WEX: Is it real... or is it Red Ball?


Richard Brennan <brennan8@...>
 

All

Last evening I was digging -way- too deeply into
my unbuilt kit closet... and happened upon a
well-worn kit box mailed to me in 1972. (45¢
postage!). Direct from Howell Day, in Dunellen,
NJ, it is a "Western Electric Flat Car", Red Ball #51.

The kit: Well, let's just say it's a typical Red Ball kit... (no comment)

The decal set however, intrigues me:
W.E.X., "FL" built
3-37 <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/STMFC/files/WEX_RedBall-51.jpg>

Is this a "real" car? Are the reporting marks valid?
I don't see "WEX" on Ian Cranstone's private
owners list at <http://www.nakina.net/report.html>
...or did Howell Day create a fantasy roadname to
please the Western Electric/Bell Labs/AT&T
employee-modelers that lived in northern New Jersey?

Western Electric was certainly no stranger to the
rail business; they owned the Manufacturer's
Junction Railway in Chicago, which served the massive Hawthorne Works.
(for all the MBA's in the audience... the site of
the famous "Hawthorne Studies" on workplace motivation and productivity...)

Any ideas?


--------------------
Richard Brennan - San Leandro CA (Yes... ex- WECo...!!!)
--------------------


Richard Hendrickson
 

On Jul 20, 2007, at 2:17 PM, Richard Brennan wrote:

Last evening I was digging -way- too deeply into
my unbuilt kit closet... and happened upon a
well-worn kit box mailed to me in 1972. (45¢
postage!). Direct from Howell Day, in Dunellen,
NJ, it is a "Western Electric Flat Car", Red Ball #51.

The kit: Well, let's just say it's a typical Red Ball kit... (no
comment)

The decal set however, intrigues me:
W.E.X., "FL" built
3-37 <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/STMFC/files/WEX_RedBall-51.jpg>

Is this a "real" car? Are the reporting marks valid?
I don't see "WEX" on Ian Cranstone's private
owners list at <http://www.nakina.net/report.html>
...or did Howell Day create a fantasy roadname to
please the Western Electric/Bell Labs/AT&T
employee-modelers that lived in northern New Jersey?
Richard, the stock number indicates that this was a kit dating back to
the 1940s when Red Ball kits were produced in California by M. Dale
Newton. Those original Red Ball kits were certainly crude by current
standards, but AFAIK they were not "fantasy" models. However, you're
right that, in the ORERs I have from that era, W.E.X. isn't listed as a
valid reporting mark, which probably means that the prototype car was
in captive service on some RR line owned/operated by Western Electric.
An additional clue is the type symbol; class FL flat cars were logging
cars, many (most?) of which were not operated in interchange and thus
were not obliged to be listed in the ORERs. Now, I wouldn't even guess
about why Western Electric would own logging flats.

Richard Hendrickson


[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


Tom Madden <tgmadden@...>
 

Richard Hendrickson wrote:

Now, I wouldn't even guess about why Western Electric would own
logging flats.
Transporting telephone poles?

Tom Madden, Bell Labs 1960-1994


Richard Brennan <brennan8@...>
 

At 16:42 7/20/2007, Tom Madden wrote:
Richard Hendrickson wrote:

Now, I wouldn't even guess about why Western Electric would own
logging flats.
Transporting telephone poles?

Tom Madden, Bell Labs 1960-1994
Oak lumber for the switchboard cabinetry shops in Newark NJ and Cicero IL...???
While these did exist...
the Red Ball kit car is -not- actually a lumber car, but a conventional 40ft flat with a load of cable reels.

If anyone has STMFC-related info on either WECo's Newark or Hawthorne works, I would be more than interested!

Richard Brennan, Western Electric/AT&T Network Systems 1970-1995


Denny Anspach <danspach@...>
 

The majority of M.Dale Newton's Red Ball stock was lost in a catastrophic fire at his Medford, OR "plant" in c. 1943; the result being that production of so many of his original kits, printed sides, and parts was not resumed after business resumed. This little-remarked watershed event (memorialized in a series of continuing small advertisements in the MR of the time) has both frustrated as well as presented challenges to modelers attempting to either identify or search for these older models and sides.

