Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Waybills, Part 15: Managing bills

I have alluded in prior posts to the ways I manage waybills on my layout, but have not been very specific about it. This post addresses the matter directly.
     As I mentioned in describing the role of the local agent in my operating scheme, including waybill management (see the post at:  http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/10/operations-role-of-agent.html ), the use of a “bill box” at a station location can substitute for a person acting as agent, for example in a location with limited aisle space. I’ll repeat the photo I showed then, with a bill box in place on the shelf below my town of Shumala:

This not only emphasizes a prototype arrangement, but also removes aisle-side racks or other “display” arrangements which are less prototypical.
     This bill box is a standard office item, a storage box for “index cards” or 3 x 5-inch cards, 3 inches deep. Years ago, oak boxes like this were available at any stationery store, but today one needs to seek them out on line, for example at Hedberg’s site, http://www.successimage.com/cat--Card-Files--CardFiles (and there are other sources, readily discovered). If need be, one can obtain hardwood index-card boxes deeper than 3 inches, and one can also buy sizes suitable for “mini-bills” or modern waybills 4 inches high, such as 4 x 6-inch card boxes, again of varying depths. Each layout may need a different set of such boxes to serve as bill boxes at different locations.
     You can of course use the molded plastic versions of these boxes, much cheaper and more readily purchased locally, though I find them clunkier than I want. And in the greater scheme of layout expenses, the cost difference is not significant.
     Within each card box, I have index tabs for the industries in town, for my own convenience in managing waybills, but the “business” part of the box is the front, where I put a packet of waybills for the next-arriving local freight crew, and any accompanying message needed to direct their work. Here is the Ballard box interior (index tabs are temporary hand-written versions), including a supply of blank Bad Order Bills:

Note that there is enough “head room” in the box that my waybills and sleeves can stand upright.
     My off-layout cars and car sleeves are on shelves (some cars are packed in boxes, but the most active cars are shelved). When one of these cars is needed to go into action, its sleeve is right with it. I plan to show my shelving system in a future post.
     But there are additional sleeves for the non-shelved cars, and lots of waybills not currently in use. These I keep in a file box designed for baseball cards. These are available from several suppliers; I use BCW (visit http://www.bcwsupplies.com/products/corrugated-storage-boxes/ for more info; there are four pages of box listings). They call it a “Shoe Storage Box,” and it is indeed reminiscent of a shoe box. Note that it has a lid.

You can see that at present, I’m using less than half of the space in this box, and I find the remainder is useful for supplies. They do offer both smaller and larger versions of this shoe-box style. Here’s a closer look at the index tabs (I use the “Trading Card Dividers” from BCW). These are “writable” plastic dividers, but I have labeled them with the same clear Avery labels that I use for waybill sleeves. Stored car sleeves are in the front of the box, filed by car type; waybills toward the back, filed by industry.

     I also use a smaller box from BCW to store sleeves and waybills for my staging tracks. This box is what BCW calls a “200 Count Storage Box,” and it is available in several sizes (it comes with a lid, but I cut the lid off for convenient access.) Here again I use index tabs for each track number. These numbered index tabs are standard stationery-store items, cut down to fit the box. In this box, the car sleeves lie on their sides behind each tab.

I often keep a few Bad Order Bills and Empty Car Bills in the front of this box, but have removed them for this photo.
     Here is a side view of the box itself (that’s the Ballard depot behind it):

In this view, some of the empty bills, and a train pack, are in the front of this box. This is usually the pack for the next local due out.
     The train pack envelope is just made from a standard envelope, 3.5 x 6.5 inches, in manila, by cutting into two parts just off-center, leaving an offset, so each envelope half has a “back riser,” as you see here. Then the flap is glued closed.

These drop into a shirt pocket and are a convenient way for a train crew to carry their waybills.
     This system evolved from a similar set of arrangements for the old Doug Smith/Allen McClelland car cars (3 x 5 inches), in use for several years on my old layout, and has simply been adopted to suit the smaller baseball-card size waybills. It’s been working well on my layout.
Tony Thompson

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