Sunday, July 21, 2024

Santa Fe's 1946-47 Super Chief in Victorville, & Help with Layout Buildings and Wiring

We've finished covering all the kinds of locomotives that ran through Victorville in the postwar decade, so our next topic will be all the passenger trains that ran though Victorville in the same years.  We'll begin this time with the 1946-47 Super Chief.

Then we'll cover two more weeks of slow layout progress, mostly involving buildings that some helpers are working on, and a bit of layout wiring.

But we begin with the 1946-47 (and early 1948) Super Chief, and the first thing to note is that it normally passed through Victorville after sunset (eastbound) and before sunrise (westbound), so any photos of it in Victorville would be very rare.  I will be showing photos of the locos that pulled the Super Chief in those years, but they will be pulling other trains.

For example, let's look at a Chard Walker photo of a set of eastbound PAs (#54) on the curve at Pine Lodge, heading toward Summit and then Victorville:

The scheduled times for the westbound Super Chief (Train 17) to pass through Victorville (it did not stop there) were 5:53 a.m. in 1946 and 5:40 a.m. in 1947-48.  The eastbound Super Chief (Train 18) came through at 10:40 p.m. in 1946 and 10:50 p.m. in 1947-48.

With my layout operating plan of not running any nighttime operations, this means that I don't need to model this train, which is fortunate, as some of the cars can only be modeled in HO with expensive and rare brass models, as seen in this consist I presented as part of my 2019 Super Chief clinic (an update of my 2006 clinic after more HO models were made):

In these years the train only ran every-other-day, leaving both terminals on the even days of the month, as they only had four trainsets, using mostly pre-war cars.

Here's a photo of the 1946 Super Chief in action near Trinidad, CO, in Sep. 1946, pulled by passenger FTs, and shot by Otto Perry:

Here's another shot of the Super Chief on Raton Pass in 1946, pulled by E6s and helped by a 2-10-4:

Now let's look at all the types of locos that pulled the Super Chief in 1946 through early 1948, based on the loco assignment records posted by Loren Joplin at  The photos below will show the various types of locos, but not when pulling the Super Chief.

As of April 1946, the only locos assigned to the Super Chief were E3 11LA and E6 12LA, 13LA, 14L, and 15LA.

Here we see E6 set #13 pulling the eastbound El Capitan into Victorville in Jan. 1946, thanks to Fletcher Swan:

In June of 1946, the passenger FTs #158-168 joined the pool of locos assigned to the Super Chief.

In this next view by Jack Whitmeyer, an FT set is bringing an eastbound passenger train through Victorville, with the depot at the right and the Upper Narrows cliffs in the distance:

In Sep. 1946 the Santa Fe's first PA-1 ABA set #51LAB joined the pool and replaced the E3 and E6 units.

Here's a nice publicity photo of PA set #51 when new, climbing eastbound in Cajon Pass:

Here is PA set #52 at the Victorville depot with the eastbound Grand Canyon Limited in May of 1947:

Santa Fe's F3 ABBA sets #16-21 joined the Super Chief power pool in Nov. 1946.

Here is Stan Kistler's photo of set #19 when one month old (Dec. 1946): 

Chard Walker shot F3 set #20 bringing the eastbound Chief through the Upper Narrows and past the Rainbow Bridge in Victorville in April of 1947:

Jack Whitmeyer shot F3 set #29 with the eastbound Grand Canyon at the Victorville depot (with pump houses on the left) in July of 1948:

PA set #52 joined the pool in Dec. 1946, and sets #53-58 also joined the pool in Feb. 1947

One more loco set joined the pool in June 1947, and that was Erie-Built #90LAB.

The only photo I have of Erie-Built set #90 at Victorville is this one by Chard Walker in the late 1940s, as the 3-unit loco comes eastbound toward the Upper Narrows and into Victorville with a passenger train:

Because #90 was unreliable, it was downgraded from pulling the Super Chief and El Capitan trains in May of 1948.  But as of Feb. 1948, the last month of this Super Chief consist, the locos pulling the train were FTs #158-168, PAs #51-58, F3s #16-21, and Erie-Built #90.

This concludes my report on the 1946-47 Super Chief consists, locos, and schedule in Victorville.  Now lets look at some slow layout progress during the last two weeks.

I spent the first half of the week of July 8 clearing all the junk off the top of the layout's lower deck and out of the aisles around it.  Some of the piles of train cars had to go back to the garage, where they had come from.

Then I laid out most of the tools in one place, so I can find them, and I placed all the Victorville building models where they will be located, but on the lower deck instead of the upper deck, where they will eventually belong.

