable 'shed' type roofs.

Foundations cut from sheet styrene for the two main structures at Pennzoil Co.

The Pennzoil Co. site probably served only lubricating oils in bulk and by the case/carton for smaller amounts.  The bulk lubricants were probably of grades for the heavy industrial applications of the oil industry and farming needs around Bakersfield.

Tangent's 11519-01 3-dome tankcar painted for 1948 era GATX leasing. - photo from

We're expecting that shipments will be received by multi-compartment tank cars, such as Tangent's beautiful 3-dome 6k gal General American tank car, and by standard box car for drums and cases of lubricants.

300 Sumner St "Flameco" as of July 2016.

This property really isn't that wide... as can be seen by the modern street view of it on Google Street View.

Material Yard - 320 Sumner St.

During the era of this 1950's map-drawing there's a mostly open fenced lot at 320 Sumner St.

Open lot with small warehouse building at 320 Sumner St. - LMMRRC Collection

While I've not narrowed down what exactly this was at the time, my guess would be some sort of material yard or contractor.  There's a truck scale off to the western side of this on Sumner St. which might suggest they're selling or buying things by weight.  Oddly, the scales were outside the fence line.  Note that the "Corr iron bldg & shed" comment at the top left of this refers to the Pennzoil Co's building next to the track.

This lot will have to be compressed significantly and I'm not sure how much of the corrugated iron building will survive the compression and being right next to the edge of the isle.

Obviously this location will require more research but will probably be a blast to put all sorts of machinery or stacks and piles of oil drilling materials!

"Old" Auto Dock

One of the models that has to move as a result of inserting the Pennzoil Co model is the 'old' SP Auto Dock which would have been a carry-over from the SP Freight House being in the Kern County Land Co.'s Warehouse.

SP's old dock for side-unloading automobiles. - LMMRRC Collection

This auto dock is oddly located right over the right-hand crossover, which means that it probably was out of regular use by the time of this track arrangement and drawing being made.  There's also a left-hand crossover to the left on the drawing, which continues the crossover path off the west end of the 20's yard and across Baker St.  On the HO model, the left-hand crossover was eliminated, retaining only the right-hand crossover in front of the auto dock.

Google Street View of the old SP Auto Dock

To the east of the auto dock is a paved lot, which is part of the Southern Banana Distrubutor's lot.  The dark gray area in the photo below was the location of the oiled pavement lot before moving all the buildings east with the addition of the Pennzoil lot.

SP Auto Dock foot-print - June 2018

This platform was built out of second hand rail and concrete.  I've already cut out a base for this dock, and I plan to solder the rail sections together out of code 55 rail and scratch build the rest of the platform.

Southern Banana Distributor - 420 Sumner St.

Concrete and Brick building owned by Morris O. Skroopka. - LMMRRC Collection

In one of the other drawings, this building is shown as the Southern Banana Distributors building, which certainly makes since as the SP and PFE operated a weekly banana train out of San Pablo every Monday on an expedited schedule, probably running as an Advance NCP (North Coast Perishable) symbol.

Southern Banana Distributor - 420 Sumner St.

Originally I planned this building to be farther west, where the layout is wider, but with all the buildings in this area sliding east with the addition of Pennzoil, the Southern Banana Dist. building must get narrower as it shifts to the east.  How much is the question.  I plan to leave this as a paper mock up until the "meeting of the minds" occurs and those interested come to a consensus on the issue.

George E. Rosendahl Contractor - 430 Sumner St.

The first drawing shows Rosendahl's fairly well. - LMMRRC Collection

Judging by the structures in this lot and the name, I would suspect that George ran a contractor contractor company which probably used this lot to store their equipment and some of the supplies they regularly needed.  Also, given that Bakersfield was a hotbed of the oil drilling industry, his business probably was equipped to deal with that in some way.

The basic lot is only showing an fenced area 46ft long and to the edge of the model railroad, about 12'9" at the west edge and narrowing to 9'0" at the east edge.  This really only leaves us with a sliver of the western shed, which is listed as a 1-story framed structure.

In the modern aerial photos from 2018 this lot is shown as fenced most of the distance east to the next buildings, which suggests that the fence line increased in later years.  Rough grainy aerial images from 1952 tend to support this as well.  Perhaps the more valuable materials were stored in the inner fenced area, and the rest was kept for other equipment, etc. as the aerial photos seem to suggest several larger objects in the eastern open yard.

George E. Rosendahl Contractor's lot.

Again more research will be needed for this area, although not much of it is left if we push it eastward.  Perhaps it will more or less be a fenced lot, with some other materials to the east, a more basic fence in the outer eastern lot, which will be compressed substantially.

Sam Dye's Transfer & Andizzi-Oleese Co.

