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!

9 thoughts on “What I’m using for car forwarding

  1. I really like the fact that you are implementing such a realistic system. So many, it seems, fear that such a system would over complicate life, but for a small layout, it seems great.

    • Hi Ryan:
      Thanks for the kind words. I have to add that it’s more complicated to explain than it is to use. During an operating session it’s really quite straight-forward.

  2. Hi, Trevor – I just came across this post and I love it. It’s nearly identical to how I’m planning to implement this on my layout. The only major difference is that I’ll have a freight agent handling the waybills that the crews give to them, and the agent will prepare the switchlists. For the waybill size it will probably be half a sheet of paper (5.5″ x 8.5″). In fact, my first real tests of the system will be in about two weeks. In my case there will be multiple trains bringing cars to the layout, and two local switching crews to handle the work. It will be interesting to see how this scales up.

    • Hey Randy:
      Great to hear from you – thanks for joining the conversation.
      Good luck with the implementation on your layout. I find this system works really well for me, and I’d use it again – even on larger layouts. Let me know how it goes…

  3. Hi Trevor,
    As I’ve been playing with similar ideas for Pembroke, I’ve come across a couple of questions, and I’m wondering if you’ve figured out a solution:
    1) How do you ensure that the car sits for the right length of time to be loaded or unloaded?
    2) How do you randomly select some shipments to make? I’ve been thinking I would roll a die and select that many waybills from a shuffled deck of waybills.
    3) When you are making an outbound shipment, how do you get the empty onto your line in time to make the shipment? Do you have any way to predict that you will need an empty and get it before the shipment has to go, or does the shipper simply have to wait for the car?

    • Hi René:
      Good questions – thanks for asking.
      1) Since my layout represents a one-train-per-day prototype, every train run represents a new day. So any cars delivered by one train may be picked up by the next. However, I don’t necessarily designate all cars as ready to pick up. I pick the ones to move off layout based on what I feel like running, how much work I want to do during a session, and so on.
      2) I build trains in my sector plate, then choose appropriate waybills for each car. Some of them will be loads coming onto the layout – others will be empties. Again, it depends on how much work I want to do during a session. I usually pick one unusual car – meaning just about anything not CNR (for instance, the Wabash flat car with tractor load), and then fill out the rest of any freight with CNR boxcars, which would’ve handled most of the traffic to and from St. Williams and Port Rowan.
      3) When an empty arrives on the layout, it’s arriving because there’s an outbound shipment. I assume the station agent has ordered the car in advance and it’s now appearing as part of my train. Since I don’t model originating yards, I don’t need to find empty cars to match up to car orders.
      Not very scientific, I know. But it does allow me to run trains of various lengths depending on my mood.

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