Santa Maria Valley Industrial

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Many railroads are designed around the movement of a single commodity, coal or iron ore. The SMVIRR models the movement of refrigerator cars. I loosely model the Santa Maria Valley Railroad: see Trains Magazine, June 2013, on a double deck layout in a 12 by 20 foot room.

Originally it was designed for three operators, a Southern Pacific crew, a Guadalupe yardmaster and the SMVRR, during a session I found that a fourth person could be added. A west district engineer, making the SMVIRR a two person branch line, a yard master and one road engineer.

In a book written by John Signor, "Southern Pacific Coast Line" on page 112, there is a map showing the Salinas produce packing district. That gave me an idea to create a packing district on the SMVIRR and one more operator.

I designed the packing district to fit on a 2 foot by 6 module, on wheels. When not in use it is stored in the railroad room but during operating sessions it shares space in the adjoining laundry room.

Here is a photograph of the module in place.

The SMVIRR now runs with 5 operators, Two on the SMVIRR (Santa Maria yard master and west district engineer), the Guadalupe yardmaster, (where the SP interchanges with the SMVIRR), SP yardmaster/road engineer and an operator for the packing district. Half way through the session or when the packing district finishes his work, the SP yardmaster and Packing District Engineer trade positions.

The module contains two general packing buildings, Western Packing with 5 doors and Bonita Packing, 2 doors and a loading dock with 2 spots. Pacific Packing is an independent citrus packer, has two doors and receiving dock for packing materials and oil for field heaters. Swanson Potato shipping has two spots but in increased traffic can share the dock track with Bonita Packing. In bound loads are soil conditioners and fertilizers shipped to Pacific Valley Soils. Product can arrive in covered hoppers, box cars and tank cars. Also there is a fuel company that receives tank cars of gas, diesel fuel and box cars of lubricants and a team track for equipment and general freight. Each packing plant can receive packing containers and supplies in box cars. The ice dock receives bulk block ice in ice service cars and bagged salt for the ice dock in box cars. Additional spots are for precooling, clean out and fumigation.


In reading the book "Pacific Fruit Express", written by Bruce Jones, Robert Church and Tony Thompson I discovered that there are more than setout/hold/pickup movements for refrigerator cars.

Refrigerator cars could be iced prior to loading or iced after loading, after they were loaded some of the car loads could be cooled prior to the trip east, either using the car fans or placed in special precooling plant. After pre cooling they would have to be re-iced. Depending on the produce shipped loaded cars could be topped with shaved ice. Some cars might have to be cleaned prior to the shipper accepting them or even fumigated if they were infested with insects. These all create additional car movements.

I also noticed that refrigerator cars came in four basic designs, wood sided, and steel sided with internal and external fan power and mechanical refrigeration. I model 1955 and do not use mechanical reefers.

I decided that certain crops would be packed in the three types cars. Wood sided cars would ship root crops, potatoes, carrots, rutabagas etc. Steel cars with external power circulation fans, (cars with a dot on the side, which represents an access portal for long shafted motors to drive the internal fan while the car is stationary). These cars would ship mostly produce lettuce, peas, beans, etc. but could be used to ship citrus as well. The third is a steel sided car (without a dot) that represents a car with internal electric driven fans that only required an extension cord to be plugged in to drive the internal fans while the car was stationary. These cars would ship both fruit and citrus.

Along with the many movements that may be required to "set out" a refrigerator car and the three types of cars, I created a single use car card/waybill. (See photograph #5)

Prior to an operating session the produce broker (layout owner) takes inventory of car locations and their car sequence movements. This helps the produce broker to determine what is going to be shipped, what packers are going to be utilized for shipping. The broker also determines the car movement sequence by numbering the different tasks that are preprinted on the way bill/car card (see photograph 5). Car movement and what is being shipped and what the climate on the route also determines the sequence. i.e. If it is summer, some loads would be pre cooled and topped with shaved iced. In the fall a shipment would be only loaded, iced and shipped. During the winter maybe no ice, vents opened until cold temperatures would require charcoal heaters to be inserted.

Fellow modeler Bill Joltz also models refrigerator car movements is working on a chart of what produce is harvested in which month and what the specific icing requirements are needed for that product. I just wing it. (Sorry Tony).

In addition to the preparing of the car card way bills the broker may move some unassigned cars to the packing district. These will be assigned during the operating session depending on the cruelty of the produce broker and competency of the operator.

To add more interest to the movement of refrigerator cars, cars are spotted to the industry by type of car and not by car identification number. The engineer then acts as the conductor, writing in the car number once it is spotted at the industry. The client does not care what the car number is only that the correct type of car is spotted. This gives the operator more interaction while operating.

Car movements are recorded by punching the appropriate sequence on the car card by railroad ticket punches from the owner’s collection.

If things are balanced and run smoothly it takes about 90 minutes to switch out the packing district. This is about half of an operating session. When the packing district engineer returns to the yard and changes with the Southern Pacific engineer, the broker manipulates the car cards and the 2nd shift works the district along with the empties he brings in for the 2nd shift.

Follow this link for a more in depth article on ice bunker movements that Mike wrote for The Dispatcher's Office publication. Ice Bunker Movements Article is in PDF format. (Adobe Acrobat Reader or equivalent required to view)

Superintendent Mike Jordan
Division or Location: California central coast
Interchange Railroads: Southern Pacific
Size of Railroad: 240 square feet
Scale: HO
Era: 1950s
Control System: Digitrax
Scale Clock Speed: n/a
Length of Session: 2.5 - 3 hours
Number of Crew: 5
Train Control: Yard Limit Rules
Are Radios Required: No
Listed Jobs: 3 yardmasters, 2 road engineers
Accessibility: Stairs
Distance from hotel: 26 miles
Estimated travel time from hotel: 30 minutes
Web Site: {None...yet}
Pets: Two cats, One bird

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