Topics

Adjusting the gondola fleet

Fran Giacoma
 

I am in the process of right sizing my freight car fleet due to a slight operational change on my HO B&O Shenandoah SD layout. It is set in late September 1956 and I use an October 1956 ORER (plus other publications) to make sure my fleet is accurate. 

I am looking for a list of railroads and the number of gondola cars they operated during the specified time period in order to try to accurately portray the right amount of them in my fleet; in other words, which road names would you most likely see on the layout. I would adjust this by the industries that use them, B&O interchange partners and locations, and the general locale of what is being modeled (northern Virginia and West Virginia starting at Harpers Ferry and running south west). The ORER does not contain this list; it has lists for other types of cars.

 

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks. 

 

Fran Giacoma

Clark Propst
 

Not being familiar with your area I can only question are your trains all shorts or are there some through cars? Shorts would be dictated by your customers. Through car would be coming or going from other parts of the system or being interchanged with another RR.
Train lists and/or photos of trains in the area are vital.
I've attached a photo I dug up while putting together my CCB talk. The engine is being turned on a wye at the end of the line. I admired the NYC gon and also wondered what it was doing there. I think I mentioned how I'd like one. Well a friend told me they were about to start on a Sunshine gondola kit they'd bought from a collection at Caboose Stop Hobbies sometime prior. I asked about it and sure enough it was the car in the photo! I bought it and built it. I also have a Sunshine PRR gon. I use them to haul pipe or culverts for the RR or for a city, county  yard along the line. Other than those two the others are local roads that would bring in coal from mines in Ill or further east.
CW Propst

Jack Mullen
 

Fran,
The group files hold quite a lot of data about the national freight car fleet, and not all of it just deals with boxcars.
This file might be of use:
https://realstmfc.groups.io/g/main/files/1953%20CARS%20IN%20SERVICE%202.xls
With gons, be aware that there's a devil lurking in the details. Mill gons tend to behave more like boxcars, a somewhat free-running nationwide pool so the road-name distribution should be in proportion to the proportion of the national fleet. However, gons used primarily in bulk material dervice tend to move more locally or regionally, so the modelled fleet of these should reflect that.
Since you have a '56 ORER, you might research the top 6 or 10 largest fleets, pluse other significant railroads in your area. An hour or two with the ER should put you in good shape to choose available models.  

Jack Mullen

Todd Sullivan
 

Hi Fran,
I checked in my January 1952 ORER (I model 1952), and most large railroads' listings have a "Recapitulation of Car Equipment" at the end of the main listings of cars by number series.  The Recapitulation summarizes the railroad's cars by AAR class (X = boxcars, G = gondolas, etc.) by (interior) length, and it also gives the number of cars of that length, the each car group's cubic foot capacity and the capacity in pounds.  While this doesn't give you quite the summary you were looking for, it is another starting point.

I usually tackle problems such as yours by listing the RRs on each end of the segment I model and the industries they served that are of interest.  (In this case, the industries that ship or receives stuff in gons.)  For example, I know that the B&O served the big steel mill at Sparrows Point, so having some idea of what that mill produced would help.  If it produced rolled structural steel shapes, then (mostly) B&O mill gondolas from 41' to 65' long would be appropriate.  Pipe or steel plate requires different gons.  As another for instance, if the mill used scrap steel as part of its raw material, then shorter gons from RRs to the west and south with scrap loads make sense.  I suspect you get the drift.

Rather than trying to do this all at once and get it perfect (impossible for most of us mortals), I'd suggest doing a study of your connecting and neighboring RRs, then researching the industries they served (Google and Wikipedia are your friends), going through those RRs' Recapitulation listings in the ORER, and do some thoughtful estimating.  That could give you a reasonable beginning fleet of gondolas.  As time goes on, you'll probably come across more information that will help you grow your understanding, and you can modify your fleet over time.  If visitors or other critics object to what they see, for instance, ask them why, and use their knowledge to help you refine your fleet.  ...  I decided to model East Portland and Portland OR in 1952 about 5 years ago, and I started looking for information to help.  My collection of photos and information was initially small, but it has probably grown 3 or 4 times larger since I started, most of it from the Internet and publications.

I hope this helps.

Todd Sullivan

Fran Giacoma
 

Thanks for all the replies. As info, I am doing this same project with the flat cars on my layout so I will use the results here with them also.

