Sunday, November 17, 2019

Tehachapi Operations : Part 2 - The "Mojave Shorts West"

For over a year I've been debating how I want to broach the next steps in the topic of the freight symbol system we use at LMRC and spotting guide for the various 'signature blocks' which the LMRC Car Clerks and Chief Dispatchers use to determine what the restaging work should do and what the new symbol will be returning onto the modeled portion of the layout.  I don't believe any one post will be able to cover any serious depth in these topics, so I'll start nibbling away with a post in-depth on one symbol or type of car movement at a time, hopefully that I've been able to get some decent photos of to keep the posts 'pretty'.

In the last post (Tehachapi Operations: Part 1 - Mountain Work Train) we looked at the extreme close-up action of the Mountain Work Train doing its work and only lightly touching on the supporting system of 'Shorts', through freights that do basic pickups and setouts between Mojave and Bakersfield.

Mojave Yard Engine works local cars on the Mojave Shorts West. January 14th, 1953.

So today we'll take a closer look at the "Mojave Shorts" train symbols, what they do, what they carry, and what sets them apart from the other 'overhead' traffic which moves over Tehachapi Pass without doing work between the major yards.

Overview of the "Shorts" System

The basic 'Shorts' system is the concept that one symbol will be used between LA and Bakersfield to handle all the heavy lifting of the local traffic across the Division.  This will reduce the weight and engine required on the locals that work over those areas to one engine.  The mid-point at Mojave became the focal point for most of the locals working in three directions (Mojave Sub, Tehachapi Sub, and Jawbone Branch).  The "Shorts" trains work from their originating yard (Bakersfield or LA) to Mojave, where the whole train is left behind to be worked by the Mojave Switcher.  The crew of the Shorts train picks up the new train which was classified by the Mojave yard engine over the previous 24 hours from the arriving cars on the locals and any through cars which came in on the arriving 'Shorts' train from the previous day.  The new train departs and works from Mojave to the terminal (either LA or Bakersfield) where the train will be again classified.

Ideally, the 'Shorts' trains carry no through cars.  Any cars being classified at the end terminal will be local cars from the Division heading to points beyond the Division.

So, let's get into the details by starting out Los Angeles:

LA-Mojave Shorts West (LA-MSW-14)

Starting in Los Angeles Yard the LA-MSW works to Mojave working blocks at Saugus, Palmdale, and then drops the remaining consist at Mojave to be classified.  The crew then takes the engine and switcher moves the caboose over to another track to pick up the new MC-MSW which has all the westward cars that arrived over the previous 24 hours into Mojave Yard from the Owenyo Local, KI Local, "Blitz" (Palmdale) Local, and Searles Turn (Trona Rwy interchange).

Sample Consist List for LA-MSW-14 (which covers two sides of a switch list).

Photo of LA-MSW-14 switchlist handled by SP 6245 with caboose 1142, and 50 freight cars.

The setout work west of Mojave needs to be blocked at the head-end for: Monolith, Tehachapi (KI), Caliente, and Bena.  Pickup may also be made at these stations and will be noted on the crew call and by switch lists with routings at the stations. - Currently in 2019 LMRC doesn't have enough freight cars to really fill out the Mojave Shorts trains, and have enough cars to drop the whole consist.  The result is the MSW and Mojave yard crews need to make a quick 'pass' on the train to pull out the Mojave cars and the 'setout' cars for short of Bakersfield, then a quick second pass will be made on the 'setout' cars to get them in the right order for easy setout from the headend of the MSW.

On January 14th, the incoming LA-MSW-14 at 50 cars has a number of through cars for Bakersfield, and the Chief Dispatcher decided to keep the MSW crew on duty and wait for the switcher crew to work the train over and make MC-MSW-14.  Because LA's hump yard at Taylor Yard is still a couple years in the future, the consist is a real mixed back which each yard will have to sort through to get their cars out.

Check out "Westward SP Symbol Freights" from my previous blog post.

The SP 5300 switches LA-MSW cars at Mojave  to get them blocked for setout en route.

So let's look at the consist in detail:

