Monday, March 18, 2024

Consist Photo Analysis (Part 5) - PSS Lumber Symbol as Fourth-806 - June 1950

It's mid-June 1950, summer's come to the Tehachapi mountains.  This day it would appear that Fourth 806 is a PSS or OCM (use this link to see Eastward Through Freight Symbol List blog post) symbol freight charges the north-slope of Tehachapi Pass out of Caliente.  These two photos by William J Pontin provide a great view for us to analyze what cars typically were run in this symbol. 

SP 4274 leads a PSS-symbol freight around the Caliente Horseshoe, June 1950. - William J Pontin photo, Jason Hill collection

The signature cars of the PSS/OCM symbol trains is the large portion of the train moving lumber and forestry products from the Oregon Division (Eugene Yard) to either Los Angeles (OCM) or to points east of El Paso (PSS).

Rear two AC-class engines shoving hard on the rear of the same train, June 1950. - William J Pontin photo, Jason Hill collection

Looking at the second photo, this train certainly qualifies as either PSS or OCM with the large number of SP flatcars of lumber, GN, UP, and NP boxcars.  The GS gon with the scrap and a couple auto-boxcars it's possible this is OCM, but 75 years later, there's no way to really be able to tell for sure.  Obviously the exact consist would change day to day, but looking at multiple photos of similar consists for the trains and knowing what each symbol freight should be carrying from the SP's System Freight Schedule, we can make good educated guesses as to what we're seeing in a given photo.

I've covered an similar SP lumber train consist from 1947 near Oakridge in my blog post: Open Loads (Part 5) - Lumber Loads on Flats & Gondolas.

Details of the Forth-806 Consist

Let's look closer at the consist by cropping and zooming in on the photos.

SP 4274 in charge of Fourth 806 - note the small tab of the "4" in the indicators.

The SP 4274 certainly doesn't know that in a short seven years she'll be in the lime light pulling the last passenger excursion on Donner Pass.  Today, however, she's just another of the 195 modern AC's pulling a third class train in the SP's vast network of freight symbols.

The first group of cars in the train.

Cars 1 & 2 - This first group of cars look like a two single-sheath boxcars (maybe SP B-50-8/10/11/13/14s)
Car 3 - Looks to be a single-sheathed 50ft double-door or door-and-half car, possibly SP, GN, NP, etc.
Car 4 & 5 - A couple of 53'6" flatcars with lumber, probably SP 70-ton F-70-series. Car 4 might be a NP AAR 53'6" 50-ton car.
Car 6 - Seemingly empty SP G-50-13/14 gondola. - I'm not sure why this empty is being moved in this train.  It could be a car that was needed down in Los Angeles, note that this would be a vote that this consist is the OCM, not PSS.  I suppose it could be moving some sort of dense load, maybe steel, which would still be a little weird coming out of the Pacific North West... Maybe aluminium structural shapes?  Normally, the PSS-symbol wasn't switched out at Roseville, but I suppose this could be a Northern California fill to the train on the head-end.  If this was part of a Roseville fill, then it could be steel out of Pittsburg, CA steel plant.
Car 7 - A steel boxcar with Superior doors...

The second group of cars in the consist.

Car 7 Continued - The I'm not that familiar with the herald of this car, maybe Monon? -Leave comment below if you know what this car is and I'll edit the post:
"Car 7 is a puzzler... it looks like part has been cleaned or repainted and the angle of the light accentuates/obscures the paint and stenciling. I'm gonna noodle on that one for awhile." - Ted Culotta comment.
I'm thinking this could be an earlier Monon car.  The model photo I'm using here is a roster shot of a Kadee PS-1, NEW 1952, so obviously too new for the 1950 photo, but I'm guessing another of the Monon's cars from an earlier date.
Car 8 - Simple sheath boxcar looks like it might be a CNW car with a "Route of the 400" slogan, possibly a War Emergency car. - Model photo from IMRC website - fair use.
Car 9 - This boxcar is obviously an NP steel boxcar, with a Superior Door. 
Car 10 - Probably an SP G-50-18/22 class GS gondola with some low load inside, maybe bridge beams or other partial load that stays below the five foot high sides of the gondola.

