Monday, October 3, 2011

Sacramento Archives Crawl and Carlaw's Headstones

This past Saturday, October 1st, I took part in the first ever Sacramento Archives Crawl. Four local archive locations made up the crawl with exhibits of rarely seen artifacts and tours of some of their non-public facilities. I received my 'passport' at the first location I visited (I chose the Center for Sacramento History since I think of that as my 'home' archive location).  Each archive stamped my passport marking my journey through the crawl. To intrepid history fans that visited three of the four locations a prize, in the form of special Buffalo Brewery coasters, was awarded. Since Buffalo Brewery was located on R Street (now the site of the Sacramento Bee building and just torn down by my modeling era) this was something of a quest for me.

Several other participating archives had a presence and it was fun mingling. The Old City Cemetery Committee had a table at the California State Archives which reminded me to take another stab at finding the Carlaw family plot. I had tried a couple times before and had struck out miserably. Today however, I enlisted the help of the friendly volunteers there who steered me to the correct location.

I've been curious for some time how the gravestones for a family of gravestone cutters would look. The last of the Carlaws, Jack Carlaw, was interviewed in the 1930s mourning the trend away from fancy headstones to the point where he thought the artistry of his craft was no longer needed. But, their own family headstones are straight-forward and functional, without much artistic embellishment.  I guess that old line about shoe makers' families could apply to stone cutters as well.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Car Loading Data for Valley Wholesale Grocery

One of the nice things about conventions (I survived and my module made it to the show thankyouverymuch) is that you often get to catch up with friends you don't get to hang out with frequently enough. The genial proprietor of Robert's Vasona Branch Blog, Robert Bowdidge and I have bumped into each other at a number of events, most notably where we met, at the joint LDSIG/OPSIG meets in Santa Clara.

At x2011 West last week, Robert attended my R Street clinic where, among other things, I delve into the details of a California Railroad Commission (CRC) case.

CRC Case 4066 had as its setting my beloved R Street. It was a depression era case (1935-6) that heard the Western Pacific complaint that the Southern Pacific was not opening up a couple of customers to reciprocal switching.

In a reciprocal switching agreement two railroads serving the same switching district agree to deliver cars to customers that were brought into town by the competing railroad but whose tracks are on their own switching network for a nominal charge (in some cases the token charge is completely absorbed).  There are restrictions and limitations of course. At least part of the line haul on the way in had to be competitive, and the spotting location had to be to a private industrial spur. That is, you as a railroad could not force your competition to deliver your customers cars to your competitor's own facilities - like their Freight Houses or Team Tracks and still expect to get the über cheap rate.

And therein lay the rub. It all hung on what the definition of team track was because the SP claimed the two industries that they refused reciprocal switching service to were, in fact, team tracks.

A team track is a track made available for public unloading. It is a railroad owned track and part of their terminal facilities. For a business that does not have its own railroad spur, a team track is a way to ship goods via rail.

Unlike modern switching tariffs I've seen, the ruling tariff at the time of the case did not define what a team track was nor did it list the team track locations. Normally we as modelers think team track locations are fairly obvious from their appearance. The main team track facility for the Western Pacific looked much like the Walthers "team track scene". Others, and the two disputed spurs here, however looked identical to a regular private industrial spur. At one of the locations a double ended spur served three customers - the outer two were designated private industrial spurs and thus open to reciprocal switching, the middle was not.

What gives? The Southern Pacific claimed it came down to ownership. When a railroad right of way is already on a public street, as are many of the spurs on R Street, the determining factor of ownership is the rails themselves. The outer two customers had a lease agreement with the Southern Pacific. The middle business did not and thus SP owned the rail itself. SP designated it a team track and that was that.

Western Pacific was trying to argue a different definition of what made a team track a team track. They held that a track's definition should be based on usage. In this case they claimed the two track locations designated by the Southern Pacific as team tracks were being used as private industrial spurs. They felt that all, or at least a vast majority of cars being delivered to the spurs were cars spotted for the industries that were adjacent to the team track. In this way, the WP felt, the SP was illegally closing two businesses on R Street to the reciprocal switching agreement. The had no evidence of this, just a hunch. They managed, over strenuous objections from the SP, to have the Commission compel the SP to produce the car records for one of the disputed locations.

So, there in the case file is an exhibit that shows every car delivered to the Valley Wholesale Grocery spur for an 18 month period. It lists the car's owner,  number,  and whether the customer was the Valley Wholesale Grocery or another business.

For modelers trying to get the proper prototypical freight car mix and car frequency to a wholesale grocery business in the mid 1930s right the data is very interesting indeed.  That's where Robert comes in.  This is his era.

In a few precious entries we get the contents of the car. But others are a puzzle that Robert and I are working on.

You can help out! Check out the spreadsheet here and a little background on the spreadsheet here. You'll see our guesses at what sorts of products from the various towns and cities could possibly be. Feel free to chime in in the comments section below if you have anything to add or suggest. the end SP won the case. The decision simply said that the WP did not prove the tracks in question were not team tracks. It didn't explain what definition the commission was using - and the data provided by the SP showed that the tracks were being used at least a little bit of the time as truly open team tracks.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

T - Minus OMG...

Thank goodness for National Conventions...they have a way of concentrating the mind.

