Southern Pacific Verta-Packs

4043 views
34 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    June, 2011
  • 694 posts
Southern Pacific Verta-Packs
Posted by NP Eddie on Saturday, June 23, 2018 11:30 AM

ALL:

I viewed an early 1970's General Motors video on their auto logistics and how the computer aided them trace railcars. Great to seen the old cars.

The SP and GM pioneered the use of a "verta-pack"" auto rack. Vega's were loaded into specially constructed racks and then a fork lift tilted that "pocket" into the vertical postion for transport.

I remember reading that the concept was good, but the various fluids in the automobile did not stay where they were supposed to be and the idea was abandoned. Also, enclosed auto tracks were coming into vogue due to damage during transit.

Anyone shed more light on this.

Ed Burns

  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • From: At the Crossroads of the West
  • 9,307 posts
Posted by Deggesty on Saturday, June 23, 2018 11:36 AM

I remember the "vertapacks," even though I did not remember the name. I had not thought much about them, and I am not surprised that they were not a success--cars are designed to stay almost level and not to be tilted as these were. Apparently the vertapack designers did not get with the automobile designers to make certain that nothing would leak out when the cars were tilted?

Johnny

  • Member since
    December, 2017
  • From: I've been everywhere, man
  • 646 posts
Posted by SD70Dude on Saturday, June 23, 2018 1:21 PM

The Vega was supposed to have been modified to prevent fluids from leaking, among other things a baffle was installed inside the engine to stop oil from leaking out through the No. 1 cylinder.  No idea how well the changes actually worked in the real world.

http://www.amusingplanet.com/2012/12/vert-pac-unusual-way-to-transport.html?m=1

A downside of the Vert-A-Pac was that it could not be used to haul anything else, so the return move was always empty.  As time went on and auto assembly spread out across the continent (to say nothing of imports) backhauls have become common.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

  • Member since
    May, 2012
  • 3,335 posts
Posted by rcdrye on Saturday, June 23, 2018 1:29 PM

Even if the fluids didn't leak out, the plugs that were supposed to keep them in place were in tough places to get at, and were sometimes not removed or opened properly.  The dead Vega three blocks from the dealer was a staple of 1970s car humor.  The bottom line with the VertaPacks was that the Vega was a sales bomb, and the VertaPack cars weren't tall enough to handle any other models GM had at the time.  Add to this that loading and unloading required the cars to sit about 60 feet apart on parallel tracks, so any efficiency in transport was lost in handling.  SP also tried the StackPack, a container holding four or six vehicles, but it required special handling equipment which wasn't usually available in vehicle loading yards.

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 2,697 posts
Posted by Miningman on Saturday, June 23, 2018 1:47 PM

Yikes, all that for a Vega.

My mom had one, borrowed it one afternoon, that car barely made it up a hill. She also bought a Ford Pinto at one time. Good grief. It's been Toyotas ever since. 

Remember the Vega enthusiasts in the movie 'Contact'? I'm sure there is a Pinto enthusiast club as well somewhere out there. 

PT Barnum was right on the money, not sure if he went far enough if folks celebrate these things. 

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 14,085 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, June 23, 2018 2:03 PM

Miningman
Yikes, all that for a Vega.

My mom had one, borrowed it one afternoon, that car barely made it up a hill. She also bought a Ford Pinto at one time. Good grief. It's been Toyotas ever since. 

Remember the Vega enthusiasts in the movie 'Contact'? I'm sure there is a Pinto enthusiast club as well somewhere out there. 

PT Barnum was right on the money, not sure if he went far enough if folks celebrate these things. 

The Vega was a cluster from the very inception of the idea.  GM needed a new manufacturing plant to build it - The Lordstown Assembly Plant was constructed for it in a no expense spared CRASH construction project to have the plant producing cars YESTERDAY.  24/7/365 construction to get the plant built and into production.  The Vert-A-Pacs, I believe, were a GM idea to be able to ship more automobiles in fewer rail car loads.  If my memory is still intact, I think 20 or 22 Vegas were shipped per rail car load.  Recall seeing a Freight Bill at the Newton Falls, OH Agency for a Vert-A-Pac from Lordstown to California in 1968 - $4800 in 1968 dollars - I was earning less than $24 a day at that time working for the B&O.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    June, 2011
  • 694 posts
Posted by NP Eddie on Saturday, June 23, 2018 2:43 PM

A friend of mine had a Mercury. In order to change a taillight, you had to remove the rear bumper! I read that a certain GM car had a problem with one spark plug. I order to change that rear spark plug(s) you had to remove the engine and tilt it in order change spark plug(s).

