Saturday, September 22, 2018

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi (Part 7) - Santa Fe Locals

While I've covered the 55/56 'Super Locals' and Valley Fruit Pickups briefly in the previous post, I wanted to devote one blog article specifically to the local operations around Bakersfield by the Santa Fe.

Busy times in the Santa Fe Bakersfield Yard at LMRC, San Diego, CA.

Bakersfield Locals

ATSF 966 leads the Arvin Road Switcher out the Arvin Branch at Algoso.

Arvin Branch

The Arvin Branch as modeled at the La Mesa Model Railroad Club is quite compressed from the prototype, however it still boasts a robust number of car spots and operation interest during both the AM and PM shifts for up to two locals during peak season.

The modeled branch has about 100 car spots at industries in three 'stations' plus additional car 'storage' tracks and run-arounds.

Magunden on the double track 'Joint Line' on the left and the branch switch leading to the Arvin Branch to the right.

The junction point for the Branch is Magunden.  There is an 18 car 'storage' track here where cars can be left for other trains, I'll get to using this shortly.

Arvin Branch track and industry chart.

Algoso is the first station on the branch, just across the Edison Highway from Magunden.  Algoso has one spur serving the Golden H Packing Shed.

The second town on the branch is DiGiorgio, which in real life was continous on the linear main track as it jogged south, east, and south again through the southern San Joaquin Valley, south of the Joint Line.  DiGiorgio has a run around track, several packing sheds, and a sugar beet dump.  On the LMRC model, the end of the space for the branch is reached at DiGiorgio and the branch is continued with a switchback.

Arvin is the end of the branch.  Arvin has two storage tracks for the local crews to drill empties and loads.  There are four potato packing sheds and a two-track Team Track.  The club may eventually decide to install a folding wye, however currently no plans are in motion to build the wye.

Kern Jct. - Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, & Sunset Rwy

Santa Fe's Kern Jct Tower controls the western junction point with the Southern Pacific Joint Line over Tehachapi.

With the addition in recent years of the Santa Fe's Bakersfield Yard, all operations to the Arvin Branch are now have a substantially longer main-line run and more interesting experience at the working junction with the Southern Pacific and Sunset Railway at Kern Junction.  This can mean waiting for other traffic to clear and a bit of a delay to get the Clearance, check the register, etc.

Arvin Road Switcher

The Arvin Road Switcher, with the ATSF 2690, switches the Golden H Packing shed at Algoso\

The first Arvin job I'm going to talk about is the Arvin Road Switcher.  This is the 'regular' job.  At LMRC we have this regular job go on-duty at about 8:30-9:01AM.  This job when using diesel engines often is left at Arvin for 2-4 days of regular switching work, only returning to Bakersfield when the engine needs fuel or servicing.  Steam engines are sometimes rotated with the Arvin Turn so that the fresh engine from the Arvin Turn stays on the branch to work.

The unique Diamond Potato Packer's shed with open sides.

The Arvin Road Switcher works continuously as needed until around 5:01PM, possibly as late as Midnight.

Packing sheds of Gold Ribbon Potatoes (background) and Arvin Potato Packers' Arvin Shed (foreground).  The two storage tracks are in the middle.

As the traffic flow fluctuates with the movement of the AT Drag's down the hill from Barstow to Bakersfield, the switching load for the Road Switcher will change.  This can even effect the spotting of cars.  Generally the traffic department forecasts the number of empty SFRD 40ft reefers needed on the Arvin Branch for a couple of days ahead of time.  The forecast will list how many cars are needed by various useful times, usually corresponding to the peak loading hours on the branch.

The concept of 'just-in-time' logistics is still many years in the future.  However the modeled railroad plant does not have the 120+ reefer cleanout and mechanical facility to absorb the next days' number of empty reefers.  The result is that usually the club's pool of SFRD reefers turns about once a day or once every 18 hours.  This usually means that most of the SFRD fleet will have cycled by the same time the next day and roughly should be in place to go again.

 Waycar 1364 is assigned Regular Arvin Road Switcher.

