PROTOTYPE: Swift Wood Reefers

The Swift Company operated a large fleet of reefers to distribute meats from their slaughter houses to regional meat preparation distribution centers. In 1948, Swift had over 3700 cars in operation. The cars were largely wood but steel construction appeared in the fleet after 1954. With the exception of one group, all of the wood cars were either 36′ or 37′ long. This length was typical of the wood era. The wood cars do vary in details and dimensions from one series to another. The picture at the top of the pages illustrates variation in underframe and safety equipment.

I have included a table that was once published in Railmodel Journal many years ago. It shows how the fleet was not a monolithic design that you see on most model railroads. With the exception of the Sunshine HO kit, nearly all commercial models missed the mark on this legendary car.

As you may know the cars wore several decoration schemes ranging from a yellow with black letters to bright red with billboard lettering.

The two photos above show the yellow carbody schemes. Quarter-inch scale modelers are fortunate that Protocraft offers two lettering sets that cover both of the yellow styles and the red sides with white lettering.

The one car that interested me is in the 2500-2875 series. It has an exposed side sill with tension rod bolts and plates below the sheathing.

The brake booster was a piece of hardware to reduce the force needed to apply the brakes. It could be found on a number or freight cars. I did a MKT boxcar for Southern Car & Foundry which had this part included. The picture shown below illustrates a typical installation on a freight car. Ted Culotta was kind enough to provide a correction for the proper name for this device. This brake booster is a Universal product.

I am thinking that this car might be my next build once I finish the Rio Grande automobile car.

Thanks for stopping by

Gene

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PROTOTYPE INFORMATION: Wine Tank Cars

 

GATX 412

We all have favorite freight cars that we think about, collect information on and consider building some day.  I have  more than a few of these projects. It could be referred to as a “bucket list”.   The one thing I have found is that the list changes from time to time.  Years ago my bucket list had things like milk cars and coal hoppers on it.   A little bit later my list changed to see the milk cars go away and Midwestern equipment and old wooden passenger cars pressed into mixed train service.  I am always amazed on how modelers can follow a single prototype in the same scale for many years.   It is not something I have been blessed with.

NATX 6604 Ambrose (6)

In recent years, I have become very interested in wine tank cars.  The first cars I remember seeing was in the middle 1960s in the Central Valley of California.  Wine as a commodity was rail-hauled since the early 1900s.  It seems to have ended in the middle 1960s.  Wine comes in a sorts of types and quality.  Much of what was hauled by rail, was a lower grade product that was bottled in the market area served.  Wine cars came in different configurations ranging from single compartment, two, three, four and six compartment designs.  My favorite cars are the six compartment (domes) types.   These cars were built by General American Tank Car and American Car & Foundry.

Fresno Yard

There are significant differences between the AC&F and GATC designs.   AC&F frames have channel side sills and lower running boards.  Their design featured insulated domes with vents on the top.  AC&F physical dimensions of the underframes: 9′-3″ wide by 40′-11 1/8″ over end sills, 30′-5″ truck centers. Tank dimensions: 66″ inside diameter by 34′-10 1/2″ long, wrapped with 2″ fiberglass insulation and 1/8″ jacket. Dome size: 47 3/8″ diameter by 10″ high.  Ed Hawkins provided this information.

The AC&F Features are shown below:

acf partial annot

GATC CharacteristicsThe General American Tank Car design shows major differences in the dome design.  The external vent can appear on the dome top or side.

The photo below shows a GATC car with diamond tread running boards and the topside dome details.  The dome is insulated which required a flanged top plate.  Kyle Wyatt took this photo of a car that belonged to the California State Railroad Museum.  The museum had to dispose of equipment a few years

Sierra Exif JPEG

Kyle Wyatt

back which sent this car to the Illinois Railroad Museum in Union, IL.

 

What is lacking in my information collection is details on the  GATC 6-compartment cars.  I have been looking for things like tank diameter, dome height and dome diameter.  I didn’t get to the car in Sacramento while it was in the museum collection.  GATC underframe drawings are readily available but the tank is another matter.   I have been told that the tank dimensions do vary between orders.

Construction will have to wait until I get more information on the GATC tanks but I will start working on the AC&F car.   This would give me an opportunity to use the Protocraft California Dispatch Lines decals.  CDLX provided wine cars to shippers on short-term and long-term leases.

CDLX 335 (6) IScdlx art

Time to drag out the styrene and start hacking away.

