In what follows, I quote, with Harry’s permission, an excerpt from one of his narratives about the waybill process, which I think vividly illustrates how things were done. Any material in square brackets was added by me, mostly for clarity.
“Perhaps an explanation of how waybills, the 8-1/2 x 11, paper versions, either Revenue, or Non Revenue, are generated in the Agent's Office will help. Let’s take the Frankfort [Indiana] Agency (I hope I can remember all the numbers from 50 years ago) as an example. The Frankfort Agency had three series of waybills. Each series of waybills was maintained on a post binder. The post binder had a heavy, cloth-covered, cardboard back with two vertical, 1/8" diameter, steel posts at the top. The binder cover was of similar material, with a slotted, stamped metal latch, that engaged the steel posts.
“Each [of the three] series of waybills had a different waybill number series. For example, Frankfort maintained General Freight (Merchandise) series waybills and assigned waybill numbers starting at 300000 and ran continuously year after year. Because of Ralston Purina, Frankfort also maintained a Transit (grain milling in transit) series of waybills and assigned them waybill numbers starting at 250000. The third series of waybills at Frankfort was the “Non Revenue” series of waybills which were assigned, say, waybill numbers starting at 190000. All series ran continuously and [when complete] were bound up with string, 1000 waybills at a time.
“Other agencies might have other series of waybills. For example, the ore dock agency at Huron, Ohio, had a separate series of waybill numbers for Iron Ore. The specialty (Transit, Iron Ore, Coal & Coke, Set-up Automobiles, etc.) series waybills, quite often had special preprinted, multi-part, waybill forms. However, General Freight and Non Revenue Waybills were both typed using the same, eight-part, standard waybill form.
“So let’s “bill” (waybill) a few cars. First [one] is a box car load of corn being shipped by one of the grain elevators downtown, and the process begins with the elevator manager dropping off a Bill of Lading, or more properly a “shipping order” at the railroad, or the agent picking it up at the elevator. The first action on the part of the railroad is for an agency employee to sign (actually hand sign the agent’s name) all copies of the Bill of Lading, and return all but the shipping order, to the elevator manager. Next a railroad, date/time stamp is placed on the shipping order and it is ready to go to the bill clerk.
“The bill clerk places a standard, eight-part, blank waybill form in his typewriter, lifts the top cover of the General Freight series waybill file to get the next waybill number, and begins typing. When he comes to the block reading “Waybill Number” he assigns the next number in the General Freight series, and continues transcribing the information on the shipping order to the waybill. By the way, in that little square box just to the right of the Car Initial and Number, marked “Kind” [of car], the clerk will type the capital letter B, not XM.
“Once the typing is done, the waybill will be removed from the typewriter, laid flat on the desk, and, while the thumb and fore finger of the left hand hold the top of the waybill form, the right hand is used to jerk the top two copies from the eight-part form. The top copy (original) goes to the “Industry” bill box at the Eastbound yard clerk’s desk so the waybill can be mated with the car when the “Commercial Engine” [switch job] drags the load of corn back into the yard that afternoon.
“The shipping order is then placed behind the second copy of the waybill, a two-hole paper punch is used to punch two holes in the top of both the copy of the waybill and the shipping order, and both are placed [on the posts atop] the General Freight series waybill file. The remaining six copies, and the carbon paper are discarded. [A few kinds of shipments could require use of more than two copies of the waybill, for example, if a waybill copy is sent by U.S. Mail to the destination agent, so he can notify the consignee of impending arrival.]
“Next, the General Foreman’s clerk drops off a shipping order for a flat car load of freight car wheels on the RIP Track at Frankfort, [which is] being shipped to the Mechanical Department, at Bellevue [Ohio]. In this case, the shipping order is not signed, but all copies are date/time stamped, before the “Agent’s Copy” is sent to the bill clerk. The bill clerk again puts a standard, eight-part, waybill form in the typewriter, but this time he opens the “Non Revenue” series waybill file, and assigns the next “Non Revenue” waybill number. The bill clerk will then complete the waybill the same as he would do for any other load, except when he gets to the space reserved for Freight Charges, he will enter, “Co Matl Free” (Company Material Free).
“As with the revenue waybill for the car of corn, the top, or original copy, will go to the Eastbound yard clerk, the second copy and the shipping order to the Non Revenue waybill file, and the carbon/balance of copies to the trash.
“Next, let’s bill an empty GACX covered hopper being released by Mars Candy Company. In this case Mars Candy notified the Frankfort Demurrage Clerk they were releasing the GACX covered hopper car, empty. The first thing the Demurrage Clerk will do regarding disposition of the empty car, because it is a private ownership car, is check the inbound waybill to see if the car is leased to anyone. In this case the inbound waybill noted that the car is leased to Domino Sugar Company, hence the Demurrage Clerk will check his file for any letters, or instructions from Domino Sugar. If he finds instructions from Domino Sugar he will note the time and date the car was released and forward a copy of the instructions to the bill clerk.
“If no instructions have been received by the time the car is released empty, a copy of the inbound waybill is made, a notation reading “Released Empty (date/time) - Return Reverse Route” placed on the copy of the inbound bill, and this, in effect, becomes a shipping order which is forwarded to the bill clerk. The bill clerk again places a standard, eight-part waybill form in the typewriter, and opens the “Non Revenue” series waybill file to get the next Non Revenue waybill number to assign to this waybill.
“[On this waybill] the shipper is shown as “Agent NYC&StL, Frankfort, Indiana” and the consignee is the original shipper and location of [loading the] car. In the “Contents” portion (lower left corner of waybill), the bill clerk will type, “1 Empty Covered Hopper, L/C (last contained) Granulated Sugar NOI (Not Otherwise Indexed), Returning Reverse Route.” In the Freight Charges column, he will simply type the word “FREE.” In this case the car will follow the exact reverse route, including all junctions, back to its origin.
“For other empty cars, the cardboard, Empty Car Slip (NKP term), Form 667, is the only paper work required for the car to move on the NKP, and was not attached to any other paper work. This form is filled out by the yard clerk.”
To me, this is a fascinating, detailed look at the process, at least as it was done on the Nickel Plate. It would be very interesting to know how similar the process was on other railroads (probably pretty similar, except maybe for nomenclature). Harry has said that these procedures were pretty much the same, in his experience, on the WAB, ITC, AC&Y, N&W, L&N, and SOU, in addition to NKP, indeed differing only in terminology, and it would be interesting to range farther afield. But this account stands on its own as a valuable insight.