Ft Scott Passenger Operations - Sunnyland/Firefly Circa 1956-1960

Discussion in 'Passenger Operations' started by Karl, Sep 7, 2018.

  1. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Frisco.org Supporter

    The picture of Baggage-RPO 217 and passenger train, which was posted on the Frisco Archive, September 3, 2018, is another one of those gems, which helps provide some insight to Frisco passenger train ops. The image depicts train 107 at Ft Scott sometime between October 1, 1956 and May 23, 1960.


    To help understand what is occurring in the photo, a brief review of history is in order. The Sunnyland made its inaugural run on October 7, 1925, it and provided through Pullman service between KC - St Petersburg and KC -Tampa. The train also handled a KC - New Orleans sleeper via Memphis and the IC. Through chair cars were handled between KC and Atlanta and a Frisco diner operated between KC and Birmingham. During the following years, the Frisco and connecting roads made numerous changes to the trains’ schedule, equipment, and destinations.

    On April 21, 1940 the Sunnyland was restructured. Operation between KC and Springfield was discontinued and replaced with locals, 103 and 104, which operated between Springfield and Ft Scott. At Ft Scott, train 103 connected with train 111 and train 104 connected with 118. The Springfield-Memphis segment of the Sunnyland and the Memphis-Birmingham segment of the Sunnyland were now essentially separate trains due to lengthy layovers in Memphis.

    On September 30, 1956 the Frisco discontinued trains 101 and 102 (Springfield-Memphis passenger local) and trains 103 and 104 (Springfield-Ft Scott passenger local). On October 1, 1956, the Sunnyland, trains 107 and 108, returned to KC. The “new Sunnyland” was a mere shadow of its former self.

    The change also affected the Firefly, which from an operations standpoint no longer ran between KC and Ft Scott. The March 1, 1957 ETT shows the Firefly's absence between KCUS and Ft Scott.

    At Ft Scott, 117’s cars were cut from 107’s train and coupled to a Redbird, which was maintained at Ft Scott. Northbound, the process was reversed, and 118’s cars were added to 108’s train. The Firefly’s locomotive stayed in Ft Scott for service and turning. The Firefly also lost its Café-Lounge, and between KC and Ft Scott, meal service was offered by the Sunnyland’s buffet car (one of the 1600-class cars). When inaugurated, the Firefly was a “5-hour train” between KC and Tulsa. By the end, it was a “7-hour train”. Frisco management had lost sight of what made this train a success. The October 1959 PTT shows the Firefly's equipment loss and lengthened schedule.

    The Archive photo depicts train 107 at Ft Scott. The train is on the “New Main”. An unknown E-unit is on point which is followed by a Baggage, Baggage-RPO, Baggage, and Baggage-RPO (217). The familiar yellow, Frisco baggage trucks are busy working these head-end cars. To the left of 107’s locomotive, a second passenger unit is visible on Track 1. I believe a switchman is standing by the rear of the first Baggage-RPO. Once the head-end work is complete, he will cut the consist at that point, so that the Ft Scott switcher (usually a Baldwin) can pull the consist away from the first two cars and locomotive.

    John Reed’s book about Frisco dining car service has on page 4 the same scene, but on a different date and from a different vantage point. In this image, 2011 is on 107 and 2010 on 107 which is waiting for its train to be assembled, are visible. The 2019, in the foreground, hides most of 107’s train, but the last Baggage-RPO (MB) can be seen which is followed by a Coach (PB), a Coach-Lounge-Buffet (DCL) or Buffet (DB), another Coach (PB), and perhaps another Coach (PB).

    If we composite these two images, it is possible to speculate that an 8-car consist for 107 might be typical. Of course, the number of cars will change due to seasonal traffic demands. It also appears that the consist was blocked as follows.

    1. 107 head-end

    2. 117 head-end

    3. 117 coaches

    4. 107 coaches

    If that blocking is accurate, then the switcher would have pulled blocks 2, 3, and 4 back from 107, and then shoved them southbound onto Track 1 and the waiting passenger unit. The switcher then would have pulled northward with 107’s coaches, and the shoved them back onto 107. Train 117 departed 5 minutes before 107 left town.

    I have drawn a schematic, which shows the situation.

    I have never seen any photos that depict the combination of 108 and 118 at Ft Scott. But just for the sake of discussion, I will speculate just a bit. The northbound Firefly was due into Ft Scott 5 minutes before 108, and it used Track 1. There was no need to load express, baggage or mail to 118. Upon arrival, the locomotive was cut-off, and it headed to the engine facilities for servicing and turning.

    When 108 arrived on the “New Main”, the Ft Scott switcher coupled to 108’s power and pulled northward with the locomotive and the head-end cars. The switcher then shoved back on to Track 1 to pick-up train 118’s train. It then pulled northward onto the “New Main”, and then shoved back onto 108’s consist.

    The Sunnyland only had 15 minutes of dwell time at Ft Scott, so getting passengers on and off the train, handling all of the head-end stuff, and then performing the switching required precision from all involved.

    Modelers can draw from this operation at Ft Scott to add interest to their passenger operations, which can lack interest.

    I 'd also be interested to hear if others might have first-hand information to refine my speculation.
  2. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Frisco.org Supporter

    Don Ball's book America's Colorful Railroads has a great photo of the combined seven-car train making a flag stop at Hillsdale KS in the late 1950's. This could be the missing link you are seeking.

    Ken McElreath
    Joe Lovett likes this.
  3. gstout

    gstout Member Frisco.org Supporter

    I have an acquaintance in Chicago who models passenger operations at Chicago Union Station, circa 1990. There is not a single freight car on his layout, which requires about 14 people to operate comfortably. My somewhat smaller layout represents operations at Kansas City Union Station in the late 1960's. I need around 8 operators to make it work smoothly, but then, I am not running 30 commuter trains during an op session. Passenger operations need not be lacking in interest. As the above (excellent) example illustrates, you just have to understand what is going on.

    Joe Lovett and Ozarktraveler like this.
  4. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Frisco.org Supporter

    The caption gets everything wrong except for the location in that image.
    Joe Lovett likes this.
  5. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett Member

    Karl, Great job, your description of Frisco passenger train operations is very interesting and informative!!!

  6. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    Karl, once again you provide an excellent background presentation!
    Joe Lovett likes this.

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