Phoenix Fruit Express in an American HO exhibition layout that myself and John Bowman built.
Building the Layout up for testing
I collected American HO loco's and started to build a layout in the attic, but found I didn't have enough space for what I wanted to do, so that was scrapped. I found myself with about 40 Boxcars and a few diesel loco's, so I worked on a plan to build a layout that these could be used on.
There was an Old EM Gauge club layout laying in a members garage, it had been in there for about 10 years. It was an Iron Works 6 foot long by 2 and a half foot deep. The layout was stripped to the baseboard, all track was lifted and most of the buildings and scenery removed, the only building to survive was the large shed at one end. We decided to extend the layout at both ends, we added another 4 foot long board to the scenic section, and a 4 foot fiddle yard after the shed, making the layout 14 foot long in total.
Having a lot of old reefers and an old Ice house Kit I to decided base the layout on the Pacific Fruit Express that used to carry fruit from California over the Rockies to the east side of American.
(A Little info on the Pacific Fruit Express - PFE)
The company was founded on December 7, 1906 as a joint venture between the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads. It began operation on October 1, 1907, with a fleet of 6,600 refrigerator cars built by the American Car and Foundry Company (ACF).
In 1923, the Western Pacific Railroad joined the venture by leasing its own, brand new fleet of 2775 reefers to PFE. They were painted in standard PFE colours with only WP heralds on the cars instead of the paired UP-SP markings. The WP cars were all retired by the late 1950s, among the last wooden reefers in PFE's fleet. WP ended its partnership with PFE in late 1967 and joined Fruit Growers Express instead.
PFE's assets were divided between the UP and SP when the company was split on April 1, 1978. It is now a UP subsidiary.
The trains that ran from one side of the country to the other, were 90 to 100 box cars long, with 4 and 5 loco's pulling them, we were going have to cut it down a bit to make it work on the layout. We decided to make it an End of the road yard, where the last 4 of 5 box cars would coming in to be emptied, clean, repaired, restock and sent on there way.
We wrote a list of the buildings that would be required.
The first building we started to built was the packaging plant, it was a Walthers Slaughter House Kit, that we made low relief by bringing the back of the building to the front to double the length. We thought this buildings would make and provide the packaging to the warehouse for the goods coming in, and also sell to local businesses in the area. This build took 8 months to build. The main building has 3 floor level and the annex on the side has 2 floors. The club use a Lightning set up called DMX, it is mainly used in theatres to run there lightning in stage shows. This building has over 100 LED's in it, that this programme allows us to turn each one on and off as and when we want. The ground floor of the main building in the packing plant its self. and stores for the trucks. On the second floor we build as dispatch and control room for the train yard and truck fleet, there is paper and pens on the desks, lockers tables and chairs. There is also the board room which looks like it has just had a big meeting and the owners big office next door. On the top floor we decide the work force would require somewhere to get changed and eat, so we built a full kitchen and canteen, with everything from dirty dishes, food on the plates, people sitting eating and playing cards, to queuing for there food. There is also a changing room with showers and toilets. On the roof of the main building we built a packing plant sign that lights up and some water towers as the Americans love these. The Annex building to the side I a small delivery bay for small vans, and a parts stores on the second floor.
John Bowman Wiring the lights inside the packaging plant
As there was so many lights in this building and so much detail we decided to make the layout a night scene so you could see the lights and the detail inside. This is by far my favourite building on this layout.
We then moved on to the Ice house and Ice platforms.
The "Ice Age"
The use of ice to refrigerate and preserve food dates back to prehistoric times. Through the ages, the seasonal harvesting of snow and ice was a regular practice of many cultures. China, Greece, and Rome stored ice and snow in caves or dugouts lined with straw or other insulating materials. Rationing of the ice allowed the preservation of foods during hot periods, a practice that was successfully employed for centuries. For most of the 19th century, natural ice (harvested from ponds and lakes) was used to supply refrigerator cars. At high altitudes or northern latitudes, one foot tanks were often filled with water and allowed to freeze. Ice was typically cut into blocks during the winter and stored in insulated warehouses for later use, with sawdust and hay packed around the ice blocks to provide additional insulation. A late-19th century wood-bodied reefer required re-icing every 250 miles (400 km) to 400 miles (640 km).
Top icing is the practice of placing a 2-inch (51 mm) to 4-inch (100 mm) layer of crushed ice on top of agricultural products that have high respiration rates, need high relative humidity, and benefit from having the cooling agent sit directly atop the load (or within individual boxes). Cars with pre-cooled fresh produce were top iced just before shipment. Top icing added considerable dead weight to the load. Top-icing a 40-foot (12 m) reefer required in excess of 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) of ice. It had been postulated that as the ice melts, the resulting chilled water would trickle down through the load to continue the cooling process. It was found, however, that top-icing only benefited the uppermost layers of the cargo, and that the water from the melting ice often passed through spaces between the cartons and pallets with little or no cooling effect. It was ultimately determined that top-icing is useful only in preventing an increase in temperature, and was eventually discontinued.
- The cars were cleaned with hot water or steam.
- Depending on the cargo, the cars might have undergone four hours of "pre-cooling" prior to loading, which entailed blowing in cold air through one ice hatch and allowing the warmer air to be expelled through the other hatches. The practice, dating back almost to the inception of the refrigerator car, saved ice and resulted in fresher cargo.
- The cars' ice bunkers were filled, either manually from an icing dock, via mechanical loading equipment, or (in locations where demand for ice was sporadic) using specially designed field icing cars.
- The cars were delivered to the shipper for loading, and the ice was topped-off.
- Depending on the cargo and destination, the cars may have been fumigated.
- The train would depart for the eastern markets.
- The cars were received in transit approximately once a day.
- Upon reaching their destination, the cars were unloaded.
- If in demand, the cars would be returned to their point of origin empty. If not in demand, the cars would be cleaned and possibly used for a dry shipment.
Rest of the layout on the next part.