The main thing to remember about the Arvin Road Switcher is that it is the 'regular job' with a regular on-duty time.  Usually the crew will take about 45-60 minutes off around lunch time, this is to allow the Taft/Sunset Local crew to use the same aisle space without interfering with each other.

Arvin Turn

ATSF 3518 backs the Arvin Turn westward towards Bakersfield as the waycar of the SCX-BI blasts by on the East Main Track.

The Arvin Turn 'symbol' is used to shuttle empty reefers to the Arvin Branch from Bakersfield and return the loads from the branch to Bakersfield for movement over the road.  The Turns do just that.  They leave Santa Fe Bakersfield Yard, rumble through Kern Jct. onto the Joint Line to Magunden, then give whatever empty cars to the Arvin Road Switcher, during the 'Day' shift, after the Arvin Road Switcher's duty time the Turn will preform the needed switching work.

Waycar 1941 is regularly assigned to the Arvin Turn and Night Arvin jobs during LMRC operation days.

The main thing to remember about the Arvin Turn job is called when needed; either traffic needing to go to Arvin or be brought back from Arvin before the regular cut-off times (5:01PM for BK-symbol, and the passenger trains for express reefers).

Express Reefers:

Express Reefers internally weren't that different than their 'normal' ice reefer cousins.  The main difference was external, in the mechanical structure and fittings the cars have.  High-speed trucks, steel wheels, steam and signal piping, and passenger UC-type brake systems made these cars suited to high-speed 90 MPH running in the premier transcontinental mail and passenger trains.  Many express reefers were also painted in complex passenger schemes with lots of striping.

Railway Express Agency express reefer, REX 6158 at Golden H Packing in Algoso, rated for 90 MPH passenger service.

Railway Express Agency, purchased a batch of new steel reefers in 1947 with a pretty green and red stripped scheme.  Being one of the largest operators of express reefers, REA soon returned many of these cars to their standard simple green scheme with fake-gold lettering before the 1953 change to the large REA red herald on the side of the car.

ATSF 2724 rolls through Kern Jct with an Arvin Turn and a string of express reefers for the table grape growers at Arvin.

"Night" Arvin Turn

The largest table grape producer in the world is at Arvin and regularly ships express reefers on the passenger and mail trains out of Bakersfield.  To service this traffic a 'Night Turn' is called after the empty express reefers arrive at the Santa Fe Bakersfield Ice Deck and are sent out to Trino Cold Storage and the Arvin Team Track.  Occasionally, Golden H Packing at Algoso ships out a couple of express reefers with 'First Harvest' loads during the early part of the season for each crop.

Santa Fe No.7 (Mail) meets Santa Fe No.4 (California Limited) at Bealville.  Note, that No.4 has five express reefers at the head-end.

These cars need to be picked up around 1-3AM to make the connections with the night Santa Fe (No.24 Grand Canyon or No.4 California Limited) and SP (Nos.55/56 Mail, and No.59 West Coast) passenger trains at Bakersfield.

Comments about the Arvin Branch jobs

Arvin Branch (left) and Taft "Sunset Rwy" Branch (right) at La Mesa Model Railroad Club

Normally around Noon the Arvin Road Switcher crew 'goes to lunch' as the Taft Local crew leaves Bakersfield to work the branch on the opposite side of the aisle.  One of the frequent comments about the Arvin District is that it's about the prefect size for many home model railroads as a stand-alone layout!  The three regular jobs that work the branch are usually high on the list of operators during TT/TO sessions at the LMRC's events.  The Road Switcher job varies day to day in work load and timing but is always a way to stay busy for 6-10 hours, as the Turns help feed the branch, and the "Night Job" works solo with the hot express traffic.

Sunset Rwy.

During the current operating scheme, the Sunset Rwy is operated by the Southern Pacific.

Edison District

During the current operating scheme, the Edison District is operated by the Southern Pacific.

Valley "Phantom Locals"

At LMRC the majority of the Santa Fe's locals currently are 'Phantom Locals' which operate out of the modeled Santa Fe Bakersfield Yard into 'Valley Staging' at Landco and Jastro, en route to Calwa (Fresno) farther up the 'valley'.  These trains don't work any real industries, only phantom industries, thus the name.

