This is a long overdue update on the Rails West layout. My layout continues to evolve. My fondness for different railroads has always been problematic from a layout planning standpoint. This over-inclusive fondness in reality leads to some creativity, variety, interest and dysfunction.
In my most recent update, I had planned to evolve from the originally- planned “ATSF in Roswell, NM in the early 1990s layout” to the “SP-DRGW merger era in the mid-to-late 1990s.” Shortly thereafter, I decided to start digitizing the slides I took in my late teens. Might have been a mistake.
Since then (for about nine months straight), I have been fixated on the era of those slides (late-1970s to the early-1980s)–all the railroads I loved were in business, lots of variety, no tagging, first generation diesels, attractive billboard paint schemes, cabooses, F units, all in all, just a richer version of railroads than I see today or before that for that matter.
That seed has grown and caused yet another evolution of the layout. I will likely be sharing more details in the future, track plan, industries and introducing my operating scheme that has led to seeing my layout more as almost a theatrical stage than a traditional layout. More on that later.
But what I wanted to share in this post is my first real operating session (of sorts) simplified as it may be. I was very happy that there were no stalls and the layout performed very nicely.
The above image shows my local coming into town. I will let the captions largely narrate the session.
Way more to come. The layout is in its infancy, but I wanted to share the first operating session.
Recently, my friend B. Smith shared with us his excellent research on the San Fernando Branch in CA. (There will be another post in future with some additional photos!) from that post, the below item caught my eye in that in 1972, Christmas trees were still being delivered by rail.
“Encino Team Track averaged 3 cars per month (0 to 11 per month)
American Jet (salvage wreaked aircraft brought in by rail
Christmas Trees (every December the team track area was leased out as a Christmas tree lot and 4 to 6 carloads of trees were brought in)
B. Smith and I swapped some e-mails on the topic to try to find some photos with very little luck, but he did find this–
Another Sign Of The Christmas Season Arrives In California
Union Pacific Delivers Christmas Trees from the Pacific Northwest
Omaha, Neb., November 17, 2006 – Christmas trees are again on their way to households in California, and Union Pacific is helping move them. The season’s first rail shipment of fresh Christmas trees arrived Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles on board a UP train from Portland, Ore.
Over the coming days, Union Pacific expects to transport nearly 725,000 Christmas trees to California in more than 1,000 containers or over-the-road trailers. The majority of the containers are bound for Los Angeles; the remaining will ship to Lathrop in Northern California.
Historically, the railroad moved Christmas trees in boxcars that were unloaded at various locations by a wide variety of vendors. In 1988, Union Pacific began moving the trees in intermodal containers and over-the-road trailers. Since then, the railroad has transported more than 9,600 containers and trailers loaded with more than 6.5 million Christmas trees from the Pacific Northwest.
Intermodal shipping involves moving freight by rail and truck without re-packing the shipping container. An example:
- A container on an over-the-road truck chassis is loaded with Christmas trees at a tree farm.
- The loaded container is driven by truck to the rail yard in Portland and placed on a railroad flat car.
- The flat car is moved by train to an intermodal terminal in Los Angeles or Lathrop.
- The container is removed from the flat car and placed on an over-the-road truck chassis.
- The container is driven by truck to vendors in the Los Angeles or Lathrop areas.
Pretty neat that some trees may still be moving by rail.
In closing, here’s a few old school pictures of Christmas trees by rail courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.
If anyone has photos of trees being shipped by rail (especially if newer than those above), please share.
Meanwhile, a very Merry Christmas to all the readers of Rails West!
To conclude my series on bakeries, here is a little information on the structures, rolling stock, vehicles and operations.
Bakeries come in all shapes and sizes, but most of the older ones were pretty substantial brick or cinder block buildings from what I can gather. Here’s a collection of photos demonstrating the variety.
Older Rainbow Bakery in Tucson, AZ.
Here’s a more modern bakery.
Here is a collection of photos of a former Rainbo bakery in Lexington, KY with some cool interior shots in case you were very ambitious and wanted to model a realistic interior.
Here is a few photos of silos and unloading equipment.
Everything from just the tanks to suggest a larger structure off layout to an entire structure.
Now here is one of my favorite aspects of modelling a bakery operation–really neat rolling stock and vehicles.
