Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - (Part 6) ATSF East

In the previous posts in this series I've covered the SP system of freight symbols and the westward Santa Fe freight symbols in use over Tehachapi Pass during the early 1950s.  Next we'll be looking at the Eastward symbols for the Santa Fe are messy, as most re-symbol at Bakersfield.

Unlike the previous posts, where I started at the start of the traffic flow, this time I'm going to describe the symbols starting at the east end of the modeled area so that as I build on the preceding symbols, I'll have already talked about the continuing symbol.

Edited 10-20-2018 with corrected and added symbols

Bakersfield - Barstow

Extra ATSF 212 West approaches Kern Jct Tower and will cross over onto Santa Fe trackage to the Santa Fe Bakersfield Yard.

Santa Fe's Bakersfield Yard was the eastern end of the First District of the Valley Division and two miles to the east of the Santa Fe yard is Kern Jct.  The Southern Pacific - Santa Fe Joint Line extends from Kern Jct. to East Mojave.

Eastward freights lead by ATSF 140 and 239 lay over at Mojave for lunch before continuing to Barstow, as SP VME passes heading to LA.

East of Mojave Yard Joint Trackage ends and the Santa Fe heads east across the Mojave Desert via Boron and Muroc (now Edwards) AFB to Barstow and the Santa Fe "Transcon".

BK - (Bakersfield Green Fruit eXpress)

Santa Fe FT-set 170LABC charges out over Mt. Vernon Ave. on the SP-ATSF Jointline with a BK-symbol with large GFX perishable block.

'GFX (Green Fruit Express)  Operates as symbol BK from Bakersfield and symbol SB from San Bernardino.  BK, originating Bakersfield, handles fresh fruit and vegetables, and other loads and billed 'MTYs' destined Kansas City and points east.'

LMRC BK-Symbol Time - Suffix Code

Certainly the 'hottest' symbol on the Santa Fe during the 1950s is the BK-symbol.  Multiple BK symbols depart Bakersfield every day using the suffix with originating times as shown above.  During rush times odd time suffixes were also used, allowing even more clarification of symbols without needing to break each one into sections.  Often BK symbols departing after 3:01PM, which are BK-10, depart in two sections.  There's some possibility that we'll be changing to use the expanded time suffixes, so that we don't need as many BK-10s running in sections.

At 3:08AM, a late 'Fruit Pickup' missed the 5.01 PM cutoff and is preparing to leave as a BK-0 while Second 4 is being assembled at the Depot.

The cutoff time for perishables is 5:00PM.  This is a scheduling guarantee to move any perishable car arriving Bakersfield (by 5:00PM) east before midnight.  This allows almost seven hours for the car inspectors and servicing of the cars before they head east on the BK symbol.

PRR 61102 - Automobile and Parts service

One BK Symbol usually receives the Santa Fe auto-parts connection from San Fransisco/Richmond and also receives the SP auto-parts connection off the AE symbol.  Often the 'Auto-Parts' BK symbol section is filled with whatever perishable traffic has arrived when the auto block is ready to go.

Santa Fe XM plain boxcar used for general service and can goods loading.

The Chief Dispatcher designates which BK symbol will make the connections from WGFX symbols and returning local traffic from Arvin and 56-Local.  Usually any BK directed perishable traffic is routed out on the next available BK section.  Any originating merchandise traffic, canned goods traffic, and 'billed empties' at Oakland/Richmond on the Santa Fe will be the 'lower' rated traffic and be filled in where possible on BK symbols, but basically anything rating a BK-symbol routing is higher than average priority.

AT 140 pulls BK-4-H into Cliff in the early morning of January 8th with a string of canned goods as the last 'cleanup' train of the 7th.

The Chief Dispatcher can also direct the BK symbol to make pickups of livestock cars or perishable reefers on the Tehachapi Sub. Div.

BTX - (Bakersfield-Texas Extra)

'Operates from Bakersfield with all traffic, including protected service cars and billed MTYs, destined north, south and east of Belen, NM, but to not including Kansas City, and south of Clovis to all Texas points.  Handles Phoenix traffic for connection at Barstow.'

Some of the Warren LPG cars and Texaco/Conoco tank cars point towards a BTX.

The BTX's signature block is the large number of 'Texas oil/chemical tank car traffic which is returning off the GCX westward symbol.  The BTX is not a very fast connection, so perishables are generally not sent on this symbol.

N-34 - (Bakersfield-Barstow Drag)

'Operates from Bakersfield.  Handles all cars destined for points west of Belen, NM.'

AT 3900 and 3851 lead the N-34-H into Caliente on Jan 8, 1953. The SP 3765 is in town with the Mt Work Train.

The N-34 is the regular symbol which is tapped by the Chief Dispatcher to work local Santa Fe traffic on the Tehachapi Sub. Div., including the cement empties, both covered hoppers and a notable number of 40ft plain boxcars) returning for loading at the Portland Cement plant at Monolith.

The N-34 departs Bakersfield with a large string of empty hopper cars for Boron, Saltus, and the carbon mines east of Barstow.

The other large blocks operating on the N-34 are the empty salt hoppers, carbon hoppers, and borate cars for Boron on the Barstow-Mojave Local. - Basically, if you're called for the N-34, you're going to be having a long day of switching cars en route to Barstow.

