Friday, August 3, 2018

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - (Part 3) - SP East

This is the third in my 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 cover the SP West Symbols in Part 2.

SP 4249 helps a freight upgrade into Caliente with a VXE-symbol freight.

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.

Eastward Through Symbols

In this post at first glance, we'll be looking at many 'duplicate' symbols.  However, as we looks deeper at the various eastward SP symbols over Tehachapi Pass, the different 'levels' of service show themselves.  Basically, selection of the symbol (grouping of similar service traffic provided by that symbol and connections to routing getting to the destination), the published 'protecting' categories of type of car, the load, and the physical routing show what symbols do what.  The SSE for example is a much faster symbol moving through yards and 100-mile inspections, compared to even trains like VXE.  While most of these symbols move as 3rd Class schedules on the Timetable, or occasionally as Extras with basically the same speed limits on the road, the 'hotter' symbols make faster trips from Roseville to Los Angeles because of the shorter dwell times at the intermediate yards at Fresno and Bakersfield.

VME - "Overnight"

SP 4293 leads the VME-29 up through Bealville with a large number of express reefers on the 29th of December, 1952.

The VME symbol runs from Fresno to Los Angeles with express reefers loaded with perishables and mostly empty returning "Overnight" express boxcars.  The VME usually runs as No.446 from Fresno to Bakersfield, but the prototype ETT's show the Second Class schedule ending there.  The VME symbol would then continue either as an Extra train or be run under one of the Third Class, 800-series freights, probably a section of No.808 in the evening after a 6:00PM cutoff time.  I'll get more into Cutoff times in a future post.

TOFC - Trailer-on-Flat-Car

SP 142411, TOFC equipped F-70-7 for PMT 22ft trailers. (both flatcar and trailers SPH&TS model)

The symbol picks up at Bakersfield any "Overnight" cars ready to return to LA and express reefers.  After March 1953 this could also include the PMT's TOFC (Trailer-on-Flatcar) traffic which supplemented the "Overnight" Service.  Bakersfield was among the first group of stations to receive TOFC loading ramps in March of 1953.

SSE - Sunset East

SP 4255 leads a long string of boxcars of canned goods east through Caliente.

The Sunset East symbol originates in Roseville, usually as a "cab-hop", picking up priority merchandise loads, primarily canned goods out of the San Joaquin Valley heading east to El Paso and beyond to eastern cities.  Sometimes VXE traffic (described below) would fill the SSE symbol.

Eastern 'plain' boxcars, such as this 'Wagon Top' B&O car were reloaded as often as possible when returning home.

Generally any empty cars returning on reverse-rights to eastern railroads would be moved where there was capacity, filling on VXE or running on BFX and other 'Shorts' trains.  Traffic flow during the 1940s and 1950s generally went something like this: East Coast merchandise traffic westward to consumer cities, then the foreign cars would be reloaded with what food-stuffs (Canned goods, etc) or raw materials (lumber, paper, etc) and filled in when needed with home-road cars.  So the process of having foreign empty cars returning eastward towards home on symbols which were easily accessible by the yards originating locals to the canneries and growing areas worked well.  What is not desirable is to put the foreign cars that could be reloaded on symbols that would be routed directly to Los Angeles, and eastward if there was the possibility to reload them before Los Angeles.

VXE - Valley Extra East

The VXE is the general 'catch-all' symbol used to move eastward freight from Roseville to Los Angeles (Taylor Yard), this technically also includes perishable traffic.  However, the VXE symbol is more of a family with several sub-symbols we'll be looking at next; the RV, F, and SJ-blocks.  I know it's confusing, but there are several symbols that work this way.  From what we've gathered the SP didn't use the VXE symbol name itself on the perishables blocks, favoring simply referred to them by the RV, F, and SJ-block designations, and the VXE was used for everything else, non-perishable.  I'm a little torn on the sugar beet cars, I could see them being sent on VXE since they'll be getting switched and redirected at Taylor Yard, as opposed to Colton, which is where the SJ/F/RV blocks would be sent with minimal switching, and mostly bypassing work at Taylor Yard.

M.P. Bording (YM), and his crews work the SP yard at Bakersfield making up trains per the Chief Dispatcher's directives.

The general freight routed for movement on VXE could also be 'filled' on other through symbols (OCM, PSS, etc) as there was capacity, but I'll discuss that more when we get into the advanced concepts of the Chief Dispatcher and combining of symbols.  For now just remember that the VXE exists to move general freight from Roseville to Los Angeles.

