Sunday, November 27, 2016

SP's Instructions to Station Agents, Part 1

Probably every railroad issued instructions of various kinds to station agents. I happen to have been loaned the Southern Pacific version of these instructions by Chuck Catania. Chuck’s dad used to ship with SP and was given this book when the local depot was closed. Its official name is Circular 39-1, and it is a large screw-post book, designed so that any and all pages could be (and were) updated and replaced. Page size is 8.5 x 11 inches. Here is the cover:

     You may note that the cover is dated January 1, 1925, but the pages inside had dates all the way from that era, up into the early 1960s. So it isn’t a “period” document of the 1920s, but reflects how things had progressed up into 1961. I know that year because pasted inside the back cover is a series of pages with the date of each update and the signature of the Traveling Auditor doing the updating. The last entry shown is dated June 13, 1961, signed by W.L. Browne. Unfortunately, these pages were pasted one over the other, so only the topmost page can be read. Here it is:

     This book is about two inches thick, give or take, and contains a really large amount of information about passenger ticketing and service. My own interests are in Section II, entitled “Instructions—Freight Accounts,” encompassing rules 1000 to 1999 (not all numbers were in use), especially the parts about waybilling, so I made a Xerox copy for myself of the entire freight section, totalling 176 pages, and returned the book to Chuck.
     Now I want to turn to what might one learn from this material. Obviously each person’s interests will dictate what is valuable here, and I will only describe the parts I wanted to make use of. Many parts of this book cover true minutiae of accounting and certainly sound like problems arising from quite unusual situations. But of course the main points of freight traffic handling are in there too. I have tried to extricate those parts I can use to make better SP waybills.
     I will begin with SP’s form numbers. This is a very minor detail, and it certainly is far from essential that these be correct on my waybills, but I would like to get them right if I can. Right near the beginning of Section II was rule 1002, specifying which form was used for which cargoes. In all, there were 46 “species” of waybills (some only for Pacific Lines or only for Texas and Louisiana Lines), but I need only forms 700, 707 and 709 (you can click to enlarge):

The above text clearly shows that the standard freight waybill for most uses was Form 700 (as is confirmed by several references in other rules), that Form 707 is the livestock form, and Form 709 is for perishables. But which of the two forms 709? That’s clarified in rule 1091:

So in fact, form 709 is a “preferred movement” bill, and 709AA is a straight perishable bill, with 709AA used for shipments outside California. Both were recommended by AAR “to be printed on pink paper.”
     Incidentally, I should mention a point from the AAR book, Railway Accounting Rules, that the freight waybill and livestock waybill forms (here SP forms 700 and 707) were mandatory forms. The AAR identified perishable and preferred-movement forms as “recommendatory,” for use “by such roads as desire” such forms.
     To show how I have incorporated the form number, along with the designation “A.A.R. 98,” as was done on several SP forms, here is my freight bill header:

At upper left is the month and date of printing this form (1-51) and the number printed at that time, 400M (400,000) copies. At upper right is the form number.
     In the case of the perishable bill, I have chosen to ignore the prototype size of the form 709AA, 17 inches long, and use it instead as a standard size bill. Shown below are both forms 709 and 709AA (though not presented here in pink; the color is accomplished when I print the bills on pink stock).

 As I’ve mentioned before, most of this lettering is scanned from prototype documents.
     These extracts from a much larger document show a couple of points I have already implemented into my layout waybill forms, and a few more I need to add. I will come back to those additions, and a few more details from Circular 39-1, in a future post.
Tony Thompson


  1. Tony, another great find. The SP freight waybill information is interesting, but my interest was especially piqued by " ... contains a really large amount of information about passenger ticketing and service."

    I model various kinds of passenger service on my home railroad. I've modified Bill Darnaby's original "passenger demand" article concept for my own use. I'm looking for samples of passenger tickets or even more, railroad employee passenger train documentation. What type of passenger ticketing and service information was in this publication?

    Thanks in advance.
    Al Daumann

  2. The passenger section was bigger than the freight section (already 176 pages) and with phenomenal detail. Remember this document was issued by the Accounting Department. But I sure didn't study it at all. I am sure there would not have been examples of tickets, but lots about refunds, undercharges, astray tickets, interline charge balancing, etc.
    Tony Thompson