Here’s just a couple of examples.
Both Tangent and Athearn make excellent covered hoppers for serving bakeries.
Tangent has just come out with this excellent model.
For years, Athearn has produced this nice model of the GATC 2600–
I’ve seen some nice painted models of this car as well if you want to get creative. Here’s the real car–
Here’s the model–
Here’s a small sampling of the vehicles one could model–
Stanley Houghton photos above are copyrighted and are for non-commercial use only. They are courtesy of Hanks Truck Pictures. This site is an excellent source of trucking related photos for modelling older truck operations.
Operations are normally pretty simple. The car is spotted over the unloading area and the flour is pneumatically produced to the silos. With multiple cars or bays, re-spotting may be necessary if the unloading facility has a device that requires the car to be in one spot. Some bakeries may have flexible hosing that would provide some flexibility.
The bakery in Roswell featured in Part I, would normally receive 1 to 2 cars per week. It was a small but very steady source of traffic.
If only I could figure out how to imitate the smell of baking bread…
I lived in Roswell, NM, for much of the early 1990s. One of the pleasures of early 1990 Roswell was driving by the Rainbo bakery and smelling the fresh bread being baked. Another treat for me was to check out the spur where the Santa Fe Railway brought in covered hoppers of flour.
Sadly, it is all gone now with the exception of a few relics. The green dots above show where the cars were spotted for unloading and the base upon which the silos sat that stored the flour. The flour was pneumatically carried from the train car to the silos and from the silos to the bakery. I am not sure if the remaining structure was related to the bakery. I remember to pneumatic tube that carried the flour to the bakery was pretty long and may have gone to a structure that has now been demolished.
The bakery in Roswell would normally receive 1 to 2 cars once to twice a week. It was a small, but very steady customer.
I wish I had taken more photos of the overall operation. As usual, I didn’t think I was capturing the closing days of something that had been going on for many years.
Above is an action shot I caught while the ATSF local down from Clovis heading to Carlsbad stopped in Roswell. The local generally had to switch the bakery and the Budweiser distributor and often the team track and Miller distributor. The Coors distributor and lumber yard were regular but less frequent customers. There was a smattering of irregular customers also in the area including a dairy, a Christmas ornament factory and a waste recycling facility.
If you model the mid-1990s or earlier, a bakery is worth considering for your layout. They were widespread and regular customers and often received smaller cars. You don’t even have to model the whole operation. You can just model the silos with the bakery being theoretically just off the layout just as the above photos suggest and as B. Smith did on his LCN RR.
B. Smith only modelled the silos. The bakery sits just off the layout.
His bakery also receives corn syrup by rail so there is also a tank (on the left) in his unloading area. His bakery is usually good for a couple of covered hoppers and an occasional corn syrup tank car.
In part II of this series, I will discuss a little more about modelling bakery operations and discuss rolling stock options.
In an earlier post, I shared B. Smith’s excellent coverage SP action in the San Fernando Valley in the early 1970s. In this post, we will drill down a little further into the nuts and bolts of the line’s operations again in the early 1970s with a few new photos, maps and field notes made by B. Smith as he documented the line in 1972. This will be very useful for people interested in modelling the line and give the rest of us food for thought as to how many lines operated in the 1970s and somewhat beyond.
Here’s an overview map to start (Each of the boxes will have detailed maps and field notes to follow. All the photos were taken July 20, 1972 and copyright B. Smith)–
Let’s head east to west and visit a little around the North Hollywood area to start.
The San Fernando Valley Branch as it travels up the center of Chandler Blvd. in North Hollywood. Looking east from near Laurel Canyon Blvd.
San Fernando Valley Branch passing under the Hollywood Freeway. Facing west.
OK, let’s head west on the branch over to Van Nuys in 1972.
Heading further west, we go near the Sepulveda Dam Recreational Area.
Now easing a little further west, let’s poke around the Encino area just a bit before heading over to Reseda.
Now let’s end this tour at the most western part of the branch around the Canoga Park area.
As we wrap up our visit of SP operations in the San Fernando Valley in 1972, let me leave you with a couple of overview documents.
Again, this is an amazing gold mine for anyone interested in modelling this branch in the early 1970s. The operations were very diverse and interesting. It would make a fascinating layout.
Next post will feature a detailed description of switching around Tarzana on July 12, 1972.