These trains have been hard for me to get any photos of during the actual sessions, but the basic businesses of any small town in the US during the 1950s apply to them.  In addition to the regular fuel dealer, general store, lumber yard, feed and grain, team track, etc many of these towns served the heavy agricultural growing areas of their parts of the San Joaquin Valley, both with canned goods shipments or perishable loads.

Symbol 55/56 "Super Locals" 

The 55/56 Local usually uses one or two GP7s or an AB set of FTs, and occasionally a small Santa Fe steam engine.

This local works all the packing sheds and other industries in the towns up and down the San Joaquin Valley between Bakersfield and Calwa (Fresno) and then returns the next day.  Extra 'Fruit Pickups' are run in season to deal with the extra perishable traffic generated in this area.

ATSF 1421 is the regularly assigned 55/56 "Super Local" waycar.

Unfortunately, during the September 2018 TT/TO session at LMRC, I wasn't able to get a shot of 55/56 being built or operating west of Bakersfield.  I'll try again next time!

Valley Fruit Pickups

Two Santa Fe GP7s pull a string of SFRD and foreign reefers into Bakersfield.

The Santa Fe seasonally operates 'Fruit Pickups' to deal with all the extra perishable traffic generated between Bakersfield and Calwa (Fresno) each year.  This traffic may also include canned goods.  Generally the Fruit Pickups are referred to by the town that they did their work in.  So you have the Porterville Fruit Pickup (PFPU) - we sometimes end up calling it the 'Puff Poo', Hanford Fruit Pickup (HFPU) and the Visalia Fruit Pickup (VFPU).  The 1st District Local also ends up looking very similar with the mainline pickups coming off the Valley Division.

SFRD 34702, a typical example of a Santa Fe Refrigerated Department reefer used through out the San Joaquin Valley.

Bakersfield Yard Jobs

Santa Fe Yard under the watchful eye of Paul Voss on January 8th, 1953 at 5:25AM.

The Santa Fe's Bakersfield yard is fairly large, which includes a massive Ice Deck for through and originating loads.  The prototype also has a huge repair and conditioning facility for SFRD reefers to the south of the ice deck and engine terminal, unfortunately the LMRC model does not have room for those extensive facilities, and cuts them off in the back-drop south of the ice deck and roundhouse.

A nice side view of the main massive SFRD ice deck at Bakersfield.  BK and SCX in the foreground, roughly the same time as the shot below.

One quirk of the Santa Fe Bakersfield yard is that the 'caboose track' or Waycar Track as the Santa Fe called them, was located on Track 9, just north of the fire access road.  The west end of Track 9 was the scale track for the yard.

A busy time in the Santa Fe yard on January 7th, 1953 as a string of BK-symbol cars are being switched.

In the photo above, a BK-symbol on Track 4 is being switched on the lead, probably the SFRD block from the ice deck is being added to the head-end and picking up several loaded lumber cars for the rear end.  On Track 3 the SCX-G is getting ready to leave after the BK.  On Track 5, a CWE is arriving with three GP7s on the front.  The little Alco yard engine on Track 7 is switching what appears to be BTX cars.  The 'Night' Arvin Turn is preparing to depart on Track 11 with a string of express reefers.  Another BK-symbol section is being prepared on Track 2 behind the SCX's engines, this train will still have to get a 'turn' to move the non-reefers to the west end of the train before departure.

Bakersfield Yard

The Santa Fe yard uses a variety of Alco S-series switchers including; S-1, S-2, and S-4s.  GP7s are also used on occasion.  ATSF steam switchers used range from 0-8-0s in the 860-class up through 900 and 1600-class 2-10-2s and 3160, 3200, and 4000-class 2-8-2 Mikes.

The modeled yard at LMRC is usually switched from the east end, where two ladders can allow a pair of switchers to work without interfering with each other.  The west end of the yard transitions to staging, and wraps around a corner as it transitions to being accessed by a different aisle.  Therefore most work is done on the east end.

