From there, to here

That’s the question: How, for example, did this boxcar get from the Milwaukee Road to my little corner of the Canadian National?
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I’ve written previously about two valuable resources for determining this – the freight car rulebook and the accounting rulebook published by the Association of American Railroads:

Freight car rules photo AAR-Freight-Coughlin-1956.jpg AAR Accounting Rules photo AAR-Accounting.jpg

These books explain the mechanics of freight car forwarding and the proper use of waybills and other paperwork. But they don’t describe the actual route taken by, say, a B&O covered hopper or a Wabash flatcar:
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To help with that, I rely on two additional resources.

The first is the 1948 Handy Railroad Atlas of the United States, originally published by Rand McNally and reprinted by Kalmbach Publishing Company:
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The second is Lines of Country: An Atlas of Railway and Waterway History in Canada, a stunning coffee table-sized book published by Boston Mills Press:
Lines of Country photo LinesOfCountry.jpg

These two books allow me to trace the route any freight car would take to arrive on the Port Rowan branch.

Do I need to know that information? Not really. It will help me fill out the waybills I’m using for operating sessions, but that information won’t make a difference to the crews who need to spot a car in St. Williams or Port Rowan.

However, as a student of railway history (and aren’t we all?) I enjoy knowing this sort of information simply for the pleasure of knowing it.

First Tobacco

My prototype runs through Ontario’s Norfolk County – prime tobacco-growing country – so no layout representing the Port Rowan branch would be complete without paying homage to this important (if deadly) crop. My representation of St. Williams will include some tobacco kilns and tobacco fields.

Over the weekend, I started building tobacco plants using HO scale kits from Busch:
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So far, I’ve built about two kits’ worth. I have another eight kits to go – and six more kits on order. That’s a lot of model-building time – each kit has 56 plants, each of which has 10 pieces. That said, it’s fairly mindless modelling – I can build and plant a sprue of four plants in less than 15 minutes, I can do it while listening to music or in front of the television, and I can abandon the project at pretty much any point and come back to it when I have a few minutes. I’ll get them all built and planted – eventually…

What I’m using for car forwarding

My friend Gene Deimling recently asked about the waybills I’m using with my newly-installed waybill boxes, so here’s a brief explanation.

I decided early in the planning stages for this layout that I would enhance the train-running experience by using paperwork inspired by the prototype. Therefore, instead of car cards and rows of pigeon-hole boxes on the layout fascia to help operators sort them, I would create waybills and provide my crews with paper, pencils and small clipboards so that conductors could use the waybills to write up their own switch lists. In theory, the bills stay safe and dry in the caboose, while the brakeman does the work referring to notes on a hand-written list – a list that can blow away in the wind, fall into the ditch, or otherwise be destroyed without affecting the railroad’s ability to be paid for its effort.

Before Chris Abbott could build the bill boxes, I needed to create the waybills themselves: We needed to know how big they would be. I went searching for ideas on the Internet – and here I have to give a shout-out to Tony Thompson for his extensive work on waybills and other railroad paperwork. If you really want to get a handle on freight car forwarding, the “Waybills” postings on Tony’s blog are a great place to start.

Using this information, I created a blank Waybill that’s 4.5″ wide by 5.5″ tall – about half the size of a real Waybill. I also created a blank Empty Car Bill measuring 2.25″ wide by 5.5″ tall. I duplicated these then saved the masters where I wouldn’t accidentally use them.

To create a new Waybill or Empty Car Bill, I duplicate and rename the working master, using the car number and an index number. (So, for example, “WB-CN487747-02” is the second Waybill for Canadian National boxcar 487747, while “MT-CGTX1038-01” is the first Empty Car Bill I’ve created for Canadian General Transit Company tank car 1038.)

I then pull the new Waybill or Empty Car Bill into PhotoShop and type in the required data using American Typewriter 10pt. I pick a blue colour for this data – it looks like typewriter ribbon and unlike black ink, the blue helps the information pop off the paperwork. This makes it easier for visiting operators – most of whom don’t do this every day for a living – to find the information they need. (I learned this trick from Tony’s blog, by the way.)