The Falstaff Brewing Corporation was a major American brand headquartered in Saint Louis. It started out with the Lemp Brewery in the 1830s. One account has it that the company was renamed after a character in Shakespeare named John Falstaff around 1903. It was at one time a really big brand peaking in production in the mid-1960s. Sadly, the brand disappeared off the store shelves in 2005, but not in the imagination on many former customers. Word has it that production may soon resume as a Pabst brand, who incidentally brews one of my favorite IPA-Ballantine IPA. Click here for my post on Ballantine from earlier this year.
If Pabst does bring the brand back, I hope they put some thought into the recipe the way they did with Ballantine IPA. I think they hit a home run with it.
I remember drinking Falstaff, a little under aged, with my dad in the late 1970s sitting around the barbeque pit. I liked it! It was a little distinctive.
As a prelude to its possible reintroduction, I wanted to share the great artwork Falstaff used to promote its fine beer.
Discretely flashing a little leg, always good for sales.
Ah, romance facilitated by an ice cold Falstaff or two!
What’s not to love? I strongly support equal rights for women, but I love seeing pictures of these men being comfortable in their skin–just enjoying life. I love these ads!
Freshly caught fish on the grill. Not sure if I can think of a better smell after a day on the river.
Now being practically, a life-long White Sox fan, here’s another reason for me to miss Falstaff, it was the beer partner to the White Sox in one of the most colorful era of the Sox, the 1970s.
I love this write up from the website whitesoxinteractive.com.
Today’s Chicago south side bears little resemblance to the neighborhood surrounding Old Comiskey Park in the 1970’s. Long before anyone had heard of “supply-side economics”, “downsizing”, or “the Asian economic tigers”, Chicago’s south side was a vibrant manufacturing area. Large mills like Wisconsin Steel belched smoke and paychecks to legions of south siders, game-fully employed in solid blue-collar jobs. When their shift at the plant ended, they went to the corner tap and then to 35th and Shields to continue their imbibing. The drink of choice was not white zinfandel. Every summer evening on the south side, Comiskey Park was filled with the cigarette smoke and serious drinking.
When they arrived at Comiskey they found a new crown prince to the festivities, the newly-hired tv and radio announcer, Harry Caray. Gone was the understatement of Sox legend Bob Elson. Harry was brash, opinionated, and eager to draw attention to himself. Most of all, Harry was one of the guys. He did broadcasts from Comiskey’s center field bleachers. He watched the blondes in the stands as much as the rest of us. He of course had a microphone in his hand to let the whole world know what he was thinking. There was his giant fishing net inside the booth for catching foul balls. Most famously, there was his seventh inning rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Anyone with cable tv is familiar with a similar routine he did through the 80’s and 90’s at Wrigley Field. Many fans from coast to coast think that is what Harry always did — and of course they’re wrong. In the 70’s at Comiskey, a younger sharper Harry didn’t slur his words, and wasn’t a caricature of himself. With Nancy Faust’s organ accompaniment, Harry led a rousing and drunken chorus of fans in a way Wrigley Field’s kiddies could never duplicate — nor he. At Comiskey Park it sounded for all the world like a bar room anthem. Of course at Comiskey Park, it was a bar room anthem.
Harry had spent years in St. Louis shilling the Busch family’s #1 brand, Budweiser. Upon his arrival in Chicago in 1971, Busch’s crosstown rival, Falstaff, was all too eager to make him their spokesman. “The choicest product of the brewer’s art,” was Falstaff’s tag line. Now Harry Caray became the choicest pitch man for the shot and beer crowd who came to Comiskey.
“Ah, what I wouldn’t do right now for a plate of barbecue ribs and an ice-cold Falstaff!”
That was during the game. Each half-inning’s commercial break, Sox fans were deluged in a sea of Falstaff advertisements, too. “Falstaff — because we’re all in this together.” Other beer brands moved into Comiskey soon enough and Falstaff faded from Sox fans’ minds along with its national stature. Schlitz, Stroh’s, and yes — Budweiser, soon became the park’s official brands. None of them ever matched the advertising blitz Harry Caray and Falstaff achieved.
What a great era…Bill Veeck and Harry Caray! And the uniforms!
