Friday, December 26, 2014

P:48 Plunge continued...

It's been a few months since a post...for reasons unremembered, it's been a tough winter for applying modeling time, even if it is just the armchair kind...

In my previous post on the subject of converting to Proto48 modeling, I discussed the "touchy-feely" aspects of why I'd pursue such a change.  There are also a couple physical ones that are enabled by the larger scale and I'll discuss a few of them here.

First and foremost is Dead Rail.  DCC freed us from electrical blocks -- now imagine being freed from powered track completely!  While this is of course possible in HO, the larger engine carbody volume leaves more room for batteries.  Also, dead rail might let one experiment with additional weathering or construction techniques -- If feeders are no longer required, one could actually use individual stick rail for hand-laid track

Second is truck-mounted motors.  This powering option frees up additional space in the carbody for weights placed directly over the trucks and creates additional room for a speaker.

Third is working handbrakes in freight cars.  My original idea here was to use an accessory decoder with one function connected to a small servo motor to operate a linkage that locks a brake against one axle.  Simply dial up (a portion of) the freight car number and set or release the brakes.  Combining this with DeadRail though would probably rule out accessory decoders; instead I'd maybe use a reed switch by the brakewheel and put a magnet on the other end of the uncoupling tool.  Since this would be battery operated, the default would be to have the brakes normally set by spring tension and the powered servo could hold them open.

Hopefully some of these thoughts generate some of your own, or better yet, some comments on the blog.  I'm quite curious what others think on these subjects...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

P:48 Plunge

I've dropped hints on this blog in a few previous posts about changing scales from HO to O and specifically the Proto48 dialect of the latter.  Trevor Marshall's comment on my most recent post prompted me to clarify my thinking, so here goes...

First, some history.  HO scale is all I've ever known and was employed in both major railroad building projects in my life.  The first was a multi-year journey along with my father to recreate late 1950s iron ore railroading in far northeastern Wisconsin and western Michigan and the second was a rather faithful (if I do say so myself) recreation of the Milwaukee Road's "Beer Line" that I built with my brother, the first third of which can be found in the November 2011 issue of Model Railroader magazine.

In both cases, prototype modeling was at hand and the goals of the operation plus history, familiarity, and available equipment dictated the scale choice.  The iron ore operation set out to capture a 100 miles or so of line governed by timetable and train order operation -- 600 feet of mainline wouldn't have been possible in any larger scale and much of the equipment to make it operational was collected over time or obtained for very reasonable prices.

The goal for the Beer Line was to recreate the entire six miles of the line and while N scale might've provided the opportunity to perhaps stretch things out a bit, this is where the balancing act comes in.  Allow me to attempt to explain...

In my pursuit of this hobby, I've come to find that the -- albeit imagined -- immersion of myself into the environment is the most important and rewarding aspect.  There's clearly a spectrum to every vector of this hobby, from the realism of the models, the level of detail applied, and the engagement in recreating the actions of an operating railroad.  In my personal experience, operating sessions are more enjoyable when all of the participants are near the same end of the engagement spectrum.  Consider a simple example: Yes, one can "cheat" and see the feet of the other operator in the next aisle and use that to decide if the way is clear, or they could read the timetable and think through the train orders and make the decision that way.

I've come to realize that the scale of the equipment is one factor in the equation supporting the engagement aspect.  This is not to say that a larger scale strictly equals more engagement.  One can certainly satisfy all of their goals with N scale and those operating it can still derive great enjoyment from it.

I believe it comes down to perspective and mass.  The closer one is to the equipment, the more the models mimic the same perspective seen when viewing the prototype and the more real it, in my opinion, "feels".  Us humans will always be 1:1 "standing over" our 1:87.1 or 1:64 or 1:48 trains, but if they are bigger and are brought closer, the perspective is changed, the details stand out and one can feel a bit more like they're "there".

As I've gravitated towards smaller, fully recreatable prototypes -- especially industrial spurs such as is the focus of this blog -- the opportunity presents itself to use a larger scale since the full mile of real track  can be captured in ~130 linear feet.  With the goal of a to "complete" model achievable, the larger scale begs to be tried for all the aspects I've (tried to) convey here.