I have not yet filled in all of the information on the paperwork. But at a minimum, I have added the following data:

– Road name at top and bottom of waybill
– Car initials and number
– Car kind (AAR code)
– Destination. This includes the “TO” (track name, spot number), “STATION” and “STATE”
– Route (not really needed for my layout, since the rest of the world is represented by a single staging location)
– Consignee and Address (Name and Town)
– Description of Articles (in other words, what the car is carrying)

All of this information is on the left size of the Waybill.

For loads originating on the branch, I fill in the Shipper’s information on the right side as well, including:
– Origin. This includes the “FROM” (track name, spot number), “STATION” and “STATE”
– Shipper.

There are two types of Empty Car – both using the same Empty Car Bill.

The first type is an empty car that is being delivered to a shipper on the branch for loading. For these, I fill out an Empty Car Bill with car number, type, and then the information in the “FOR LOADING” section.

The second type is a car that has been emptied by a receiver on the branch and is headed for home. For these, I fill out an Empty Car bill with car number, type, and then the information in the “FOR HOME” section. I then staple this to the front of an appropriately completed Waybill.

A loaded car coming onto the layout requires a Waybill to direct the crew where to spot it. For example, I have created a Waybill for tank car CGTX 1038 that directs it to the elevated coal track in Port Rowan, for unloading by the local fuel dealer. I will include this Waybill in the package of paperwork for the train crew:
Paperwork - Load to Layout photo LoadToLayout.jpg

But I will actually print two of the Waybills, then fill out an Empty Car Bill FOR HOME (Canadian Petroleum Co. in Sarnia ON) and attach it to the front of the second copy:
Paperwork - Empty to Staging photo EmptyToStaging.jpg

In some future session, when I decide it’s time for this tank car to return to the refinery (staging), I will load the “Waybill/Empty Car Bill” set into the bill box in front of the Port Rowan station. When the crew arrives, they will check the bill box take this paperwork with them when they leave town with CGTX 1038 in their consist.

An empty car coming onto the layout for loading requires an Empty Car Bill filled out FOR LOADING. For example, I might direct empty boxcar CN 487747 to the team track in St. Williams for McCall and Company by adding this Empty Car Bill to the crew’s paperwork:
Paperwork - Empty to Layout photo EmptyToLayout.jpg

At the same time, I will also create a Waybill for the loaded car – in this case, filled with boats being shipped to Eaton’s in Toronto.
Paperwork - Load to Staging photo LoadToStaging.jpg

When it’s time for this car to be lifted, I will put the Waybill in the St. Williams bill box.

Some cars will require only one on-layout destination. An example is the flat car with tractor load that I modelled:
A flash of red photo WAB-Flat-04.jpg

Its only plausible destination is the team track in Port Rowan, where Potter Motors will unload the shipment.

For most cars, though, I will create sets of Waybills and Empty Car Bills to allow the car to go to two or three places on the layout:

– A boxcar might deliver lumber to the St. Williams team track.
– In another session, that same car might deliver feed additives to the mill in Port Rowan.
– Another time, it might be used to ship a load of boats from McCall and Company in St. Williams to Eaton’s in Toronto.

This will add variety to the moves, so that crews don’t see, for example, the Milwaukee Road boxcar and assume they know where it’s going:
MILW 21189 photo MILW21189-01.jpg

I am still creating waybills for some of the freight cars in my collection, but I have printed enough examples to try out the Waybills and Empty Car Bills in operation. Already, I have hosted a few sessions using this paperwork and feedback from the crews has been positive.

Obviously, I will need to create a filing system to keep all of the completed Waybills and Empty Car Bills in some sort of order. Another project!

Waybill boxes (thanks, Chris!)

Chris Abbott visited this week and brought me a present: Two half-sized waybill boxes for the layout. We installed them on the fascia, in front of the depots at St. Williams and Port Rowan.

Bill box – St. Williams
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Bill box – Port Rowan
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(Thank you Chris – they’re beautiful!)

Chris built these based on photos of Southern Pacific bill boxes on Tony Thompson‘s blog. He tells me he enjoyed the exercise – a good chance to put to use some of his woodworking skills. (The hinges and hasps are from Lee Valley.)