Those were the days. Hopefully, we can look forward to some more Falstaff days in the future. (Maybe not those uniforms though, even though I loved them at the time.)
The San Fernando Valley Branch in 1973 was an interesting operation with a lot of traffic. There was a wide variety of shippers and a good deal of team track traffic. B. Smith, the author of the below profile he wrote in 1973, talked to owners/managers of each business/industry located along the tracks as well as the Southern Pacific Railroad’s area manager who allowed him access to the railroad’s records. Here is some of what he learned. It gives us all a glimpse into 1970s to probably the late 1980s-early 1990s operations when single car traffic was still common and embraced by larger railroads. The diversity of the team traffic business really caught my eye. (The verb tense is present since this is what B. Smith documented in 1973.)
Orowheat Bakery, receives wheat from Montana and flour and rye from Seattle and Oakland by rail. Cereal and ground flour are shipped from this bakery to San Francisco and Portland by rail. The railroad was considered very essential to the continuing operation of the bakery. SP records show an average of 12 cars per month in bound, 9 cars per month out bound from the bakery for the months of January through October, 1973. The numbers were pretty consistent from month to month. Inbound ranged from 9 to 15, out bound from 8 to 13. Unfortunately, this bakery was on the far side of the valley from where I lived so I didn’t ever see rail activity there.
Another rail user along the branch was Adolph’s Ltd., its warehouse was built 18 years ago at this location because of the availability of rail transport. The finished product (meat tenderizer) is shipped by rail to 17 distributors located across the US. Some incoming raw materials, mainly salt, are received at this warehouse by rail. In bound rail shipments, according to SP records, varied from 1 car to 8 cars per month, Jan thru Oct, 1973, with an average of 3 cars per month. Out bound shipments averaged 10 cars per month, varied from 7 to 13.
Goldkey Furniture Warehouse, building and spur track built in 1972! Location determined by availability of rail transport. Furniture is made in the Eastern US, mainly Virginia. This company receives shipments by rail because its other stores have always received rail shipments and a boxcar load of furniture can be divided between two stores. Truck transportation is increasing as trucks are faster, 2 to 3 trips for the time it takes for one rail trip, and a truck can hold as much furniture as a boxcar ( I think I remember 40 ft box cars here). Truck arrivals can be scheduled while rail arrivals cannot so fewer employees are needed in the warehouse when arrivals are scheduled and the work is spread out. There is much less damage with truck shipments. Goldkey was experiencing a lot of damage in rail shipments, the manager I talked with showed me photographs of damaged furniture in box cars and was very negative to rail shipments, even though the damage was due to inadequate packing protection and the shipping company would pay for the damaged freight, it created a lot of paperwork for this individual. Goldkey averaged 17 rail cars per month, ranging from a high of 42 in January, 1973 (probably when the warehouse was just completed) to a low of 7 cars the next month.
There were other businesses getting furniture by rail along the branch, mostly at team tracks, although Butler Brothers Department Store leased a warehouse with rail spur that only served their Van Nuys store. The comment I received from them was appliances are shipped in equal sized boxes and arrive in good condition, furniture in unequal size boxes is harder to pack securely and often arrives damaged. SP records indicate Butler Bros received only one rail shipment in July for the months of Jan thru Oct 1973. A furniture warehouse in Reseda that had frequently received rail shipments burned down in 1972 and was replaced with a car wash.
In 1973, lumber yards were 56%, team tracks 14%, Orowheat Bakery 10%, Goldkey Furniture 8%, Adolphs Ltd 6%, non-wood building materials 3%, all others 3% of the rail business along the branch.
SP records show the following companies using team tracks from January thru October, 1973:
North Hollywood Team Track average 6 cars per month (3 to 15 per month)
Sta-Soil Corp. – wood fiber
Valley Moulding Co.