Through Symbols Calwa - Barstow

GWS - (GN-WP-Santa Fe)

'Joint Great Northern - Western Pacific - Santa Fe trains operating from Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle to Los Angeles via GN Beiber, WP Stockton (Mormon Yard) and Santa Fe.  Handling all loads destined for points south of Barstow.  Uses numerical date symbols ranter than letter code to conform with WP and GN practice.'

Santa Fe Date Letter Code

The GN and WP ship long piles in their big 65ft mill gons.

The GWS symbol looks a lot like the SP's PSS and OCM lumber trains, except with large numbers of CN, GN and WP cars, with a good number of SP&S, and some UP cars as well.

GN 41741, an older wood-sheathed double door boxcar in finished lumber service.

Don't forget the large 50ft double door boxcars with finished lumber moving in these trains.

High value 'newsprint' paper and some smaller finished lumber loads move in 40ft plain boxcars, often with end 'lumber doors'.

Also large strings of Canadian cars with newsprint paper often show up in the GWS heading to Los Angeles printers.  A few carloads might be sent to local Bakersfield destinations for the local news paper, but probably would arrive on the SCX (discussed below).

GN covered hoppers in assigned 'grit-blast' compound service.

Another signature traffic on the GWS includes a couple carloads of slag 'grit-blast' material is shipped in GN covered hoppers to the ship yards in Los Angeles and Long Beach.

SCX - (Southern California Extra)

SCX-BI climbs through Marcel.  Note the blocks of perishables and lumber heading to points south of Barstow.

'Operates Richmond to Los Angeles - Handles all traffic Richmond-Stockton-Bakersfield for all Southern California points including San Bernardino, Los Angeles and beyond.

Rear of the same SCX-BI at Walong.

The Santa Fe's SCX symbol is a rather mixed bag of traffic, but among the heavier blocks includes: SP interchanged lumber traffic, Sierra RR and NWP-interchange lumber traffic (off the Richmond car float),  merchandise boxcars, canned goods, petroleum and chemical tank cars.  Limited perishable traffic can also be seen from the San Joaquin Valley to Southern California.

Calwa - Bakersfield

The Santa Fe gathered large amounts of perishable traffic out of the San Joaquin Valley to Bakersfield.


'Operates from Richmond to Bakersfield.  Handles all traffic from San Fransisco bay area and San Joaquin Valley points to destined Bakersfield and beyond.  Connects at Bakersfield with BK for traffic destined for Kansas City and points east, BTX for Belen (to Texas) traffic, N-34 for Barstow traffic and SCX for traffic destined south of Barstow.'

The messy part about this symbol is that it catches literally EVERYTHING coming out of the Bay Area.  Normally there are at least three or four sections of this symbol every day.  Some of the sections can be interposed in order, but will be still listed in chronological order as 1/WGFX-A, 2/WGFX-A, 3/WGFX-A, etc.  

Here's a nice photo of a mix of 'Stuff' arriving at Santa Fe Bakersfield. - several of these could be WGFXs.

"WGFX Reefers"

The first flavor of WGFX symbol is the western most link in the GFX (Green Fruit Express) system on the Santa Fe.  "W" is the station code for Richmond, so the WGFX is the Richmond originating GFX.  This section leaves Richmond as a Way-Car-Light and pick up reefer traffic along the way to Stockton, then run to Bakersfield.  Most of this perishable WGFX will continue out of Bakersfield on the BK symbol.  A few cars might head south to San Bernardino and Los Angeles on the SCX.

"WGFX WP Connection"

Sometimes, if there's enough traffic, an additional WGFX can originate at Richmond as a Way-Car-Light and run to Mormon Yard in Stockton, picking up perishable (likely FGE pool traffic from the GN), canned goods, and other interchange from the WP before continuing to Bakersfield.

"WGFX Autos"

The second flavor of WGFX symbols is the Santa Fe Auto Parts traffic connecting at Bakersfield as a guaranteed connection on the BK symbol.  This is probably the fastest of the sections of WGFX to arrive at Bakersfield after leaving Richmond.  This section will also handle any eastward merchandise loads from Richmond for BK connections.

"WGFX-BTX" or "WGFX Texas"

The last regular flavor of WGFX is the BTX connection from Richmond to Bakersfield, then to Belen and Texas.  This section is heavy in chemical and oil car traffic.  It can also be filling with empty cars being sent back to gather at Belen under Service Car Orders (SCOs).  This also gives Bakersfield the chance to grab any empties needed for loading with canned goods, etc around Bakersfield.  Empties can also be grabbed for N-34 distribution on the Tehachapi Sub and points short of Belen.

Making Since of WGFXs

Basically each of the above sections becomes its own symbol east of Bakersfield Yard.  Often the Chief Dispatcher and Yardmasters simply refer to the WGFX symbols in the valley as "BTX Connection", "BK Reefer Connection", or "BK Auto Connection" to keep what the majority of the cars in the train will be doing at Bakersfield, and how it relates to the number of cars figuring into the various connection symbols.  That way the Yardmasters and Chief DS can quickly tally up how to combine or break up the incoming blocks from Richmond, Stockton, and Calwa in addition to the cars coming from the locals to most efficiently move east on the multiple BK symbols and BTX.

"Fruit Pickups"

The Santa Fe's second largest icing facility is located at Bakersfield.

The Santa Fe operated 'Fruit Pick-ups' eastward in the San Joaquin Valley.  Each 'Fruit Pick Up' job worked a town and proceeded to Bakersfield.  Potato loads usually were not iced again at Bakersfield before being forwarded to the east.  However other perishables, such as citrus, needed a topping off of the ice in the cars before heading east.

