Christopher Brimley updated April 15, 2011


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  • Passenger Servicing Facilities: Part 2

    by V. S. Roseman

    Photos by the author

    The Walthers Canning Plant used as a Pullman commissary and storehouse shown with the kits boiler house.
    Model Railroading - June 2002 - Page 30

    While passenger cars in a train would be owned by the operating railroad(s), Pullman cars were originally owned and operated by the Pullman Company. After 1948 the cars were sold to the various railroads, and nearly all of these were leased back to Pullman which continued to operate the cars for the various roads. Pullman was best known for the operation of sleeping cars, but they also operated parlor or chair car services on many railroads. They also provided dining car service that was used by a number of railroads.

    Linens from sleeping cars were collected and sent off to a local commercial laundry and the Pullman building housed spares of every kind of linen coming back from the laundry to be stored until it could be loaded into departing cars. Quarters for Pullman e mployees, such as Porters and Pullman car cleaners (Pullman had their own crews for cleaning their own cars) if employed by Pullman would be based either in the Pullman building or in a free-standing structure resembling an ordinary yard office.

    Pullman Service Building

    Walthers Golden Canning building kit was used to make a Pullman service building. This model has a number of attractive features that make it great for this use. The 40s-50s construction of concrete with brick is attractive and yet not overly fancy. Having loading docks on two adjacent sides is a good feature when room is available for this arrangement. Trucks would have their own driveway in front of the building and could load or unload and be turned easily without interfering with traffic on busy city streets around the terminal area. Crew quarters for quick turnaround trains where the crew might only need an hour or two layover with car cleaners storage and quarters could be put into this structure. Additional doors could be added on the side facing the tracks if desired. Grandt Line has typical doors for this purpose and of course the styrene sides of this building can be easily cut with a knife or saw to make the door openings if desired. This building has a number of very fine details such as the staircase to the upper floor.

    This Pullman Company Building is made from the front half of the Walthers Mirandas Bananas Co. storehouse. Other than cutting the structure in half, no changes needed to be made. In this view, the linen truck is about to haul the used linens off to a central laundry. Depending on the particular rules in the coach yard, trucks might come out on the trackside or more often were restricted to using the docks on the street side of the building.
    Model Railroading - June 2002 - Page 31

    The photo at the end of Part 1 last month showed this building used at the head of the tracks in the coach yard much as the passenger service buildings were arranged in Detroit. In that case I used a loading dock on one side only and didnt attach the second loading dock, as I am not sure yet where it will be used. The two side walls can be switched during assembly, which permits you to have the loading dock on either side. As I will have to transport this building to several train shows, I have omitted the second-story exterior ladder. I barred the second floor doorway with a small strip of plastic painted black.

    I was able to paint the window frames and doors green before assembly, but the concrete foundations and pilasters were painted by hand. It is possible to mask the building and paint these parts too, and I feel that it really is necessary to paint them, as the building would look unfinished without that detail. The small, widely spaced windows on both floors make this building typical of a warehouse, and it would probably have one or more elevators inside to raise cartons to the second floor. This structure would be sufficient to service a large number of dining cars and restaurants. Part of it might even be leased out or used for storage, or for some other purpose. You could easily cut some additional doors at the blind end of the building and add another loading dock for that purpose.

    I did not realize how big this building was, and it will have to be shoehorned into the yard space proposed for it, so I left the side loading dock and roof off. (I have saved all the parts in case I can use them once the building is installed.

    This kit has a little boiler house that would be used for supplying heat and could be used around the yard for this same purpose. It could supply steam and air for a small coach yard as well as heat for a couple of structures. I expect that I will use my boiler house with a factory somewhere outside of the train yards.

    A Smaller Pullman Building

    Walthers Mirandas Bananas kit could also be used to make a smaller Pullman service building. More limited facilities could he housed in a building of this size, or in my case, a building made from half of the kit. While passenger service began to ebb by the 50s, new structures were still being built highways often cut across the sites of older buildings, fires sometimes burned down old buildings, and a big old building might have been so inefficient that a railroad could make better use of the land by replacing it with a more efficient smaller one. This rather Spartan design, with its plain walls devoid of decoration and ordinary windows, is quite typical of those built in the post WWII era for light industry. This kind of building contrasts with our gingerbread masterpieces and, I think, gives a very natural appearance to model railroad scenes.