CDLX 1008 (Insulated Tank) is hauling fuel oil to Trona - Route to Searles Turn
SHPX 8795 (Tank) is an empty-to-load (x-ld) to the Agent at Bakersfield, who is then going to forward it to Taft Cotton Compress for cotton seed oil loading.
ETCX 225 (Insulated Chem tank) is loaded with chem's for the Antioch-Martinez petroleum district, routing is to AW-symbol.
UTLX 76787 (Tank) is loaded with fuel oil for the fuel dealer at Porterville, on the Porterville Local  out of Bakersfield.
UTLX 77640 (Tank) is loaded with fuel oil for the fuel dealer at Cocoran on the ATSF 55 "Super Local".
SP 63752 (Auto-box) is loaded with House Hold Goods (HH Goods) is heading to the Oakland area on the AW.  This is an example of a 1950's cross-country moving van before the interstate highway system and moving vans became common.
NP 20104 (Box) is loaded with Freight Forwarder cargo to the Acme Fast Freight at Bakersfield SP Freight House.  Acme was the freight forwarder that was associated with the SP.
GATX 51121 (Tank) is empty heading to Oil City, out of Bakersfield on the Oil City Switcher to be loaded.
FTDMS 14007 (Box) is loaded with another load of House Hold Goods (HH Goods) also heading to the housing boom around Oakland to be forwarded at Bakersfield to the AW-symbol (West of Tracy, CA).
NP 20107 (Box) is loaded with Frt Fwd to the Mojave Freight House.  LA's Freight House would send out consolidated freight forwarder traffic in 'captured' foreign cars en route towards their home railroad.  In this case, a NP boxcar takes a load back towards Roseville and Eugene, Oregon.
UTLX 78022 (Tank) is loaded with fuel oil for the bulk dealer at Taft.  Routing to Taft on the Sunset Local out of Bakersfield.
SP 69234 (Auto-box) is loaded with Aircraft Parts for Plant 42 in Palmdale.  Routing to Palmdale on the "Blitz" Local.
GATX 50984 (Tank) is loaded with fuel oil for the narrow gauge industries, which will be interchanged or moved to tank semi-truck at Owenyo on the Jawbone Branch, and will be setout at Mojave.
SP 83142 (Box) is loaded with hay for Bena, which will be blocked at Mojave and setout en route.  Alternately the car could be blocked with the Caliente S/O and the KI Local will make the run to Bena.
CDLX 1075 (Insulated Tank - Wine Service) is empty-to-load in assigned private car service on the Porterville Branch wineries.
PRR 601185 (Box) is loaded with Aircraft Parts for Air Force planes at Muroc AFB, it is routed for transfer to ATSF at Mojave for the Boron Local.
SAL 19499 (Box) is loaded with Freight Forwarder to Oakland area on the AW-symbol.
SOU 14675 (Box) is loaded with Freight Forwarder to Oakland area on the AW-symbol.
CBQ 62199 (Box) is loaded with Hay for Tehachapi Hay & Grain, is routed for S/O at Mojave and blocked for KI for the KI Local to spot.
LSI 2241 (Box) is loaded with Machinery for Trino on the Arvin Branch, will be interchanged to ATSF at Bakersfield.
SAL 11984 (Auto-box) is loaded with Furniture for the Acme Fast Freight at the SP Bakersfield Freight House.
CNW 46583 (Flat) is loaded with Tractors for the Team Track at Porterville.
SSW 85082 (Flat) is loaded with Farm Equipment (Plows and Seeders) for the Tehachapi Lumber & Supply Co. and will be blocked for KI at Mojave and setout en route for the KI Local to spot.
WM 28237 (Box) is more HH Goods for Pleasenton (West of Tracy) and routed AW at Bakersfield.
SP 69215 (Auto-box) is loaded with Rocket Bodies for final assembly and testing at Inyokern-China Lake NWS, the car will be setout at Mojave and routed on the Owenyo Local.  Some cases the Inyokern-China Lake railroad connection can be an extension of the Searles Turn, as heavy rail ends at Inyokern for larger movements of cars than the Owenyo Local can handle.
MP 90426 (Box) is loaded with Hay for Bealville, setout at Tehachapi (KI) en route for KI Local to spot.  KI, Woodford, Bealville, Caliente, and Bena are importing winter hay for the ranch horses and cattle.
SP 63678 (Auto-box) is loaded with Hay for Caliente.  This car will be blocked at Mojave for Caliente and the KI Local will make the final spotting near the Corrals for the local ranchers' trucks to unload team-style and transport to the ranches.
SP 19020 (Box) is another carload of Hay for Caliente, same as SP 63678 above.
MP 34813 (Box) is loaded with Freight Forwarder traffic for AW-symbol out of Bakersfield.
PRR 81209 (Auto-box) is loaded with more Aircraft Parts for Muroc AFB, setout Mojave for ATSF Boron Local to Muroc.
CO 15347 (Box) is loaded with Engine Components destined for the aircraft assembly at Plant 42, Palmdale, CA.  Routed to Blitz Local at Mojave.
CNW 85160 (Box) is loaded with Grain for the Tehachapi Hay & Grain for S/O at Mojave or KI for the KI Local to spot.
PHD 1509 (Box) is loaded with Freight Forwarder to the depot at Tehachapi, also S/O at Mojave or KI for the KI Local to spot.
TNO 52152 (Box) is empty-to-load for Monolith, setout at Monolith or Mojave for KI Local to spot.
TNO 55610 (Box) is empty-to-load for Monolith, setout at Monolith or Mojave for KI Local to spot.  These two cars are effectively 'home road cars' which are being ordered by the Monolith Agent to fill loading requirements for the 15th.
BO 380934 (Box) is loaded with Freight Forwarder for the Mojave Freight House.
PRR 198082 (Hopper) is loaded with coking coal for Kern Steel at Bakersfield.
TP 5298 (Flat) is loaded with steel beams for the California Highway Department's earthquake repairs of the Hwy 466 Bridge at Woodford.
SP 151379 (GS-Gondola) is empty-to-load for the Owenyo Branch for loading with boxite at the 'Beet' Trestle at Owenyo from the narrow gauge interchange.
HOLX 1267 (Covered Hopper "CH") is empty-to-load for the Owenyo Local which will be loaded at Bartlett, CA.
SCMX 902 (Tank) is loaded with chemicals for processing of oil on the Oil City Branch.
TNO 52146 (Box) is empty-to-load for Agent Mojave.  This car is currently unassigned, but the Agent at Mojave has ordered it for his pool of cars to protect the various locals which work out of Mojave.
UOCX 8022 (Tank) is loaded with petroleum products for the Union Oil of California bulk dealer at Bakersfield.
NCStL 42185 (Gondola) is loaded with cable for the Searles Turn, and interchange to the Trona Rwy for West End Chemical.
SP 45962 (GB-Gondola) is loaded with Company Materials for SP Company Lumber Shed - Bakersfield.
SP 152344 (GS-Gondola) is loaded with Engine Service Sand for the Bakersfield Roundhouse Sand House.
SP 19026 (Box) is empty for the Agent at Monolith, probably to be loaded with bag cement, and will be blocked for setout at Monolith.
SP 19023 (Box) is empty for the Agent at Monolith, probably to be loaded with bag cement, and will be blocked for setout at Monolith.
ACY 1195 (Box) is loaded with Machinery for the mineral processing plant at Trona and West End, which will be setout at Mojave for the Searles Turn.
SP 1142 (Caboose) - Live.  This is the working caboose, which the conductors riding in.  Sometimes we'll list the caboose, other times just listing it at the top of the switchlist next to the engine if there will be other cars added to the list and the caboose will be moving around.