 

Clyde - great idea looking at photos of trains. They, like conductors reposts are rare for my sub-division, but will keep on looking for them.

 

Jack - that table is exactly what I was looking for. Even though it is 1953, It will give me a good starting point to go further with this project. I definitely will go back to my ORER and look at the top 10 fleets and also examine the “friendly” interchanges with the B&O on and off this sub-division.

 

Todd - thanks for turning me on to the recapitulation list for each railroad; just found them in my ORER! This saves a lot of time looking up and adding numbers. I have my list of industries and the type of cars they use; I am constant refining it as I acquire more info, which is an ongoing pursuit. 

 

I started this project this past weekend as the wife and I are “social distancing”. Being retired and all my volunteer gigs are cancelled this week and next, I have a lot of time to operate and work on the layout. Projects like these are most enjoyable and keep my brain active.

 

Thanks again!

 

Fran Giacoma

John King
 

Fran,

 

The attached spreadsheet is an excerpt from a much larger spreadsheet compiled by the late Tim Gilbert of through trains between Potomac Yard and Monroe Virginia.    Most of the gons were in through service between Potomac Yard  (4) and Monroe (165).  I have highlighted the few local cars in yellow.    There is a nice interesting variety here.   Any of them could have occasionally wound up on the B&O Shenandoah Subdivision.

 

I’m familiar with the branch line you are modeling.   The interchanges on the B&O’s Shenandoah Sub had very little use as through routes.   The tariffs I have show the interchange for traffic on the B&O between the west and the Southern as Potomac Yard.   The only routes via Strasburg Jct. were for traffic to and from stations on Southern’s Harrisonburg Branch or traffic to or from stations on the B&O’s Shenandoah Sub.      Through traffic from the N&W generally was interchanged on the main line at Shenandoah Jct., not Charlestown but there might be the occasional carload of coal in a gondola. 

 

That pretty much limits us to what might be delivered to a station on the Shenandoah Sub. or the occasional interchange car to the Southern. 

 

There were lots of B&O container gons to the lime and dolomite plants.    Unfortunately, there is no current model available for the 50 foot B&O O-27B cars used with the containers. 

 

John King

 

 

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io [mailto:main@RealSTMFC.groups.io] On Behalf Of Fran Giacoma
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2020 11:07 AM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Adjusting the gondola fleet

 

Thanks for all the replies. As info, I am doing this same project with the flat cars on my layout so I will use the results here with them also.

 

Clyde - great idea looking at photos of trains. They, like conductors reposts are rare for my sub-division, but will keep on looking for them.

 

Jack - that table is exactly what I was looking for. Even though it is 1953, It will give me a good starting point to go further with this project. I definitely will go back to my ORER and look at the top 10 fleets and also examine the “friendly” interchanges with the B&O on and off this sub-division.

 

Todd - thanks for turning me on to the recapitulation list for each railroad; just found them in my ORER! This saves a lot of time looking up and adding numbers. I have my list of industries and the type of cars they use; I am constant refining it as I acquire more info, which is an ongoing pursuit. 

 

I started this project this past weekend as the wife and I are “social distancing”. Being retired and all my volunteer gigs are cancelled this week and next, I have a lot of time to operate and work on the layout. Projects like these are most enjoyable and keep my brain active.

 

Thanks again!

 

Fran Giacoma

Fran Giacoma
 

Thank you John for the info and attachment. This will help me narrow down my choices as I have only room for 2 additional gondolas in the fleet due to a limited amount and length of the staging tracks.

Fran Giacoma

Brian Carlson
 

Who models their fleet based on staging? (Other than maybe Clark P) you should have some off-layout storage also or you’re gonna get bored with the same cars and your operators will begin to know where to route a car automatically. 

Brian J. Carlson 

On Mar 18, 2020, at 3:31 PM, Fran Giacoma <frangiacoma@...> wrote:

Thank you John for the info and attachment. This will help me narrow down my choices as I have only room for 2 additional gondolas in the fleet due to a limited amount and length of the staging tracks.

Fran Giacoma

Clark Propst
 

On Wed, Mar 18, 2020 at 02:34 PM, Brian Carlson wrote:
Who models their fleet based on staging? (Other than maybe Clark P) you should have some off-layout storage also or you’re gonna get bored with the same cars and your operators will begin to know where to route a car automatically. 