Passenger Switching!

No.23 arrives as connecting Golden Gate waits for the through cars to be transferred before shooting off to Richmond.

The Santa Fe Yard at Bakersfield is also the home of the majority of the passenger train switching on the Tehachapi Sub-Division during the early 1950s.  Usually two 6-6-4 sleepers and two or three lightweight chair cars from the Grand Canyon, No.23, connect with one of the two daily Bakersfield-Richmond all streamlined Golden Gates.

The eastward mail train, No.6 arrives early and lays over while transferring mail and waiting for the arrival of the eastward connecting Golden Gate with the through cars for the Grand Canyon, No.24, which originates at Bakersfield.

Second 4's engines moving to their train at Bakersfield, which will consist mostly of loaded express reefers.

Later in the day No.4, the California Limited cruises through Bakersfield, changing engines and picking up any extra express reefers.

No.4 running about 10 minutes late holds the main track and meets No.7 at Bealville.

No.7, the Fast Mail, arrives late in the day and usually has a block of empty express reefers for local loading along with the mail and express.

Transfer Yard - Kern Jct.

SP's interchange preparing to work at Kern Jct.

Research has shown that Bakersfield was the primary interchange point for Santa Fe traffic for the SP served customers in the San Fransisco Bay Area.  The small three track yard prototypically crosses multiple city streets, which requires splitting up each string of interchanged cars.

Bay Area autopart car traffic moving back to the east coast plants.

This interchanged route is where a sizable percentage of the westward Santa Fe merchandise traffic goes, as the Santa Fe didn't want the traffic over-working the small Richmond yards, which were at capacity with the Santa Fe's own local traffic in the Bay Area.

Steel and other eastern loads interchanging to the SP for local destinations and movement to the Bay Area.

A few more cars sitting in the western end of the interchange yard.

The interchange traffic for local SP destinations include some traffic interchange routed to the Oil City Branch and the Sunset Railway.  Kern Steel Co. is a steel fabricating and foundry near Kern Jct.,

The Santa Fe's Freight House as modeled is really only big enough for the express and mail traffic.

Among the largest local traffic receivers off the Santa Fe at Bakersfield is the Kern County Land Warehouse (ex-SP freight house) and the Jackson St. Team Track (shown off Tulare St on records) replace our severely compressed Santa Fe freight house next to the station.

Combined operations at LMRC's Bakersfield Freight House.

The Kern County Land Warehouse is currently used as a combined SP/Santa Fe Freight House.  Santa Fe used Western Car Loading Co. as their contracted freight forwarder at the Santa Fe Freight Houses.  Eventually this whole warehouse will be used by the Santa Fe on the model, as the SP will be moving to their new Freight House facility to the west.

Oil City Switcher

The Santa Fe uses Alco S-1s when they operate the Oil City Branch, however during current LMRC operations the Oil City Branch is operated by the Southern Pacific.  Currently the Oil City Branch is not connected to either the Santa Fe or the Southern Pacific, but will probably be connected to the Southern Pacific first when the new bridge is complete.

Mojave Locals

Mojave Turn

Santa Fe 2106 in the backround and Mojave Switcher SP 1310 shuffling cars.

The Mojave Turn usually works with a Alco RSD-4, Santa Fe 2106 or a pair of GP7s.  Occasionally one of the Mojave based helpers in the 3800-class will rotate to Barstow for shopping on the local.

The Santa Fe 'Mojave Local' works out of Barstow and works Boron on the way to Mojave and the way back.  The Santa Fe's company oil needs are also served by this train working the Consolidated Fuel Pipeline rack complex on the Santa Fe's old mainline, just east of Mojave.

In Closing

Crews check their paperwork at the SP Yard in Bakersfield in January 1953.

I hope you've enjoyed the closer look at the Santa Fe's local operations on the Tehachapi Joint Line.  Now that these basic train symbol and job descriptions have been covered, I'll be starting to dig into some of the other interesting operations of the traffic flows and the jobs that control those aspects of the operations in the future posts in this series.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - Index Page

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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