Mojave Yard Work

At Mojave the train was reblocked into four pieces: Mojave Yard, Bakersfield (MC-MSW-14), and Setout blocks; Monolith, KI, and Caliente, which are put on the head-end of the MC-MSW-14.  Separate switchlists are written for each of these blocks so that at each setout station a simple drop of the cars into a setout track and dropping the switchlist for the KI Local to work later is all that is needed.

Edit: I should add the note here that the crew laws of the time allowed 15:59 hours of service per day and 8 hours of rest, allowing the crew to maximize their service pay.  The normal trip times for freights of the late 1940s and early 1950s was in the 12-14 hour range.  Probably resulting in the very fast consist swaps at Mojave and very limited en route picking up and setting out of blocks at four to six stations.
I'm sure that some days the Chief Dispatcher would make the call that no set outs would be made at Monolith or KI due to how late the Shorts West was running out of LA.  On those days the KI Local could be given a 'short helper' out of Mojave to get their heavier train up to Monolith or Summit before returning light to Mojave.  The switchlist routings would be superseded to instruct Monolith and KI cars to be kept at Mojave and not added to the front of the MSW train in the afternoon, and instead would have been put out on the KI Local in the morning.
This 'short helper' could range from a protection local engine (usually several laying over at Mojave for the three locals which worked out of there), usually a C or light Mk class engine up to an one of the AC-class.  Often one or two AC's would work out of Mojave on a rotation basis for the Searles Turn and working 'short helper' or 'through helper' to Summit or Bakersfield.

ATSF BAW-O works Mojave Yard on January 15, 1953.  Loaded Searles Turn cars are visible with their loads of white minerals at the far left.

The old LA-MSW-14 list stayed at Mojave with the yard there as a point of record.  The new MC-MSW-14 list including the extra 14 cars picked up which the Mojave Yard Engine had already classified with full transfer of the car routings for all the Bakersfield and beyond traffic.  Unfortunately I didn't get to photograph those switchlists.  Pretty much those lists will look like the LA-MSW-14 list, but with any reference to the setouts at Mojave are dropped because those have already now been done.

En Route to Bakersfield

Once the Extra 6245 West departed Mojave pickups and setouts are made at Monolith to and from the Center Siding for the KI Local to spot.  The train continues to KI where another set of drops are made into the double-ended track off the westward main track.  In the future S/Os will probably be made into the No.3 Siding once it is made double-ended.

The MSW-14 continues as a 'normal' road freight westward to Caliente where the KI Local has blocked a pickup and the setout for Caliente and Bena are made for the next round of the KI Local.

