Topics

CHALK MARKS QUESTION #2


Bill Keene
 

Hello Group,

I have begun to study chalk marks. Well ... actually just look more closely at them. The truth is that with few exceptions I have no idea what the chalk marks are trying to convey. 

Some might appear to be train numbers applied by a yard clerk to aid classifying a car to a specific train. Or perhaps they are track numbers? Or perhaps the marks denote something entirely else. Those that say to "hold" a car are understandable as are marks that explain or denote a bad order car. But the majority of marks are more or less a foreign language to me. 

Also, did the use of chalk marks change over time? That is, would the use or need for chalk marks change from the 1920s to the depression era, to the WWII era, to the post WWII era, etc?

With my past modeling, I have added chalk marks to my weathered models based simply on "looks". Now that I am modeling a specific stretch portion of a specific branch line, I am beginning to wonder about this random approach.

Any knowledge you can provide to this old dog modeler would be appreciated.

Cheers,
Bill Keene
Irvine, CA


Robert Heninger
 

Bill,

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.

Regards,
Bob Heninger
Minot, ND


Robert Heninger
 

Bill,

Here's a link to one of Tony's posts, that contains a couple additional embedded links with further information.

http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/search?q=chalk+mark

Regards,
Bob Heninger
Minot, ND


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:

Bill,

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.

Regards,
Bob Heninger
Minot, ND


John Barry
 

Bill,

Unless you have a rich stash of photos of period photos from your branch or the classification yard that served it, Bob's comment about "plausible" and random applies as the majority of the marks would have been from someplace else and random hieroglyphics are in order.  OTH, if you are so fortunate to have that stash, or the recollections of a yard crew that built the train for your branch, you may be able to decipher that ONE mark that directed the car to your line, be it the schedule number (not necessarily the ETT train #), an alpha code, or distinct pattern.  

Even if you can't discern that pattern, it is reasonable to make a guess that if the 53 train serves your branch and the 52 train serves the branch in the other TT direction that you could plausibly mark all of the cars you operate on your branch with a fresh 53 in a consistent spot along with an assortment of older, more faded random marks.


 
John Barry
 
ATSF North Bay Lines 
Golden Gates & Fast Freights 
Lovettsville, VA

707-490-9696 

PO Box 44736 
Washington, DC 20026-4736



From: Bill Keene via Groups.Io <bill41@...>
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2018 11:42 AM
Subject: [RealSTMFC] CHALK MARKS QUESTION #2

Hello Group,

I have begun to study chalk marks. Well ... actually just look more closely at them. The truth is that with few exceptions I have no idea what the chalk marks are trying to convey. 

Some might appear to be train numbers applied by a yard clerk to aid classifying a car to a specific train. Or perhaps they are track numbers? Or perhaps the marks denote something entirely else. Those that say to "hold" a car are understandable as are marks that explain or denote a bad order car. But the majority of marks are more or less a foreign language to me. 

Also, did the use of chalk marks change over time? That is, would the use or need for chalk marks change from the 1920s to the depression era, to the WWII era, to the post WWII era, etc?

With my past modeling, I have added chalk marks to my weathered models based simply on "looks". Now that I am modeling a specific stretch portion of a specific branch line, I am beginning to wonder about this random approach.

Any knowledge you can provide to this old dog modeler would be appreciated.

Cheers,
Bill Keene
Irvine, CA



Bill Keene
 

Thanks John,

Back to the photos of which I have few that are of my 1952-53 period. 

The thought has come to mind that I am over worrying this chalk mark thing a bit. Comes naturally, I guess. My Dad was somewhat close to being the ultimate worrier. 

Cheers,
Bill Keene
Irvine, CA


On Nov 13, 2018, at 10:22 AM, John Barry <northbaylines@...> wrote:

Bill,

Unless you have a rich stash of photos of period photos from your branch or the classification yard that served it, Bob's comment about "plausible" and random applies as the majority of the marks would have been from someplace else and random hieroglyphics are in order.  OTH, if you are so fortunate to have that stash, or the recollections of a yard crew that built the train for your branch, you may be able to decipher that ONE mark that directed the car to your line, be it the schedule number (not necessarily the ETT train #), an alpha code, or distinct pattern.  