All that being said, here's the first step:

At $25.00, this was a relatively easy "plunge".  No existing HO equipment was harmed in the making of this blog post.  Now, I just have to figure out the P:48 conversion aspect, but that's a subject for future posts...Stay tuned.

Serving The Line

With basic research nearly complete for almost all of the industries on the line, I'm turning my focus to at least one of the modeling aspects of this project: Determining the necessary car fleet to support operations.

This is especially important for me to work out since I'm still heavily considering a change in modeling scales from HO to O (P:48, actually).  Regardless of scale choice, I'll still need the fruits of this thought exercise; if a switch does happen, this will help scope the equipment changeover.

We'll start with the theoretical discussion of each industry, the commodities they handled, and the typical car types that would've been used to service them.  I'll update the table with additional information as I locate suitable products to represent the prototype.

Spot CodeIndustry NameCommoditiesFreight Car TypesModels
303Openn/a
305Garfield Team TrackVariousVarious
306Paper Supply CompanyPaperBoxcars
308Runaround Trackn/a
309Openn/a
311C. E. Schutte Lumber CompanyLumber
Building Materials
Boxcars
Flatcars
315Carthage Marble CorporationCut StoneFlatcars
Gondolas
319W. C. Tingle CompanyFlooringBoxcars
326Pacific Mutual Door CompanyLumber
Windows
Doors
Boxcars
327Battenfield Grease & Oil CompanyPetroleum ProductsTank Cars
335Safeway BakeryFlourCovered Hoppers (Airslide)
336Motor Parts Distributors IncorporatedAuto PartsBoxcars
340Sherwood Chemical CompanyChemicalsTank Cars
340AUnion CarbideNo research yet
340BAmerican Mineral Spirits CompanyChemicalsTank Cars
341Southwestern Bell Telephone CompanyBulk Wire
Telephone Poles
Supplies
Boxcars
Flatcars
342Turner Uni-Drive CompanyGearbox Castings
Machined Parts
Boxcars
345U. S. EngineeringSteel
Pipe
Flat Cars
Covered Gondolas
348Swenson Construction CompanyConstruction MaterialsBoxcars
Flat Cars
353Styro Fabricators IncorporatedPolyisocyanurateBoxcars (Drums)
354Fred Wolferman IncorporatedDry Goods
Perishables
Insulated Boxcars
Refrigerated Boxcars

In the meantime, I'll keep track of a some potential candidate models below:
PFE Reefer (yellow) [Weaver]
Tank Car (Sunoco/Undec) [Weaver]
Insulated Boxcars (GT, L&N, SF) [Atlas]
Standard 50' Boxcars [Atlas]
Modernized 40' Boxcar [Atlas]
Covered Hopper [Atlas]
Flat Car [Atlas]
57' Mechanical Reefer [Lionel]
3 Bay Hopper [Lionel] (MoW service only, no online industry for an open hopper)
70ton Airslide [Atlas]
60' HiCube Boxcar [Atlas]
50' Plug Door Box [Atlas]
60' Auto Parts Box [Atlas]

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Swenson Construction Company

In this installment of the tour of the Fairgrounds Branch we're capturing what we can on Swenson Construction Company, which is spot #348 on the 1972 Map.

The last view I've been able to obtain of this location is a 1969 aerial view.  There's a fair amount of rail activity at this spot location, but some of it appears to be potential offspot cars for Sherwood / American Mineral Spirits.  An aerial view 10 years earlier shows pretty much the same layout for the materials yard, but is devoid of rail activity.

Swenson's Construction Company has a lengthy history in Kansas City and was founded in 1906.  Projects that the company has worked on include:
Swenson's role in and the construction of many of these structures include basic building materials such as concrete and steel.  Given the aerial views that show a relative emptiness of the actual site, it stands to reason then that steel beams, blocks, bricks, and perhaps bagged or bulk cement might've been delivered here or the nearby team tracks for further truck distribution to various construction sites.

I found at least one reference to an employee retirement in 1978, so it seems plausible that Swenson Construction Company can be included on the planned 1970s rendition of the Fairgrounds Branch.