VFPU - Visalia Fruit Pick-Up

Santa Fe perishable traffic originating on the Visalia District.  Most of the loaded traffic is routed onto BK-symbol GFX trains out of Bakersfield.

PFPU -  Porterville Fruit Pick-Up

Santa Fe perishable traffic originating on the Porterville Branch.  Most of the loaded traffic is routed onto BK-symbol GFX trains out of Bakersfield.

HFPU - Hanford Fruit Pick-Up

Santa Fe perishable traffic originating on the Handford District.  Most of the loaded traffic is routed onto BK-symbol GFX trains out of Bakersfield.

56-Local - "Super Local"

The 'flip side' of the 55-Local which is a daily local operating in a 'great circle' west from Bakersfield and then returns as 56 back to Bakersfield on the East Side line.  The local works the towns and industries along the way.

CWE - Calwa East

The Calwa East symbol is a low priority freight which forwards any short traffic from Calwa to Bakersfield.  Any low priority through traffic is often sent on N-34 or BTX based on destination.  This traffic includes the empty cars returning for loading at Monolith, Boron, and Barstow.

Old Head's Advice

One of the things I've been pondering as I was writing this post is one of the main concerns with the arrangement of the current (August 2018) arrangement of the Santa Fe's Valley Division staging.  What can best be described as "Old Head's Advice" for Santa Fe Bakersfield and Valley Div's at LMRC for the Chief Dispatcher consists mostly of "Don't let trains that are ready to move east from Santa Fe Bakersfield sit - - - Get it moving!".  It's very easy for the Train Dispatcher (Train Order Dispatcher) to ignore trains sitting in yards, but the Santa Fe yard or valley staging can't be allowed to 'plug up', the mainlines east of Bakersfield really do work well as a 'safety valve' when too many Santa Fe trains are in Bakersfield or west of Bakersfield on the Santa Fe.  Sometimes this comes down to too many Santa Fe trains westward landing before they can be 'digested' through the staging system.

In this photo the Santa Fe Bakersfield Yard's needing a good bit of help from the Tehachapi Dispatcher to help clear it out!
Looks like BFW, NCX,SWG, a couple of BKs, and an SP interchange block are in town, plus either a large eastward reefer block arrived or is ready to leave for Arvin.

This is due to the fact that the Santa Fe's 'convenient' Valley Staging is limited to two 60 car tracks at Landco and 2-3 30-ish car tracks at Rosedale which currently double as the 'Roundhouse' for the Santa Fe and also sometimes storing one of the Santa Fe passenger trains.  Additional staging is buried deeper in more awkward places to reach, so normally the Santa Fe trains are turned  and returned to the yard for eastward movement as quickly as possible.  Hopefully this will be eased soon by the addition of the proper Santa Fe 'Roundhouse' and engine servicing tracks.

Also as discussed in the previous post (Westward Santa Fe Symbols), more of the Santa Fe's merchandise traffic for the Richmond/SF Bay Area will be interchanged to the Southern Pacific.  The SP Famoso (Valley) Yard is about 600 cars capacity on six tracks.  This should allow the Santa Fe Valley Div. to be 'throttled' better for staging management, and use the SP's very large staging area to better effect.

In Closing

In the next post I'll be looking closer at the Santa Fe's Locals around Bakersfield and Mojave.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

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.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - (Part 5) ATSF West

In the previous posts on the topic of Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi, I laid out my history and overview of the concept of symbols for freight movement, and Southern Pacific's freight symbols and local jobs.

ATSF 140 leads a freight eastward through the "Caliente Narrows"

I should point out that Santa Fe was one of the only railroads in the USA which used an alpha date system instead of a numeral date system for each day of the month.  Symbols would be shown in the format "1/59-A", which would be the First Section of Symbol 59, originating on the 1st of the month out of Chicago.

Santa Fe's Date Letter Code, Used on all but two of Santa Fe's freight symbols (SWG and GWS). Excerpt scanned from LMRC document.

In this post I'll be starting the posts about the Santa Fe's freight symbols with the westward symbols by priority and speed shown on the symbol schedule: (Note I'll be using "AT" ahead of each symbol, as it's one of the ways we help crews on switchlist routing to know that the symbol's a Santa Fe symbol.)Edited 10-20-2018 with corrected and added symbols

Westward Santa Fe Symbols From Chicago

The Santa Fe was one of the main railroad connections from Chicago and the eastern 'department stores' shipping merchandise cars to the west coast.  Trains 59, 49, and 99 generally are pretty similar in consist, but with subtle differences.  Usually the LMRC sessions rotate the Santa Fe merchandise "Core Blocks" around between the various Train 59/49/99 symbols out of the East Staging yard, adding and removing the automobile cars makes or breaks the 59 symbol option.

AT Train 59

ATSF's 59 symbol cruises along the Edison Hwy and pounds over the crossovers at Mt. Vernon Ave in Bakersfield with an auto-parts block on the rear end.

"Operates from Corwith (Chicago) to Richmond with loads and special empties (Auto-Parts traffic) destined Edison, Calif. and points north.  Operates daily."

The Train 59 symbol primary traffic was automobile parts (Auto-Parts) traffic and automobile cars.  Some of the auto-parts and merchandise traffic was transferred to the Southern Pacific at Bakersfield for SP destinations in the greater San Fransisco Bay Area.  Perhaps 30-50% of the cars in Train 59 symbol might be interchanged to the SP at Bakersfield.