RV-n - Roseville (Reefer Block)

A PFE reefer block swings through the curve at Caliente, climbing eastward to Tehachapi Summit.

The RV-symbol was used to move loaded perishable reefer traffic from Roseville to Colton to be combined into C-blocks for movement east on the Sunset and Golden State Routes.  The symbol system used for the RV, F, and SJ blocks carried a sequential number from the first day of the year, for example RV-1 would be from the first block on 1st of January.  RV-2 would be used for the next block, whether or not it was on the 1st of January or any later date.  The numbers would continue until December 31st, when the system would start again.  This was used to keep positive track of cars and their movement all the way to the destination.  In case of combinations, the newer, shorter traveled symbol would be absorbed into the older symbol.

F-n - Fresno (Reefer Block)

No. 780 with SP 3660 works a block of PFEs somewhere west of Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley. - Eddie Sims Collection

The F-symbol was used for Frenso originating perishable reefer traffic, similar to the RV-symbol.  The traffic forming the F-symbol would have been gathered up by the haulers and locals operating out of Fresno, where as the RV-symbol traffic came through the Roseville yard 'hub'.  Visually there was basically no difference between an RV and F-block. 

There was usually a RV-block every day, F-blocks were a little more rare, as they could be combined and fill into RV-block symbols, and this would be a point I'll talk about in the future with planning and predicting traffic routings.

Eastward Lumber Symbols

The SP moves lumber eastward on three primary symbols.  A "Long East" called the PSS, a train to LA called the OCM, and a "Shorts" train called the BFX to Bakersfield, which then connects to Santa Fe trains.

Typical SP lumber hauling cars.

Let's look at some of the cars used in these trains.


NWP 4474 with lumber load near Ilmon.  (prototype OMM 3004 load shown)

The building boom in the post-WWII era in the central and southern states lead to the operation of Portland-LA and Portland-Sunset Route lumber symobls.  These symbols could also be used to move other minor traffic, but the dominant traffic out of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) was lumber related, paper, etc.

New F-70-7 class car in lumber service at Caliente. (kitbashed OMM 3001 load on RC/EspeeModels flatcar)

After 1949, the 2300 new F-70-6/7 class flatcars became dominant in lumber service, replacing the F-50-series as the front line lumber flatcars.

"Automobile" - Lumber Boxcars

SP 65301 returns to Oregon empty for another load of finished lumber.

SP was also famous for their double door 40 and 50ft boxcars (Auto-class cars) were often used for finished lumber.


SP 160172, a G-70-12 with a load of lumber.  Tangent 70-Ton ACF gondola with OwlMtModels 3005 Lumber Load.

Gondolas of both 40, 52, and 65ft lengths, supplemented the flatcars and gondolas when additional cars were needed.

Ok, enough of the cars, let's see the symbols that moved all this lumber!

PSS - Portland-Sunset

A PSS arrives at Bakersfield with a full consist of lumber loads.

The PSS symbol operated usually one or two sections per day and occasionally an Advance Section (Adv-PSS) if sufficient traffic was ready before the normal cutoff time.  These symbols operated through Los Angeles's Taylor Yard to the east.

Foreign Cars & 'Rollers'

B&O 259798 hauls a load of lumber on a return course to the East Coast. Tangent 70-Ton Bethlehem Gon with OwlMtModels 3005 Load.

Remember also that the SP and Santa Fe could use the regularly issued AAR's Service Car Orders (SCO) to 'capture' foreign owned cars of certain road names to use in local loading.  They could even direct foreign empties anywhere on the west coast to get a 'Long East' load for east of the Mississippi River!

PRR 475260, a Bowser F30A flatcar with a return load of lumber for the Eastern States. OwlMtModels 3001 Lumber Load.

Much of the lumber shipped in the 1950s were 'Rollers' or cars shipped east without being sold to a specific receiver.  These shipments would be brokered en route and redirected at certain 'gateways' along the way.  In theory some of these 'Rollers' could be sold to a customer short of the Mississippi, but would probably make it at least off the SP before being rerouted if on the PSS.

