Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rail Waybill Data

In a follow up to my musing in the Carthage Marble post about researching commodity flows, I came across a modern-day data set called the Public Use Waybill Sample provided by the STB.  The data files themselves are large and in record format that can be deciphered using this guide.  I'll play around with one to see what it might provide.   Microsoft Excel should prove handy for splitting the data file into usable fields.

Parsing this data with the MSExcel Text Import Wizard is quite error prone, but it worked for a quick test.  The file is longer than my outdated version of Excel can handle (>65535 rows).  For the previously posed question about cut stone products, there is an Standard Commodity Code (STCC) series for it (328**), but in what I managed to open of the 2011 sample, there was only a single 32819 Clay Stone Products shipped in a trailer on a single unit flat car.

The STB website only has the previous 11 years (starting with 2011) of data accessible.  I've seen references to this data existing as far back as 1986, and for $80 USD, the 1988 to 1992 data is available on CD-ROM.   I also found a good reference for AAR car types.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Fairgrounds Branch

Finally got connected up with the website (spam filter stole my activation email), and already found more detail on the line, including that it was actually named the Fairgrounds Branch.

Quoting from a post on the website, there's a ton of detail:

The Fairgrounds Branch (also known as (aka) "the Hill") was an interesting industrial switching area near West 31st Street and Southwest Boulevard, close to the state line border of Kansas and Missouri. In the Frisco's Kansas City Terminal Industry Schematics it is known as part of the 29th Street Industrial Area, Zone 3.

The branch is located between the Frisco's Rosedale and 19th Street Yards. It starts at 29th Street Interlocking, under the I-35 overpass behind Ponak's Mexican Restaurant, curves southwest across Southwest Boulevard, passes and serves Schutte Lumber, starts uphill climbing across 31st Street, turns generally southeast and parallels Roanoke Road.

Climbing out of the Turkey Creek valley (prone to flooding) the line climbs in vertical elevation 80 feet in just under 1 mile. Close to the end of the line, after crossing West 34th Street, it stub ends near Karnes Boulevard. From here there is a switchback uphill to serve additional industries to the northwest that again climbs and runs on either side of Terrace Street.

In addition to the really neat area area around Schutte Lumber (with several switch backs and tracks inside lumber sheds) industries along the line included the Garfield Team Track, Paper Supply Company, Carthage Marble, W. C. Tingle, Pacific Mutual Door Company, Battenfield Grease & Oil Company, Safeway Bakeries, Motor Parts Distributors, Sherwood Chemical Company, Union Carbide, American Mineral Sprits, Southwestern Bell Telephone, U. S. Engineering, Swenson Construction Company, Ftyro Fabricators and Fred Wolferman Groceries.  <edit> Additionally, I've found Columbia Bedding, Fairfax Bread Co., Western Electric, Sherwood & Co, Inc., plus Concrete Building Units Co. on a Sanborn Map updated through 1950. </edit>

Branching off the Fairgrounds Branch in the 29th Street Industrial Area is Zone 4 (aka "the Alley"). This spur takes off to the northeast on the south side of Southwest Boulevard. This line ran in an alley (hence the name) behind the buildings that fronted Southwest Boulevard, across from the Kansas City Terminal (KCT) Railway roundhouse.

Industries served on this line included the American Dish Service Company, Rite-Made Paper Converters, Hubbard's Imperial, Combs & Company, Bartlett Container Corporation, C. S. Tull Transfer, City Wide Brick & Supply Company, Koch Supplies, Roll Easy Door Company, K & K Sheet Metal, Gate City Petroleum (tank farm), Dairy & Creamery Equipment Company, Gresham Company, Anchor Roofing and Siding company, Foreign Car Auto Salvage, Webb Belting & Supply Company, Aero Plastics, American Steel Company (with overhead transverse crane), Texaco, Inc., Corbin Equipment Company, Hill Building Materials Company, A.P. Green Fire Brick Company, Skelly Oil Company, Roberts Furniture Company, Jianas Brothers Candy Company, R. L. Faubion Steel and Tank Company, Flint Ink Company and Funkhouser Machinery Company (including an end loading ramp).

Today only a short spur remains from the 29th Street Interlocking to serve Schutte Lumber. Many of the buildings, signs of track in streets and some of the original businesses listed above remain. This would be a great area to model in a relatively small space as it featured a great number of industries in a relatively small space, most types of freight cars served the different customers and would need only a switcher or two for power.
 That last sentence of the original post sums up what I'm aiming for.  Now I have some company names to continue research on and narrow down an era when most of them might've still been receiving rail service.

<<edit>> Corrected W.C. Triangle to W.C. Tingle, a flooring supply company.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Though I've not actually started construction, I've come across a number of really good resources for ideas on other blogs and sites I've been following.

One of the more active ones is Greg Amer's Industrial Lead; I've been enjoying the posts about creating high-quality handlaid track.  Very good and detailed information even if I don't make the leap all the way to Proto87.

Also, Charles Hostetler's CNW in Milwaukee is another of my favorites, firstly because his modeling efforts are on Milwaukee, so I can relate to the locations, and secondly, he does deep and thorough research.  The series about the prototype waybills is interesting to follow -- A late model railroader friend of mine had created software to replicate those waybills and some of the car routing associated with them.