The third group of cars in the consist.

Car 11 - "EJ&E (rebuilt 40-ton USRA double sheathed" - From Ted Culotta comment.
Car 12 - Then the double door car is a CB&Q automobile car with full size double-8ft doors. 
Car 13 - Another 53'6" lumber flatcar with SP-style stake pockets, which makes this SP F-70-2/5 class probably with SP initials, not the spelled out lettering of the -6/7 classes.
Car 14 - Looks like a classic UP B-50-series single door all-steel car.
Car 15 - "L&N (rebuilt ARA design single sheathed car)" - from Ted Culotta comment - Neat to see "random" east coast foreign cars showing up in this train symbol.

The fourth group of cars in the consist.

Car 16 - Another SP GS Gondola, G-50-18/22 class.
Car 17 - Looks like a steel-resheathed SP B-50-15/16 class car.
Car 18 - SP G-50-9/10/11/12-class GS Gondola with steel pipe load.
Car 19 - SP G-50-9/10/11/12-class GS Gondola with what appears to be a scrap metal load.
Car 20 - USRA 40ft single-sheath boxcar.  I'm not sure, the car has a painted door, but this paint scheme might be one of the CoG boxcars with painted door - but inversed contrast?  Oddly, I can't really see anything around where the reporting marks should be.

The fifth and last group from the head-end photo.

Car 21 - SLSF 147000-149499-series with wood door and Murphy ends, based on the data from my 161500-series car kit from Sunshine & comment "Frisco 'Howe truss' single sheathed car" - from Ted Culotta.
Car 22 -  IC double-door boxcar.
Car 23 - Another UP single-door 40ft all-steel boxcar.

This wraps up the first part of the consist from the head-end photo.
While I can't tell which engine this is helping, it certainly is opening up the throttle to climb the grade, as the exhaust bellows out.  Because I can't tell how many cars are in the consist between the head-end and the second photo, I'll assume that the second photo starts about where the 1st helper would need to be in the train.
First group of the rear helper photo.

I'll say that the car ahead of the 1st helper is the 27th car, but this is completely an informed guess based on tonnage of engines in the train, etc.
Car 27 - Probably SP B-50-8/10/11/13 class single-sheath boxcar with wood ends. - I'll have to refresh myself on which way the end-braces went on these cars to be more precise.
1st Helper - AC-10/11/12 class.
Car 28-30 - Unable to tell, but has Murphy ends, so could be USRA or all-steel rebuild of USRA car.
Car 31 - Looks like a steel 40ft car, but shorter than Car 30, so I'm guessing PRR X29 or maybe ARA '32, NYC boxcar, etc.
Car 32 - SP A-50-14/15-series double-door all-steel boxcar.

Second group of cars behind first helper.

Car 33 - SP F-50-11/13/14 50-ton or foreign 50ft straight-sidesill flatcar.
Car 34 - SP F-70-6/7 class 53'6" flatcar, as it does have proper stake spacing, nice lumber load!
Car 35 - SP B-50-13/14 with steel ends, without A-end lumber door.
Car 36 - SP G-50-13/14 50ft gondola with lumber load. - Same as Car 6.
Car 37 - foreign 40ft fish-belly side-sill flatcar with lumber load.
Car 38 - SP F-50-4/5/8/9/10/12 40ft flatcar with lumber load.

Third group of cars behind first helper and second helper.

Car 39 - MILW 40ft single-sheath automobile boxcar - with automobile loading rack door stripe.
Car 40 - UP 40ft double-door all-steel automobile boxcar, with door stripe indicating that the car has Evans auto-racks inside.  Notice that this car has double 6ft doors, not larger like SP preferred.
Car 41 - Heavily weathered Steel 40ft boxcar, possibly CP mini-box as the door looks possibly narrower (5ft), lots of chalk marks or fresh re-weigh stencils along the frame.
Car 42 - SP B-50-15/16 class boxcar, probably re-sheathed as all-steel.  This car is pretty weathered, as the herald is heavily obscured, but the reporting marks have been freshly restencilled or wiped off. - same as Car 17.
2nd Helper - AC-10/11/12 class.

