Monday, May 30, 2016

A Visit to the National Archives

A great deal of information pertinent to my modeling efforts is preserved in the National Archives in College Park Maryland.  The Archives are a pleasant place to do research, but it does take a bit of preparation.

Archives II, College Park, MD

Some of the finding aids are available on-line, but most of the more useful aids are only available in the research rooms.  You need to have a current researcher card to gain access to the research floors, so plan ahead to spend some extra time on you first day checking in and getting registered.  Textual, photographic and cartographic records are on separate floors, so if you need to access all three, plan on a multi-day visit.  And although you can look at records on most Saturdays, you have to have them “pulled” during the work week, so weekend only visits are only good for figuring out what you want to look at when you can come back during the week.  If you are going to look at military files, as I have been doing, get familiar with the Army and Navy file plans for your time frame, available on line.  And they did change how they organized things over time, so reference to the contemporary master file plan really helps determine where to look. 

Don’t bring a hand-held scanner, you won’t be allowed to use it.  Do bring a good digital camera it makes a very good “DAD” (Data Acquisition Device).  I have been using my Canon 30D with a 28-135 lens on a tripod with remote shutter release.  You can hand hold, but that gets tiresome.  Ask me how I know.  Your newer smart phone can also work, as can your tablet.  I have copied the finding aid for the Office of the Chief of Transportation with my Kindle Fire.  I now have a copy that I can refer to while commuting. 

In my last visit on 27 and 28 May, I finally found some information on MAIN trains and Military Extras.  The MAIN train information came from formerly classified messages from the traffic control division of the Army’s Office of the Chief of Transportation, Record Group 336.  When working with any records, FOLLOW THE RULES!  This goes triple for formerly classified records.  Make sure that the declassification slip and the project number are visible in ALL copies and photos you make of any item that is in a record box that has ANY formerly classified records in it.  Most of the WWII records retain their original classification markings and were declassified in bulk.  Without the numbers from the slip, you will have a very hard time proving that the Secret document on your hard drive isn’t any more.  Having your hard drive confiscated is not something that you want to deal with. 

And here are a couple examples of what is there you can click to enlarge:

This message is addressed to the Commanding General (C.G) Ninth Service Command (CMD), Army Service Forces (ASF), Fort (FT) Douglas, Utah and to the San Francisco Port of Embarkation (SFPE), California
The above reads: Military impedimenta (IMPED) from Camp (CP) Gruber, OK to Oakland, CA SFPE 1 box car, to Emeryville, CA SFPE 15 flat cars.  Both routed via Missouri Pacific, Denver Rio Grande Western, Southern Pacific.  Leave (LV) to arrive (ARR) January 9th.  Freight Route Order Military (MI) 6061 code 1190

Here’s one that I’ll need for Camp Stoneman:

7 Officers, 195 Enlisted Men arriving Camp Stoneman, CA from Wilken, NC on 16 January.  Consist of NEC (Necessary) Tourist cars, 1 Baggage (BAG) and one Troop Kitchen (TC). Routed Southern, Frisco, Santa Fe!  How many Tourist cars were necessary?  Army policy was to not have two enlisted in an upper, so the capacity of a section was two EM in the lower and 1 in the upper.  With 195 enlisted, that meant at least 65 sections.  Officers usually travelled in standard Pullmans, but apparently not in this case.  They did not have to share a berth though, so a max of two per section for 4-7 more or 69 to 72 total sections for the troops in this move.  To that, each sleeper also carried its Pullman porter and I think each train also carried a Pullman conductor, but I am not certain.  To accommodate all the troops and the Pullman personnel, would take at least six 13 section tourist cars.  If Pullman were able to provide four 16 section cars plus another of any capacity, they could have reduced the number of cars by one.  This is a good modelable MAIN train for me with a baggage car, three 13s, Troop Kitchen, three more 13s.  Time to get cracking on building those Branchline 12-1s as 13s tourist cars with Tom Madden’s non-AC roofs.

30 May, 2016

Arlington, VA


  1. I used a flatbed scanner to scan about 400 photos at NARA/College Park.

    Bill Welch

  2. Bill, I've used my flat bed at the San Francisco Regional NARA site. A little better quality, but a lot slower and a lot more equipment to lug. I find photographing the pages is much faster. That wouldn't be the case with a high speed document feeder scanner, but any automated paper handling is not permitted (for darn good reason) by NARA.