I thank all for the information on Verta Packs.

Ed Burns

  • Member since
    June, 2012
  • 60 posts
Posted by David1005 on Saturday, June 23, 2018 8:04 PM

The end of the Vert A Pack was not because of fluid problems. As the Vega got redesigned after year 3 or 4 it got to long to fit in the Ver A Pack.  Ver A Pack held 30 Vegas. They got 18 on a standard trilevel. 

  • Member since
    July, 2016
  • 125 posts
Posted by Backshop on Saturday, June 23, 2018 9:01 PM

I remember the conspiracy theorists (yes, they were around back then) saying that the stackpacks were for mobile ICBMs.

  • Member since
    April, 2016
  • 636 posts
Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Saturday, June 23, 2018 9:23 PM

The early transverse v6 models it was easier to get the back 3 plugs out by either going underneath or pulling the top engine mount and rotate the engine forward.  My husband changed many a set of spark plugs on his parents X body Buick V-6 engines. He always swore when it came time to replace the back 3 on any of them.  He said to his mother once the engineer that came up with the engine bay on the X body GM cars needed to be shoved into the space between the rear bank and the firewall. 

 

 

  • Member since
    June, 2003
  • From: South Central,Ks
  • 6,094 posts
Posted by samfp1943 on Saturday, June 23, 2018 10:15 PM

There may be some interest for those reading this post to see this 1970's era GM Produced video of their 'Logistics' Ops;

Linked @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTtcPxSag50

"1970s GENERAL MOTORS RAILROAD LOGISTICS / SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT 74672..."

At about 5 minutes in, there is video of the Vert-a-Pack loading operation, and also the Stack-Pac loading from inside the cars.  There is also video of one of the first GM supplied Unit Trains to the West Coast. [note; The half-dozen or so SD units on the head-end, and the open double, and triple decked auto transport cars.]

Sam

 

 


 

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 18,399 posts
Posted by tree68 on Monday, June 25, 2018 1:19 PM

NP Eddie
I read that a certain GM car had a problem with one spark plug. I order to change that rear spark plug(s) you had to remove the engine and tilt it in order change spark plug(s).

My father worked at GM's Proving Grounds, and he told me about that - I believe it was a Cadillac.  I don't recall that you had to remove the engine, but you did have to loosen one of the engine mount bolts.

As big as those cars of that era were, they still managed to pack the engine compartment full.

He worked on one special project involving a pick-up.  They added a water pump (not the one for the coolant), an air compressor, and who-knows-what else under that hood.  Talk about tight...

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 14,085 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Monday, June 25, 2018 1:45 PM

tree68
 
NP Eddie
I read that a certain GM car had a problem with one spark plug. I order to change that rear spark plug(s) you had to remove the engine and tilt it in order change spark plug(s). 

My father worked at GM's Proving Grounds, and he told me about that - I believe it was a Cadillac.  I don't recall that you had to remove the engine, but you did have to loosen one of the engine mount bolts.

As big as those cars of that era were, they still managed to pack the engine compartment full.

He worked on one special project involving a pick-up.  They added a water pump (not the one for the coolant), an air compressor, and who-knows-what else under that hood.  Talk about tight...

The Chevrolet Monza 1975-80, assembled at Lordstown when equipped with the Chevy small block V8 required the engine to be moved off the motor mounts to change the rear two plugs.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Monza

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    May, 2004
  • 5,221 posts
Posted by 7j43k on Monday, June 25, 2018 2:22 PM

But then there was the 1960 Ford Falcon with the 144 inch engine.  A true joy to work on.  Especially compared to VW's of the day.

I did a full rebuild of the engine, including boring.  With the block in place.  And the hood on.