    The prototypes of building "A" (the front half of the kit) would have Pullman Company offices plus rows of freezers to hold meat and similar commodities, warehouse space with tall sets of shelving to hold canned goods, bins for fresh vegetables a nd fruits and refrigerators for eggs and similar perishables. For linens there would be shelves and space for wagons or rolling baskets to ferry these out to trains and also to laundry trucks. Doors on both sides of the building would be used to load linen and foodstuffs into the warehouse, and also for unloading into trains on the side facing the train tracks.

    The location chosen for this building is between the last track in the coach yard and a side street alongside the main terminal building. I simply cut the Walthers structure in two, and as it will never be seen from the back I filled the wall in with illustration board. I cut the board to the same height as the wall including the cornice. I substituted .030 x .125 styrene for the ceramic cornice trim along the backs of both buildings. As I was reducing the width of the buildings I could have done the same with the second floor, but instead I cut it loose and placed it sideways to provide a storeroom for linens, and canned provisions. While the Walthers windows are nice, I decided to use some of the Grandt Line Engine House windows I have accumulated over the years. I cut down the Grandt line windows to fit within each opening and then added plain Evergreen styrene strip (.030 x .080) on all four sides to provide gluing surfaces for the windows. These have to be aligned by eye (or you can match a mullion up with a particular brick course if you like). After painting the windows, they are mounted behind the walls.

    I need to disguise the edges of the back wall as I permitted it to butt against the plastic side walls: I should have fitted it between the two side walls so it does not show, and I recommend doing this for anyone splitting up the building as I did. This building only needed to be painted in the foundation areas, and I mixed a concrete looking gray color using Testors Acryl paint. I sprayed this after masking the remainder of the structure with tape. The mortar lines are of Model Mortar, which is no longer available locally. Roberts in Wisconsin supplies a similar mortar product. The material is troweled on sparingly, and is spread with a spatula or small bit of cardboard. The wall is lightly cleaned off with a damp paper towel leaving a very realistic brick appearance. This is probably the first model building I have built in many years that is not fully painted.

    The second half of the Mirandas Bananas structure in use as a railroad passenger service department. Offices are on the left and storerooms are along the right side of the building. If more room was needed a two story or taller building would be used. While the coaches in the photo have already been through the car washer, some spit-and-polish roads cleaned their windows by hand. In this shot the washers are at work while a laundry truck is over by the office, probably with the driver inside the office delivering the bill. The red structures on the platforms are water standpipes, while the electric outlets are in boxes in the platform. Lots of wagons are in evidence delivering supplies to the various types of cars in the yard. Headrest antimacassars, lounge and parlor car supplies, batteries or other items necessary for running a first-class passenger service.
    Model Railroading - June 2002 - Page 32

    Passenger Department Offices

    Building B of the Mirandas Bananas kit was used to build a structure to house the railroad passenger department offices and servicing facility. This building would be the operations center for the railroads passenger services commissary. The facility represents one serving a union station. Union stations are usually operated by an association of the railroads using the station. While the term Union Station recalls facilities such as Chicago Union Station, which had the Pennsylvania, Burlington, Milwaukee and other tenants, or other huge installations, it should also be remembered that there were lots of smaller union stations as well. A smaller one was the Allentown (PA) Union Station of the Reading and the Central Railroad of New Jersey (whose whole yard area only took up about a city block). Only a few miles east was the Bethlehem (PA) Union Sta tion of the Lehigh Valley and the Reading, which was even more compact.

    The first of the two structures built from Mirandas Bananas represents one for a road using Pullman dining and sleeping car service while the second example would have been used by a road that ran its own dining cars. Building B would have similar features of building A but with much simpler linen storage since it would only store tablecloths and napkins and not bed linens for sleeping cars. The offices for building B would probably be in the terminal building itself or could possibly be shoehorned into s ome corner of building B along with cleaning crew quarters.