I'm just a few hours away from having to get my module to the National Train Show floor. Then a few hours after the club layout is built I present my clinic on R Street at the NMRA convention.

The module is far from finished... but it is what I call 'presentable'.  Ground cover is in, streets are paved and painted that sort of thing.  That square bit toward the front of the module is my base for what will be the stiff leg derrick.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

the latest on Carlaw's

And lest you think that I've just spent my time detailing the Donut Truck...

Here is a picture from the last SMR operations session. I propped up the front wall of Carlaw's against the cardstock mockup.  I'm hoping the edges of the older Carlaw painted sign decal get knocked down some by a coat or two of clear flat that I'm going to spray soon.

Just like the prototype the building the structure is going to be right next to the sidewalk.

Ed's Donuts from the front... and early street work.

I thought I'd add a front picture of Ed's Donut truck...  I forgot to mention that I made a Divco badge decal for which I could have probably have gotten away with a bit of red paint.  I also added a steering wheel as there isn't one supplied in the kit. The kit also doesn't come with windshields - I used clear styrene stuck in place with Micro Kristal Klear.  I used the Kristal Klear to 'create' the side windows. 

Also seen in this picture is a bit of test street.  I'm making my streets on the module (and someday on the layout) with Scultamold (using the methods described by Bob Smaus in a RMC article from a few years ago).  Downtown Sacramento streets had (and still have) a green strip next to the sidewalk.  I still haven't decided on the coloring for the gutters and sidewalk. 

I took a day off yesterday to get some errands done and went down to 10th and R streets to take some sidewalk pictures. While there I had a lovely breakfast at the Fox and Goose in the building that I'll be modeling as the WP Fuller and company paint warehouse.  This is a British style pub and they were celebrating the royal wedding yesterday by giving away pieces of wedding cake.  Good fun.  

Ed's Donuts

My friend Kathleen over at Foodiddy reminds me that today, between noon and 6 pm, is the day for sactomofo, the Sacramento Mobile Food festival.  The event is being held in Fremont park at 16th and Q - a mere block from my beloved R Street (and thus I claim relevance to this blog)

This, then, seems as good a time as any to show a picture of my little attempt at a food truck - Ed's Donuts.

This started out as a Walthers Divco Milk delivery truck (which was originally a Magnuson Models kit I believe).  I threw on some photo etched side mirrors I had as extras from a Sylvan kit. Donuts, which you can't see in this picture are from a neat little set from Vector Cut. Front headlights, also not pictured, I replaced with MV lenses. (check the post after this to see a different angle)  I also replaced the wheels with a couple of sets from Dennis Aust. I made custom decals using the decal paper from Micro Mark.  The guy inside the truck was originally a farmer from a Revell farm kit. You can't see it in this picture but I carved the guy's cowboy hat into an approximation of the hats that donut sellers wear...  whatever those are called.

I've been trying to fix up a battery powered interior light in the main part of the truck with mixed success...

The project is something of a departure for me as it is not prototype driven (although I did study many Divco truck pictures) but it has been useful to work on a number of skills and techniques.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


oops... I was trying to email myself this link to a German forum with some nice sign graphics that the Railroad-line forums folks were talking about, but instead I emailed my autopost email account I guess.

Well since I haven't posted in a while, I'll just let this stay as some small proof that I have not wandered off too far. 

Monday, February 14, 2011


It has been quite the long pause here on the R Street Layout blog. However, this past weekend was full of forward movement.

I’m happy to say I spent much quality time with my airbrush. I went from knowing where my airbrush was in my shop but otherwise unfamiliar with it, to being able to disassemble and reassemble it with my eyes closed.

Hard to tell from this picture... but those rails are painted.
In fact, there was progress made on several fronts. I painted my track on my 10th and R street module. This is in preparation to paving the streets. I finished some work on the walls of the Carlaw Brothers polishing shed - and put the first primer coat on them. And I started another little project - non R Street related- a detail item for the Sacramento Modular Railroaders. I’ll share more on that if the project turns out ok.

The four walls just prior to the first coat of paint.
What shook me from my hobby slumber you might ask? I was thrice inspired. First off, I saw my name in lights over at the X2011 West National NMRA convention clinic list. As a result, I've become determined to get some modeling done so my talk isn’t entirely history. The next two inspirations were recent arrivals to my mailbox- Tomar Industrie's Stiff Leg Derrick kit and Vector Cut’s Manhole Covers.
Back and side walls with a light coat of paint. 

Front and side walls after a bit of paint. 
I sent away for the derrick kit back in September but it hadn’t arrived. I was going to write it off but my 7 year old son badgered me until I put in a inquiry with Tomar. Much to Tomar’s credit they shipped off the kit with amazing speed after I let them know the first attempt never arrived. The derrick is very much a foreground player on the module, so it is good that my son got on me about it.
Tomar Industries Stiff Leg Derrick Kit.

First man hole cover painted... just waiting for a street to be paved...
I am floored by Vector Cut’s product line. Since the street itself is a major character in the 10th and R module I’m happy there are such things in the world as highly detailed manhole cover parts. I couldn't resist painting one set. While my airbrush was loaded with roof brown for my tracks I put down a base coat on the man hole covers. Later I drybrushed tarnished black on top. This really has me fired up to start paving streets. But first I want to get my sidewalks and curbs done...