Christopher Brimley updated May 6, 2011

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  • "One Spot" The Modern RIP Track

    by Roger D. Kujawa

    Photos by the author unless otherwise indicated

    Model Railroading - March 2001 - Page 20

    How would you like the perfect industry for your railroad? How about an industry to which any car can go...from passenger to stock car...maintenance-of-way to cabooses? How about one where any loaded or empty car can go? How about one that will increase operation, reliability and ap pearance of your rolling stock? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, a modern car repair shop will not only provide a goodlooking industry but one that is functional as well. The One Spot name comes from the ability to repair any defects in a car in one place without having to move the car.

    Traditionally, repairs were performed by spotting strings of bad order cars in an area and having the repairman take the needed t ools and equipment out to fix the cars. To increase productivity, the spot system w as developed in the 1960s where cars were delivered to a repair station that was well stocked and equipped. Yard crews sent bad orders in one end of the building and repaired cars were picked up at the other. Spotting of the cars in the shop was usu ally done with a car puller, trackmobile or similar device. The Peoria and Pekin Union uses a coupler-equipped, rubber-tired crane to move cars at its RIP track in East Peoria, Illinois.

    Close-up view of the storage yard.
    Model Railroading - March 2001 - Page 21

    My first thoughts upon seeing the Pikestuff engine house were of the P&PUs RIP track. It brought back many memories one of the biggest reasons we model in the first place. The Peoria and Pekin Union has the largest RIP track in the Peoria area serving the IC, NS, P&PU, Iowa Interstate and C&IM, and at one time Conrail. The C&NW has a small facility in their yard in South Pekin, IL. The TP&W has a roof o ver their facility in East Peoria but no s ides. The Rock Island had totally open tracks in their now-abandoned yard in Peoria. They didnt even have a car puller. The lead switch engine just spotted the RIP with about 10' of room between the cars so the w orkers would have room to work. Burlington Northern hands bad orders off to the P&PU or services them with mobile equipment out of their Hump Yard at Galesburg just 45 miles away.

    When I started working for the Peoria and Pekin Union, I was on the extra board and worked jobs as illnesses and vacations warranted. Between clerking, Tower Operator and Dispatcher jobs came being the storekeeper at the repair track. It was one of the most interesting and educational experiences on the railroad. I learned quite a bit a bout freight cars and defects that could sideline a car.

    Things such as a shifted load of pipe, leaking roller bearings, worn out parts or just a bent grabiron that could cause a slip or an accident sent a car to the RIP. Some other repairs that were common included:

    • Repacking and lubricating axle journals
    • Worn or broken brake shoes and connecting rods
    • Redecking flatcars
    • Cleaning interiors
    • Servicing air brakes
    • Worn wheels and flanges
    • Broken couplers and draft gears

    The most common repairs done by the P &PU are repairs of safety appliances. In the early 1900s, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) was empowered to require certain equipment on freight cars and as well as its placement for the safety of crewman and passengers. Such items included the handhold heights, width and s pacing. Other items covered placement of brake wheels, standard couplers and their height. Recent changes have forced removal of running boards on car roofs and the removal of tank car running boards.

    As soon as a train arrives in a yard or before it leaves, a car inspector goes to work. He inspects all the inbound and outbound cars for defects and notifies the yardmaster of any cars that need to go to the RIP track. The inspectors are vigilant because any bad order could cause an accident and government inspectors can fine r ailroads for violations. If a car inspec tor can make repairs on the spot he will, so they can expedite the car. Quite a few r oads have four-wheel All Terrain Vehi cles for car inspectors to use for checking trains. They carry tools, air hoses and other common small parts to fix cars and speed t heir journey. Any car that is sent to the RIP track is almost assured a days delay in its journey.

    When the employees on your model railroad yell, "Bad Order" or "Derailment", do you often just put the car back on the track and hope to remember the car and problem later? Do you just live with a sticky coupler or missing brake wheels a nd wobbling wheels? How about those m issing steps and low uncoupling pins? A ll problems with cars should be noted whether on the waybill or just a sticky note on the car and sent to the RIP. This should be standard practice for all inbound trains. Your inbound conductors should also note car problems encountered in route.

    Model Railroading - March 2001 - Page 22

    Besides switching the yard the yard master could also be a car inspector. If he is really busy, an assistant yardmaster or second switch engine could be called to do double duty. Placing the cars on the RIP track, fixing them and placing them on the far side of the building simulates their trip through the building. After being fixed they will soon become some of your best runners, better looking and you wont be getting those angry calls from your shippers or jabs from your crews about what a dangerous place this is to work and how management doesnt care.

    I began thinking of modeling possibilities and began my attack on the project with some instant photos. I realized Id have to scale down the building as the P&PUs is two tracks wide and can hold three 60' cars inside on each track. I decided on one track width and the length of two 50' cars or one autorack. This is still a large structure and only about a third of the size of the P&PUs. With the pictures and the Pikestuff catalog I started making a shopping list of items to make the car shop and wheel shop. I also consulted the 1970 and 1984 editions of the Car and Loco Cyclopedia for ideas. They have a chapter in the back with some standards set up by the Railway Engineering Association shown in Figure 1.