Even if you can't discern that pattern, it is reasonable to make a guess that if the 53 train serves your branch and the 52 train serves the branch in the other TT direction that you could plausibly mark all of the cars you operate on your branch with a fresh 53 in a consistent spot along with an assortment of older, more faded random marks.


 
John Barry
 
ATSF North Bay Lines 
Golden Gates & Fast Freights 
Lovettsville, VA

707-490-9696 

PO Box 44736 
Washington, DC 20026-4736



From: Bill Keene via Groups.Io <bill41@...>
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2018 11:42 AM
Subject: [RealSTMFC] CHALK MARKS QUESTION #2

Hello Group,

I have begun to study chalk marks. Well ... actually just look more closely at them. The truth is that with few exceptions I have no idea what the chalk marks are trying to convey. 

Some might appear to be train numbers applied by a yard clerk to aid classifying a car to a specific train. Or perhaps they are track numbers? Or perhaps the marks denote something entirely else. Those that say to "hold" a car are understandable as are marks that explain or denote a bad order car. But the majority of marks are more or less a foreign language to me. 

Also, did the use of chalk marks change over time? That is, would the use or need for chalk marks change from the 1920s to the depression era, to the WWII era, to the post WWII era, etc?

With my past modeling, I have added chalk marks to my weathered models based simply on "looks". Now that I am modeling a specific stretch portion of a specific branch line, I am beginning to wonder about this random approach.

Any knowledge you can provide to this old dog modeler would be appreciated.

Cheers,
Bill Keene
Irvine, CA




Armand Premo
 

I believe Sunshine had a series of Chalk mark decals that were either road specific or by region ? Armand Premo

On Tue, Nov 13, 2018 at 12:42 PM Robert Heninger <gn2059@...> wrote:
Bill,

Here's a link to one of Tony's posts, that contains a couple additional embedded links with further information.

http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/search?q=chalk+mark

Regards,
Bob Heninger
Minot, ND


Tony Thompson
 

Remember that identifying a branch as a car destination was exactly what route cards were used for. There may well have been no need for a chalk mark.
Tony Thompson 


On Nov 13, 2018, at 3:22 PM, John Barry <northbaylines@...> wrote:

Bill,

Unless you have a rich stash of photos of period photos from your branch or the classification yard that served it, Bob's comment about "plausible" and random applies as the majority of the marks would have been from someplace else and random hieroglyphics are in order.  OTH, if you are so fortunate to have that stash, or the recollections of a yard crew that built the train for your branch, you may be able to decipher that ONE mark that directed the car to your line, be it the schedule number (not necessarily the ETT train #), an alpha code, or distinct pattern.  

Even if you can't discern that pattern, it is reasonable to make a guess that if the 53 train serves your branch and the 52 train serves the branch in the other TT direction that you could plausibly mark all of the cars you operate on your branch with a fresh 53 in a consistent spot along with an assortment of older, more faded random marks.


 
John Barry
 
ATSF North Bay Lines 
Golden Gates & Fast Freights 
Lovettsville, VA

707-490-9696 

PO Box 44736 
Washington, DC 20026-4736



From: Bill Keene via Groups.Io <bill41@...>
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2018 11:42 AM
Subject: [RealSTMFC] CHALK MARKS QUESTION #2

Hello Group,

I have begun to study chalk marks. Well ... actually just look more closely at them. The truth is that with few exceptions I have no idea what the chalk marks are trying to convey. 

Some might appear to be train numbers applied by a yard clerk to aid classifying a car to a specific train. Or perhaps they are track numbers? Or perhaps the marks denote something entirely else. Those that say to "hold" a car are understandable as are marks that explain or denote a bad order car. But the majority of marks are more or less a foreign language to me. 

Also, did the use of chalk marks change over time? That is, would the use or need for chalk marks change from the 1920s to the depression era, to the WWII era, to the post WWII era, etc?

With my past modeling, I have added chalk marks to my weathered models based simply on "looks". Now that I am modeling a specific stretch portion of a specific branch line, I am beginning to wonder about this random approach.

Any knowledge you can provide to this old dog modeler would be appreciated.

Cheers,
Bill Keene
Irvine, CA



StephenK
 

It seems to me that chalk marks are the ideal subject for dry transfer type lettering.   I am a waterslide decal guy myself -- I feel more confident about being able to make adjustments to lettering after application, etc., but chalk marks are not usually straight  or in a certain place, so being able to add them to a car after it ti s complete seems like a good thing.   I checked Clover House, and couldn't find any on their website.   Does anyone make these?