Of course, anything Red Ball with Howell Day's name on it postdates that episode by at least a decade.

Denny
--
Denny S. Anspach, MD
Sacramento


Denny Anspach <danspach@...>
 

This Red Ball Western Electric flat car kit K-51 with cable reels is listed by Howell Day as being "1920" which may explain to some degree its absence from the usual ORERs.

Hauling cable reels or telephone poles would not be ordinary activities expected of wholly-owned equipment manufacturer Western Electric, while it might well be expected of parent AT&T.

However, as pointed out, Western Electric was already in the railroad business with its well established Manufacturer's Junction Railway in Cicero/Chicago.

Could it be that for internal simplicity and convenience, AT&T would simply assign all of its own cars to Western Electric reporting marks so that all were under a single roof?

Note that although Richard Brennan's kit has the usual and expected typical Red Ball mixture of cast metal and wood parts, Howell Day's undated #10 catalog describes the same flat car as being "plastic"!

M. Dale Newton apparently was a pretty reliable supplier of accurately-researched and lettered models, and I have no knowledge that worthy Red Ball successor Howell Day was any different. I have never read about, nor learned otherwise how Newton actually did his research.

Denny




--
Denny S. Anspach, MD
Sacramento


Tom Madden <tgmadden@...>
 

Denny Anspach wrote:

Hauling cable reels or telephone poles would not be ordinary
activities expected of wholly-owned equipment manufacturer Western
Electric, while it might well be expected of parent AT&T.

However, as pointed out, Western Electric was already in the
railroad business with its well established Manufacturer's
Junction Railway in Cicero/Chicago.

Could it be that for internal simplicity and convenience, AT&T
would simply assign all of its own cars to Western Electric
reporting marks so that all were under a single roof?
Most likely. Those of us in the Bell Labs research area weren't
subjected to the full Bell System corporate brainw ^H^H^H^H^H^H
philosophy and history seminars. But my recollection is that Western
Electric, in addition to its manufacturing role, was also AT&T's
property manager. AT&T and Western Electric each owned 50% of Bell
Labs, but Western Electric owned the buildings and was our landlord.
It makes sense that any Bell System railroad equipment would have
also been owned by Western Electric.

In the glory days of Ma Bell (pre-1969), the focus was on universal
service. Part of that was being able to respond to massive service
outages in an almost heroic fashion. This required that large
amounts of materiel be shipped and stored at depots all over the
country. The further back in time you go, the less likely it is that
highway transport would have been the best and most reliable way to
accomplish that. I am reluctant to draw any conclusions about whose
rail equipment would have been used, but having some company-owned
rolling stock, especially back in the 1920's when so much of the
infrastructure was up on poles and vulnerable to severe weather,
seems justifiable.

Tom Madden


Richard Hendrickson
 

On Jul 21, 2007, at 1:53 PM, Tom Madden wrote:

Denny Anspach wrote:

> Hauling cable reels or telephone poles would not be ordinary
> activities expected of wholly-owned equipment manufacturer Western
> Electric, while it might well be expected of parent AT&T.
>
> However, as pointed out, Western Electric was already in the
> railroad business with its well established Manufacturer's
> Junction Railway in Cicero/Chicago.
>
> Could it be that for internal simplicity and convenience, AT&T
> would simply assign all of its own cars to Western Electric
> reporting marks so that all were under a single roof?

Most likely. Those of us in the Bell Labs research area weren't
subjected to the full Bell System corporate brainw ^H^H^H^H^H^H
philosophy and history seminars. But my recollection is that Western
Electric, in addition to its manufacturing role, was also AT&T's
property manager. AT&T and Western Electric each owned 50% of Bell
Labs, but Western Electric owned the buildings and was our landlord.
It makes sense that any Bell System railroad equipment would have
also been owned by Western Electric.