Meat reefer and livestock traffic also moved on 59 symbol.

AT Train 49 and A-49

ATSF 225 at Mojave working 49-D with an auto block and returning reefers with lcl.

"Operates from Corwith (Chicago's Yard), Argentine (Kansas City) operates with loads and special empties destined to Edison, Calif. and points north.  Operates daily."

Often Train 49 was used for traffic which couldn't fit on the hotter Train 59 symbol train.  It was primarily used for merchandise traffic and special empties, which could include auto-parts traffic and other 'boarded' empties which were moving under waybills.  Again, much of the consist would be interchanged at Bakersfield to the SP for the SF Bay Area.

Sections of Train 49 originating at Argentine were symboled "A-49", as opposed to "49" for the Corwith originating symbol sections.

Westward Santa Fe Symbols from Kansas City

AT Train 99

The Train 99 symbol was another merchandise train, but it primarily gathered east coast merchandise traffic coming in via Kansas City, not coming via Chicago.  Again, much of the consist would be interchanged at Bakersfield to the SP for the SF Bay Area.

Westward Santa Fe Symbols from Texas, via Belen, NM.

AT GCF - Gulf Coast Forwarder

"Originates Temple, Texas with loads and special empties.  Originating Temple and points south and destined for Northern California points."

An example of a GCF which is going to be switched out at Bakersfield

The GCF has mostly Texas-Bay Area traffic, and has traffic for Bakersfield for local and SP Bay Area destinations, much of the later was petro-chem traffic to the plants along the bay between San Pablo and Antioch.  Any cars for north of Bakersfield would probably be put on the NCX at Barstow or Bakersfield.

Conoco and Texaco cars were common on the GCF

One of the primary traffic components is chemical and petroleum tankcars.  Texas was also one of the larger LPG producing ares.  Livestock would also move on the GCF, but would probably be transferred to one of the faster symbols at Belen, such as Train 59.

Westward Symbols from San Bernardino, via Barstow

AT SWG - Santa Fe-Western Pacific-Great Northern

ATSF 212 leads the SWG as it approaches Kern Jct. and shows its consist nicely in this photo.

"Joint Santa Fe-Western Pacific-Great Northern train operating from Los Angeles to Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle via Santa Fe, WP Stockton (Mormon Yard) and GN Beiber.  From Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Barstow, Bakersfield handles loads (heavily canned goods) destined Beiber and beyond.  Uses numerical date symbol rather than letter code to conform with WP and GN practice."

SWG-7 at Cable with empty lumber cars and wine cars, and a few reefers at the head-end.

The SWG was the symbol for loads to points north of Stockton would be routed on this symbol, this often included some SFRD reefers would be routed north for the Pacific Northwest cities.

On some slow days the SWG could combine or fill with NCX traffic.

AT NCX - North California eXtra

An NCX arriving Bakersfield with traffic for northern CA and interchange traffic to the SP.

"Originates Los Angeles and operates Los Angeles/San Bernardino to Stockton/Richmond.  Handles all traffic destined Bakersfield and beyond.  May be filled at intermediate terminals with north loads and empties as train length permits."

In the days before the hump yard at Barstow the NCX had to change directions.  During the time at Barstow yard, the NCX could pickup any cars from San Diego train (SBX).

The NCX handled lots of traffic for the huge canning operations at Empire, near Modesto.

Westward Symbol from Barstow

AT DRAG - Reefers West to Bakersfield

Santa Fe 'Drag' approaches Caliente with over 90 empty SFRD reefers for Bakersfield and Calwa.

The AT DRAG symbol was usually used for empty cars of any type, often returning foreign cars before the midnight assessment of the demurge.  Over Tehachapi the Santa Fe often used this symbol almost exclusively for the movement of thousands of empty SFRD reefers per month to Bakersfield for conditioning and repair.  (San Bernardino was the other major SFRD "conditioning" facility.)

Here a large string of reefers is prepared to leave town on Track 3.  This string could be part of a Drag or 1st Dis. Extra.

The Santa Fe Drags of SFRD reefers would arrive at Bakersfield and the cars would be serviced.  Once serviced cleaned cars could be iced and sent out on the locals for loading, forwarded to Calwa (Fresno) or Mormon (Stockton) yards, sent for potato loading at Arvin or be sent out for dry loading with things such as canned goods, or stored for the 'rush' of the harvest seasons to hit.  During the peak of the harvest over 17,000 reefers were loaded on the Santa Fe's Valley Division in one month, and most of it moved over Tehachapi heading to the eastern markets.

An Ice Break

The SFRD Icing Deck at Bakersfield was equipped in the early 1950's with a mechanical icing machine, which rode on top of the deck on rails.  The manual loading of ice usually took about 2-3 men per car and about 15 minutes to slide the blocks of ice over and break them up into the bunkers of each car.  The icing machines lowered the man power to one or two men to run the machine and feed ice into it from the deck, and only took 2-3 minutes per car!  Two ice machines were located on the long ice deck and one on the shorter deck at Bakersfield.

AT BAW - BArstow West

ATSF 225LABC prepares to depart Mojave with the BAW-G on Jan 7, 1953.

The BAW was the Santa Fe's 'dog train' westward over Tehachapi.  This train forwarded low priority traffic west from Barstow to Bakersfield. 

Lots of Santa Fe cars in the plant at Monolith today.  BAW regularly picks up and sets out at Monolith for the KI Local to switch.