The last work between Mojave and Bakersfield complete, the MSW-14 heads west to Bakersfield to be broken up and sent to the four winds.

Notation on the Switchlist

I should mention the difference between "Empty" or "X" in the load column and "X-LD" or "Empty-to-Load".  "Empty" is a car that is not assigned, if it is a foreign car en trained then it is a car moving on reverse rights towards its home railroad.  SP "Empty" cars are either moving on SCO (Service Car Order) "Tidepool" move or just back to the nearest yard to be assigned.  The "X-LD" or "Empty-to-Load" means a car which is currently empty, cleaned, ready for loading and also assigned to the industry for loading by the Freight Agent. 

The "X" cars could also be shown as to which Agent wants the car, and they will make the assignment.  At LMRC there are East and West Agents, if the movement is being grabbed within the Agent's work area, then the clerk will just go ahead and mark the list of where he wants the car to go.  If, for example, I'm sending the car as the East Clerk, and I don't need the car moving west, I can mark the car as an "Empty" to the Bakersfield Agent, and then the Yardmaster will ask the Agent where the car will go.  Bakersfield also tries to keep a small pool of empty home-road boxcars available to protect the loading.  I'll talk about the Bakersfield Agent's responsibilities in a future post.

Obvious road name abbreviations include "P" for PRR, "Q" for CBQ, and "AT" for ATSF.  I also am very careful on the LMRC layout when using the abbreviation for Bakersfield.  I NEVER use "BK" as we have a Santa Fe symbol "BK" which is a priority Bakersfield-Kansas City-Chicago symbol.  As a result ALL of our clerks know to ALWAYS use "BAK" if they mean Bakersfield (City/Station) and "BK" for the freight symbol.

Oddities of SP & ATSF Clerk Nomenclature

The Southern Pacific always called double-door boxcars "A" on the car classifications.  The Santa Fe would use "B5D" or "B4D" to indicate 'Box 50 Double Door" or "Box 40 Double Door".  A number of our guest operations will mark car type based on the AAR type on our lists as "X" for boxcars and "LO" for covered hoppers.  The Santa Fe clerks I've talked to say they always used "CH" for covered hoppers and "H" for the hoppers, then the number indicating bays in the hopper.

Staging Yard Block Shuffling Making New Symbols

Mojave "Shorts" West in 1953 with brand new RSD-5s working west at Cliff

I was the clerk that wrote this list, so I'm adding comments about the routing and what the car was doing.  I should make it clear, the cars available in the East Staging Yard (LA) is rather limited, so the East Clerk/East End Staging Yardmaster had to have a good idea of what cars will work on a symbol such as MSW and then make the rough cuts in the arrived freights in his yard to make a reasonable starting point for the new symbol.  Therefore, the question of 'do you switch the train first or do you choose the cars, and then switch it?' is rather a chicken and egg kind of question.  The answer is that both happen at the same time.

The East Staging Yardmaster/East Clerk also obviously makes up all the westward freights from the eastward freights.  Normally, through cars for Bakersfield proper and beyond, to points short of Roseville will be sent on the TMW (Tehachapi Manifest West) symbol freights.  The TMW symbol does not have the additional 24 hour layover switching time in Mojave Yard.  So the LA-MSW-14 list shows as somewhat of a combined TMW/MSW symbol.  If we had more cars in the pool and more time to shuffle the blocks then full consists of TMW and MSW can be made and sent out one per day.  As it was on January 14th, we had already sent a TMW during the previous 12 hours, so we needed a MSW symbol.


LA-MSW-15 with SP 4264, 15 cars, and SP 286 caboose.  Jan 15, 1953.

This is the following day's LA-MSW-15's consist, a much lighter day with only the SP 4264, AC-11 class working the train out of LA.  Pretty much a smaller version of the Jan 14th, 1953 list, however this time we have three CH's in assigned service to Monolith, which already have "X-LD" routing.

Other Traffic on the MSW Symbol

Mojave Shorts also moves other large blocks of traffic which the Jan 14th, 1953 train didn't have.

Mineral Service

MSW in 2012 is shown here with loaded hoppers full of potash and soda ash from the plants at Trona and West End, off the Searles Turn 6 nights a week.

The mineral service from the Owenyo transfer trestle (Narrow Gauge connection), Bartlett, Saltdale, Trona, West End, Cantil, etc. was handled predominantly by steel GS-Gondolas, Open Hoppers (which we have a pile of T&NO H-70-5, three-bay models in service), and new covered hoppers of NAHX (American Chemical & Potash Corp) and SP company cars (H-70-4/6/8-series).  General Service boxcars certainly were still in use for smaller orders of bagged minerals, as the use of the new covered hoppers only started in 1947-48 and was 'boarded' with "When Empty Return to Agent Trona, Calif."  The SP's Mojave Agent would control the pool of SP boxcars and covered hoppers and order cars to be pulled from the empties track by the yard engine to make up the locals.