Other fun facts found while searching:



Monday, September 1, 2014

Milestone(s)

Sometime between yesterday and today, this blog's readership crossed the 5000 total views mark.  In the previous eighteen months, 33 posts have documented my findings of a short Frisco Railway industrial spur in Kansas City, Missouri.  This date also marks (almost) one year since the blog was able to transition from largely speculation and guesswork to one of targeted research due to the find of the 1972 railroad produced spot map.  This change in trajectory gave new life to this project and set the stage for creating a railroad model, not just a model railroad.  It'll likely be some time before I'm able to begin construction, so for now, the research continues to flush out details and narrow down the industrial history of the rail-served properties.  I also hope to experiment with a few experiments in "modern" P:48 modeling, since, after writing about it previously, I've become more interested in that scale as the preferred medium to recreate The Fairgrounds Branch.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Safeway Bakery

This installment of the tour of the Fairgrounds Branch, covers the Safeway Bakery, which is spot #335 on the 1972 Map.

This location is listed as Fairfax Bakery in the 1950 Sanborn reference and confirmed by this 1955 Kansas City Times article to be Safeway Stores subsidiary.

Research for this location was complicated by the fact that the Styro Fabricators business located at the end of the line in 1972 moved to this location sometime before or in 1995, so it took some time to sort out all of the available information the internet had to offer.  The clincher was the plot map showing that there were two Safeway locations on the Fairgrounds Branch.

At least in 1955, this location was primarily a bakery for bread products, so one could expect railcars of flours to be delivered here.  The dock door is obviously from an earlier era when that product arrived bagged in boxcars; it isn't clear if adaptations were made to accommodate the unloading of airslides or other covered hoppers.

Present day pictures for reference:
Overview

Rail Side 

 Dock closeups

 Spur location

Styro Fabricators

This installment of the tour of the Fairgrounds Branch, covers Styro Fabricators, which is spot #353 on the 1972 Map.  Earlier research based mainly on this Sanborn Map shows this location being a warehouse for Safeway Produce, but this is only accurate up through the mid-1950s.


Research on Safeway's history in the greater Kansas City area reveals a hostile takeover from the private equity world in 1986 that led to the divestiture of the Kansas City operations in 1988.  Given that Stryo Fabricators is listed on the 1972 spot map, this particular location apparently outlived its grocery warehouse usefulness long before Safeway retreated from the market.  There's a loose reference in a link on the Safeway Bakery post that indicates a regional radius of 250 miles was served from the bakery and presumably this location as well.

In the target era, we have Styro Fabricators -- a manufacturer of polyisocyanurate pipe insulation.  It isn't clear what scale their operation was at, but the Frisco must have delivered railcar loads of some of the raw materials, perhaps in liquid chemical or granular form.  More research is required, but this may provide an opportunity to spot either tank cars or covered hoppers on this spur  Boxcars of chemical drums is another possibility; especially if the input chemicals had to be blended on site.  Perhaps additionally, they may have originated loads from here, but that seems less likely.

Styro Fabricators must have changed hands or completed the move to 3327 Roanoke Road in 1995, as that's all that is available online, including in the Missouri Secretary of State database.  Since then, the company has evolved into Bradco, which is the current occupant at that location up the street.  It is quite conceivable that the business started out at this original facility (3525 Roanoke Road) and later moved to the 3327 Roanoke building as the former Safeway Bakery property became available.  The extruded pipe insulation that Styro Fabricators produced now appears to be one of Bradco's product lines.

Present day pictures, for reference:











Also uncovered during research is that the present day occupant of 3525 Roanoke Rd is a company called MEDiAHEAD  They've been using that name since 2013 and were formerly known as Colormark which was started in 1990 as a business but possibly only since 2001 at this location.  That would align with Styro Fabricators relocating a few doors north on Roanoke Road and some vacant time.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Plot Map

It's been nearly two-months since a fresh posting on kcspur, but summer activities always seem to push railroad modeling to the back burner.