OCM - Oregon-California Manifest

A OCM lumber block, with helpers cutting in at Baker St. (Notice the tank cars in the lumber block)

The OCM was a more mixed make-up train with a majority being lumber product related shipments.  The OCM symbol is shown as a strictly PNW-LA traffic, which the PSS was not supposed to handle.  This resulted in a bit more general traffic in the consists.  For PNW short traffic, which was going to destinations short of Los Angeles, would be handled on the BFX, described below.

Eastward Bakersfield Sub. Symbols

The symbols which do not continue across both the Bakersfield, Tehachapi, and Mojave Sub-Divisions will take an even longer dwell time in the yards before moving again, therefore through cars generally should not be routed via these 'Shorts' symbols.

AE - Altamont East

SP 3654 working the 'flip side' of the AE, the AW between Lathrop and Tracy. - Eddie Sims Collection

The AE was the primary "direct" route from the Bay Area to Bakersfield, via Altamont Pass.  However some lower priority or slower traffic could be directed from Oakland to Roseville via the Cal-P or over Altamont Pass on other symbols, and redirected at Tracy and Fresno, arriving at Bakersfield on the BFX.

Auto-Parts Traffic

NYC 176245 operates as a pooled Auto-Parts car, returning AE to Bakersfield, then to the Santa Fe for movement to Chicago.

The AE's main traffic include returning 'Boarded Empty' Auto Parts cars from the Bay Area.  These cars were 'hot' whether or not they were loaded, which meant with full waybills, not on reverse-rights.  Also these cars were in various 'pools' often with racks inside for particular parts.  The pools were contributed to by the various RR's over which the pool operated, and the number assigned by the mileage of each RR's haul.  Most of the AE's Auto-Parts traffic routed to the Santa Fe at Bakersfield.  It wasn't uncommon to see traffic held for the auto-parts cars to make the connections, or if the traffic was split, to run a second train for even one straggling auto-parts car.

Santa Fe Interchange Traffic

Santa Fe Bakersfield yard crew pulls a string of interchange cars out of the three track interchange yard at Kern Jct.

The rest of the AE's consists mostly of returning Santa Fe merchandise cars to interchange on reverse-rights at Bakersfield.  The Santa Fe wanted to avoid congestion at their Richmond Yard, so interchanged the traffic to SP destinations in the San Fransisco Bay Area at Bakersfield.  Other traffic on the AE consisted of cement empties heading back to Monolith cement plant.  Other loads from the ports of Oakland and San Fransisco could be seen as well.  Tank cars with petroleum and petro-chemical traffic could also be seen on the AE from the various refineries along the Cal-P.

BFX - Bakersfield Fresno Extra

 An ex-EPSW, Mk-9 class, SP 3322, working No.780 between Fresno (possibly Roseville) and Bakersfield. - Eddie Sims Collection

The BFX symbol operated short eastward traffic from Roseville to Fresno and Bakersfield.  The BFX is the primary symbol for moving eastward cars for the locals around Bakersfield and Mojave.  Much of this traffic originated and came to Roseville on the Overland route from the east and from the PNW to the north. 

SP's BFX-7 shown in the switchlist below with 3696 and 4352 double heading into Bakersfield from Fresno.

Page 1 of the BFX-7's switchlist showing all the routings and destinations of the cars.

The BFX handles the Roseville-Bakersfield traffic, also picking up cars from Tracy at Stockton heading east as well.  This train today has a good mix of traffic to the Sunset East, Mojave Shorts, VXE, Local destinations, Local freights, and Santa Fe symbols and destinations.  Also notice there are a couple of cars listed as BK Yard, which are going to the Agent at the SP Yard for assignment as empties to fill local loading requirements, probably on the Porterville Local or the cotton compress at Taft.

The back of the switchlist continues with more cars, many heading to the Santa Fe.

Let's look a bit closer at some of the regular traffic on the BFX.

Petroleum Tank Cars

Union Oil of California was a large shipper of oil and petroleum products out of the North San Fransisco Bay refineries.

Petroleum and Chemical traffic could also be seen on the BFX from the various refineries along the Cal-P.

Chemical Tank Cars

Shell Chemical Co. cars and Stauffer's Chemical cars could be seen also transiting Tehachapi to and from the SF Bay Area.

Liquid Sugar Tank Cars

Also the SP's distinctive 'Liquid Sugar' tankcars with the "Diamond S" on the domes operated from the cane sugar plant at Crockett.

SP's liquid sugar equipped tankcars with the "Diamond S" on the domes operated out of Crockett.