Because they’re half-size, some details of their construction had to be altered while still retaining the overall look and proportions of the originals. For starters, having a “letter slot” on the front of the box for depositing waybills would not have been practical, given that the boxes would be mounted lower than on the prototype and that any waybill fed through such a slot would jam against the back wall of the box. Chris devised a clever solution – putting a slot in the top of the box and then hiding it with a flip-forward lid:
Waybill Box: Flip-up lid photo WaybillBox-StW-02.jpg

As on the Espee boxes, the front face is split with the lower half flipping up to allow a conductor to retrieve waybills:
Waybill Box: Open front photo WaybillBox-StW-03.jpg

A padlock – the same style used on my switch stands – secures the hasp and protects these valuable documents from theft. (As with the locks on the switch stands, I will add a keeper chain on the underside of the waybill boxes so we don’t lose the padlocks.)

Chris and I found that sometimes, a waybill would slide to the back of the box and be difficult to retrieve. The problem – illustrated below – is that the bills are almost as wide as the box interior so there’s no way to get a finger behind a recalcitrant waybill to hook it out:
Waybill Box: Can't grab bills photo WaybillBox-StW-04.jpg

Chris tried a kicker, fashioned from piano wire, but it was less than satisfactory. It did, however, provide us with the inspiration for a workable mechanism. Working together, we fashioned a new kicker. We bent a lever from 1/16″ square brass stock and soldered it to a hinge formed from two sizes of brass tubing. This kicker hangs from the back wall of the box and slides through a slot in the bottom of the bill box, with the end of the lever projecting about an inch below the box:
Waybill Box: Kicker mechanism photo WaybillBox-StW-05.jpg

To retrieve bills, a conductor cups a hand below the box, flicks the kicker arm forward with a finger, and the bills drop right into the waiting hand. It works beautifully.

I find the waybill boxes much more prototypical than the standard row of pigeon-hole car-card boxes, and the act retrieving and depositing waybills will add to the play value during operating sessions.

Forehead-slapping moment

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I have been in this hobby for several decades now – almost as long as I’ve been on this earth. Even so, I’m still surprised and humbled by the stuff I either didn’t know about the hobby – or, in this case, knew but forgot.

A note posted to the S-Scale Yahoo Group by Charles Weston caused today’s forehead-slapping moment. Someone was asking about scale rulers for S, and Charles pointed out that many triangular architect’s scales include 3/16″. Otherwise known as S Scale.
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Now in my defence, it’s only relatively recently that I’ve put S scale on my radar. But for almost as long as I’ve known about model railroading, I’ve known about S scale – and I’ve known that it’s an architect’s scale. What’s more, I’ve owned a few of these rulers in my time – leftovers from my high school drafting classes.

But it never occurred to me that one of these rulers would be easier to use than my old reliable, multi-scale, Model Railroad Reference Ruler.
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Off to the architect supply store this weekend… (thanks, Charles!)
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CNR Trucking

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While pondering paint schemes for my recently-acquired collection of trucks, it occurred to me that doing a truck or two for the express and cartage services operated by Canadian National Railways would be most appropriate.

A bit of online searching turned up the essay CNR Trucking: Express and Freight Vehicles by Ian Wilson. It includes several great black and white photos that illustrate examples of the railway’s fleet.

Ian’s essay has some great information about colours and lettering schemes. And now that I think of it, I know I have seen suitable HO models of 1950s-era trucks, painted and lettered for the CNR trucking services – so the colour information must be available. Also, lettering sets must be available – at least in 1:87. Perhaps I can persuade someone to do them in 1:64 for me.

This warrants more investigation.

Track sprayer

This morning was cold – but it’s only going to get colder – so I loaded up the airbrush, turned off the furnace, opened windows, started up ceiling fans, and finished spray-painting the rails on the layout. Then I took the dogs for a long walk while the place aired out. By the time we got home, the rails were (appropriately enough) a nice Rail Brown.

Previously, I had painted all the rails from end of track in Port Rowan to the water tank in the Lynn Valley. Today I airbrushed the rails through the valley and through St. Williams to staging. I’ll leave the rails in staging unpainted.

Later today, I’ll clean off the tops of the rails and test everything to make sure the trains still run reliably. With that done, I can finish planting static grass around the track.