With many kudos again to Frisco.org members, I've obtained a copy of a plot map of the entire Fairgrounds Branch.  The original creation date is unknown, but there are updates to it as recent as 1974.  Displayed here are scaled down versions split in half for viewing convenience.
    Part 1 (North half)
                                       Part 2 (South half)

There's some great information on this diagram, such as:
  • The turnout frog angle numbers are shown inline with the map
  • The lengths of spur tracks are shown

Plus, I was able to clarify a few outstanding items regarding industries:
  • Safeway had two rail-served locations on the branch:
    • The bakery is just left of center on the southern (right) half of the map
    • The grocery warehouse is at the end of the line on the west side of the tracks
  • The sub-lease of part of the former Columbia Bedding property to Motor Parts Distributors is cleary noted in this document.
I'll continue to dig into the details of this map and update this post along with other Industry Review pages as I learn more.

Fred Wolferman Grocery

This installment of the Fairgrounds Branch tour looks at Fred Wolferman Grocery, which was spot #354 on the 1972 Map.

Unfortunately for this modeler, it seems that this industry was no longer active in my desired target era.  According to this 1986 People Magazine article, their participation in the local Kansas City grocery market ended in 1972.  If that's the case, rail service to this location ended earlier than that as the company wound down operations.  However, this KC History source says the last store was open until 1984.  For this particular property, however, things were likely shaken up or closed down in 1974 as both this Missouri Business Record source and OpenCorporates Database source claim an end date of June 20th in that year.

This 1963 business filing record lists "Fred Wolferman Building Company" as the owner of this property (the address is actually on the east-west Karnes Blvd. that is south of the end of the Fairgrounds Branch).  I suspect that the name change was tied to an internal restructuring of operations (e.g. spinning off assets into separate wholly-owned 'companies').  It could also mean that the usage of this building changed at this time from its original grocery warehouse purposes to a nice building to rent to someone else.

1963 is right between two other references: The 1950 Sanborn map and the 1972 railroad map.  I suppose that since Fred Wolferman was still in business, the Frisco had no reason to change their maps in the ensuing nine years to read anything else, even if they were no longer spotting carloads of groceries or produce there.

With respect to my recreation of this area, a careful selection of time frame will determine if I either have the challenge of modeling an unused warehouse and a rusty siding or exercise some modelers' license and keep Fred Wolferman's alive for a few more years.

While researching this far, I came across several other tidbits of information:
  • This property record source indicates that the property was constructed in 1940.
  • Universal Color, Inc is associated with the property in 1998.
  • Kansas City Poster Display was located there as of early 1990.
    • Interestingly. this particular company was in business from 1939 to 2003, but despite the close association of that timeframe to the building's reported construction date, KCPD was located elsewhere as of 1952 so their move to this location was likely in the post-rail service era.
The State Historical Society of Missouri may have some information on the company or this building.  Their website lists a collection of documents for Fred Wolferman, Inc. (record #K0205)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Schutte Lumber Company


This installment of the Fairgrounds Branch tour looks at Schutte Lumber, which was spot #311 on the 1972 Map.


While the lumberyard occupies the same real estate as it traditionally has, rail service has been severely curtailed since it's heyday.  Schutte must have found it more economical to have the Frisco spot cars directly for unloading rather than move material around the yard -- in the days of horse and buggy, who could blame them -- as there were multiple spur tracks to multiple car spots at each of their buildings.

Here's how the grounds appeared as late as 1957; note the myriad of tracks serving many different buildings.

A massive fire nearly destroyed this business in 2003 and likely reshaped it to the shed configuration seen today.  The myriad of rail spurs into nearly every building was reduced to just the two current tracks at the edge of the property.  Based on this independent review, they had rail service as of 2006 and, according to their website they still do, though recent photography from Google (street and aerial) show the tracks in pretty rough shape.

It's not clear if that fire coincided with any retrenchment of the Fairgrounds Branch itself...As mentioned in the Pacific Mutual Door Company post, rail south of Schutte Lumber was gone by 2006.

Modeling of this industry will be very era-dependent and difficult to squeeze onto traditional shelf-style linear benchwork.

Setting the Era

Conversations with local enthusiasts who had previously toured the line and done other research revealed that the majority of rail service ended soon after a derailment near the south end of the line in the early 1980s (1983?).  The report is that a car was destined for Turner UniDrive Company.  My speculation is that new owner Burlington Northern was probably looking for a good reason to curtail service.