Here's a photo showing the depot in the foreground, then some cork to represent the 6th Street grade crossing, and then the section houses, water tanks, and bunkhouse, with my hand tools in the foreground of that scene:

Looking in the opposite direction, we can see the depot, the Peterson Feed Store, the Standard Oil Warehouse, and the Lime Rock Plant in the distance:

Craig Wisch shipped his model of the Hayward Lumber Store, and when it arrives, it will go between the depot and the feed store.

On the opposite side of the layout, I placed his model of the Switching Station in the Lower Narrows scene, with a couple of transmission towers added in the background:

Just to the left of there in the Lower Narrows, I placed Don Hubbard's model of the Texaco Station:

When Bill Messecar and Don Hubbard arrived on that Wednesday morning, I gave Don his first tour of the layout and the various models of buildings, along with the Touch Toggles that are waiting to be installed in the C Tower control panel.  I got the package of more Touch Toggle wires and parts from Kevin Hunter but have not used them yet.

Meanwhile, Bill got right to work by soldering lots of feeder wires to the rails along Track C4 and then Track G1 (formerly S1), which curves around the future turntable area and has nine 18" parking spots for steam locos.  I had drilled and  inserted all these feeder wires the day before.  There are a few left to solder at the far end of C4, which can only be reached by crawling into the center pop-up area, so I will do that.

Then I took them both out to lunch, and since I had neglected to pose them by the layout, I shot a photo of them in the restaurant (Bill on the left, Don on the right):

When Bill had arrived earlier, he had brought along his completed model of the freight carbody warehouse and a connecting platform, which he had attached to his previous model of the passenger carbody bunkhouse.  Here's a photo of the street side of the buildings together:

And here's what the track sides of the two buildings look like:

Once again, I was thrilled to have these beautiful models, which will sit just across 6th Street from the depot (where the tools were arranged in the first photo above).

Don has continued to work on the base for his Standard Oil scene.  I received the wood kit for a loading dock to go on the right side of the warehouse, but we decided that it's not needed there, as trucks can back up to the freight door and load that way, so I will save it for another location.  The warehouse can move back to the right edge of the lot.

I haven't made any progress with my control panel designs, except to do a lot of online searches for long (piano-style) friction hinges.  Those are rare and fairly expensive, but I did find some regular friction hinges that are advertised to be useful for control panels and similar applications, so I will send for some and try them out.

I spent a lot of the week trading dozens of emails with Craig Wisch, as we tried to figure out exactly where the windows and doors were located on the front of the first floor of the Santa Fe Hotel (the former Lark Hotel).  Besides the 1943 photo by Jack Delano, we've looked at some screen shots from the 1920 silent movie "Sand" and 1971's "The Hard Ride" movie, both of which are free on YouTube.

In "The Hard Ride" we see the hotel for a second while the motorcycle drives past it in minute 39:

This shot helps us know the colors of the hotel walls and porch roof.  But we've found that the first floor windows and doors were partly changed between 1920 and 1943 and 1970, so we're using 1943 as the standard.  Craig has already drawn plans for the front side of the hotel, which we are reviewing.

As for the layout, I want to focus for a while on getting both mainlines wired to terminal strips and power packs, so I can finally start to enjoy seeing my trains running around the staging deck.

The week of July 15 was another slow week, with most of the progress involving work on models of Victorville buildings by my helpers (with my encouragement via many emails).

First, I received a big box from Craig Wisch in Victorville, holding his large, beautiful cardstock model of the Hayward Lumber store.  I set up a new scene on the other side of the layout, where there are not yet any tracks in the way, and I used a piece of sheet cork to represent D Street (which will actually be in the front aisle of the layout, not on the layout).  Here's a shot showing Peterson Feed, Hayward Lumber, and the Depot all in a row there:

I set a few trees in front of the Depot to represent Forrest Park.

Looking now from the other other direction, we see Hayward Lumber and then Peterson Feed:

Behind Hayward Lumber was a spur ending in an end-unloading ramp.  You can see the Standard Oil warehouse in the distance, but it should be a little farther away than that, as Shell Oil was between Peterson and Standard.  Where you see the cork, there will be no street, just the edge of the layout.

Thanks again to Craig Wisch for building and sending this wonderful model of Hayward Lumber.  And speaking of Standard Oil, Don Hubbard reports that he has cut an 11x11" sheet of styrene to serve as the base of the lot, and he has been painting it gray.

I mentioned that Craig Wisch has turned his attention to building the Santa Fe Hotel that was directly across the tracks from the Depot.  I previously showed a scene from the 1971 movie "The Hard Ride" where the hotel appears for a second.  Here now is a scene from the 1920 silent movie "Sand," showing the hotel in the distance and the depot roof to the right (before the depot was moved across the tracks):

Craig Wisch recently sent me what he calls the "cutting drawing" for the front of the hotel:
So, that project is now underway!