Brian J. Carlson 
 
Ah! That's where your ops strategy comes in. I operate on layouts using 4 place bills and yes you learn what goes where. IF the cars are 'noticeable' meaning bright colors or unusual design. My gon's, hoppers all look pretty much alike, so there's no memory retention. Cars carry the same load, but seldom go to the same customers each ops. Operators are more interested in what goes where rather than the model, especial if they're generic looking.
CW Propst
 

Schuyler Larrabee
 

 

On Wed, Mar 18, 2020 at 02:34 PM, Brian Carlson wrote:

Who models their fleet based on staging? (Other than maybe Clark P) you should have some off-layout storage also or you’re gonna get bored with the same cars and your operators will begin to know where to route a car automatically. 

Brian J. Carlson 

 

And our friend Clark responded:

 

Ah! That's where your ops strategy comes in. I operate on layouts using 4 place bills and yes you learn what goes where. IF the cars are 'noticeable' meaning bright colors or unusual design. My gon's, hoppers all look pretty much alike, so there's no memory retention. Cars carry the same load, but seldom go to the same customers each ops. Operators are more interested in what goes where rather than the model, especial if they're generic looking.
CW Propst

 

That’s exactly correct, Clark.  I operate on a club layout where we use +/- 300-350 cars in the freight car fleet.  Our “Classic” operations are two sequential months, followed by two months of “Modern” ops, then back to Classic, and so on.  So even though I only participate I the “Classic” sessions, with that spacing out of the sessions  and I can think right now of about five cars that show up randomly, every four or five months, when they show up in the yard, I don’t have to look at the waybill – I know what train I should put it in.  The waybills for all the other cars change, even for tank cars, so everything else requires looking at the waybill to establish where it goes from here.  Much more engaging of brain and pleasure.

 

And as much as I like that “brick” car, that’s why I am unlikely to build one.

 

Schuyler

 

Jim Betz
 

Brian,
  Although what you say is correct - there are some things you can do to
'mix it up' that lessen how many off layout cars you need/need to swap
in and out ...
  Don't let your crews always take the same jobs.
  Use 4 part way bills.
  Swap way bills between cars of the same type between sessions or
even between trips out of staging (fiddle the way bills in staging).
  Add in the specific 'demand for and response to' empties - most let
the waybills act as the empty supply ... if you have a yard clerk job
you can model the actual empty supply part of the equation.  You
can even add in that the clerk has to pay attention to the car
forwarding rules and the captive service cars.
  Add in "clean out track" operations (yeah, I know, this is difficult to
do with existing trackage).  Or maybe your boxes/drawers of 'extra'
cars can model that - first the car goes to staging, then it gets its
waybill pulled, then it goes to the cleanout drawer, then to the 
available drawer, then back to staging, then a waybill assigned
and actually in a train for the next op?  Perhaps the cars in 
staging get "clean out waybills"?
  Modernize an industry (swap in a different structure?) and change
its demand from 40' cars to 50 footers.
  Recruit from a larger crew base - so that not everyone is always
the same.  One layout I know puts out a 'call for operators' once
a month - his crew size is 18! - he has about 25-30 guys on his
call list.  First 18 responders get jobs, the rest wait till next
month.  He often fills his crew in under 48 hours and has filled it
as little as 4 hours.  Yes, his crew calls go out in emails and the
responses are emails.  He puts out his call "about 10 days before
the Op".
                                                                                - Jim.

    O

Brian Carlson
 

I realize all that.

 I was responding to the OP’s comment that he “only room for 2 additional gondolas in the fleet due to a limited amount and length of the staging tracks.” 

Those 2 gons are going to stand out if used every session. 