At least Schutte Lumber continued to receive rail service into the mid-90s.  As reported by local observers, they received shipments of large beams or trusses to the spurs on the southeastern edge of the property.  This required some amount of tail track that crossed 31st street.  It isn't yet clear when service to Pacific Mutual Door or other industries in the middle section ended.

This sets an upper limit on prototype modeling.  Of course, one must choose between one side or the other of the 21st of April 1980 -- either the beginning or end of time, or -- simply put -- whether to use orange or green with the white:



Photo Credits:
Frisco #306, a Carl Nelson shot borrowed from Frisco.org
BN #154, a Jim Shepard photo borrowed from the Don Ross Collection

I've always been interested in the 1970s era of railroading as that's when things started to get "interesting".  There were a handful of developments in the 1960s, but larger railcars were the norm in this decade and the what I call the "great oxide red / brown fleet" of the 1950s and earlier was disappearing.  It was also a challenging time as several upheavals took place: Amtrak, Conrail, to name a few.  Deferred maintenance was increasing.

Post-Staggers Act railroading in the early 1980s is also appealing.  From a model perspective, its a bit easier to find appropriate rolling stock, but in the case of this branch line and the industries it served, it was about to be history as trucks really began to take over.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fairgrounds Branch in 1930

While searching for more information on various industries, I came across this aerial photograph from the 1930's.  The focus is on Southwest Boulevard and clearly visible is the crossing of it by the Fairgrounds Branch to serve Schutte Lumber.

I can't post the picture directly here due to copyright, but you'll be able to view it on the Missouri Valley Special Collections page linked here: http://www.kchistory.org/u?/Curtiss,197

A few notes on key elements of the photo:

  • The Frisco mainline curves from upper left to lower left.
  • Just left of dead center is a team track area for the Frisco
  • On the right edge just below center, the X-shaped tracks serving the various Schutte unloading areas can be seen among the many piles of lumber.  Business was good in this era.

Enjoy if you visit!

Monday, June 23, 2014

American Mineral Spirits / Sherwood Chemical Company

Updated with additional information.

Industry Review continues with a look at spots #340/340B, the American Mineral Spirits Company that until 1964 was known as the Sherwood Chemical Company.  Both company names are listed on the 1972 map which made initial research difficult, but the connection was made with this July 1964 Kansas City Times article that announced the buyout (reproduced here to correct a few OCR defects):
Chemical Firm Sold SHERWOOD & CO.. local marketer and distributor of chemicals and petroleum-based products, yesterday was sold to Pure Oil company for an undisclosed sum. Sherwood will become an affiliate of American Mineral Spirits, a subsidiary of Pure Oil. Sherwood, which was incorporated here in 1946 after a takeover of the Bertram Naphtha company by Arnold A. Sherwood, has assets in excess of a million dollars and does annual business of over 5 million dollars. The company has a tank farm here handling 750,000 gallons of liquids, one in Wichita and one in Denver with a storage of 500,000 gallons each. Sherwood sells alcohol, naphtha, resins, ketones and fiberglass materials in a 6-state area. It had a chemical blending operation for industrial concerns.
Sherwood Chemical's extensive site spanned both sides of 34th Street with various warehouses (blue and green highlight), docks (orange highlight) and tank storage (red highlight).  The ones outlined in blue hadn't been constructed as of a 1950 Sanborn Map and in the present day, all of the tanks (red highlight, plus others that were scattered on site) have been removed from the site.

The 1972 map also shows tank spots on the east side of Terrace St. (purple highlight).  According to Historic Aerials, in 1959 the extra Sherwod tank site was a concrete block manufacturer (named Concrete Building Units).  This industry is also found on the 1950 Sanborn Map.  By the 1969, though, some buildings are gone and replaced with the Sherwood tanks.  I'd surmise that this expansion was coincident with the aforementioned 1964 merge.  Additional detail can be seen in the 2006 view and I captured the following ground level views to focus on some of the detail for the concrete containment area.










While I was on location in November 2013, I took several additional detailed shots of the Sherwood buildings that remain.