    Head End Servicing

    One of the main factors that kept passenger trains running after about 1950 was income from head end cars: mail and express. In some cases, the top train on a railroad might not have a mail car, but it could well have been the mail contracts for the postal express cars that ran on all of the other trains that paid to keep that fancy streamliner running. It is known that passenger service became an increasing money drain on the railroads by the 1950s. After around 1950 increasing numbers of railroads gave up running passenger trains for this reason.

    Mail contracts had been made between the Post Office Department and the rail roads almost from their inception, and these brought income to the passenger train accounting sheets. Bagged mail was loaded by postal employees into approved types of cars, generally sealed express-type cars (baggage cars) and would be opened at the final destination of the train or at the point at which the car would be dropped off. Each of the drop-off points had a post office with facilities for distributing mail to smaller postal facilities in the area. By 1900, the concept of the railway post office in which mail could be sorted en route had been developed and was in operation. Usually mail was brought by wagon or truck to trainside in the coach yard and was loaded on the mail and express tracks. The cars would then be switched into the departing train. These were probably the last type of passenger cars not locked into a particular consist. Of course, there were exceptions and some trains had assigned cars that were kept with their own train even in the coach yards. Wagons, usually with four wheels and a bed that would be level with express car doors would be used to transport the mail sacks to the waiting trains.

    Sealed mail cars lasted till the end of railroad control of their passenger service, and has been revived by Amtrak in their material handling cars. In some instances there actually was a post office on or adjacent to railroad property.

    Express is the other type of head end traffic that helped to keep passenger trains economically feasible for so long. At first, small express companies operated in one or two cities. A company might distribute packages within one city or between a selection of several cities such as Atlanta, Jacksonville and New Orleans. As the small companies grew they amalgamated and formed larger ones until, during World War One, the Federal Government took over operation of the railroads. At that time the largest of the express companies were merged, but unlike the railroads, redundant offices and facilities were shut down, and accounting was standardized generally following the methods of American Express, the largest of the express companies. This grouping of companies formed the American Railway Express.

    After WWI it was impossible to break up the company into the various components. It took ten years to finally agree upon the ideas of keeping the company as an industry-wide organization that would be owned by most of the railroads in proportion to their mileage and the amount of express business they generated. The new company formed in 1929 was the Railway Express Agency.

    One of the services provided by REA was the handling of large trunks that might contain a familys summer clothing. This would be brought by truck from a home to the railhead where the trunk would be loaded into an express car. The trunk would travel by train and finally by truck again to the mountain or seaside resort hotel where the family would find it in their hotel room waiting for them on their arrival. Depending on the distances involved, the trunk would be sent a day to a few days before the vacation trip began. Large valuable items, such as a special piano, were commonly sent by express and in the case of such expensive items, a special express car might be used for the single object. Income from mail and express services eventually offset many of the losses incurred on passenger trains and were responsible for many trains lasting as long as they did.

    The Railway Express building, seen in most every coach yard generated lots of traffic income after World War Two when passenger traffic dropped off. Cars could be loaded and unloaded from any track on the big four-wheeled wagons often called jumbos. With express business up, Railway Express is even using some tracks across the street for additional space. In a busy scene such as this one, lots of REA trucks would be needed.
    Model Railroading - June 2002 - Page 33

    On railroads with dense passenger services, mail and express traffic might be so heavy that special trains would be operated on schedules with only RPOs, storage mail cars and express cars. In some cases these had a rider coach for local riders too. I recall seeing solid trains of express cars stretching as far as the eye could see running alongside the Hudson River on New York Central tracks, hauled by several GP units or Alco FAs. Pennsylvania had similar trains as did Santa Fe and many other roads. At important junction cities, cars would be switched in and out just as in a freight train, so that a single mail and express train might serve a large number of cities on diverging routes.