Most of this loaded traffic moved to the Port at Long Beach on the MC-MSE or Oakland area on MC-MSW to Bakersfield and then on AW to Tracy and Oakland.  Potash was heavily used in fertilizers in the farming areas, so carloads could be seen moving to various farming areas around the US.  Generally this traffic would be forwarded east of LA easily enough from the MC-MSE routing.  Other possible routing include Roseville on the MC-MSW to Bakersfield, then forwarding on the TMW to Roseville.

Sulphuric Acid Traffic

Tangent's made some lovely Gengeral America acid tank car.

One of the interesting specialty traffic cars is the acid tank cars from the sulphuric acid needed at the West End plant in the refining and binding process of getting the various minerals from the Searles "Dry" Lake.  At least two (20k gallon) cars of this were needed at Trona in 2002, working backwards with the train sizes of the 1950's, I estimate that it would have been between two and four cars per week.

Industrial Fuel Oil Shipments

One of the 'Signature' blocks of the Shorts trains over Tehachapi is the dozen or so SP fuel-oil tank cars.

We're starting to wonder why there's a discrepancy between the eye-witness traffic flows of the Consolidated Mojave Pipeline loading facility at Mojave supplying the fuel oil needs of the massive plant at Trona, CA.

One of the largest tank cars in large numbers were the SP's O-50-8/9 class tank cars with 12,500 gallon capacity.

However, photos of the Shorts trains during the 1952-53 era show a large number of tank cars working over Tehachapi Pass, which would suggest that these carloads are not going to LA Harbor, Long Beach, but we're starting to think that there was damage to the Bakersfield-Mojave Oil Pipeline from the 7.5 Earthquake.  More research is needed, but that would explain why regular movements of dozens of tank cars would suddenly show up, but most crews at Mojave for years remember the Trona fuel cars coming from Mojave's own loading facilities.

Cement Traffic - Monolith

Santa Fe No.7 blasts through Monolith on January 14th, 1953.

The Portland Cement Plant at Monolith was built originally 1908 for the new California Aqueduct, which was also the reason for the construction of the Jawbone Branch to Owenyo and the Red Rock Canyon Railroad branch out of Cantil.

SP's H-70-series covered hoppers introduced in the late 1940's specifically for the highly perishable cement traffic.

The Monolith Cement Plant was still heavily using boxcars, but the new covered hoppers certainly were taking a larger and larger portion of the traffic by 1953 as soon as they could be built and put into service.  Most of our SP and ATSF 2-bay covered hoppers are predominately assigned to Monolith cement service.

The SP's CH pool is based at Mojave CA, any extra eastward empty CH's are sent to Agent Mojave Yard for holding until requested.  Westward empty CH's are routed to Agent Mojave Yard and then forwarded on MSW or KI Local as directed by the Chief Dispatcher.  ATSF 2-bay CH's are also based out of Mojave and are worked likewise by the N-34 eastward and BAW westward.  A small pool of boxcars would also be kept at Mojave ideally to cover any holes in the CH pool to cover the loadings at Trona, Monolith, and the Owenyo branch.

Other Monolith Traffic

Monolith of the 1950s was fueled by a natural gas pipeline.  The coal-fired fueled plant wasn't built until the 1970s, with the large rotary kilns and sorting tower.  However coal-ash is needed for the processing of Portland Cement, so foreign cars with coal-ash would have also been accepted by Monolith of the 1950s.

Closing Thoughts

The SP also ran 'Shorts' up the San Joaquin Valley in both directions, and there's of course the Mojave Shorts East.  I may get around to covering these in detail with their unique quirks at some point, but for now, they're basically doing the same thing.  The Valley Shorts works between Fresno and Bakersfield in both directions and the Mojave Shorts East works between Bakersfield and LA doing the reverse of the Mojave Shorts West, which we've just looked at.

The KI Local sets up a pick-up for MSW-7 by shoving it into the Tejon Ranch Co. Spur at Bena on January 7, 1953.

I'll be flagging this post on my Tehachapi Freight Symbols Index 'page' at the top right of the blog page, this will provide an easy way for readers to return to this post and see updates.  I'll come back and make minor updates and add additional comments about the traffic when I get the chance.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Tehachapi Operations: Part 1 - Mountain Work Train

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - Index Page

West Bakersfield: (Part 1) - Laying Out Industries

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Tehachapi Operations: Part 1 - Mountain Work Train

Over the last 20 odd years I've been involved in the operations at La Mesa Model Railroad Club I've worked on coming up with the MW work assignments for the Mountain Work Train using what equipment we've had available in service at the club.  Over the years I've built a number of SPMW cars, a few ATSF work cars, and am currently working to expand the equipment and activities options for the clubs' 1950's TT/TO Operating Sessions.