Wednesday, May 21, 2014

W. C. Tingle Company

Industry Review continues with a look at spot #319, the W. C. Tingle Company.  Based on the company's history, they've dealt entirely in flooring products since 1946.  The company lives on today in a suburban office park and the location at 3033 to 3039 Roanoke Road is now occupied by an electrician.

Regrettably, I didn't take as many pictures of this building as I did of others, so Google Street View is filling in for me on some of the ground-level shots here.  It appears that most of the former dock area has been (attempted to be) filled in to expand the driveway for Carthage Marble (visible in the background).
  
The rail served side of the building consists of a concrete dock and a single door.  I'd presume whatevr they ordered came in boxcars.

There's also some interesting brick detail on the street facade of the building as well.


I've not been able to locate a solid history of when this building changed hands.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

U.S. Engineering / Southwestern Bell

Industry Review continues with a look at spots #345 and #341, U. S. Engineering and Southwestern Bell Telephone, respectively.  This one post covers two industries since the buildings are directly adjacent to one another and seem to have only been split this way for a specific time period.

U. S. Engineering is a nationwide mechanical contractor with roots in Germany from 1855 and America from 1893.  Their specialty is in design, construction, and installation of air handling, piping, cooling and heating systems with a heavy emphasis on fabrication at the plant.


This is welcome news for the railroad modeler as the raw materials for their fabrication like rolled steel and piping could've conceivably arrived by rail.  An aerial shot of their facility on Roanoke Road outlines a covered unloading area with rail service from the north and truck docks on the south.  There's clearly the left overs of rail service to this location, including the rail-size gate, rail-car height dock and oversize door.


A ground-level view of the receiving area shows the dock, currently storing piping and other materials a-plenty.  Regular shipments of raw materials or perhaps even specialty components like large chillers and air handling equipment are plausible.

It isn't as evident it these photos, but when I visited in person, it was clear that the dock space in front of the overhead door was a more recent creation, likely filling in the space where railcars once went inside.


The company obtained this building on Roanoke Road in 1957 from Western Electric when they relocated from elsewhere in Kansas City to make room for the freeway (today's I-70/I-670/US-71/[I-49]) interchange.  In 1972, Southwestern Bell Telephone is still shown occupying spot #341 adjacent to the north of U.S. Engineering's new building.  In a Sanborn Map current to 1950, the building is shown as split between SW Bell and Western Electric, which of course were closely related.  Both portions are shown as being constructed in 1927 with the single-story portion just being a garage versus the three story portion listed as a warehouse.  In the 1970s, SW Bell may have still gotten telephone poles or large wire spools delivered here and probably used the garage for their local vehicle fleet.  This view of the west side of the building clearly shows the two different segments.

 A bit more detail of the different structures can be seen in this view from the north.

The building has what appears to be the remnants of an automatic window washer.

In modern times, U. S. Engineering has taken over the entire property.  I've not found a date on when Southwestern Bell vacated.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Turner UniDrive Company

Industry Review continues with a look at spot #342, the Turner UniDrive Company.

The building's physical location corresponds with the one identified on the 1972 track diagram as spot #342, but the industry list shows that spot as "Open".  I presume that's the Frisco's way of saying we don't provide service there any more.

According to the company's history, they've been in this location since 1940.  The business line is industrial gearboxes and transmissions.  In the early years, it is quite conceivable that they received raw stock for machining by rail.  Trucking probably later took over this raw materials delivery, but it's also plausible that rail was still viable for some specialized inbound component or outbound finished assemblies.

The overview shot of the Terrace St. side of the building above reveals where the three rail served dock spots were located and these close-up shots show the detail of the brick work:


The building is built into the hillside and a basement level is accessible from around the south end of the structure:



One certainly gets a feel for the grades involved on this spur -- The main Fairgrounds branch track is just out of view to the left of the photo above and sits about three feet lower at this point.  The upper level track following Terrace St. was immediately to the right of this building and ten feet higher.  These two tracks joined together about four-hundred feet south of where this photo was taken.

I'll close with a few detail shots showing the special brickwork on this structure and the fact that at the southern tip, it isn't very wide.


One final shot showing the relative location of this property to its neighbors.  The docks in the foreground are the remains of an oil dealer that used to have tanks at the upper left (along Terrace St.)