    Refer to the Bill of Materials for materials used. I almost doubled the length of the original engine house that I bought by splicing a second one to the first. It is now 140' long with the width unchanged. The office was made by shortening both the length and height of the extra side piece. All three office walls were cut up from the bottom so the gutters were not disturbed. I modeled a fully enclosed shop as anyone who has gone through a Chicago winter can appreciate. If I were modeling a little farther south Id consider an open-sided affair like the Pikestuff Shop so you could show more interior detail.

    I used the P&PU as a guide in positioning the windows and doors. I figured there should be fire exit doors on all four sides. The windows and doors in the office section were cut after I drew an imaginary floor plan. The P&PU building had an office, storeroom, work room, lunch and locker rooms so I included them in mine.

    The car shop and office were raised up on Pikestuff concrete blocks after the tops of the windows and doors were cut out. This was done to raise the building so a car could theoretically be jacked up inside and not hit the roof. The blocks would also strengthen a real building against bumps and collisions it would surely take in a setting such as this. The blocks were added t o the walls after the sides were glued t ogether, leaving spaces for the doors. A strip of Evergreen strip spliced the block a nd building on the inside to strengthen the joint. All the interior walls were braced with Plastruct H columns to stiffen them because of their length. A wheel shop was constructed out of the remaining sides and ends. I didnt mount this on blocks because nothing is moved in or out of any height.

    The foundation of the shop was made out of a sheet of .010 styrene. Sheets of .080 and .060 were laminated together to bring the foundation up to the height of the Shinohara guardrail track. Plastruct L angles were glued to the foundation to anchor the building into place. Strips of styrene were cut to fit between the Lambert guardrails to provide a uniform flat surface.

    Model Railroading - March 2001 - Page 23

    All the roofs were cut and spliced to fit the finished sides ensuring a good fit. Mine are removable so I can add interior detailing as time permits. The skylights in the office section are Pikestuff windows over the lunchroom section.

    I painted the project in subassemblies. I painted the concrete with Floquil Concrete and masked off the blocks before painting the building Southern Green. The trim was done in white. The roof vents were painted with Platinum Mist. After adding some decals the whole building was flat coated to give it a uniform finish.

    The storage yard is a detailers fantasy - it is cluttered with everything imaginable from your scrap box. New and old parts, extra wheels, trucks, doors and about anything else out of the Walthers catalog could find its way here.

    A sample trackplan is shown in Figure 2. Bad orders, or cripples as some crew call them, are sent in one end and repaired cars are picked up at the other. A heavy repair shop could be located nearby so it and possibly an engine terminal could share equipment and supplies. Space for service trucks, highway cranes and a loading dock might be close by for delivery of supplies.

    The inbound and outbound tracks should only be used when moving cars in and out with the RIP track foremans permission. With workers on and under cars, safety is of utmost concern. On the real railroads, blue flags and special locks prevent engines from using these tracks without authorization and can only be removed by the person erecting the sign or installing the lock. A scale blue flag detail is now available from Details West as #451.

    Since these are the same workers who go to a derailment, the wrecker and assorted work train equipment is nearby. A track for supplies is also nearby. A couple cars needing repair could highlight your RIP track. How about that plastic car you tried to bake the paint on or a lumber car with a shifted load? A trip through your scrap box should provide you with some ideas.

    My car shop will fit into Arrowhead Yard, the Chicago metro area yard on my Atlantic and Great Western. The A&GW is an 18,000 mile long line stretching from the Atlantic coast to Kansas City, Omaha, Minneapolis and Canada. It is a large imaginary railroad but one that can compete with even todays Super Railroads. There are a number of items to take into consideration i n placement of your car shops on your layout. It should be close to the arrival yard or interchange point so that bad orders do not have to be handled by switch engines a number of times. It shouldnt be crowded in but allowed room to grow. The lead and tail tracks should be long enough to handle all the cars placed on them during an operating session. I plan on about four-to six-car length on each end. This should handle any problems that come up in an operating session.

    When a car does enter your shop you could have a car inspectors checklist of things to look for. I have found the major cause of false uncoupling is low couplers. How about those low Kadee uncoupling pins that can catch on switches? Or those missing grabirons, brake wheels, dirty wheels and broken steps? You could Bad Order every car ending in the number 3 one operating session to simulate the labor dispute with the car inspectors who are retaliating against management.

    Model Railroading - March 2001 - Page 24

    If you bad ordered all the cars ending in 00 through 05 during one session, then 05 through 10 the next session, and so on, you could have the shop foreman give a quick once over to all your cars over a matter of time. The cars that have been run through the RIP track should become some of your best running cars. With an operational car shop, the reliability and operational prospects will make your layout more enjoyable for all.,/p>

    Remember those calls from angry shippers I mentioned before? The calls will stop coming and that FRA inspector will be able to spend more time on your competitors...or friends layout. Without a modern car shop your shippers will flock to my Atlantic and Great Western. Maybe I shouldnt have let the secret out.

    For a good description of a modern car inspectors duties see Dave Cramers article Car Knockers and Rip Tracks Keep the Wheels Rolling in the October 1999 Dispatchers Office, the publication of the Operations SIG of the NMRA.

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