This included cars for Boron, Mojave, Monolith and Bakersfield.  The empties for Monolith and Barstow would be dropped and worked by locals (SP's KI Local and Mojave-Barstow Local respectively).   Through traffic was then forwarded on BFW to Calwa.  Any remaining traffic went to the locals out of Bakersfield or interchanged to the SP at Kern Jct.

"Northwest Empties" (Drag) - (New 10-20-2018 addition)

The "North-west Empties" train, which took care of all the empty 'long norths' on the Santa Fe out of Southern CA and Bakerfield.  This was the primary returning symbol for empty Western Pacific and Great Northern, the friendly connections for the Santa Fe to the north.

This symbol gathers all record rights interchange traffic for WP, GN, CN, SP&S.  This symbol is combined to form the 'lumber blocks' in the GWS at Calwa Staging Yard.

Arvin Branch

ATSF 966 leads an Arvin Turn out past Kern Jct.

Technically the Arvin trains return westward to Bakersfield over about 3 miles of the Tehachapi Sub.  However, I've covered the Arvin Branch briefly in the SP Local operations, and will write a post specifically on the Arvin Branch operations in detail.

Westward Symbols from Bakersfield

AT BFW - BakersField West

The BFW was the continuing symbol for the BAW 'dog train' west to the yard at Calwa, near Fresno.  This train took care of cars for stations between Bakersfield and Fresno.

AT 55 "Super Local"

I believe that's the 55-Local being assembled on Track 8, on the track in front of the Waycars, with the tank cars and reefers.

The 55 Local works out of Bakersfield, up to Calwa, then around and comes back on the east side line, rejoining the Santa Fe main and returns to Bakersfield on the second day as 56 Local.  This two day cycle earned this local the nickname 'Super Local'.

The 55/56 Local covers local deliveries for the sheds and towns west of Bakersfield supplying empty iced reefers, merchandise, fuel oil, boxcars for canned goods, and grain service, etc.

ATSF 1421, an older 'truss rod' 1300-class Waycar is assigned to local service on Train 55/56

The 55/56 Local at LMRC is regularly assigned Waycar 1421 out of Bakersfield.

AT 1st Dist. Extra

Here a 1st Distict Extra prepares to depart west from Bakersfield with a string of clean and iced empty SFRD reefers.

The Santa Fe also used what they called the First District Extra to work additional seasonal reefer traffic and boxcars into the Valley between Bakersfield and Calwa.  This was basically a train that supplied empties to the packing sheds and canneries.  The huge canneries at Empire (near Fresno) received large numbers of empty boxcars for shipment east.

In Closing

Arvin Turn prepares to crossover and return to Bakersfield as a freight blasts by on the Eastward Main Track at Magunden

This wraps up the Santa Fe's Westward Symbols for the Tehachapi Pass.  Next post I'll be talking about the Eastward Symbols for the Santa Fe.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

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.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Overview & Weathering of SP F-50-Series Flatcars by OwlMtModels

In this post, I'll be highlighting several of the OwlMtModels F-50-5/8/9/10/12 class flatcars I've built over the last year (or two) for OMM (pre-production and advertising models), and a some production models for friends at LMRC in San Diego.

Background & History

F-50-9 class, SP 43745, frolics in the dry grass on the UP's Wyoming Division layout in Cornville, AZ.

In September 2017, OwlMtModels released for sale their HO-scale F-50-5/8/9 class flatcars as kit #2002.

There were a lot of these... and lots of railroads owned them! (linked from the OMM website)

These cars were originally built by Ralston Car Co. between 1916 and 1924 for the SP and its subsidiaries after the original F-50-4 design built by Bettendorf was changed to a two-beam centersill design.  The F-50-10 and -12 class cars (Kit 2003) were built by Southern Pacific Equipment Co. at Sacramento in 1927-1929.

Various Painting and Lettering Schemes

Basically, I'm not going to go over how I did the painting and lettering portions of the cars.  The basic paint coat is StarBrand lacquers, usually SP Freight Car Red, sometimes lightened with Light Freight Car Red.  The weathering is various combinations of Polly-Scale (out-of-production) Black, Roof Brown, Mud/Dust, etc. or Apple Barrel (from Walmart) equivalent colors.  Apple Barrel actually has a large line of colors with many earth and dusty shades to choose from.  Choose what you think look good.

SP 41186

Retrucked F-50-5, SP 41186 as it appeared around 1948.

According to Anthony Thompson's book, Southern Pacific Freight Cars, Vol.3 - Automobile Cars & Flat Cars, Signature Press 2004, SP 41186 broke her back in June,1949 at Oakland as shown in a photo on page 213.  The car by then had received cast Vulcan trucks, which can be modeled with Kadee's Vulcan 50-ton truck set.

SP 41186 at Bakersfield with a concept model for the upcoming OwlMtModels' sideboard add-on kit. 

SP 38892

SP 38892, photographed at the Sacramento Model Railroad Club

The SP 38892 was originally a Pacific Electric F-50-8.  This was the first pre-production model I built for OwlMt.

SP 38909

SP 38909, an F-50-8

This 1958 era model of the SP 38909 is modeling the car after it was upgraded with AAR U-section trucks and AB-Schedule Brakes.  The U-section trucks are available in the OMM 2003 kit, all the kits include both AB and K-brake systems.