And Bill Mesecar has volunteered to build another structure for Victorville.  I thought it would be the long-delayed Boiler House, but instead he wants to work on the Rosso Cafe that was adjacent to the Texaco Station in the Lower Narrows, as seen here:

It will be a challenge, with the complex roof lines and the two-part structure, so I asked my architect friend Jim Coady whether he might be able to develop some scale drawings for Bill to work from.  Jim said maybe, if we can supply enough photos and information, so we'll start working together on that next week.

This week I sent Don Borden some revisions to several of the control panel drawings, and he has done some work on that, but they are not quite done.  I also ordered five pairs of friction hinges to try on some control panels, and six 12"-long piano hinges to support the base boards that go behind the control panels.

My wiring goal this week was to get the outer mainline hooked up to new terminal strips leading to a power pack, so I could run trains around that mainline track again, as I used to be able to do before some wires came loose from the terminals.  Sadly, I only got the very long block L1-A working again, as seen here:

I had to do a lot of crawling under the layout to get some of the bus wires to cross under the layout, so that slowed me down.  There are four more blocks to connect for the outer mainline, so I'll keep on going, one block at a time.

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Rare and Demonstrator Locos in Victorville, & Slow Layout Progress

This time I'll provide links to past blog entries about rare and demonstrator locos, and then I'll cover some slow progress on building my layout.

Here's one sample of the rare locos we have covered in our past blog entries:

A rare Cajon Pass loco was Santa Fe 2-8-2 #1798, which was sometimes seen as a helper.  Chard Walker got a good color shot of it in Victorville in the late 1940s:

Here's a list of links that should take you to any of the past blog entries for rare and demonstrator locos:

Santa Fe’s Rare Steam Locos – Dec-3-2023

Short Line Locos – Dec-17-2023

Southern Pacific Locos – Jul-31-2022

Some Diesel Demonstrators – Jan-14-2024

Possible Diesel Demonstrators – Jan-28-2024

More Diesel Demonstrators – Feb-11-2024

Here's a sample photo from each of these previous blog entries:

Santa Fe’s Rare Steam Locos – Dec-3-2023

A very rare steam loco is Santa Fe's big 2-10-4 #5025, which came west through Victorville to participate in the AAR rail stress tests at Cajon in Nov. 1947.  Here we see it in action on the curve at Cajon, thanks to a Santa Fe photo:

Short Line Locos – Dec-17-2023

Here we see Mojave Northern #3 with some loaded rock cars in action in Dec. 1958, during a railfan event:

Southern Pacific Locos – Jul-31-2022

On Jan. 16, 1952, four more SP passenger trains were detoured over Cajon Pass, including the westbound West Coast, pulled by cab-forward 4-8-8-2 #4268, as shot at Summit by Chard Walker (a masterpiece):

Some Diesel Demonstrators – Jan-14-2024

We'll focus this time on the diesel demonstrators that we know visited the Victorville and Cajon Pass areas.  Here's a first look at Alco FPA-2 demonstrator ABBA set #1602 on the SP in Soledad Canyon in c.1950:

Possible Diesel Demonstrators – Jan-28-2024

Let's begin with EMD's F7 ABA demonstrator set (#1950) that toured the country in 1950:

More Diesel Demonstrators – Feb-11-2024

In 1951 Fairbanks-Morse demonstrated a passenger C-Liner model CPA-24-5, using a pair of A-units #4801 and #4802.  Here we see them in a color photo:

Next I will cover some slow progress on building my layout.

It's been three weeks since I wrote a blog entry, because I lost a week when some of the keys stopped working on my old laptop, which I had to replace with a modern one, where nothing works the same.  It's so frustrating!  Then I lost a lot of the second week with cable TV problems, with many online chats and two long visits by repair technicians.  Not to mention all the springtime yard work.

But I did have a helpful visit by Bill Messecar on Thursday, June 27, when we worked together on laying down the long stub track named C4, which is for parking multiple diesel sets someday.  Before he arrived, I had traced pencil lines along the outside of the ties on the sheet cork, so that we could accurately place the flextrack sections after spreading caulk between the lines.

Here we see Bill after he had glued down most of track C4 and placed water bottle weights along the track:

I finished the far end of the track by crawling into the center pop-up area of the main peninsula.  On the previous day I had cut an extra piece of sheet cork and painted it gray to fit between the posts at the end of C4, so the track could run a little farther to the edge. I posed with the putty knife after spreading more caulk for the last section of C4:

Later I filled down some loose ties and glued them under the several rail joiners along track C4, which is the long, left track in this photo:

The tracks to the right of C4, with the push-pins (tracks C3 and C2 and others), have not been glued down yet.