In the glory days of Ma Bell (pre-1969), the focus was on universal
service. Part of that was being able to respond to massive service
outages in an almost heroic fashion. This required that large
amounts of materiel be shipped and stored at depots all over the
country. The further back in time you go, the less likely it is that
highway transport would have been the best and most reliable way to
accomplish that. I am reluctant to draw any conclusions about whose
rail equipment would have been used, but having some company-owned
rolling stock, especially back in the 1920's when so much of the
infrastructure was up on poles and vulnerable to severe weather,
seems justifiable.
That all seems plausible, Tom, but the prototype for the model in
question (if there actually was a prototype) could not have been used
for anything but on-site storage, since the WEX reporting marks weren't
in the ORERs; such a car could not have been used to deliver materials
to overcome massive service outages since it could not have been
operated in interchange.

Richard Hendrickson


James Eckman
 

That all seems plausible, Tom, but the prototype for the model in
question (if there actually was a prototype) could not have been used
for anything but on-site storage, since the WEX reporting marks weren't
in the ORERs; such a car could not have been used to deliver materials
to overcome massive service outages since it could not have been
operated in interchange.
Richard Hendrickson
Just quick search for "long beach 1933 earthquake telephone service restoration" shows that there were some emergency plans in place for catastrophic quakes, under these circumstances they may have traveled under government orders and not in interchange possibly. This would be a case of national emergency and not business as usual.

It would be interesting to see if there ever was a disaster big enough for this to occur, it would make an awesomely obscure diorama!

Jim Eckman


George Gounley <gounleys@...>
 

On 21 JUL 2007 Richard Hendrickson wrote:

"That all seems plausible, Tom, but the prototype for the model in
question (if there actually was a prototype) could not have been used
for anything but on-site storage, since the WEX reporting marks weren't
in the ORERs; such a car could not have been used to deliver materials
to overcome massive service outages since it could not have been
operated in interchange."

This raises the issue of what should be done vs. what could be and was done. ORER data today is derived from the UMLER, although originally it was the other way around. It was not until the 1990s - because of the decision to record the Single Car Air Brake Test date in UMLER but not stencil it on the car - that the Class I railroads routinely checked each car's UMLER entry before putting it into a train consist.

So if as late as the 1990s before the SCABT a car could be moved without being in UMLER, and therefore not in the ORER, I can envision that an entire fleet could be in interchange use in the 1920s-1930s without being in the ORER. To my mind the ORER listing would have been used to:
a. Send a bill for car repairs to the car owner
b. Request replacement parts not stocked by the repairing railroad from the car owner
c. Send mileage allowances to the car owner
d. For a car not used in intra-company service, inform the receiver of car characteristics.

If the cars were lettered with the Western Electric name, or if use of WEX reporting marks on Western Electric cars predated the assignment of reporting marks to private car lines, or if it were common knowledge that the initials WE on a car carrying telephone cable reels meant Western Electric, then at least the first two uses of the ORER listing could be met without looking in the ORER. As for the third, since the default mileage allowance for private line flat cars today is the same as when it was established in the 1890s-1900s ($0.006 per mile), maybe even back then it was not worth the effort to collect it, especially if only a few cars were involved. The fourth reason would not apply to Western Electric cars, as the receiver would generally be another Bell company.

Finally, regardless of all of the above arguments, would yard clerks have memorized all of the current private car line reporting marks or had the opportunity, time, and inclination to check the latest ORER for every reporting mark that they did not recall each time they did a yard check?

George Gounley
gounleys@...