By the 1958 photo in Thompson's book, SP 38909 was fitted with sideboards.  UP Wyoming Div. Layout Cornville, AZ.

The 38909 was selected to model because of the prototype's fitting of 36" sideboards in 1954, based on a photo in Anthony Thompson's book.  This model received a pre-production concept model of OwlMtModels' new sideboard Add-On Kit, which is under development.  A few minor changes are needed before production.

SP 39740

Completed SP 39740, an F-50-10 class

The 39740 is a model I randomly chose from a excel-type list and a random number generator for an F-50-10 class car.  I threw out one number initially selected because when I cross checked it against the SPMW 1956 Roster, I found that it was converted to MW service before 1952, so was not viable for a 1952 revenue service car.

SP 43216

Completed SP 43216, an F-50-12 class

Like the SP 39740, the 43216 was selected randomly using the method mentioned above.  It's been odd that most of the cars that I've modeled besides these two cars are based on photos and there aren't at least a few photos of the last two classes made showing the plain flatcars during the post-WWII to 1955 era.  As a result these two cars came out as 'typical' models, with no photographic proof they looked "exactly" like this.

T&NO 22419

T&NO 22419, Ex-LW F-50-5

Rounding out the fleet, this ex-Louisiana & Western flat as it would have appeared after the 1928 consolidation of the Texas Lines reporting marks.  At that time the GH&SA and LW cars were merged into the T&NO reporting marks.  Interestingly enough, these Texas Lines cars show up regularly in photos of Pacific Lines sugar beet service and other assignments in California.

NWP 4474

NWP 4474 wearing a 1925 scheme, mostly decalled in this photo.

On the NWP 4474 I'm trying out two lettering schemes.  The earlier scheme from the 1920s has periods, but the reporting marks have moved to the left compared to the "early scheme" on the NWP 4499.

NWP 4474 in the later scheme, decalling not complete.

In the later arrangement, shows the scheme without the periods and the reporting marks consolidated over at the left end of the sidesill.

The completed NWP 4474 with OwlMtModels early concept #3004 'narrow' lumber loads at Bena.

Oddly, as I do my final pass of editing of this blog, I don't have a finished photo of the NWP 4474 without a load on it!  So this will be a 'teaser' shot with the concept version of the upcoming OwlMtModels 3004 'Narrow' Lumber Load.

NWP 4499

NWP 4499 in the "As-Delivered" Scheme from 1923.

On a couple of cars I did the really early "As Delieved" scheme, the NWP 4499 is one such model for OwlMtModels advertisements.  The 4499 was the last of 50 F-50-5s built for the NWP.

SPMW 560

SPMW 560, assigned to SUPPLY CAR service in 1950.

Some of the most interesting to research models are the SPMW cars.  The SPMW 560 is a newer example of a Supply Car.  These were used to move materials around the SP system from General Shops and Storehouses out to Division Points, where the supplies could be stored or out on the SP's system supply trains, which circulated around the system every 90 days.

This model will probably be seen shuttling back and forth as an "Overhead" movement car most of the time with various loads.  Basically as a non-revenue freight car carrying company loads.  Some of these cars later were restricted to "End-of-Train Only" operations as their underframe strength was called into question, but I believe during the 1950s these cars were still structurally strong enough to be used in normal train movements.

SPMW 1413

SPMW 1413 F-50-5 class

The SPMW 1413 is another Supply Car converted in 1953, see notes above, and will be used in the same ways.

Concept model for the sideboards, installed on SPMW 1413.

The SPMW 1413 was also chosen to test fit one of the OMM's pre-production 36" Side Board kits.  These sideboards were often used on Supply Cars, where the materials might fall off of normal flatcars.  Most of the SPMW gondolas were assigned to Shop Service, often for rail shipments, so these low-sides were fitted to flatcars hauling all sorts of other awkward sized materials.

SPMW 2186

SPMW 2186 "Ready Flat" F-50-9 class

The SPMW 2186 was converted to MW service in March 1941, and by 1956 was shown assigned as a "Ready Flat".  These cars formed a pool of general use cars, these cars could fill in for Supply Cars or special projects.

SPMW 2054 (Post-1958 Scheme)

SPMW 2054 - in the late paint scheme

I did one car as the late post 1958 gray MOW scheme for SPMW.  I used Light Lark Gray for the base coat and various weathering colors as described above.

Basics of Side (car) Weathering

PRR 317083 with completely repainted reporting marks, weight stenciling, tare date, and lube data.

In general I've found that often 'less is more', and with weathering that is certainly true.  For operating railroads and equipment, that is certainly the case with weathering.  It's too easy to 'blow out' the lettering, especially the reporting marks, which is a critical thing on cars back before the modern RFID car reader era.  If it got too bad, even foreign lines would have to do a cheap restencil just to be able to ID the car, though the clerks would do their best to 'wipe off' the offending grime and dirt.  The result is often a dirty car with a couple of clean places where the critical data was located on the car!

PRR F30A flatcar 475260 with restenciled car numbers.

While in general flatcar sides tend to get dirty as they're low to the track, getting mud, grime, oil, etc thrown up onto them along with blowing dust, etc.  Many of these cars in photos have remarkably clean reporting marks, numbers and capacity data.  Often this is from carmen and clerks wiping off the numbers and letters as they get hard to read.  The last three digits of the LD. LMT. and LT. WT. are repainted every 36-48 months (depending on the era) along with the 'Tare date" with the station abbreviation the car was last reweighed at.  The "Lube" data stencil at the far right of the carside is stenciled every 4 months, so it is almost always cleaner than the rest of the car.