Steve Kay


Benjamin Hom
 

Steve Kay wrote:
"It seems to me that chalk marks are the ideal subject for dry transfer type lettering.   I am a waterslide decal guy myself -- I feel more confident about being able to make adjustments to lettering after application, etc., but chalk marks are not usually straight or in a certain place, so being able to add them to a car after it is complete seems like a good thing.   I checked Clover House, and couldn't find any on their website.   Does anyone make these?"

You didn't look closely enough - they have them in multiple scales in white, yellow and black; however, the HO scale white and black sets look to be out of stock.  Root stock number is 9911.

You could get away with using some N or S scale markings for HO scale as these obviously varied in size depending on whomever was doing the marking.


Ben Hom


Jon Miller
 

On 11/13/2018 1:32 PM, Benjamin Hom wrote:
I checked Clover House, and couldn't find any on their website.

Ben,

    I just ordered some from Clover House.  After hunting for a while I did a search and they showed up.  Only problem is they only had yellow.  I did order a bunch of rejects to play with.

-- 
Jon Miller
For me time stopped in 1941
Digitrax  Chief/Zephyr systems, JMRI User
SPROG User
NMRA Life member #2623
Member SFRH&MS


Benjamin Hom
 

John,

Go back and re-read my post.

1.  I was answering a question.
2.  I posted a link to search results for chalk marks of all scales, and mentioned that the only ones in stock were yellow ones.


Ben Hom


From: Jon Miller <atsfus@...>
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2018 6:47 PM
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] CHALK MARKS QUESTION #2

On 11/13/2018 1:32 PM, Benjamin Hom wrote:
I checked Clover House, and couldn't find any on their website.
Ben,
    I just ordered some from Clover House.  After hunting for a while I did a search and they showed up.  Only problem is they only had yellow.  I did order a bunch of rejects to play with.
-- 
Jon Miller
For me time stopped in 1941
Digitrax  Chief/Zephyr systems, JMRI User
SPROG User
NMRA Life member #2623
Member SFRH&MS



Jon Miller
 

On 11/13/2018 3:50 PM, Benjamin Hom wrote:
John,

Go back and re-read my post.

Oops!

-- 
Jon Miller
For me time stopped in 1941
Digitrax  Chief/Zephyr systems, JMRI User
SPROG User
NMRA Life member #2623
Member SFRH&MS


Bob Chaparro
 

I found information about chalk markings from a number of sources which I incorporated into a clinic. Below are some of what I found.

Bob Chaparro

Hemet, CA

++++

Markings could communicate a variety of instructions and freight car conditions:

Required handling of a specific car or load

Condition of equipment that needed repair

"OK"  or a check mark chalked over a truck to indicate a bearing had  been checked

Indication of an item's dimensions

Notations about car routings and interchanges

Track assignments for individual cars

Outgoing train numbers

Industrial siding information

Customer information

Assigned car spot at a customer’s facility

Humping instructions for cars switched in a gravity yard

Destinations

Car contents

Perishable instructions

“MT” for an empty car

Whether the shipment was all going to one consignee or where it should be first delivered.

Fragile freight

Special loading and unloading instructions

 

Chalk marks were not a universal language. Codes varied from yard to yard, railroad to railroad and era to era.

 

To determine  which chalk marks to respond to, sometimes individual yard crewmen would make their mark in one particular area so fellow crewman would know how to respond to what might be a jumble of chalk marks. Or a crewman might take the time to wipe off a mark and this occasionally is seen in photos.

 

Here is how one railroader described his work:

“I read the destination cards stapled to the cars. We could determine where the various blocks started and ended and then chalk the cuts. The other switchman marked the cut positions using bold letters and arrows so we could find them in the dark.

Doing this was far better than standing next to the train looking at a list, trying to find a car by its number.”

 


Eric Hansmann
 

There are some interesting chalk marks on these boxcars. Some seem to have consecutive numbers. I suspect they may be marked to spot quickly.This is an October 1927 photo documenting a replacement bridge project connecting the Oakland and Bloomfield neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. It spanned a valley and the Pennsy main line. An important B&O line is also in this image. The boxcars are sitting on B&O rails, originally the Pittsburgh Junction Railroad. Check them out for interesting weathering, chalk marks, route cards, and weigh stenciling.