Valley Sales (lumber)
Village Cycle (motorcycle parts)
Van Nuys Team average 10 cars per month (7 to 15 per month)
Dallas Cereamics (tile)
Davis Co. (veneer)
Marquardt Corp (ram jet manufacturer)
US Postal Service (magazines, catalogs)
Spintex Corp (carpeting) this company leased the Van Nuys freight station to use as a warehouse
Solar Alloys Inc. (steel)
Encino Team Track averaged 3 cars per month (0 to 11 per month)
American Jet (salvage wreaked aircraft brought in by rail)
Christmas Trees (every December the team track area was leased out as a Christmas tree lot and 4 to 6 carloads of trees were brought in)
Tarzana Team Track averaged 2 cars per month (0 to 5 per month)
Cedar Shingle and Shake Co. (wood shingles)
Tarzana Mower and Engine Parts
Union Door and Hardware (doors)
Canoga Park Team Track averaged 7 cars per month (3 to 10 per month)
California Maple Shops (furniture)
Canoga Cycle Center
Nature Gro (mulch)
Tarzana, Reseda, Encino, Canoga Park, Van Nuys, North Hollywood were all individual little towns that over the years had grown and merged together in the SanFernando Valley to the point one was not sure where one town ended and the next began unless there was a sign like,” Now Entering Tarzana” (site of a former ranch owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of the Tarzan storybooks). All these towns are now incorporated into the city of Los Angeles.
Comments from some of the other businesses along the line. Mostly lumber/building supply companies.
North Hollywood Glass and Mirror Co. moved to the present location 35 years ago so a spur track could be extended into the warehouse to facilitate unloading. Relies more on trucks now but still needs the railroad, especially for shipments from the eastern US. Shipments of jumbo plate glass require rail because it is too big for trucks, but demand for jumbo plate glass has been declining. Receives an average of 5 cars per month
Blanchard Lumber Co. says the railroad is essential even though truck transport is increasing. Established at the present site in 1911, at one time employed more than 100 employees and had elaborate milling facilities and numerous spur tracks, all gone now. 4 cars per month.
Hendricks Building Supply Co. uses the former Pacific Electric station (trolley line) as it office and warehouse. 2 cars per month.
Pameco-Air-Refrigeration incoming shipments from the eastern US come by rail. One advantage of rail shipments is rail cars do not need to be unloaded immediately as do trucks. 1 car per month.
Lumber City – Lumber from Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Canada arrives by rail, lumber from northern California arrives by truck. Truck shipments arrive in better condition. Number of rail shipments steady, truck shipments increasing. 5 cars per month.
Modern Materials Inc. (building materials) only 3 or 4 rail cars per year of wood products, rail shipments take too long.
McKay Lumber Co. would only say railroad is VERY essential to their business. 2 cars per month.
Cal Wal Gypsum Supply has switched from rail to truck as they now own their own trucks.
Aetna Lumber Co. rail is essential for shipments from out of state. 14 cars per month.
Glesby Building Materials – rail is essential and use of rail increasing. 2 cars per month.
American Forest Products – rail essential and increasing. Don’t have to unload a rail car immediately, but trucks must be immediately unloaded. 25 cars per month.
Terry Building Center – rail very essential for shipments from out of state. Freight cars do not have to be unloaded immediately and can be spotted anytime while someone must be present when a truck arrives. 12 cars per month.
Edwards Building Supply has switched to trucks but may return to rail with current gas crisis.
Hull Bros. Lumber Co. could not rely entirely on trucks even though rail shipments have not increased and truck shipments have. 1 or 2 cars per month.
Canoga Builders Supplies located here because of railroad service but trucking has replaced most shipments and the company now owns their own trucks. 2 cars per month.
Canoga Park Redwood – truck shipments increasing while rail is not. 1 car per month.
Sunset Lumber Co. – Rail shipments essential. 1 car per month.
Georgia Pacific Corp. – Rails shipments so essential that a second spur track was built last year to help handle increasing rail shipments. 50 cars per month.
Final comments, former business operations served by rail.
The Van Nuys area had four fuel dealers served by rail in the past. There was also a feed warehouse, now torn down. Canoga Feed was no longer in business, and George Milling Co. had recently gone out of business, although I had seen a grain car spotted in their spur track in May, 1972. The San Fernando Valley was becoming totally urbanized. No longer were there small farms and orchards nor the keeping of chickens, goats, horses, or cows. Older tracks of small single family homes were being replaced by apartment complexes, thus the need for a lot of lumber and building supplies.
Reading about the bakery has inspired me to explore bakeries in the next post. I observed the Rainbow Bakery in Roswell, NM from 1991-1994. It was a reliable customer for the ATSF. I’ll document a bit more on that and share scenes from a bakery on B. Smith’s LCN RR layout.