SPMW 560 is still fairly fresh from being repainted in 1950 for MW service.

As a result of the wiping and restenciling certain parts of the lettering received, I don't weather those "fresh" patched and restenciled areas as much as the other parts of the car.  Sometimes, I'll even weather, then wipe away the effect, leaving smugs or slight swirls from the clerk's oily waste rag.  Often this will be the effect if I get weathering paint on the reporting marks or car number, more than I want.

SPMW 2186 still wearing periods on it's reporting marks from the 1930s, only a little dirty.

The SPMW 2186 is generally just a dirty old car.  Retired from revenue service in December 1938, this car has see about 15 years of hard maintenance work, including WWII, since it was last repainted and retired.  The car's been kept in ok, shape overall with a well maintained deck suitable for a variety of jobs in the 'Ready Flat' roll.

The other spaces on the carside can be weathered more with 'junk' kicked up from the right-of-way onto the carsides.  In addition the sub-deck blocks can be weathered with chipping paint, as the are also wood.  In most photos however, they're still in pretty good shape.  Also of interest, the deck board ends seem to be showing as a different darker color in most photos.  Probably as a result of the end-grain being exposed, where as the sub-deck boards are normal side-grain that is painted.

Heavier side weathering on the SPMW 3605, which is probably still only "moderate" to most modelers.

Also because these cars are so low and have the overhanging sub-deck blocking, the car number and railroad marks can be very hard to read already, so keeping those clean certainly helps be sure of which car you're switching.  As seen above on the SPMW 3605, the car is covered in more general dirt/grime up into the various crevices and nooks.  I did some light de-weathering on the road number and reporting marks, but left a little bit of the wash to highlight the rivets and angle iron joints where the lettering is painted.

Basics of Deck Weathering

Natural gray colored smooth plastic deck.  Not very realistic?  We'll see...

The following examples show the main reasons I prefer weathering cars with gray plastic decks.  It's very easy to change the hue and tones on a light gray deck.  Scratching it with sand paper or a carbine scribe gives the washes and dry brushing some 'tooth' and 'grain' to the wood for the various media to hold on to, much as the real wood would act after the layers of paint were wearing off or being damaged.

I've found all too often that laser cut wood decks are made with the wood grain going 90 degrees off from the way the boards are cut.  Often those wood decks are very hard to reweather to show a proper grain direction.  As a result I prefer to do my own wood effects and not have to deal with the extra steps of dealing with 'real wood' problems.

NWP 4499

NWP 4499 with a light colored weathering on its deck, replicating the early service tare date from the 1920s.

I decided to weather the deck on the NWP 4499 as a dusty, but not severely beaten deck, as on the other cars which are modeled as they would appear after WWII and into the 1950s.

SP 39740

SP 39740's deck is much darker in color, representing the darker (often) wet decks of a car working out of Eugene, OR

On the SP 39740's deck, I switched and went to a darker mix of colors.  Perhaps this car was seeing more leaked oil from equipment being moved on it.  Also I used a reweight stencil for "EUG" which is Eugene, Oregon, the heart of the SP's lumber operations in Oregon.  Much of the browns remain with streaks of gray and very dark gray, suggesting the wood's been staying wet and possibly getting more 'rotten' from the conditions.

SPMW 2186

SPMW 2186 with light-moderate deck damage and weathering effects.

The 2186's deck is modeled with more of the moderate weathering of only chipped board ends and a few gouges.  Much of the Freight Car Red 'overspray' can still be seen around the edges of the deck.  Some of the wood is turning darker gray-silver, with a few places rubbing into a lighter gray color.

On the SPMW 2186 the last reweigh "tare" date is November 1938 out of Brooklyn (Portland), Oregon.  This car went to MW service at that time, so for the LMRC's modeling era of 1950-1954 this car hasn't been reweighed for about 12-14 years.  Reweighing of non-revenue equipment is not required.  Obviously the car would still be getting lubrication and other very basic servicing done if by Carmen if it was still seeing regular movement in Company Service.

Therefore, I decided to weather it a bit lighter and more dusty as the car is going to be seen on the Tehachapi Pass modeled area.

SP 140234 - A 2-4 Year Old Car

Here's my model of SP 140224, built 1949 with a 'new-ish' deck.

The car above is my Red Caboose/Espee Models kitbash for an F-50-16, built in 1949, while the first few years of service have started to take their toll on the painted deck, and some parts are starting to gray, the deck's still in good shape.  Overspray from painting the sides of the car is still evident around the edges of the deck.

"It's a Weather Experiment..."

At least that's what I'll tell the policemen when they ask what the heck happened to this next car!

Prior Models with This Technique

PRR 435364, F22 class Gun-Flat

I'll be replacing several of the removed sections with ripped up individual wood strips.  I've done this type of modification to other flatcar models, including my PRR F22 flatcars (above & below).

PRR 925534, F22 class Gun-Flat

SP 140195 (Stand-In)

SP 140195, Athearn 40ft flat

In the early 2000's I modified an Athearn 40ft flat with an overhanging wood deck.  Starting with an Athearn model that had various holes in the deck for -boom tender equipment as I recall, I decided to break some of the deck boards and make the car look more interesting.

The three car's received a number of compliments over the years.  So, I'll try this with a new 'modern' model.