    At Jersey City, on the CNJ, the location of the express building was adjacent to the departure platforms of the terminal, with two tracks utilized for express traffic. The first floor of the building was virtually all doors on both the long north side facing Johnston Avenue, and on the south side, which faced the train tracks. I recall seeing every door open on the street side, with trucks backed up to every door and trucks idling across the street awaiting a bay to load up or unload. (This building was nearly 700' long!) The upper two stories were for Railway Express Co. and railroad offices.

    In Sunnyside Yard, Railway Express also had its own building which was about the size of a small freight yard by itself. Four tracks penetrated the interior and cars were brought in among the high platforms: mechanical bridges were lowered when cars were idle to permit trucking with electric horses or other powered vehicles hauling strings of wagons full of packages across the tracks. These bridges were moved to permit the cars to be hauled out when loaded.

    Railway Express Building

    Two Design Preservation Laubes Linens kits were used to build my Railway Express building, but as I was completing this building I learned that Walthers was coming out with a similar express building. Using that structure will be easier than converting two of the DPM buildings, but it will be somewhat more expensive. This type of conversion is likely to give you a unique building that should provide a lot of realism. I left off the models canopy, but one could be fabricated easily using sheet styrene.

    The first floor of any express house has large doors for loading and unloading cars along one side: The other side should be parallel to a street and should also have a long row of doors for loading and unloading trucks. It would also be possible to install a track on the street side of the building either along the shoulder or in the pavement so a car could load on the street side when trucks were not present. Walthers street track installation kits are ideal for this application and provide an easy way to put the track in the pavement. A platform extending beyond the length of the building would permit hand or electric trucks to move loads to train cars or trucks located beyond the limits of the building. There was a similar arrangement at Jersey City on the CNJ in the 1930s.

    As this building was built for installation facing a wall, I omitted the back of the building and substituted student grade cold pressed illustration board (saving the two extra long walls with window sections and no doors for a future office block project). The illustration board was painted inside and out to seal it against moisture. To join the two front walls, the end pilaster of one end was cut off by lightly scoring with an acrylic cutter. Acrylic cutters are made by several knife companies and are faster than scribing with a hobby knife. When you have scribed about halfway through, the part is snapped off and the edge dressed with a file to be sure it is flat and in square. Alternatively, you could saw the pilaster off with an X-Acto #239 extra fine saw blade (none of the other companies makes such a fine backsaw blade). I used Duro contact cement to join the illustration board to the styrene w all sections, but your favorite glue for dissimilar materials should work well too. If you plan to add an interior this should be done when you have the front and sides completed, but before adding the back. Even if you dont add interior details, do put in shades or venetian blinds. These add much depth to the building.

    Window shades can be just a square of oaktag or construction paper, but your shades will be more permanent if you use Strathmore (thin Bristol board) or painted styrene sheet. Tan was a common color for roll-up shades used in offices, as was dark green. Venetian blinds are available from several manufacturers. It is possible to just tape the shades in place, but I prefer to use small droplets of white glue applied with a toothpick to hold these against the clear plastic windows from the inside. Testors clear parts cement, made for aircraft canopies and usually available in the military or plastic models section of your local hobby shop is ideal for this application.

    The Railway Express sign is made of paper printed out on my computer, and is based on a sign I saw years ago. I used the clear parts cement applied in little dots to adhere it to .030 thick plastic and then used a couple of additional drops to hold the sign to the building.

    It was common for Railway Express to share a building with the post office, and this structure could be divided with one end for REA and the other for a postal facility.

    REA facilities generally had covered platforms, but some were open too. I chose not to use the platform roof included in the kit. I left this platform open so that details added would show up better.

    Next month we will conclude with a look at building a crew quarters building, a car repair facility and boiler houses. Then well discuss how all the structures weve built can be prototypically arranged.

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  • Paul Coats likes this
  • Paul Coats
    Paul Coats As a kid there was no UPS or Fed Ex. But REA handled large parcels. As the article says, large personal items were shipped by train and local delivery by truck. I remember seeing large items come in an REA van, somewhat like a large postal service truc...  more
    April 15, 2011