Previous Work Train Jobs

SP 3765 with a string of work cars in tow rolls into Walong on Jan 6, 1953.

During the preceding days company service cars have been spotted by the KI Local and various points along the Sub Division where the T&M (Track and Maintenance) folks had specified that they needed work done.  Likewise B&B (Bridge and Building) Department had also ordered replacement timbers for a wood trestle.

Earlier this year rip-rap had been sent in to the lower Caliente Creek area to shore up some of the fills from the early winter storms.  No wash-outs had occurred yet... a little bit of preventive maintenance work is worth days of fixing the problem after the railroad is shut down.

The T&M and management still vividly recalls only 3 short months before when the line was finally reopened on the restored alignment through Tunnel 5 after the 7.5 Earthquake shut the railroad down for about a month, requiring the daylighting or modifications to four tunnels and a quarter million cubic yards of material moved.

Jan 14-15, 1953 - A day on the Mountain Work Train

Bakersfield Chief Dispatcher & Clerks Work

So let's take a ride with the Mountain Work Train on January 15th, 1953.  The Chief Dispatcher assigns a suitable engine for the Mountain Work Train, which today will be assigned the SP 3666, an F-3 class 2-10-2, or "Deck" as they're known on the SP.  A crew is called on duty a bit later than usual at 8:50AM in Bakersfield.

A file photo of SP 3666 shot at Bakersfield as she is preparing to run west on a Valley freight in late 1952.

The Bakersfield Yard Office Clerk finished up a set of work instructions for the Mountain Work Train crew.  Lets see what the work looks like for today.

Here's the work instructions to the crew on Jan 15th, 1953. (click on the image to enlarge)

A consist switchlist form is used for today's message.  Nothing too fancy, SP also used telegraph pads or even old train order forms which were obsolete by rules changes.  Whatever was easy to hand to write on.  At the club we've even used a plain sheet of paper folded over to issue the work messages.

Let's break the message down:

Mountain Work Train, 8:01AM, Jan 15, 1953.

Engine is left blank, but the 3666 was assigned from the "Valley" pool of 'Decks' after this message was written.

"RUN TO CALIENTE" (Directs the Mountain Work Train to start working at Caliente)

"SPMW 5879" (Flat with Burro Crane SPO-257)
"SP 151272 G BRIDGE TIMBERS S/O TIMBERS FOR B&B" (Gondola with Bridge Timbers, S/O)

"RETURN TO CALIENTE" (Directs the Mountain Work Train to return to Caliente once the first task is completed.  SPMW 5879 and the emptied GS-gondola are dropped off at Caliente.)

"SPMW 5549" (Bunk Car - for the T&M ballast gang)
"SPMW 635" (Foreman's Car)
"SPMW 312" (Tool Car - used to haul any tools or supplies needed to do the work)
(There were 5 or 6 SP ballast hoppers and gondolas in Caliente for this work.)

"(Spread) BALLAST  BETWEEN MP 335.6 AND TUNNEL 2 FOR 30 MINUTES."  (This work is on single track east of Caliente up to Allard.)

"SETOUT BALLAST CARS AT BEALVILLE WHEN FINISHED" (Dropping off the emptied ballast cars frees up the 3666's pulling capacities on the 2.2% grade for other work later in the day.  No need to keep the extra weight and train length on a train which needs to stay small and flexible.)

"RUN TO WOODFORD AND P/U BALLAST CARS" (Pretty obvious, continue east to Woodford and get the 3 SP and one ATSF ballast cars from the Corral Spurs there.)

"SPREAD BALLAST BETWEEN MP 346.0 AND MP 345.25  FOR 30 MINUTES."  (West Switch of Woodford and 2nd Crossing of Caliente Creek, just east of Rowen.)



"RUN TO KI AND TIE DOWN (for the day)."

Looks like enough to keep the crew busy for a while.  While these three ballasting operations and one unloading operation with the crane wouldn't take very long, the fact that the Dispatcher has to make time in the flow of regular scheduled trains and a number of freights, makes it challenging.   I often liken this Mountain Work Train during TT/TO operations as the proverbial, 'Cat in a room full of rocking-chairs, trying to get its work done without getting its tail pinched by any of the rocking-chairs!'

Equipment Photos

Let's have a quick look at the cars we'll be working with today.

Engine: SP 3666

SP 3666, Eddie Sims collection.

Today's engine assigned is a Sunset Models F-3 class 2-10-2 with 160-C class tender.

Bena Bridge Timber S/O

SPMW 5879, a old F-50-11/13/14 series flatcar fitted with rails for Burro SPO-257 to run back and forth on.

