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  • SP Freight Train Symbols

     

    Page 18 Top: GP40-2 7613 and B30-7's 7815 of road freight VICCY await entry to joint Texas Mexican Railway-SP yard at Corpus Christi, Texas, November 28, 1980. Tom Cobb photo.

    Page 18 Bottom: SP B30-7 no. 7870 and its six-axle companions get a roll on a westbound combination AVLAT and AVLAK at Ramsey Siding near Eagle Lake, Texas on April 3, 1980. Tom Cobb photo.

    Page 19 Top: SOGLY run-through power 3196J, 3162L, 3023T idle on yard lead at Glidden, Texas, April 3, 1980. Located approximately 90 miles west of Houston, Glidden functions as a satellite yard for SP traffic to and from the Houston area. Tom Cobb photo.
    Prototype Modeler - June 1981 - Page 18 
    Prototype Modeler - June 1981 - Page 19 

    by TOM COBB

        The principal objective of this article is to describe the system currently used (in 1981 ed.) by the Southern Pacific to assign symbols to their road freights. An additional aim is to introduce the railroad modeler to a practical and simple method of determining train symbols which, hopefully, will prove useful to future operating sessions. As the reader will discover, the SP system has a definite application for model railroading, particularly those systems incorporating train dispatching and terminal to terminal movement.

        Now to our story: On a chilled weekend in March of 1979, certain adventuresome members of the Gulf Coast Chapter (Houston) of the National Railway Historical Society set out on an ambitious roundtrip journey to EI Paso aboard Amtrak's Sunset Limited. Being one of the few souls foolish enough to board a chair car for the West Texas trip (a majority of those making the trip wisely selected sleeper car accommodations), I was provided with an unique view of the proceedings. After a delayed departure from Houston, I drifted off to sleep by counting the endless parade of Boy Scouts being halted in the aisle and questioned regarding their intentions by the conductor and flagman seated in the forward section of the car.

        Near Luling, sometime in the early morning, our train made an unscheduled stop out in the countryside. As it turned out, we were on a siding waiting for the arrival o f an eastbound freight.  Once the long freight was by us, rather than moving forward, we backed out of the east end of the siding. The power switch at the west end was not functioning. Obviously with this sort of second class handling, the possibility of making the EI Paso connection for the return trip became part of the impossible dream.

        However, fortune was to smile upon us, although short of our ambitious goal, we were able to travel as far as Alpine, Texas, a quaint settlement nestled in the scenic Big Bend region, truly an oasis for the weary traveler. While most of our group explored Alpine in quest of a better understanding of local folkways and lores, the true cognoscenti among us remained down at the station partaking of the generous hospitality of the station agent. Our patient and accommodating agent provided us with nothing less than apocalyptic revelation while presiding over a computer terminal tied into SP's TOPS computer in San Francisco.

        On command the terminal churned out inbound train line-ups for both Sanderson, Texas, and Valentine, Texas, thereby keeping us up-to-date on SP freight traffic moving east and west toward those points and eventually through Alpine itself. On the inbound line-ups we noted the typical SP alphabet soup train symbols, so we took the opportunity to ask our agent to help clarify the meaning of the somewhat confusing road freight designations so often encountered in train radio conversations.

        First let's look at the descriptive designations for freight trains as utilized by the SP. These code letters form the suffix of the train symbol.

    Type of Train

    Primary

    Followers

    Auto Parts Load

    A

    B

    Auto Parts Empty

    H

    J

    Chemical

    K

     

    Drag

    D

     

    Empty Paper Service Cars

    X

     

    Forwarder

    F

    G

    General Service Empties

    E

     

    Mail

    M

     

    Manifest

    Y

    Z, W, V, U

    Perishable

    P

     

    Reefers

    R

     

    Sugar Beets

    S

     

    Sugar Beets Empty

    Q

     

    Trailers or Containers

    T

     

    Unit Chip, Coal, Oil, Ore, Steel

    L

     

    Unit Empty Trains

    N

     

     

       The body of the SP freight train symbol is made up of a combination of letters representing the points of train origin and destination. For example: A merchandise train orginating of Lufkin (LU) bound for Houston (HO) on Cyril Durrenberger's HO scale Houston East and West Texas ("Hell Either Way Taken") would receive the symbol " LUHOY".  (See Dec., 1979 issue of Model Railroader for article on Cyril Durrenberger's Houston East and West Texas Railway). The following list is but a sampling of the SP station or terminal codes.

    Prototype Modeler - June 1981 - Page 20

        On the in-bound line-up printouts obtained at Alpine, a freight train was identified in the format illustrated below:

    0IPBWCY09
    O     Alternate Blocking Code
    1      Section Number
    PB    Origin of Train (may represent a terminal or connecting road)
    WC   Destination
    Y      Descriptive Designation
    09    Departure Date

        Therefore, the above letters and numerals translate as follows: First section of Pine Bluff Yard (Arkansas) to West Colton Yard (near Los Angeles) Manifest, departed from Pine Bluff on the 9th day of the month.

    Train Identity Origin & Destination Codes

    AL

    ...………Albina Yard (UP)

    LA

    .....…………Los Angeles

    AX

    ...……………...Alexandria

    LR

    ..….Los Angeles Harbor

    AS

    ...….Alton & Southern RR

    LS

    .…...Los Angeles Shops

    AR

    .....………………….Alturas

    LH

    …...Los Angeles 8th St.