Brian J. Carlson 

On Mar 19, 2020, at 11:22 AM, Jim Betz <jimbetz@...> wrote:

Brian,
  Although what you say is correct - there are some things you can do to
'mix it up' that lessen how many off layout cars you need/need to swap
in and out ...
  Don't let your crews always take the same jobs.
  Use 4 part way bills.
  Swap way bills between cars of the same type between sessions or
even between trips out of staging (fiddle the way bills in staging).
  Add in the specific 'demand for and response to' empties - most let
the waybills act as the empty supply ... if you have a yard clerk job
you can model the actual empty supply part of the equation.  You
can even add in that the clerk has to pay attention to the car
forwarding rules and the captive service cars.
  Add in "clean out track" operations (yeah, I know, this is difficult to
do with existing trackage).  Or maybe your boxes/drawers of 'extra'
cars can model that - first the car goes to staging, then it gets its
waybill pulled, then it goes to the cleanout drawer, then to the 
available drawer, then back to staging, then a waybill assigned
and actually in a train for the next op?  Perhaps the cars in 
staging get "clean out waybills"?
  Modernize an industry (swap in a different structure?) and change
its demand from 40' cars to 50 footers.
  Recruit from a larger crew base - so that not everyone is always
the same.  One layout I know puts out a 'call for operators' once
a month - his crew size is 18! - he has about 25-30 guys on his
call list.  First 18 responders get jobs, the rest wait till next
month.  He often fills his crew in under 48 hours and has filled it
as little as 4 hours.  Yes, his crew calls go out in emails and the
responses are emails.  He puts out his call "about 10 days before
the Op".
                                                                                - Jim.

    O

Chuck Cover
 

Group,

 

There are a few more car card/waybill systems out there that give operators a lot more options than the most common 4 position card in envelope that most folks use.  I use a computerized waybill system that prints out up to 14 destinations for each car card thus adding many more destinations before the operators see the car headed back to the same old industry.  For more information see the OPSIG web site in “The Dispatcher's Office”, Official Journal of the Operations Special Interest Group.  The system that I mentioned was covered in the July 2017 issue.

 

Chuck Cover

Santa Fe, NM

Clark Propst
 

On Thu, Mar 19, 2020 at 08:47 AM, Brian Carlson wrote:
 I was responding to the OP’s comment that he “only room for 2 additional gondolas in the fleet due to a limited amount and length of the staging tracks.” 
Those 2 gons are going to stand out if used every session. 
Brian J. Carlson 
I have selves behind my staging yard. After a run a train is completely replaced with cars from the shelves. I stage three trains with one or two gons and/or hoppers. There are a half dozen or so customers on the layout, so the one may only receive a car every third section or longer?
Big take away, you can't, or should, keep all your cars on the layout. But, it's a good way to keep your fleet under control  ;  ))
CW Propst

Fran Giacoma
 

On Thu, Mar 19, 2020 at 11:47 AM, Brian Carlson wrote:
"I was responding to the OP’s comment that he “only room for 2 additional gondolas in the fleet due to a limited amount and length of the staging tracks.” 
Those 2 gons are going to stand out if used every session."

Here are the facts:
1) a scrap dealer has a one car spot for a gondola. It does not get switched every session
2) there are two other industries that either get a gondola or a flatcar. One interchange gets a gondola every third session or so
3) my gondola fleet will consist of 4 different cars. My total car fleet is 145 cars. I have 25 industries (most with multiple spots) and three different railroad interchanges

I have two 3-person crews that each operate twice a year (spring and fall) on the layout. So much else changes between visits that they never notice the same car going to the same industry as before, if it happens (extremely rare). I am deeply into prototype ops (layout is TTTO) so the crews are too busy operating their trains by looking for "fixed signals", their paperwork (clearance forms, train orders, switch lists, timetable, etc), and enjoying the scenery that in my many years of operating, I never heard that comment from any of them.

I operate the layout weekly myself and never get bored of my cars; the amount is just right for my space and operating scheme. I change them out as a result of research about what I am modeling. 
Fran Giacoma
 

Tony Thompson
 

Schuyler Larrabee wrote:

 That’s exactly correct, Clark.  I operate on a club layout where we use +/- 300-350 cars in the freight car fleet.  Our “Classic” operations are two sequential months, followed by two months of “Modern” ops, then back to Classic, and so on.  So even though I only participate I the “Classic” sessions, with that spacing out of the sessions  and I can think right now of about five cars that show up randomly, every four or five months, when they show up in the yard, I don’t have to look at the waybill – I know what train I should put it in.  The waybills for all the other cars change, even for tank cars, so everything else requires looking at the waybill to establish where it goes from here.  Much more engaging of brain and pleasure.