This car was made from two Tichy 40ft flatcars kitbashed to make a reasonable stand-in for an SP 53ft straight side-sill flatcar.  A Tichy boom tender tool-box was added, along with some extra stirrup steps and grabs to match a photo in Richard Petty's Southern Pacific Maintenance of Way book.

SP 151272, a standard SP GS-type gondola, today loaded with  heavy bridge timbers.

This model is a Red Caboose steel GS-gondola model which is correct for SP's G-50-22 class cars.

T&M Outfit:

The outfit cars are a combination of kitbashes and repaints of standard models which are easily available.

SPMW 5549, an old 12-1 Pullman sleeper.

The SPMW 5549 is a conversion of a heavy weight Pullman sleeper which was acquired by the SP and made into a "BUNK" car for crews to live in.  I didn't add the air conditioning ducts from NERS, but did add some vents on the roof and a T-shaped smokejack off an Athearn caboose parts sprue.

SPMW 635, made from an old A-50-series auto-boxcar.

My kitbash of the SPMW 635 stopped short of replacing the large side doors with a more distinctive truss sheathed side with windows, which the prototype had.  This car started as an MDC/Roundhouse 50ft automobile boxcar.

Roof patches of tar-paper and vents have been added, along with some MDC/Roundhouse "Overton" passenger car tool boxes, which I had laying around.

SPMW 312, from a B-50-13/14 class boxcar.

The SPMW 312 started life as one of Accurail's pre-painted FCR (red-oxide) painted "TOOL CAR" data-only models, which I then cut windows in and added the reporting mark decals to.  Tichy Andrews trucks are used as well.

Ballast Cars

The club's current ballast fleet is made up of GS-gondolas, TM/Walthers Hart work gondolas, and heavily kitbashed ballast hoppers from the 1980's by club member Chris Hollinshead.

SP 12585, one of my kitbashed K-brake equipped W-50-3 class Hart-Convertable Ballast Gondola.

Unfortunately not many of the Hart Gonds were left in service by the 1950s, but Robert Bowdidge made a nice 3d printed model which is correct for SP's style car.  The TM/Walthers car has issues, including being 5-boards high, when it should only be 3, and much shorter.  I did kitbash the underbody to narrow the structural members of the car.

SP 165585, a stand-in ballast hopper 1980's kitbash.

A bit late for our 1950's steam era session, these very nice for 1980's kitbashed ballast hoppers by Chris Hollinshead and subject of an RMC modeling article from 30+ years ago are still in service.

Let's Get Going!

The conductor walks out of the yard office and over to the SP 1021, his regular caboose.  Meanwhile the engine crew of SP 3666 brings it over, coupling up, makes a quick air test, and departs Bakersfield as a 'Cab Hop' to Caliente under a standard "Run" order and made the trip in good time between 9:30 to 10:01AM, I'm guessing.


(Note: other applicable right-overs, etc were used against the westward extra freights and light engines working down the hill at the time would have been included, unfortunately I didn't grab a full set of the Mountain Work Train's orders!)

Off to Bena... Again!

SP 3666 with assembled bridge timber movement ready and waiting at Caliente, 1:44PM, Jan 15, 1953.

Once at Caliente, the engine 3666 sat for several hours as multiple sections of Santa Fe 23 passed and No.51 rolled by.  While this was going on, the Dispatcher began working on carving out a hole in the flood of trains for 20 minutes working time, plus running time, between Caliente and Bena.  That time came around 1:55PM.

Again, unfortunately I didn't grab a photo of the Work Extra order which was issued to the crew.  The order gave the 3666 time to work between Caliente and Bena, not protecting against Eastward trains before a given time, and protecting and clearing EXTRA ATSF 215 WEST and EXTRA ATSF 226 WEST, basically as soon as it reached Bena.  The Work Extra order was set to expire at a reasonable time, as I recall, about 3:01PM, which is when the afternoon eastward scheduled passenger trains need the railroad back from the Work Extra 3666.

The "WORK EXTRA" form of order allows the Work Extra to work back and forth as needed between the named points until the time given, at which point the Work Extra's authority to occupy the main track expires.  Note that a "WORK EXTRA" and a "WORK TRAIN" are not the same thing.  A "Work Extra" is a form of order allowing the train to move as needed within the limits until the time specified.  A "Extra" is formed by a "RUN EXTRA" phrasing, in which the authorization is only to move in one direction between the points named, and not to make repeated back and forth moves between points therein.

Work Extra SP 3666 with its three cars at Bena pulls into the clear just after arriving.

The 3666 made its way to Bena and protected itself from westward freights Extra ATSF 215 West and Extra ATSF 226 West with plans to clear into the center track at Bena when they arrived at their flagman's position.

If the crew of the 3666 had noticed, there was a westward ATSF freight coming into Caliente as they left!