    AN

    ....………………..Anaheim

    LT

    ....……………Los Nietos

    AU

    .........………………..Austin

    LV

    ....………………...Lufkin

    AV

     ..Avondale (New Orleans)

    MZ

    ...………………Martinez

    BK

    .....……………..Bakersfield

    MX

    ....………………McAllen

    BE

    ....………………Beaumont

    ME

    ....………………Medford

    BR

    .....………………..Brooklyn

    MF

    ...……………...Memphis

    BV

    .....…………….Brownsville

    MI

    ....……………….Milpitas

    CD

    .....………………..Caldwell

    MO

    ....………………Modesto

    CM

    ....………………...Camden

    NA

    …..……….Nacogdoches

    CH

    ....…………………Chicago

    NI

    …...…………New Iberia 

    CX

    ....…………………....Chico

    NO

    …...……….New Orleans

    CI

    ....…………City of Industry

    NG

    …...…………….Nogales

    CE

    ....………………Commerce

    NF

    .....……………...N&WRR

    CR

    .....………………….Conrail

    NL

    …..…...North Little Rock

    CC

    …...………...Corpus Christi

    NP

    …..………...North Platte

    CZ

    …...……………..Corsicana

    OA

    …...…………….Oakland

    DS

    …….……...Dallas, Oregon

    OG

    …...………………Ogden

    DA

    ……..…...Dallas, MillerYd.

    ON

    …..……………...Orange

    DR

    ….....……………….Del Rio

    OX

    …...……………...Oxnard

    DE

    …....……………….Deming

    PX

    ….……………...Phoenix

    DN

    …....……………….Denison

    PB

    …..…………...Pine Bluff

    DV

    …...……………...Dunsmuir

    PT

    …...…………….Portland

    EL

    …..…………….Eagle Lake

    RJ

    …….……..Raceland Jct.

    EG

    ….……………..Eagle Pass

    RA

    ……..TRRA E. St. Louis

    EO

    ….…………..East Oakland

    RD

    ……..…………..Redding

    ES

    …..………….East St. Louis

    RC

    ……..……Redwood City

    EH

    ....……………………..Echo

    RG

    …....………….DRSW RR

    EP

    ...…………………..El Paso

    RV

    ……..………….Roseville

    EN

    ...……………………..Ennis

    SQ

    …….……….Sacramento

    EU

    ..…………………...Eugene

    SY

    …..………………Salinas

    ER

    ...……………………Eureka

    SA

    ….…………San Antonio

    FR

    ....……………………Fresno

    SF

    San Francisco Bayshore

    FW

    ....………………...Ft. Worth

    SJ

    ….…………….San Jose.

    GA

    ..………………...Galveston

    SL

    ….…….San Luis Obispo

    GL

    ..…………………...Glidden

    SP

    …..…………..Shreveport

    GB

    ...…………………….Globe

    SO

    ….………...Southern RR

    GR

    ...…………………..Gregory

    SK

    ....…………………Sparks

    HA

    ....…………………Hayward

    SR

    ...………………….Strang

    HE

    ...……………………Hearne

    SX

    ....……………………Surf

    HO

    …Houston, Englewood Yd

    TK

    …..…………...Texarkana

    IC

    ....…………………..ICG RR

    TO

    …...…………….Torrance

    IL

    ...……………………...Illmo

    TR

    …...………………..Tracy

    IN

    ...……………………...Indio

    TA

    …..……………Trona RR

    JK

    ..………………Jacksonville

    TU

    …...………………Tucson

    JO

    ..………………...Jonesboro

    TY

    …...………………...Tyler

    JY

    ....……………………J Yard

    UP

    …....……………….UPRR

    KA

    ....……………………Kaiser

    UV

    …...………………Uvalde

    KC

    ...………………Kansas City

    WO

    …...………………..Waco

    KF

    .…………….Klamath Falls

    WS

    …….…….Warm Springs

    LF

    ...…………………Lafayette

    WJ

    ………....Watsonville Jct

    LC

    ..……………..Lake Charles

    WD

    …...………………..Weed

    LO

    ....………………………Lodi

    WC

    …..…………West Colton

    LB

    …..……………Long Beach

    WI

    ....………………….Willits

    LG

    …..……………...Lordsburg

    YK

    ...………………..Yoakum

     

     

    YU

    ..…………………...Yuma

    Reviewing some typical SP train designations one can easily identify their meaning:

    LAEST  - Los Angeles - East St. Louis Trailers/ Containers
    WCESP - West Colton Yard - East St. Louis Perishable
    LACHH  - Los Angeles - Chicago Empty Auto Parts Cars
    SOGLY  - Southern Run -Through (Via New Orleans gateway) to Glidden Yard (near Colombus, TX) Manifest
    AVLAT  - Avondale Yard (Louisiana) Los Angeles Trailer / Containers
    SRASK  - Strang Yard (La Porte, TX) Alton & Southern RR at East St. Louis Chemical

        A special thanks to the Southern Pacific Transportation Company for making available information for this article. If any readers have additional information or questions regarding train symbols or such, please contact me through PM.

    Article Details

    • Original Author Tom Cobb
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date June 1981

    Article Album (3 photos)

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