Meanwhile, I've been working on a design for mounting the control panels along the edges of the lower deck.  

At each panel location there will be the control panel itself (full of Touch Toggles), hinged at the top to rotate up to near horizontal when in use, and behind that will be a "base board," where all the base units that control the Touch Toggles will be attached.  Here's a photo showing how the base units will be arranged on a 10" x 16" base board, in the lower half of the photo:

The pencil line halfway down is where the 20" x 16" board will be cut in half, and above that line we see a couple of power units that will be mounted on the back side of the base board, to power the rows of base units on the front side.

Here's my pencil drawing showing (on the left) a front view of the base board with its base units (similar to the photo above), and showing (on the right) a control panel hanging in front of its base board:

Note that each one hangs from two hinges, but at different levels beneath the plywood layout top.

The side view is quite complex, as both panels have to be able to rotate up to near horizontal when needed, and the control panel also needs to rotate farther up to 180 degrees to access the back of the panel if any Touch Toggles need to be changed.  The bus wires also need space under the layout frame board, and the feeder wires to the tracks need space, and the touch toggle wires from inside the control panel need space to get to the base units, and the wires from the base units to the tracks also need space.  

Here's the side view for my design:

The key to making this work is to add some small hinge boards that space the hinges properly so that the panels can rotate.  The control panel has two hinges, each mounted to a small hinge board, and the base board has its own two hinges, attached to somewhat longer hinge boards, to allow space for the bus wires to run above the hinge points.

I will be testing some "friction hinges" for the control panel, so that it will stay at whatever angle the operator moves it to, just as the lid of a laptop computer stays where you rotate it to.  The base board can probably do without the friction hinges, as it will rarely need to rotate up to horizontal, and a stick of the right height could be used to prop it up when needed.

Craig Wisch in Victorville is completing his beautiful cardstock model of the Hayward Lumber store and will be shipping it to me soon.  We've also been having many email discussions about the possibility of that he might also build a model of the Santa Fe Hotel that was straight across the tracks from the depot.  Here's a close up from a larger shot that Jack Delano made as he rode a train through Victorville in 1943:

I've sent Craig the Sanborn map of the hotel area, along with quite a few aerial photos from different years and angles.

My only real progress on the layout this past week was to mark where Track C4 (a long storage track for parking diesel sets) will be divided into five sub-blocks (four are 30" long and one is 22" long), and then to drill holes for all the feeder wires and to insert the feeders, ready to be soldered to the rails (by Bill Messecar this coming Wednesday).

Some of these feeder locations are 36" to 48" from the nearest layout edge, where they will connect to bus wires, so I hope that will not be a problem for the current through these long 22 ga. feeder wires.

Here's a new photo of Track C4, shot from where the track dead-ends, showing the masking tape markers and stripped feeder wires sticking out all along the length of the track:

When Bill arrives on Wednesday, he plans to bring along our long-time friend Don Hubbard, who has not yet visited the layout during the four years it has been under construction.

Speaking of Don, he has been completing several additional structures for the 11x11" Standard Oil lot.  He made the three horizontal oil tanks from PVC tubes, and he used parts from the Walthers Interstate Fuel & Oil kit for the tank pedestals.  He also built more parts from the kit -- the standpipe (which we will save for the propane dealer instead, as the oil was not unloaded from the tank car domes), and the pump house, and the truck filling station.

Here is Don's recent photo of all of these completed parts (except the standpipe):

I was very excited to see all these parts being completed for the scene.  I also sent for a wood kit so I can later build a narrow (1 1/4" wide) loading dock to attach to the right side of the main warehouse building, so that oil drums can be unloaded there from boxcars.

As for the control panels, I'm still waiting to receive the extra toggle wires and parts from Kevin Hunter.  There was a delay in shipping them.  

Don Borden recommended that I should use one long hinge (called a piano hinge) instead of two hinges for rotating a panel, so I plan to send for samples that are also friction hinges, which should hold the panel at the angle that the operator rotates it up to.

Craig Wisch in Victorville has not yet ventured out to ship the completed Hayward Lumber store to me, due to the extreme heat there.  He is becoming more interested now in building the two-story Santa Fe hotel for me, so that is great news.  Here is part of my layout drawing showing where the hotel will be located, directly across the tracks from the depot:

The hotel dates back to the 1920s and earlier (1904), when it was named the Lark Hotel.  Here's a very early photo of the hotel, when most of the Victorville was still on the river side of the tracks:

The rest of my week was spent trying the clear out all the aisles around the layout and some of the junk on top of the layout, so that I can give Don Hubbard a proper tour when he arrives.