After the link opens, click the View this Item link, or the image. Find the four buttons in the upper left corner of the image and click on the left button to make the image full screen. Zoom in at will to review the details. It's a nice size scan.

https://historicpittsburgh.org/islandora/object/pitt%3A715.275224.CP

 

 

Those billboards are the only clean things in this image.

 

 

Eric Hansmann

Murfreesboro,TN

 

 

 


From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io [mailto:main@RealSTMFC.groups.io] On Behalf Of Bob Chaparro
Sent: Wednesday, November 14, 2018 10:40 AM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] CHALK MARKS QUESTION #2

 

I found information about chalk markings from a number of sources which I incorporated into a clinic. Below are some of what I found.

Bob Chaparro

Hemet, CA

++++

Markings could communicate a variety of instructions and freight car conditions:

Required handling of a specific car or load

Condition of equipment that needed repair

"OK"  or a check mark chalked over a truck to indicate a bearing had  been checked

Indication of an item's dimensions

Notations about car routings and interchanges

Track assignments for individual cars

Outgoing train numbers

Industrial siding information

Customer information

Assigned car spot at a customer’s facility

Humping instructions for cars switched in a gravity yard

Destinations

Car contents

Perishable instructions

“MT” for an empty car

Whether the shipment was all going to one consignee or where it should be first delivered.

Fragile freight

Special loading and unloading instructions

 

Chalk marks were not a universal language. Codes varied from yard to yard, railroad to railroad and era to era.

 

To determine  which chalk marks to respond to, sometimes individual yard crewmen would make their mark in one particular area so fellow crewman would know how to respond to what might be a jumble of chalk marks. Or a crewman might take the time to wipe off a mark and this occasionally is seen in photos.

 

Here is how one railroader described his work:

“I read the destination cards stapled to the cars. We could determine where the various blocks started and ended and then chalk the cuts. The other switchman marked the cut positions using bold letters and arrows so we could find them in the dark.

Doing this was far better than standing next to the train looking at a list, trying to find a car by its number.”

 


Claus Schlund \(HGM\)
 

Hi Eric,
 
Thanks for posting this image - a fascinating view of what life might have been like in 1927! Great freight cars too!
 
Claus Schlund
 
 

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, November 14, 2018 11:59 AM
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] CHALK MARKS QUESTION #2

There are some interesting chalk marks on these boxcars. Some seem to have consecutive numbers. I suspect they may be marked to spot quickly.This is an October 1927 photo documenting a replacement bridge project connecting the Oakland and Bloomfield neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. It spanned a valley and the Pennsy main line. An important B&O line is also in this image. The boxcars are sitting on B&O rails, originally the Pittsburgh Junction Railroad. Check them out for interesting weathering, chalk marks, route cards, and weigh stenciling.

After the link opens, click the View this Item link, or the image. Find the four buttons in the upper left corner of the image and click on the left button to make the image full screen. Zoom in at will to review the details. It's a nice size scan.

https://historicpittsburgh.org/islandora/object/pitt%3A715.275224.CP

 

 

Those billboards are the only clean things in this image.

 

 

Eric Hansmann

Murfreesboro,TN

 

 

 


From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io [mailto:main@RealSTMFC.groups.io] On Behalf Of Bob Chaparro
Sent: Wednesday, November 14, 2018 10:40 AM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] CHALK MARKS QUESTION #2

 

I found information about chalk markings from a number of sources which I incorporated into a clinic. Below are some of what I found.

Bob Chaparro

Hemet, CA

++++

Markings could communicate a variety of instructions and freight car conditions:

Required handling of a specific car or load

Condition of equipment that needed repair

"OK"  or a check mark chalked over a truck to indicate a bearing had  been checked

Indication of an item's dimensions

Notations about car routings and interchanges

Track assignments for individual cars

Outgoing train numbers

Industrial siding information

Customer information

Assigned car spot at a customer’s facility

Humping instructions for cars switched in a gravity yard

Destinations

Car contents

Perishable instructions

“MT” for an empty car

Whether the shipment was all going to one consignee or where it should be first delivered.

Fragile freight

Special loading and unloading instructions

 

Chalk marks were not a universal language. Codes varied from yard to yard, railroad to railroad and era to era.