    And I agree. But remember that train crews who did the same job every day could recognize where nearly everything in the train was going, when they walked it when going on duty. That we may know where we are going to spot that meat reefer or high-pressure tank car is perfectly prototypical.

Tony Thompson



Schuyler Larrabee
 

 

Schuyler Larrabee wrote:



 That’s exactly correct, Clark.  I operate on a club layout where we use +/- 300-350 cars in the freight car fleet.  Our “Classic” operations are two sequential months, followed by two months of “Modern” ops, then back to Classic, and so on.  So even though I only participate I the “Classic” sessions, with that spacing out of the sessions  and I can think right now of about five cars that show up randomly, every four or five months, when they show up in the yard, I don’t have to look at the waybill – I know what train I should put it in.  The waybills for all the other cars change, even for tank cars, so everything else requires looking at the waybill to establish where it goes from here.  Much more engaging of brain and pleasure.

 

    And I agree. But remember that train crews who did the same job every day could recognize where nearly everything in the train was going, when they walked it when going on duty. That we may know where we are going to spot that meat reefer or high-pressure tank car is perfectly prototypical.

 

Tony Thompson

 

And as soon as I sent that out, I remembered that 26-27 years ago, when I was designing an engineering firm’s offices and meeting with them regularly, I kept seeing the very same Erie Lackawanna gondola being switched into a steel fabricating plant next door, week after week after week.  The gon went directly inside the building, so I never got a photo of this, but it is the prototypical exception that proves the point made before.

 

Schuyler

_._,_._,_

Donald B. Valentine
 

Brian Carlson wrote:

'Who models their fleet based on staging? (Other than maybe Clark P) you should have some off-layout storage also 
or you’re gonna get bored with the same cars and your operators will begin to know where to route a car automatically.' 

Respectfully, Brian, I'm going to suggest that this depends on the size of one's pike, the number of different industries 
on it and the size of one's car fleet. If one has a 3 x 12 home pike I would probably agree with you but not for a larger
one. By the same tken I know many folks who hace far more rolling stock than can really be justified, amny of whom
hace no pike ot operate them on. At this time I'm one of them. LOL

Cordialy, Don Valentine



np328
 

  After reading all the later comments, I find myself agreeing with Brian Carlson, very strongly.   

The reasoning:  Read Schuyler's comment of the 1:51 post, the lower part in blue. 

Or here: I kept seeing the very same Erie Lackawanna gondola being switched into a steel fabricating plant next door, week after week after week.  

 

Can I rephrase that into: On this big railroad in this big country, I saw this same car week after week.  I ask - What are the odds? 

 Or somewhat like when Rick Blain stated Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”  

See the dichotomy? And that is real life, because of the extreme odds, we notice it.

 And Tony states this can be fully prototypical.   And I concur with all of that.  I do.  I have read AFE’s for a handful of cars to be purchased to serve in captive service.

OK, here is part two.  Folks in a small town will run into people they know more often than folks in a large town will. It is simple mathematics.

And it does not happen because it is a big world, which it is, it more over happens because the odds in the small town overwhelm the odds of the world at large.*  

So: A large layout you will eventually see the same car and maybe you will have forgotten, however the third time it happens?   We do not have an empty supermarket of space in which to model.  

Are you trying to portray your railroad as a part of a larger world?    

On a smaller railroad, the odds of seeing the same car become apparent sooner than later. However on a larger layout, and Schuyler noted this “with that spacing out of the sessions  and I can think right now of about five cars that show up randomly, every four or five months, when they show up in the yard, I don’t have to look at the waybill – I know what train I should put it in.” 

The moment of awareness that suddenly – the layout is smaller because of these same cars appear – never goes away, the odds of it are just delayed.

Again - Are you trying to portray your railroad as a part of a larger world? Then after a lot of research, and taking the time to model interchanges, and place distant names on waybills, why do actions* to oppose that?    

What got me thinking about all this?     Schuyler's comment: Much more engaging of brain and pleasure.    That is what we all hope would be said about our layout, either built or dreamed.

And the way there follows with what Brian has been espousing.                          Jim Dick – Roseville, MN

Jim Betz
 


  ... perhaps the best thing to do is to make up your own mind about how
much equipment you will/will not have ... and then adjust if your find your
crews complaining ... several ways to "adjust" that may/may not involve
changing out which cars you will/will not have on your layout.
                                                                                                      - Jim