Charlie Vlk
 

I seriously doubt that the car is legit... if there were a need for company-owned equipment there would have had to have been a company infrastructure to support them,
and AFAIK there was not.
The original thought that the car was made up by Howell Day to please the Bell Labs locals is probably spot on. During the 40's and 50's Model Railroading was a popular hobby that was supported by the Bell System (there was the vestigages of a club when I joined Illinois Bell in 1969 but by then the company had started to change and company support of such clubs (Ham Radio, Bowling Leagues, etc.) was on the decline. At one time there was a large layout in the basement of one of the downtown Chicago
buildings.... and I know that Bell Labs in Naperville had a club well into the 1980s as did the Murray Hill facility in NJ and other places.
The Bell Companies would not receive material directly from the Western Electric factories. Western maintained distribution warehouses in each state or locality for distribution of material. In the case of Outside Plant items (Cable, Poles, and other Line Fixtures) the material would most likely go by truck to local company work centers {"garages"), although some large Bell Company distribution warehouses did have rail service and may have received items like Poles directly from the source in earlier times (early 50's and previous). WE did almost all engineering and installation of Central Office Equipment (Step-by-Step, Panel, No.5 Crossbar, etc..) and had their own delivery and work forces separate from the local operating companies. I imagine LCL or carload freight was used for deliveries in the early days but trucks were used extensively from the distribution warehouses as soon as they were available because of the delicate nature of the equipment.
The Manufactuer's Junction (the industrial common carrier at the WE Co. Cicero, IL Hawthorn Works) had some second hand boxcars (mostly 50' single door jobs IIRC) for online storage and intraplant movement, and a ex C&NW wood waycar. I heard that at one time they had an ex-CB&Q bobber on their roster but have never uncovered a picture of it or their steam locomotives. I do have the drawings for the roundhouse at Hawthorn Works which is still standing and in use by a locomotive rebuilder.
Charlie Vlk
(former Illinois Bell Suburban Building Engineer/Architect)

The fourth reason would not apply to Western Electric cars, as the receiver would generally be another Bell company.

.


Charlie Vlk
 

Denny-
For a boy that grew up in Riverside you must not have spent enough time with the natives (Bohemians) to learn about AT&T!!!
I think some of the rich Bohunks (I can use the term since I are one!!!) lived in Riverside.... or at least North Riverside and certainly
there was no shortage of my landsmen in Hollywood and Brookfield!!! And of course Berwyn to the east of you!!! (for those on the
list not acquainted with local Chicago lore the bulk of workers at "the Western" in Cicero were of Czech descent).
AT&T proper had two sides... the overall management of the Bell System (corporate) and the Long Liines (the long distance interstate
operations). Western Electric was not only a manufacturer of cable and equipment, telephones and other hardware but a purchasing
agent and distribution system for everything the Bell System used. Bell Labs was the research arm of the Bell System and did everything
from theoretical research (leading to the transistor, for example) to materials testing quality control.
At one time the CB&Q had a direct connection to the Manufacturer's Junciton over a bridge spanning 26th Street from their Clyde Yard over
the west end of the station plaform at Hawthorn.
Getting back to the subject at hand, most cable was likely shipped in boxcars, there being little need for massive reels that would require an
open car. Perhaps submarine cable would be shipped on a depressed center flat car ala Lionel and American Flyer... but most cable reels had
to be able to be manhandled at some point during their installation and so could be easily be shipped in house cars. Telephone poles are an
underepresented freight car load in modeling, come to think about it..... not only being used for telephone and telegraph lines but in similar or
larger sizes for power distribution. A telephone or power utility pole yard would be an interseting industry and excuse to model cars with loads
on a layout. In nearby River Forest the CA&E served a Commonwealth Edison Company pole yard which was also a distribution point for
transformers and other electrical switching gear, all of which came in by rail during the heyday of the interurban.
Charlie Vlk

Hauling cable reels or telephone poles would not be ordinary
activities expected of wholly-owned equipment manufacturer Western
Electric, while it might well be expected of parent AT&T.
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Schuyler Larrabee
 

Perhaps submarine cable would be shipped on a
depressed center flat car ala Lionel and American Flyer...
Charlie Vlk
I have a photo of a length of (I think) submarine cable being shipped on the ERIE, I think in the
high-side gons, in one very long piece, so long that it was laid in the gons lengthwise, in layers,
with turns at the ends (obviously) and then looped up over the ends into the next car. There were
maybe eight or ten cars in this shipment, and it was all one cable. They were chained together.

There was only one problem. The reason the photo was taken (which shows a pubicity sign mounted on
one gon) is that one car suffered a hotbox. So . . . the entire shipment is all set out on a
siding, awaiting repairs.

Someone's day was pretty well ruined, I expect.

SGL

[I'm a bit vague on the details b/c the photo, along with the rest of my library, is in disarray
right now. Even more than normal. New bookcases.]