Interchanged Lumber Traffic

In the Santa Fe Yard, SCX is the train second from the right with an open lumber load and BK is filling with some open lumber loads on the next track to the left.

The BFX symbols also moved lumber down from Roseville for local destinations and interchange to the Santa Fe for destinations in Southern California (SCX) and east of Barstow (BK or N-34).

'Haulers' (Pixley, Porterville, Earlimart, Goshen, etc)

SP 2349 probably working in the San Joaquin Valley on Local, Switching, or seasonal Hauler jobs. - Eddie Sims Collection

While these seasonal 'Haulers' might come very close to crossing the line into 'Locals', however they did not replace the symbols and locals which 'regularly' worked the towns.  As such, I'm going to list them here, as they're symbols that picked up and set out blocks, generally for the locals and switch engines to work within a town, while the Hauler moved on to the next town.

Coalinga Local departing Bakersfield with a mix of cars.

Wine Service Tank Cars & Reefers

California Dispatch Lines (CDLX) operated a fleet of tank cars, with a large number of bulk wine-stock cars.

Fresno, like Bakersfield, would have these additional trains called to work certain towns in the valley in addition to the BFX 'Shorts' trains working towards Bakersfield, picking up loads and distributing empties of 'normal traffic' levels to the local towns.  The 'Haulers' traffic was dominated by extra produce reefers, sugar beets, canned goods, wine cars (inbound supplies in boxcars, and outbound in reefers, and bulk wine-stock in tank cars), box shook (for the packing sheds), and various other 'generic' merchandise traffic, commonly consumed by small towns (merchandise - lcl, lumber, building material yards, fuel distributors, etc.).

SP 2850 and T&NO 910 working 'Haulers' and TMW, BFX, VXW, etc. in and out of Bakersfield.

The engines used on 'Haulers' vary as the traffic levels require, anything from a 'Deck' (2-10-2), down to a 2-6-0 or 2-8-0 were commonly seen.

Eastward Tehachapi Sub. Symbols

SJ-n - San Joaquin (Reefer Block)

SP 6461, with dual-service F-units prepare to leave Bakersfield with a SJ-block of reefers.

The SJ-blocks originated from locally gathered perishable reefers at Bakersfield.  Like the RV and F blocks moved from the San Joaquin Valley to Colton, via Los Angeles.

MSE - Mojave Shorts (East)

Rare double heading Decks, SP 3701 & 3712, prepare to depart with a MSE symbol from Bakersfield.

"Mojave Shorts" operates eastward out of Bakersfield to Mojave.  The cars in the symbol area worked between Bena and Mojave, then the consist is dropped off at Mojave to be switched.  The cars arriving at Mojave from local originations (Trona, Jawbone Branch, Blitz Local, and KI Locals) loads or empties forward on a new block out of Mojave.  Any through traffic from Bakersfield to points short of LA, but past Mojave will take an extra day to be reclassified at Mojave before continuing.

Company Materials - MoW Supply Cars

SPMW 560, assigned to Supply service, often working out of Los Angeles or Sacramento General Shops.

Traffic on the MSE commonly includes: local company service cars (MW cars out of Sacramento and/or Bakersfield), merchandise cars for points short of Los Angeles, traffic to the towns of Caliente and Tehachapi supporting local business.  The cement traffic for Monolith and Trona Rwy dominate the tonnage.

Other Symbols

Livestock Specials

Livestock Specials are operated as needed on any subdivision in either direction.  Livestock movements fall into two main categories: Pasture movement which is seasonal and Slaughter movements of the livestock moving to market.

The SSE-6 with a livestock block at the headend rolls through Rowen

Over Tehachapi on the SP, through livestock generally moved on the faster symbols: Westward - NCP, VXW and Eastward on VXE, or SSE

SP 2850 leads a Livestock Special, often with a 'Drover's' car, which on the SP is usually an older coach.

Legal record of keep track of the 24 or 36 hour law compliance for keeping the livestock in the cars before being allowed out to rest and water.  This record was kept Dispatchers wrote down the 24 and 36 hour times and which symbol the livestock is moving on.

SP Local & Switching Jobs

SP 2587 works some PFE reefers at a packing shed, a sight repeated in dozens of towns in the San Joaquin Valley - Eddie Sims Collection

The SP Local & Switching Jobs will be covered in Part 4.

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.

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