The last set of businesses is a combined building we've called Dye's Transfer. - LMMRRC Collection

In one of the drawing/plant maps the club has in the collection, this next building is called "Dye's Transfer & Storage".  On this drawing it shows as two separate businesses, with Dye's being to the west with 40ft of the building and the eastern 50ft is owned or rented by "Andizzi-Oleese Co."  The building extends 70ft south, back from the right-of-way.

From the first plan, Dye's sounds like it is a local Freight Forwarder, which would receive carloads of merchandise and possibly also 'rough freight' in competition with the railroads' and affiliated freight forwarders such as Western Car Loading and Acme Fast Freight who packed and repacked various smaller loads for shipment around the country.  These companies have become the modern truck freight companies such as Yellow, ABF, etc

I did not have time to cut the foundations for these buildings.  So more to come on them in future posts.  These will not be much more than building flats against the backdrop.

Also of note are a pair of 12x13ft tool houses located just east of Andizzi's.  More stuff to model!

Jackson St. Team?

For several years, with the lack of sufficient freight house facilities at Bakersfield for either the SP or the ATSF, we've taken to using the street-front trackage along Jackson St. to be used as a team track.

Here's a view to the east of the cars at Jackson St. "Team" and also a cut coming or going to the yard

While this track parallels the functioning "70's Yard" which the City Switcher crew usually uses in sorting out local destination cars, the last track (Track 75), often called the "Back Track" is separate from the main east ladder of the 70's Yard and is therefore somewhat more awkward to switch, which involves the main "Back Track" which arriving engines used to enter the roundhouse complex.

Operations just west of Baker St., Jackson St. in the backround with employee parking lot near the tracks.

One of the interesting questions that arose dealing with the structures along Jackson St. was what the drawings mean by the following.

It's a bird, it's a plane.... close? - LMMRRC Collection

In the right side of this photo (east) is what would appear to be an overhead traveling crane, which also has a cantilever out over the "Back Track".  There's also a platform west of it, paralleling the Back Track, just before the west switch of Track 74.  The model will only be able to have two-span sections for the traveling crane.  Also a piece of plexi-glass will have to protect the front edge of crane from the aisle way and errant hands, coat tails, and sleeves of people brushing against it.

Is it an overhead traveling crane? - Kinda looks like it.

Funny enough when I sketched it out on the layout, we actually had a carload of steel beams in a car spotted there at our "fictitious" Team Track....

Jackson St. "Platform"

In taking a closer look at the "platform," it seems easily to be able to handle at least one boxcar, possibly to trans-load a shipment to a truck?

The overview again of the West Bakersfield drawing, shows the "Crane" by itself, without much else to go on. - LMMRRC Collection

The odd thing is on the drawn/plan there doesn't seem to be any industry or business listed related to these artifacts.  In the rough quality aerial photos of the era, there's something in the area on the ground... more than dirt, but no stark shadows that might be cast from a crane's legs and head beams seems to show itself.

In Closing --- For now

Well now, this post is already WAY longer than most.  If you're still reading, congratulations!   I probably should have broken it up, but dealing with a large inter-related subject as overall compression of a yard or multiple industries looking at each little bit alone may cause one to loose sight of the 'forest' for the 'trees'.

Only delaying for 7 minutes to change engines, "Queen of the Valley," the San Joaquin Daylight blows through Bakersfield!

In future posts on this topic, I'll be looking at each industry in more detail as progress is made with nailing down research, making further adjustments to the size and placement, and constructing the models.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Small Projects Around the Club (Part 1) - Caliente Depot

Small Projects Around the Club (Part 2) - Fixing a Ballast Load

Small Projects Around the Club (Part 3) - Bakersfield Company Shops

Busy Times in Bakersfield - (Part 2) - SP Bakersfield Yard Operations Overview


  1. Excellent article Jason. Amazing amount of research .

  2. The Kern County Land Company warehouse was built in 1881 as a grain warehouse and is probably Bakersfield's oldest commercial structure still standing.

    It was not an SP building. However, the SP used it as a temporary freight house after its regular Bakersfield freight house (which was located a short distance west of Baker St. on the south side of the tracks) burned down in 1925. This use lasted until 1927 when the SP opened a new, modern freight house at 21st and R streets.

  3. Yes John, I didn't have it when I posted this article, but a few months later I found a stash of 1880-1900 Sanborn Fire Maps. They show the Kern County warehouse as 7000-ton capacity of baled hay and general merchandise. The 1889 one shows a new freight house west of Baker St, which is to be "removed one block west", so it would be a good assumption that the SP's freight house was the one in use around that point in time. By 1892 the SP freight house had been moved to the end of Tulare St. and Ardizzi & Olcese Merchandise Warehouse moved and built a new warehouse at the end of Kern St. with several ice houses between it and the SP Freight house.
    In the 1892 map, it also shows Standard Oil with a building on the north side of the tracks at Sacramento St. and what eventually became King Lumber on the south side, just west of Sacramento St. was H.C. Parks Lumber Yard and Bakersfield Planing Mill, just to the west of that.


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