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
Waybill Box: St. Williams photo WaybillBox-StW-01.jpg

Bill box – Port Rowan
Waybill Box: Port Rowan photo WaybillBox-PtR.jpg

(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.

11 thoughts on “Waybill boxes (thanks, Chris!)

    • Hi Matt: Thank you. I had the idea but Chris gets all the credit for executing it. He can provide more details on the construction but rough dimensions are:
      Box – 2″ deep, 5.75″ wide, 8″ high at back (not including lid)
      Lid – 3″ deep, 7″ wide.

  1. I used poplar for the boxes. Picked it up at Home Depot; they sell a variety of ‘hobby sized’ pieces along with their (ir)regular dimensional lumber.
    The side walls, bottom, and tilting lid are 1/2″ thick.
    The front, back and slotted top are 1/4″ thick.
    The tilting top has a thin brass piano-style hinge from Lee Valley, attached with shortened brass escutcheon pins. I had to drill new holes in the hinge as the heads of the pins were interefering with each other when trying to close the lid. I toyed with several ideas for the top – Tony’s SP boxes are much taller than these and I coouldn’t fit a slot in the front face that was high enough to actually insert the waybills successfully.

  2. Nice work Chris and Trevor.

    One of the photos prompts a question (that you may have already written about); your switchstand lock appears to be fastened to an eyelet that is not attached to the stand itself. Is this a storage location, is the eyelet in fact part of the switch mechanism, or is the unlocking / re-locking simply a physical aesthetic?

    • Hi Matt:
      Thanks for the nice words.
      The eyelet is part of the locking mechanism. As this photo shows, the chain is anchored to the fascia behind and to the left of the stand. To lock the stand, the chain is stretched around it to the right, over the lever, and then locked to the eyelet that’s screwed to the front of the shelf. It’s now physically impossible to lift the lever and throw the switch.

  3. After a long run in the armchair, I now have a more or less operating layout. Of necessity its design has been heavily influenced by ” The Patch”. And I am getting a lot from your blog re operation. It has occurred to me that there is an inverse relationship between layout size (and complexity) and the “rules of play (ops).”

    Like you, I find switchlists a good means of organizing my approach to running on my own pike, and on the layouts on which I operate as a guest.

    • Hi John:

      Congrats on rejoining the active, operating crowd.

      The Patch is a great prototype to influence any layout. I’ve posted previously on this blog about Keith Jordan and his version of The Patch and it’s ideal for minimum-space, maximum fun modelling.


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