The Extra ATSF 215 West picks up a copy of the "Work Extra" order of the 3666 at Caliente, and approaches the "Work Extra 3666" in Ilmon prepared to stop and get them to clear at Bena per the order.

Extra ATSF 215 West comes to a stop for the Work Extra 3666's flagman just west of Bridge 330.04.

  It turns out the Extra 215 West was right on the 3666's heels out of Caliente.  No sooner had the 3666 dropped the flagman and pulled up to the bridge to start setting off timbers, than the ATSF 215 arrived and made the 3666 pull into Bena's center siding.

Extra ATSF 215 West, with a large blog of auto boxcars, common on Santa Fe's 59-symbol freights waits for 3666 to clear at Bena.

The Extra ATSF 215, with (Symbol) 59-L (Autos & Autoparts block) arrived at the protecting flagman at 2:04PM, at which point the Work Extra 3666 moved to Bena to clear up for the Extra ATSF 215 West.

Work Extra SP 3666 tucked into the clear at Bena as Extra 215 West accelerates by on green signals towards Bakersfield.

By 2:06PM the 3666 was in the clear and Extra ATSF 215 West charges through Bena.

Unloading is finished!

With the first of the trains out of the way that the 3666 was ordered to clear for, she returns to unload the timbers.  With that complete she heads back to Caliente before her "Work Extra" order time expires.

East of Caliente?

The 3666 returns to Caliente and the crew drops off the SPMW 5879 and SP 151272 in the "short siding" and picked up the ballast cars and MW outfit cars for their next work east of Caliente at 4:02PM.

Extra 3666 East heads up the hill to start ballasting while the KI Local finishes working at Caliente. at 4:02PM.

The Extra 5303 West (KI Local) arrived at Caliente while the 3666 was working its cars and started switching the regular revenue cars and continuing the positioning of SPMW cars for future Mountain Work Train assignments.

4:26PM finds the SP 5297 and 5303 waiting at Caliente for orders to follow the 3666 up the hill.

The Extra 5297 East (the other KI Local engine, for the eastward trip) is seen making the last moves before it starts up the hill following the ballast dumping operation.  (I'm not quite sure why the Dispatcher decided to let the slow ballasting Mountain Work Train out ahead of the KI Local which had nearly finished its work, but that's what happened.)

Woodford and More Ballast

I was able to get a couple photos of the 3666 at Woodford, but I loose track of how they progressed after this point.

The SP ballast cars at Woodford.

6:01PM finds Extra 3666 East at Woodford.

Did They Make It?

I talked to the crew of the Mountain Work Train at the end of the day's operations.  They reported that they did make it to Tehachapi easily by 8:01PM and tied the train down in the No.3 Siding out of the way.

SP 5297 & 5303 work spotting ballast cars at KI for the next Mountain Work Train late on Jan 15th, 1953.

The empty ballast cars with the 3666 in Tehachapi will be set over for one of the 'Mojave Shorts' trains to pickup for another load of ballast.  The KI Local of the 16th will go round up the other ballast cars that were left at Bealville and Woodford, moving them to either Caliente, Tehachapi, or Mojave for forwarding on the 'Mojave Shorts' train.

Where to Now?

The SPMW 5879 has now been released from its assignment to unload the bridge timbers.  It will likely be reassigned to help with the track laying at Edison or perhaps some other job.  Our MW fleet is almost always being moved around actively to some job or assignment, then sitting a while to get all the pieces there.  To carry on a thought from my previous post in Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi: Logistics and Planning, the logistics we get to play with which continue from session to session, week to week, adding to the feeling that things are being done for a reason.  Each step leads to the next, and from there to the next, and so on.

SPMW 4049, a 25-ton crane, SPMW 1413, and SPMW 8079 will be used for the track work at Tehachapi in coming days.

More track construction work at Tehachapi will continue in the future week as No.3 Siding is going to be extended west, a new house track extension stub is going to be put in, and about 80ft of one of the packing shed tracks is going to be removed for more 'Company Village' bunk housing to be built.

Closing Thoughts

Extra 3666 East makes a break for KI and dumping more ballast at Cable.

And the maintenance of the railroad is never done... something always needs replacing, renewing, adjustment, or repairs.

I hope you've enjoyed this passing snap-shot of a day in the life of our Mountain Work Train's "cat in the room of rocking chairs" life.  I know I still enjoy marking up the messages for the crews at La Mesa Model Railroad Club, and the same TT/TO road switching crews keep coming back for more.  Perhaps this will spur you into putting a bit of realistic challenge into your sessions by running the occasional work train to fix things on your railroad sometime...  And who knows, maybe you'll find out that you like a rocking chair on your tail!

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Freight Symbols Over Tehachapi - Index Page - Navigate to any of the multi-part post on SP and ATSF freight symbols used at LMRC and a bit of my history learning operations.