Fourth group of cars, and last group behind second helper.

Car 43 - GN Plywood boxcar with ply-metal/Youngstown lower panel combo-door. - Not sure of details
Car 44 - GN plywood boxcar with Superior door. - Not sure of details
Car 45 - NP 40ft steel boxcar.
Car 46 - GN 40ft steel boxcar with Superior door. - Not sure of details
Car 47 - SP B-50-8/10/11/13/14 single-sheath 40ft boxcar.
Car 48 - SP standard cupola caboose. - Not sure if C-30-series or C-40-1/2/3.

Examples of Models

A few modeling examples in HO for typical cars of this consist, while this isn't an exhaustive list, I wanted to hit some of the highlights. - I may edit this when I take a few more photos of cars I have that would work in this symbol train.

NP Double Sheath Boxcar
While not specifically found in this consist, these cars were typical on the NP and could easily show up.

Weathering NP 11661 - A Rapido Double-sheath Boxcar - Basic weathering and finishing for service.

I also have an NP War Emergency 40ft Boxcar from Sunshine Models resin kit to build at some point, it would obviously be assigned to this type of service.

NP AAR'37 Steel Boxcar
NP 17182 - AAR'37 Branchline Yardmaster kit

Two of this car type are visible in the consist.  IMRC has also made models suitable for this prototype, so these cars are pretty common by 1950.

GN AAR'37 Steel Boxcar
GN 11869 - IMRC AAR'37 boxcar kit

Several of these steel boxcars are shown in the consist.  It's very nice to see multiple of the GN plywood boxcars in this one consist.  It shows there was substantial interchange between the SP and GN for the lumber traffic, not just the "friendly" interchange with the NP.  In this consist, it seems that the numbers of UP, GN, and NP cars were about even.

GN Plywood-Side Boxcar
Plywood GN 10784 from IMRC with Youngstown Doors.

These GN plywood-sided boxcars seem to show up regularly now that I'm looking for them.  This consist shows one of each of the other door versions (Superior & Youngstown/ply-metal), but not this exact one with the full Youngstown style door.  Sunshine has produced the other versions of this car with the other doors, and IMRC's more recent releases have the other doors as well, my car just happens to be an old run model.

SP F-50-5/8/9-Series 50-Ton Flatcar
SP 38892, an OwlMtModels #2002 kit SP F-50-5/8/9 class flat car with OMM #3004 Lumber Load kit

In 1950, the SP also had declining ranks of the class 1910s and 1920s built 40ft flatcars (Car 38 in this train) which numbered 2650 cars when new, and lasted well into the mid-1950s before fully replaced by the new 70-ton flatcars on the SP.

SP F-70-2/5/6/7/10-series 70-Ton Flatcar
EspeeModels/RedCaboose SP F-70-10 (-6/7 similar but riveted), with OwlMtModels 3003 Lumber Load kit.

The SP rostered over 2000 of these 70-ton flatcars by 1950, with another 1000 -10 welded cars coming in late 1953-54.  These and preceding classes of SP flatcar were staples of post-war building boom in California.  I've already posted an Index of SP Flatcar Classes, which covers this topic in more detail.

SP GS Gondola - Postwar G-50-18/22
SP G-50-18/22 class steel GS gondolas by Red Caboose, with scratch-built bridge beam load.

The SP in 1948 and 1949 took delivery of 2500 new steel General Service Gondolas, adding to their vast collection of earlier GS gondolas dating back from the 1920s.  Many of these steel gondolas were used in lumber loading, but also with other open loads such as scrap and new steel pipes, (as shown above Cars 10,16, 18, 19) in both the 1920s and 1948/49 groups.

SP G-50-13/14
Speedwitch G-50-13

The SP's small fleet of 50-ton 50ft gondolas are represented twice in this consist, which shows that they certainly were used in lumber service, as well as by the steel industry in the Bay Area.  Thankfully these cars can be modeled, either in resin or by kitbashing P2K/Walthers 52'6" Greenville cars by cutting them down to length from the center and also removing the fish-belly sidesills, and adding fishbelly centersills and Dalman Two-Level trucks.

SP B-50-15/16 Late-1920s Single-Sheath Boxcar
Rapido SP B-50-15/16 with steel sheathing, two in this consist at least.

While I'm not going to discuss all of the SP boxcar types here in this quick snap-shot, I have multiple posts about the topic, SP single-sheath and replacement steel-sheathed cars make up most of the SP boxcars in this sample train from 1950.  Showing that the newer B-50-25+ postwar, and even the B-50-18-23 class pre-war cars were not pushed down to moving lumber or forestry products yet.  Although, I would think that the newer classes of cars would be used for paper and news-print loads, but we happened not to see any of those in SP cars in these two photos.

SLSF 147000 & 161500-series "Howe-Truss" Single Sheath Boxcar
SLSF 147000-149499-series (wood doors, Murphy ends) from Sunshine Instruction Sheet - Fair Use.

The SLSF 147000-149499-series car is an interesting one to model.  The choices are somewhat limited. - Sunshine Models Resin or Accurail 6-panel boxcar would work well for modeling this car.

SLSF 161500 Sunshine carside & Dreadnought end castings from #39.4 kit.

Thankfully I have a Sunshine #39.4 kit which is one of these cars, but the details aren't exactly right for the car in this set of photos.  The kit I have is for the later series with Dreadnought ends and Youngstown doors, with steel sheathing replacing the wood sides.  While the earlier 147000-series, I believe, is the one in the photo which had the Murphy steel ends and wooden doors.  Because Sunshine is out-of-business/production, I'd have to start hunting for the 147000-series car kit if I wanted to model the exact car.

The other option is to start with an Accurail car.  Getting the wood-door version from their 7000 or 7200-series 6-panel boxcar kit and decalling it.  Sadly, the Accurail cars have full Dreadnought ends, not the earlier Murphy ends.  Tichy makes the Murphy ends as spare parts for their USRA boxcar kits, or I could reuse the ends from the earlier 4100-series Accurail kits which have them.  I'm already planning to replace the 4100-kit ends with custom ends for my SP B-50-13/14 series cars.  So I'll probably have some second hand Murphy ends to kitbash the Accurail 7000/7200 kit with to make the SLSF 147000-series car.  If I were going to do the Accurail 7000/7200 kitbash from scratch without a parts stash, the Tichy ends would be the way to go, I think.

Whenever I get around to doing either version, I'll do a blog article on it here.

In Closing

Next time we'll be looking at the XMUG, which is the flip-side of the PSS/OCM car movement flow.

XMUG-7 rolls through Tehachapi in 2018. - Jason Hill photo

I always enjoy looking at SP lumber train photos, because the individual cars in the trains builds an understanding of what cars would make up the majority of such train consists.  In HO scale, I don't believe that most modelers will be able to model an exact 50-70 car freight trains, but if we know what types of cars should be in the train, we can stage and route the layout traffic to form these types of consist.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

Open Loads (Part 5) - Lumber Loads on Flats & Gondolas - SP Lumber Train 1-671 near Oakridge in 1947.  I also cover the consist in this photo in the linked article.


  1. So much more to running a train than many of us think about.

  2. Car 11 is EJ&E (rebuilt 40-ton USRA double sheathed,) car 15 is L&N (rebuilt ARA design single sheathed car,) and car 21 is a Frisco 'Howe truss' single sheathed car. Car 7 is a puzzler... it looks like part has been cleaned or repainted and the angle of the light accentuates/obscures the paint and stenciling. I'm gonna noodle on that one for awhile. Cheers, Ted

    1. Thanks Ted, I've edited your comments into the post for those cars. Let me know if you come up with anything more! Feel free to chime in on the other photo analysis posts that I'll be making in the future. - Jason


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