 

To determine  which chalk marks to respond to, sometimes individual yard crewmen would make their mark in one particular area so fellow crewman would know how to respond to what might be a jumble of chalk marks. Or a crewman might take the time to wipe off a mark and this occasionally is seen in photos.

 

Here is how one railroader described his work:

“I read the destination cards stapled to the cars. We could determine where the various blocks started and ended and then chalk the cuts. The other switchman marked the cut positions using bold letters and arrows so we could find them in the dark.

Doing this was far better than standing next to the train looking at a list, trying to find a car by its number.”

 


Michael Gross
 

I agree with many of the other answers on this thread that many local yard and switching crews had "codes" all their own for chalk marks, many of which are now consigned to the dust-bin of history.

As I own a Free-mo module whose main feature is the small, mythical town of Iota, Kansas, I simply "invented" a chalk mark used by off-line crews blocking trains for that destination.  The yellow arrow in the attached photo illustrates what I have done:   IOTA is indicated by a capital O with a capital I slashing through it.  Fictional place, fictional chalk mark.  :0)

Best,

Michael Gross
Pasadena, CA


James E Kubanick
 

Michael,

Those chalk marks are very convincing. I am impressed by the readability of the smallest of the lettering/marks.

Jim Kubanick
Morgantown WV

On Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 3:28:14 PM EST, Michael Gross <ActorMichaelGross@...> wrote:


I agree with many of the other answers on this thread that many local yard and switching crews had "codes" all their own for chalk marks, many of which are now consigned to the dust-bin of history.

As I own a Free-mo module whose main feature is the small, mythical town of Iota, Kansas, I simply "invented" a chalk mark used by off-line crews blocking trains for that destination.  The yellow arrow in the attached photo illustrates what I have done:   IOTA is indicated by a capital O with a capital I slashing through it.  Fictional place, fictional chalk mark.  :0)

Best,

Michael Gross
Pasadena, CA


Andy Cich
 

I have a Pennsylvania Railroad document titled Chicago Division Symbol System of Car Placement. This book has instructions, interchange schedules, and a list of all the industry tracks in the PRR Chicago Division. Among the text are instructions for marking the cars. I have the 1/1/52 revision and the 3/1/37 revision of this book. The following text appears int he '52 revision but not the '37 revision.



At dispatchment yards cars are given originating terminal inspection. Inspectors mark such cars on the Pennsylvania Railroad in yellow crayon. Foreign lines use crayon of a different color.

Each railroad operating within the Chicago Interchange District have assigned pool numbers; that of the Pennsylvania Railroad being 36.

After completion of inspection the car is marked with car inspectors pool mark. These pool marks will be located on both sides of the cars near the corner, as follows:

CH-25
36-2
7-20 I

"CH" is a symbol for Chicago, "25" is the car inspectors personal number. On the next line the number of the receiving road will be at the upper left, and that of the delivering road at the upper right. Thus "36-2" indicates car was received by the Pennsylvania from the Belt Ry. The number at the lower left indicates the month and the number at the lower right, the date of interchange. Thus "7-20" indicates a car was received July 20th. The letter "I" being a yard symbol, in this instance-Colehour.

YARD SYMBOLS
OD-55th Street.
I -Colehour.
M -59th Street.

ASSIGNED INTERCHANGE NUMBERS

1. B&OCT
2. Belt Ry.
3. C&CR
4. C&IW
5. C&WI
...
37. Wabash
38. C&NW

-----------------------------------------
Now, I am on the hunt for photos of cars with marks in this format.

Andy Cich


O Fenton Wells
 

Well done Michael, they look very real.
Fenton

On Wed, Nov 14, 2018 at 3:28 PM Michael Gross <ActorMichaelGross@...> wrote:
I agree with many of the other answers on this thread that many local yard and switching crews had "codes" all their own for chalk marks, many of which are now consigned to the dust-bin of history.

As I own a Free-mo module whose main feature is the small, mythical town of Iota, Kansas, I simply "invented" a chalk mark used by off-line crews blocking trains for that destination.  The yellow arrow in the attached photo illustrates what I have done:   IOTA is indicated by a capital O with a capital I slashing through it.  Fictional place, fictional chalk mark.  :0)

Best,

Michael Gross
Pasadena, CA



--
Fenton Wells
250 Frye Rd
Pinehurst NC 28374
910-420-8106
srrfan1401@...