 

Oh, yeah.  Pistons were $5.  Mercedes pistons were $50.  I miked the Ford pistons all over the place, and they were perfect.

 

Ed

  • Member since
    September, 2010
  • 1,282 posts
Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Monday, June 25, 2018 6:35 PM

I had a Chevette in the '70s that was fun to drive (four speed manual) but the AC compressor was mounted right above the distributor. Not impossible but a b---ch to work on when you had to change the points. Also went through clutch cables. Tought daughter to drive on it. 

I know, this has nothing to do with trains except that I took the kids to watch them  many times in it. Hope that passes the test.

  • Member since
    July, 2008
  • From: Marietta, GA
  • 1,058 posts
Posted by rdamon on Monday, June 25, 2018 9:24 PM

The dealer wanted $600 to change my headlight bulbs in my 2011 GMC Acadia. $300 was for the HID bulbs (found on Amazon for $35) and $300 was to take my front bumper off to change the bulbs. Ended up doing it myself by by removing the panel inside the wheel well and blindly replacing the bulb.

Maybe some of the Vega engineers are still at GM ;)

  • Member since
    December, 2017
  • From: I've been everywhere, man
  • 646 posts
Posted by SD70Dude on Monday, June 25, 2018 9:31 PM

Whatever happened to the idea of building cars that you can easily maintain yourself?

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 18,399 posts
Posted by tree68 on Monday, June 25, 2018 9:46 PM

rdamon

The dealer wanted $600 to change my headlight bulbs in my 2011 GMC Acadia. {snip}

Maybe some of the Vega engineers are still at GM ;)

They may have moved over to Dodge.  Changing the headlight bulbs in my Ram involves removing the grille...

As you note, it can kinda be done by fumbling around, but it's a lot easier if you take it apart.  Besides - I broke one of the retaining clips on one of the electrical connectors doing it that way and that very nearly netted me a ticket...

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 10,624 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 7:24 AM

SD70Dude

Whatever happened to the idea of building cars that you can easily maintain yourself?

 
Those days are gone forever.  Easy maintenance started to go out the window with muscle cars that had massive V-8's that were almost too big for the engine compartment.  Environmental laws were the next step and the development of microprocessors which controlled just about every phase of combustion finished the job.
The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 18,399 posts
Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 7:38 AM

CSSHEGEWISCH
Environmental laws were the next step and the development of microprocessors which controlled just about every phase of combustion finished the job.

The computers now control just about everything - never mind combustion.

Used to be if you wanted to turn on a light, you operated a switch, which closed the circuit between the battery and the light.

Now you flip the switch, which tells the computer to turn the light on...

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 14,085 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 8:04 AM

tree68
 
CSSHEGEWISCH
Environmental laws were the next step and the development of microprocessors which controlled just about every phase of combustion finished the job. 

The computers now control just about everything - never mind combustion.

Used to be if you wanted to turn on a light, you operated a switch, which closed the circuit between the battery and the light.

Now you flip the switch, which tells the computer to turn the light on...

And every time you can percieve the delay that happens between when the switch is activated and the action occurs - not a big delay, but a delay nevertheless as moving the switch - switch sends action to computer - computer uses its algorythem to see if it is permissible to perform the action - the command is sent to the device to perform the action.  A whole lot of talking taking place with the computer.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    May, 2012
  • 3,335 posts
Posted by rcdrye on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 1:43 PM

A recent software update on my car broke the clock.  The fix?  Turn on the key with the door open and then shut and open it five or more times. The fix procedure doesn't work if you turn the key on with the door closed.

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 18,399 posts
Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 3:39 PM

rcdrye
A recent software update on my car broke the clock.

I guess we can consider ourselves lucky that the car manufacturers can't strong arm an upgrade "over the net."  Be a real pain to have your car decide to reboot in rush hour traffic...