Happy Trails,

Gene

PROTOTYPE INFORMATION: SP Vasona Branch

SP 2477 June52 Los Gatosblog

The Southern Pacific once operated a network of branches that served smaller communities in California. I moved to a new home in 1984 unaware of the fact it was built on the former Southern Pacific Vasona Branch.  It took me a few years to realize that this was once the path of SP trains and in an earlier time the South Pacific Coast narrow gauge. The rail line once traversed the Santa Cruz Mountains on its way to the coastal city of Santa Cruz, California.   A historic three-foot railroad which became part of the vast Southern Pacific network.  The line originated in the Oakland area and ran southwest to the Pacific Ocean.   Los Gatos was the last town before the line entered the Santa Cruz mountains.  It so happened that the mountains hid the San Andreas earthquake fault.  In 1906, the earth moved and so the railroad line. The quake did significant damage to the right of way.  Slides, caved-in tunnels and other problem blocked service.  The SP decided to convert the line to standard gauge while repairing the damage.    In 1940, fierce storms caused significant damage to the portion of the line that ran through the Santa Cruz mountains.   The railroad petitioned the California PUC to end service west of Los Gatos.  By the way, Los Gatos is Spanish for “The Cats”.

SP 2476 sj table 39 bl

The Vasona Branch started in San Jose near the Race Street overcrossing.  It ran to Campbell and then to Los Gatos.  The distance of 8.3 miles took 35 minutes.   Near Los Gatos, the line passed Vasona Junction.  The junction was with the Los Altos branch that ran from Palo Alto south to the junction.   The SP provided commuter service from Los Gatos to San Francisco via Los Altos line.  The trains were handled by steam up until 1955.  P-6 and P-7 locomotive classes were common on the line.

SP 2781 Vasona Jct

Local freight ran on the Vasona and Los Altos branches.  In the 1950s, consolidation 2781 was a common locomotive handling the freight runs.   The picture above shows 2781 at Vasona Junction.

SP 2781 Vasona Dam LRThe above picture shows the freight heading to Los Gatos.   If you look closely you can see the dam for Vasona Lake.  The mountain in the distance is Mt. Umunhum which was the fourth tallest peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Today, the dam and mountain are the only things you would recognize.  For six years, my office was just to the right of the tender.  The right of way became University Avenue and the office buildings were built on either side of the old line.

LG 1953 engine 2477The line between two main streets in town.  The buildings on the left are the backside of stores on Santa Cruz Avenue.  A lumber yard on the right side was served by the line.  There were two lumber yards in town.   An oil dealer and a couple canneries rounded out the local customers.

SP 2781 LG freight houseLos Gatos had a freight house shown above and depot that was just beyond the freight house.  The tall deodar cedar tree is still there but we would be look at the back side of the post office.   The end of line is shown below.  The locomotive would run around and tow the train to Vasona Junction to turn the locomotive.

SP 2781 end of track Los Gatos

I wish that I had been there years before to see the line in operation.  The branch was cut back to the Junction in 1959.

I can suggest an excellent document to learn more about this line.  The Central Coast Chapter of the NHRS has a PDF you can download that will provide more information on the Vasona Branch.  Vasona Branch Story

Happy Trails,

Gene

RAILWAY MUSEUMS: Part Two Nevada State Railroad Museum Carson City

 

While in the Lake Tahoe area, I visited the now-famous JAX Diner in Truckee, California.  Forget what you know of diner food.  JAX is truly good comfort food using quality ingredients combined with skillful preparation.    I sampled their breakfast offerings and found the pancakes and bacon to be wonderful.   This is my second visit to the place.   The diner was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives show.  It has attracted a significant following and worthy of the praise heaped on it by the show’s host Guy Fieri.  The diner is located right next to UP mainline over the Sierras.  JAX is also referred to as JAX at the Tracks.  During my visit several UP freight trains rolled with the their big yellow diesels reverberating off the walls of the diner.

jax truckee

Following the lead of Trevor Marshall in his blog, I decided to post the diner experience.  I always enjoy Trevor’s descriptions of visits to local pubs for a pint and possibly a little Haggis or something. While trains are the primary focus one has to have fuel while traveling.

Now back to the museum.   I had mentioned in the previous post about the museum’s collection of Virginia & Truckee models.   They are all the work of the late George Richardson.  The museum display contained a plaque giving a little history of the modeler and some sample driver castings.

CCM George Richardson

Mr. Richardson’s models are all displayed in glass cases to preserve and protect.   It does make it challenging to photograph without reflections.  At any rate, please look at the beauty of the his work.

CCM Reno 25 27

CCM 26 modelCCM Genoa model

CCM Ophir

CCM model

CCM 27 closeup model

The above selection of pictures provide you an overview of George Richardson’s amazing work.   Please consider a visit to the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City.  It has a lot to offer.

Happy Trails,

Gene

PROTOTYPE MODELING: Changing Scenes

NP 1372 Casey Jones Issaquah annotated

I came across this photo taken by the late Herb Chaudiere of an excursion that had stopped in Issaquah, Washington.  The Northern Pacific line through Issaquah ran up the mountain to North Bend.   The photo shows a rural scene with lots of trees and no homes or businesses.   If you were in Issaquah today you would not find the track or water tank. You would find lots of homes and businesses like a major Costco office complex.   In fact it is rather hard to imagine a railroad once ran here.  If you travel east on I-90 you may catch a glimpse of some of the old trestles up on the side of the mountain.

Modeling the railroad scene in the early or middle 1950s can be challenging given how much the urban scene has changed.   We have to resort to books, videos and magazines like those published by historical societies.  The Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association (NPRHA) has a very useful NPRHA website.  They have an extensive collection of photos, drawings, rosters, equipment diagrams and long with numerous links to huge photo collections.   It is a goldmine for those interested in the railroad or region.   Check out the site soon.

NP 1013 Christmas RWL

Happy Trails,

Gene

Wine- A different type of industry

napa_valley_vineyard_california_wallpaper-normal

 

The wine industry has been a visible part of the California railroad scene since the early 1900s.   Wine was shipped within the state and interstate using dedicated tank cars.  It was common for wines to be produced in California and bottled in local markets in other parts of the country.   New York state used to be a leader in imported bulk wine for many years.   One the leading brands, Taylor, blended the California product with their locally sourced wine.

CHAT-MART-WINES 124

natx_7501_3-dome_tank_8k_ICC103_insulated_AmbroseWineCo - Copy

SHPX 6608

CDLX 307 - Bearcreek Vinyard

ACFX 6337

Copy of Gibson wine color

GATX 33491 IS (3)

Wine was shipped in a variety of tank cars.  Most of the tank type bodies were insulated with a food grade lining.  The cars were in dedicated service and would not be loaded with other commodities.  The unusual member of the fleet was the rebuilt milk cars leased or purchased from General American.

 Wine produced by premium houses would rarely be subjected to this long trip.  We are talking about inexpensive table or jug wines.  There were fortified wines that were shipped by rail as well.   The picture shown below is the Fresno yard  in the late 1950s.  It gives you and idea of how many cars would be possible to see a major shipping point like Fresno.

Fresno Yard Photo

The SP, WP and ATSF had numerous shippers of bulk wine in the routes in the Central Valley of California.   The plants were often unassuming when compared to the over-the-top architecture of today’s producers.  This class of wine never aged in oak imported from France in limestone caves or old vine covered stone buildings.  Nearly all of the operations are inside a large structure with possibly some steel storage tanks out back.  Blending of various wine stocks would allow the producer to achieve a fairly uniform taste.   The buildings could built against a backdrop taking minimum layout space.  While the harvest season is late summer to early fall, shipments could be year around.   Chateau Martin was a big producer of table wines with several plants within California.  CM was noted for using old milk tank cars to ship wine their eastern bottlers.   The cars were a shade of purple with hand painted graphics.   You can learn more about this company by visiting Dr. James Lancaster’s website. http://coastdaylight.com/chatmart/cmwx_roster_1.html

One of the older family producer wineries is Beaulieu Vineyard in Rutherford, California.  It is in the center of the legendary Napa Valley.  You can find today’s winery along Highway 29 close to St. Helena.    I have always admired the old stone winery covered with ivy.   It has old style class which is lacking in most of the recent wineries built.   I had always wondered if the winery had a spur at one time.   Well, I found this picture the other night while collecting information for the posting.  I suspect that the boxcar had bottles or shipping containers.   They may have received fruit in reefers.  Grapes a often bought and sold to achieve the right balance or character in the wine.

BV-historical bldg

rutherford beauliu

The photo above shows the south end of Beaulieu winery.  The picture was focused on the SP excursion train and not the building.  Fortunate for me, the image had this gem in the background.

So if you want to model wine cars and adding a winery to your railroad, where do I start?   A common wine car was AC&F insulated 8000 gallon version.   A million of these have been imported so they can be had cheaply.

CDLX 764 (1) 6-40

1d_3

Precision Scale Models did some GATC 6000 gallon cars a while back.  They are pricy and not perfect.

In the meanwhile, we have a wonderful supply of decals produced by Protocraft.   Now if , we can get Norm to do the California Dispatch Line decals and a low cost wine car is at hand.  CDLX operated a large fleet of insulated cars supporting the food and wine industry.   Please Norm

STRUCTURES- Old Towns

The Sierra foothills are rich with history dating back to the late 1800s.  The discovery of gold in Coloma brought thousands to the foothills looking to find their treasure.  One of the settlements that grew up around the miners and their quest was Mokelumne Hill.  It was found in 1848 and rapidly grew to a population of nearly 15,000.  Now days, there are less than 700 people living there.

 mokelumne hill9

When  you enter the village you are greeted with palms and pines along with old brick buildings.   Some of the buildings are nothing more than a front wall and no windows or doors.

mokelumne hill6

Other buildings are full of character and beg to be modeled.   I found this house still occupied and looking like the paint might be holding it together.

mokelumne hill 8

mokelumne hill7

Mokelumne Hill never was served by a railroad but likely the local stage and later autos and trucks.   The buildings and their setting provide lots of ideas to create your own gold rush building.

Living very near to the gold mining towns allows me to explore in an hour or two driving.  I will share pictures of other towns in the Sierras.   It has been a favorite place of mine for over forty years.