Bill Keene

Thank you Bob for your comments. I have also been through Tony’s blogs. Had them bookmarked for some time. 

My layout is basically the tail end of a branch line. It is a down and back operation with one mixed train daily except Sunday. My concern is basically one of would there be a common chalk mark on all or most cars that are destined for towns on this 52-mile long branch? ATSF Train #79 originated at Ottawa, Kansas, then ran as an extra the four miles southward to BN JCT, then out the Burlington District — aka the Gridley Branch — to Gridley where it turned as train #80 for the run back to Ottawa. The traffic is mostly load inbound and empties outbound. 

It is this little detail of the possibility of a specific chalk mark that would denote operations onto the Gridley Branch when the train was assembled in Ottawa that is my concern. These cars would have arrived in Ottawa from three major points: Kansas City (Argentine Yard), Emporia, and Chanute. As previously mentioned, I have been applying chalk marks for “looks” but wonder if there might be a specific mark such as a “79” perhaps circled that should be included in the final modeling. 

Cheers & Happy Modeling,
Bill Keene
Irvine, CA

On Nov 13, 2018, at 9:37 AM, Robert Heninger <gn2059@...> wrote:


Unfortunately, chalk markings were not codified and standardized, and were specific only to that train crew, or yard crews. Other than the obvious ones that are written in plain English, the specific meanings have been lost to time. Your speculations as to track numbers, door numbers, etc. are all valid, but in general, you can't look at a photo of a specific car and make anything more that a SWAG about the specific meanings of the individual marks. You'd need to talk to the person who wrote them, to decipher the "code" for that specific road/locale/crew.

Fortunately, we don't have to know what they mean for our modeling purposes, they just have to be plausible.

Tony Thompson has written several posts about chalk marks on his blog, and I recommend you read them as they are well-written and informative.

Bob Heninger
Minot, ND

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