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.


  1. Very interesting freight operations. The Santa-Fe F-units are well done.

    Stefan Christen, Switzerland

    1. Thank you. The Santa Fe F-units are mostly combinations of Athearn-Genesis (F7s) and Stewart (FT and F7) models finished by other club members.
      Jason Hill


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