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Member since
    December, 2011
  • 7 posts
Posted by Dick Dawson on Monday, July 02, 2018 6:33 PM

David1005 is correct.  The Vert-A-Pacs held 30 Vegas, compared to 15 or at most 18 in a conventional tri-level auto rack.  He is also correct that, in addition to declining sales of the Vega because of a new Federal requirement for energy-absorbing bumpers.  The Vert-A-Pac's demise was rather quick.  The  superstructures were removed from all 209 TTVX cars by 1977 and conventional tri-level racks were applied to the cars.  I assume that the same thing happened to the SP's own flatcars carrying Vert-A-Pac structures. As a Penn Central mechanical engineer, I attended a trial loading of SP's prototype car at their Pine Bluff, AR shop and also the first production loading at the GM's Lordstown, Ohio plant.  

  • Member since
    December, 2011
  • 7 posts
Posted by Dick Dawson on Monday, July 02, 2018 6:52 PM

It is true that Vert-A-Pac cars usually returned empty, but so did most other auto rack cars at the time.  Tie-down systems varied between auto manufacturers and the cars were usually held captive to specific assembly plants.  That has changed with universal tie-down systems and the Reload system, operated by TTX, which manages the national auto rack pool (except for some specialized cars like Greenbrier AutoMax cars) moving empty cars to the nearest available load, whether imports at a port or from a domestic assembly plant.  There are separate pools of tri-level and bi-level cars, but otherwise they are all handled the same.  In a shameless plug, I should mention that Reload, as well as the Vert-A-Pac and Stac-Pac systems, are covered in the recently-published The TTX Story written by two other TTX retirees and myself.  

Tags: Reload , Vert-A-Pac
  • Member since
    January, 2009
  • 1 posts
Posted by sjmia on Monday, July 02, 2018 10:36 PM

Deggesty

I remember the "vertapacks," even though I did not remember the name. I had not thought much about them, and I am not surprised that they were not a success--cars are designed to stay almost level and not to be tilted as these were. Apparently the vertapack designers did not get with the automobile designers to make certain that nothing would leak out when the cars were tilted?

 

I remember in the early 70's going down to the Rock Island tracks in West Des Moines, Iowa after the RI dumped several of these Autoloaders on their sides. there were dozens of wadded up Vegas around the tracks, and either the conductor or a regional manager walking around the wreckage screaming profanities at no one in particular while waiting for the clean up crew. I never saw the cars again.

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 18,399 posts
Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, July 03, 2018 12:32 AM

Deggesty
Apparently the vertapack designers did not get with the automobile designers to make certain that nothing would leak out when the cars were tilted?

I thought I had read that they did consider the VertaPack system when designing the car.  It was a pain to design the car as such, but they did it.

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • 27 posts
Posted by Big Bill on Tuesday, July 03, 2018 12:45 PM

NP Eddie

A friend of mine had a Mercury. In order to change a taillight, you had to remove the rear bumper! I read that a certain GM car had a problem with one spark plug. I order to change that rear spark plug(s) you had to remove the engine and tilt it in order change spark plug(s).

I thank all for the information on Verta Packs.

Ed Burns

 

 

This sort of thing got so bad that at one point Honda required new design engineers to have two years experience as a mechanic before working as a designer. This was back in the 80s.

  • Member since
    May, 2005
  • From: S.E. South Dakota
  • 11,927 posts
Posted by Murphy Siding on Thursday, July 05, 2018 9:34 PM

Backshop

I remember the conspiracy theorists (yes, they were around back then) saying that the stackpacks were for mobile ICBMs.

 

I wonder how fast they could shoot all the Vegas out of one? 

Thanks to Chris / CopCarSS for my avatar.

  • Member since
    May, 2005
  • From: S.E. South Dakota
  • 11,927 posts
Posted by Murphy Siding on Thursday, July 05, 2018 9:41 PM

rdamon

The dealer wanted $600 to change my headlight bulbs in my 2011 GMC Acadia. $300 was for the HID bulbs (found on Amazon for $35) and $300 was to take my front bumper off to change the bulbs. Ended up doing it myself by by removing the panel inside the wheel well and blindly replacing the bulb.

Maybe some of the Vega engineers are still at GM ;)

 

Local dealer wanted me to make an appointment to leave her Prius for a whole day because they would have to take off the front bumper in order replace a headlight. Once it was determined that it was still under warrant they called over the mechanic with the smallest hands who just snaked his hand in and changed the bulb.

Thanks to Chris / CopCarSS for my avatar.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy