Saturday, June 22, 2019

SPMW 7419, CS-25-A - A Canteen for a Desert Railroad

As we're getting in the hot summer time of year, I'm looking at how the SP crews dealt with the dry desert and heat.  Modern air conditioning and refrigeration cause us to forget what it was like in the days before such technology existed.  One of the interesting features of the Southern Pacific is how much 'desert' territory the railroad operations through.  Critical to operations and even life in the desert is the supply of water.

Somewhat linked to this is the quality of the water in those areas, often laced with various salts and other scaling compounds which make steam engines work very poorly.  Foaming of the water in the boiler can lead to many problems, and in the worst case, boiler explosions when the foaming is so bad that bubbles are formed over the crown-sheet of the firebox.

SP 3660 works No.780 west of Bakersfield, this is around 1954 and washing the outside of the boiler's become a thing of the past. - Eddie Sims Collection.

"Canteen" Service

In some places this problem could be midigated with the use of  'anti-foaming' "Boiler Compound" which was added to the tender each time the engine took more water.  Some districts were so bad, even this didn't work. 

SP 3738 on the Salt Lake Division with a water 'Canteen' car behind the tender. Pre-1946 - Eddie Sims Collection

Across the Nevada Desert between Sparks and Ogden, the SP went so far as to use 12.5k gallon tank cars with hoses connecting to the tender's cistern (water tank).  This use of 'Canteen' cars dropped off as more 16k and 24k gallon tenders were assigned to engines on the Salt Lake Division.

SP 3704 with a large tender off an AC-9 often assigned to engines on the Salt Lake Division. - Eddie Sims Collection

Another place 'Canteen' cars were used was both the SP's Sunset Rwy branch out of Bakersfield and the Owenyo 'Jawbone' branch out of Mojave.  The Sunset had no water plugs for refilling the tenders on the whole branch, which was over 40 miles long.  The regular engine, SP 2914, used a water 'canteen' car out of Bakersfield when working to the outer ends of the branch.

SP 2914 leads the Sunset Rwy Local back to Bakersfield. - Notice the 'Canteen' car behind the tender. - Eddie Sims Collection.

The Owenyo Local often used a 'canteen' car when it used smaller engines with less than 12,000 gallon tenders.  Photos of C-class and T-class using the canteen cars can be found, while the Mk-2/4s seemed not to need them.  On the Jawbone, the only water sources were at Cantil (between Mojave and Searles) and Lennie (Between Searles/Inyokern and Olancha/Lone Pine/Owenyo).  Thus there was no water for engines at Owenyo where the local spent the night before returning.

SP 4449 & 4447 leads the R&HLS Excursion near Palmdale, returning from the Owenyo trip. - Oct 16, 1954 - Eddie Sims Collection

Even the October 1954 excursion of the SP 2335 and SP 2350 to Owenyo with a heavy weight passenger train carried a canteen car between the two engines.  Photos show the two engines sitting at Owenyo with the option of being back-to-back overnight and sharing the canteen to keep their water supply safe.

Emergency Water Relief

About a dozen potable water cars were sent to Tehachapi within a day of the 1952, 7.5 magnitude earthquake, as all the water supply pipes for the town and the railroad had been damaged.

Aerial photos of Tehachapi, surveying the earthquake damage, shows five 'water cars' near the collapsed tanks. - July 1952 Fairchild Aerial Surveys - LMRC Collection

In the photo above; the Tehachapi Depot can be seen at the far left, with Green Street next to it.  There are three FCR water cars and it would appear two black tank cars pressed into service as water cars.  Also of note are four ballast hoppers to the right of the tank cars loaded with ballast it would appear.

Modeling a 'Canteen' Car

Unpainted West Sde Models (WSM) SP "1905" Tank Car - CS-25-A class. - Jason Hill photo

Currently in HO, there aren't a lot of options for modeling a 'Canteen' car, but one of the easiest is the West Side Models (WSM) CS-25-A tank car, which formed the SP's fleet of 'older' canteen cars.

An SPMW Outfit rests at Bealville spur at the La Mesa Model Railroad Club in San Diego. A black water car is assigned today.

These mostly were assigned by the 1940s to MoW outfits away from water sources.  The MoW outfits could use both potable (for drinking and cooking) and non-potable (for construction, etc) water cars.  Notice in the photo above the ~2" water pipe at the bottom of the tank end, with a globe valve.  These valves were commonly located on each end and sometimes the side of these water cars.

The Starting Point

As stated before, this project is using one of the West Side Models CS-25-A tank cars.

Side view of CS-25-A

These cars had a 'flatcar style' underframe.  The SP and many other railroads were only starting to get the idea of how to build tank cars and what was really needed in the design.  Remember this was only the second 'Common Standard' tank car plan the SP had built.

3/4 view of a CS-25-A tank car.

The concept of a 'center anchor' for the tank was still 15 or so years off in the future, so these cars went with seven tank bands with cradle bolsters, a heavy wooden block secured at each end of the frame to keep the tank centered (including two tie-rods the length of the tank!) and two steel straps around the ends of the tank.

Higher angle 3/4 view of CS-25-A tank car.

These tank cars didn't really have dome vents, and were built before the 2% Rule, to allow for liquid expansion when heated, later cars would have larger domes to comply with these design 'Rules', along with safety vents.


Pretty much not much to say here, the whole body and underframe are airbrush Painted with Star Brand SP/UP Freight Car Red.

A completed coat of paint, ready for decalling. 

A nice top view shows off the high-level walkways and handrails.

A bottom view shows off the complicated 'flatcar' style underframe these cars had.

The treads of the wheels will be cleaned off with paint thinner before the car is completed.  Couplers also need to be installed still.

Body Modifications

SPMW 7419, along with many of the other CS-25-As were modified and upgraded over the years.  The 7419 probably received a center anchor for the tank, and had the straps around the ends removed at some point, (per the color photo below in the Decalling section).

Close up of modified CS-25-A without the tank end straps.

I removed the bands on the model by 'popping' the solder joints carefully and removing them.  The soldered areas across the ends of the tank were cut and pried loose with an old X-acto blade.  Some 'scarring' here is ok, because many of the prototype cars had various angle iron or plates attached to the end of the tank to keep these straps from 'migrating' during service and falling off the tank end if the turnbuckles became loose.

After removing the straps, I touched up the paint with the airbrush again with the same color.


SPMW 7419 'Canteen' servicing with SP outfit 'Bunk' car in the background. - Eddie Sims Collection

Lettering for the SPMW 7419 is very plain.  Most of the decals will come from MicroScale's SPMW decal set #87-155 for the reporting marks and "WATER CAR" stenciling.  The smaller lube stencils will come from left over data on OwlMtModels' 1210 dWhite F-50-Series Decal set.

Side view of SPMW 7419 with completed decals. 

The fine decals on the frame from left to right are air brake testing dates, probably some comments about use of the valves or the last date the tank was cleaned, and at the far right, the journal repack dates.

In Closing

3/4 view of SPMW 7419 with completed decals.

I'll be showing a bit more of this car as the weathering is finished on it as well.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Modeling an SPMW Supply Train (Part 1)

Modeling SPMW cars with Musical Parts (Part 1)

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