SPMW 3605

SPMW 3605 "Track & Maintenance" F-50-5 class

On the OwlMtModels' SPMW 3605 flatcar, I decided to experiment with heavily distressing the deck.  During construction of the model I cut and filed away several large chunks of the deck boards, keeping the floor stringers underneath.

On with the Experiment!

Deck for the SPMW 3605.  Yes, I changed my mind of which car would be numbered what!

The car was built normally with the exception of cutting away the molded upper deck boards near the two ends of the car.  I couldn't cut away more in the middle, because of the concealed weight located there.

Additional 'ripping up' of the deck at the A-end

So far in addition to the removed sections, I've experimented with a razor saw at various angles, scraping and gouging the deck as well as cutting with the normal sawing action.

I decided to remove a larger chunk of the B-end deck, resulting in this as SPMW 3605's heavily distressed deck.

Around the middle of the car I made several very deep cuts with the razor saw and also cut at low angles to shave off a layer of the 'wood' from a board or two.  In other areas I cut long chips out of single boards in a few places.  Followed by many small 'nicks' in the ends of the boards, where some rough handling of the loads or various tools would have exploited cracks in the wood, and a piece would have fallen off.

SPMW 3605 with a basic coat of gray weathering on the deck after painting the rest of the car and allowing some overspray.

In the photo above, I've not started the layering of the weathering effects on the deck.  I expect when I do, the board detail and damage that I put into it will be highlighted and more visible.

SPMW 3605 with basic weathering of the plastic deck boards.

Generally I would say, don't weather the plastic/resin parts before the real wood parts (as on the PRR car above), but I couldn't help myself!  I wanted to see what the ripped up parts of the deck looked like with washes and dry-brushing using my 3-4 colors of acrylics.

SPMW 3605 with the new distressed dimensional wood strips (boards) applied. I love the broken splinter on the upper right deck.

I went a bit "over-board" with how fragmented I cut up the real wooden pieces.  Something must have really torn up the deck in those areas.  I wanted to experiment with about four-five different techniques on one car... so if I  were to do it again, I'd choose only two or three styles of damaging the boards.

I repeated weathering steps about 3-4 times with darker washes, trying to bring out the details of the damage, but also put down highlights of the 'dust' and 'dirt' on a car in the Southern San Joaquin Valley.

One option that I think would probably be more realistic to do more damage to the plastic boards as I did on the rest of the deck.  The fully open (failed) sections would certainly be time to send it back for a few new boards... Or maybe another option is that the MW Foreman would just get a few boards and throw them loose on the deck to keep from falling through!

Here's the finished deck on the SPMW 3605.

While I used several techniques on the different sections of the 3605's deck, it's certainly become one of my favorite weathering jobs.  It's really an example of about as far as I would go in having rotted out boards on a car that was still 'in use' occasionally.

Unloved and uncared for, SPMW 3605 sits out at the lonely spur at Bena between assignments.

I ended up painting the wood pieces the same basic weathering gray-brown that I did for most of the rest of the deck, so at least most people don't think that it's a different material.

SPMW 3605 being switched at Bakersfield at LMRC.

I repeated the darker 'washes' of black to try to bring out the detail and make more shadows in the cracks and broken boards.  However also I was tempering this with the applications of 'mud' and 'dust' dry-brushing to simulate the accumulations on the tops of the boards of a car sitting for over eight years in the southern San Joaquin Valley sun.

In Closing

Fellow LMRC club member, Ted Haas has built several F-50-series kits.

Several people have done excellent reviews and even a video of building the model!  Tony Thompson's two posts on the F-50-series (New Flatcar kit from OwlMt and Building the OwlMt's flat car), RMC magazine review, and TSG Multimedia (Model Building Start to Finish)  have done excellent reviews and build videos.

Paul Doggett's finished F-50-10 in the UK.

There are some kits that after you've beat your way through assembling one or two, you really don't want to touch those kits again.  The OMM car's certainly not one of those kits.  I've probably built around 10 now over the last year or two.  I've been busy enough with other projects I've not had much time in the last 2-3 months for any of my kitbashing or modeling projects.  I look forward to having time to build more of these in the future and get into some kitbashing to make some sub-versions!

Batch assembling F-50-series kits!

When I do another of these kits I might try to make a video showing it, but the TSG Video on painting and decalling the kit (Building OMM F-50-Series Flatcar - Part 5) covers it very well.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

SP F-50-Series Flatcars by OwlMtModels (Part 1 & 2) Basic Body & Underframe and Brake Detailing - Video Instructions & Comments.

SP F-50-Series Flatcars by OwlMtModels (Part 3 & 4) Trucks & Couplers and Additional Comments & Stakepocket Techniques - Video Instructions & Comments.

Articles by Other Authors:

New Flatcar kit from OwlMt - by Anthony Thompson

Building the OwlMt's flat car - by Anthony Thompson

RMC magazine review of OwlMtModels F-50-Series Flatcar - by RMC review staff

Model Building HO Scale Owl Mountain Flatcar Kit 1 of 5 - TSG Multimedia build video

Model Building HO Scale Owl Mountain Flatcar Kit 2 of 5 - TSG Multimedia build video

Model Building HO Scale Owl Mountain Flatcar Kit 3 of 5 - TSG Multimedia build video

Model Building HO Scale Owl Mountain Flatcar Kit 4 of 5 - TSG Multimedia build video

Model Building HO Scale Owl Mountain Flatcar Kit 5 of 5 - TSG Multimedia build video