Monday, February 28, 2011

Staging trackage installation-4

My staging trackage, in transfer table form, is now complete. I have briefly described the concept in previous posts with this title, in an introduction presenting the general concept, particularly the original inspiration from John Signor’s article on building such staging (here’s a link:, and in a follow-up post with specifics on the indexing method, available at:
     All twelve tracks have been installed and wired. I ended up including Atlas rerailing sections in the center of all the tracks, though originally I intended to have them only on the foreground tracks, as aids to adding cars to the staging tracks closest to the aisle. But I found with my testing that sometimes the end rerailing sections did not suffice to entirely rerail a consist crossing from the layout onto the staging table, and the center rerailer did the job. Accordingly, I went ahead and put center rerailers on all twelve tracks. The rerailers at track ends are halves of Atlas parts, as I described in my third post on this topic, at: I don’t want this to sound as though derailments are common, because they’re not, but when they occur, it’s nice to have a rerailer to correct them.
     An overall view of the entire staging table is included below. I have a number of trains staged in this view, along with some cuts of cars which have been added to or removed from mainline trains. The backdrop is for the town of Ballard, which will sit immediately above the staging table.

     My electrical arrangement is to bring track power in a single cable to the table front, and then arrange two six-position rotary switches to direct power to the twelve tracks. (A selector switch between the rotary switches determines which rotary is active.) This means that no more than one track can be energized at once, and with a DPDT reversing switch in place below each rotary, I can turn off even the track selected by the rotary. I made a temporary panel with Upson board, which is very easy to work with, and if the panel serves the purposes I want, and proves to be conveniently arranged, I will eventually replace it with a more durable duplicate, using a material such as Masonite (the material used in other panels on the layout). Here is how it looks right now:

Although the staging arrangements seem complete at the moment, continued operation and testing will tell me for sure if changes are still needed.
Tony Thompson

Friday, February 25, 2011

Choosing a model car fleet-6: covered hoppers

In 1953, covered hoppers were still fairly rare. Nationally, they were less than 2 percent of all freight cars (actually 1.75%), and at that time were predominantly used for bulk cement service. In that same year, the SP fleet included just 587 covered hoppers out of a total fleet of 57,671 cars, or very close to 1%. At that time SP owned very few hoppers of any kind, with the balance of about 1700 cars being ballast cars with longitudinal-dumping doors, not traditional twin cross-hoppers.
     This means I don’t need many covered hoppers of any reporting marks. Further,  since cement is mostly a low-value commodity which can’t support the cost of long-distance shipping, there shouldn’t be covered hoppers from far-away railroads. The use of these cars for cement effectively means that they were only free-running cars for loads of that particular commodity. Chemical shipping was just beginning to make use of covered hoppers in 1953, and grain shipping in covered hoppers was off in the future.
     Photos of SP yards and trains in the early 1950s support this analysis, with fairly few covered hoppers visible in most places (near cement plants being an obvious exception). Accordingly, I plan to have four or five SP covered hoppers, all of which will be the square-hatch variety standard in 1953. The Pullman-Standard PS-2 with round hatches was not introduced until mid 1953, and SP bought none until 1954.
     Luckily, InterMountain currently produces a superb model of the square-hatch cars. For foreign-road cars, I have one each GN, ATSF, UP, and D&RGW, along with one each SHPX and NAHX private-lease cars, and all of these will operate sparingly. I may add a T&NO or SSW car. These will largely be in mainline service only.
     I do have one on-line destination which can accept cars of cement: my California Division of Highways yard, since in my era the CDH did some of its own building of roads and bridges, unlike today when CalTrans uses contractors for virtually all such work. Likely most deliveries will be SP cars.
     Here’s a photo at Shumala of one of the IM cars, inbound with a load. This car was also pictured in my original Dispatcher’s Office article, complete with waybill, but did not appear in the magazine. The corrected version is available, as mentioned in an earlier post, at Google Docs via this link: 

These InterMountain cars don’t require much work to be ready to roll, just a bit of cement spillage on a nearly new car like this one, so adding to the fleet will be easy.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Modeling freight traffic: Coast Line, 1953-Part 5

I’ve recently transcribed a fascinating conductor’s time book for part of the Coast Line, for 1948 to 1952. This conductor must have usually worked in some other job, as he seems only to have been called for haulers in peak season (with a few exceptions). He worked out of Watsonville Junction and mostly ran haulers to and from Salinas. These were naturally reefers in most cases, but he also handled trains of loaded and empty cars of sugar beets destined to and from Spreckels.
     I decided to analyze the reefer reporting marks contained in the book. There are altogether 1102 refrigerator cars listed. Not surprisingly, 839, or 76%, were PFE cars. Much more surprising, at least to me, was that 122 cars, or 11%, were ART cars. I knew PFE used ART cars in peak seasons, but would not have thought the proportion was this large. Next largest contingent was 41 MDT cars, or 3.7% (plus 8 cars from MDT subsidiary NRC), followed by 30 FGEX cars (2.7%), 13 NWX cars (1.2%), and 12 WFEX cars (1%).
     Also represented were a few cars each from BAR, BREX, NADX, NP, REX, SFRD, URTX, and WRX. The total of all these cars with minority reporting marks was 42, or about 4%. The two express cars from REX were an interesting point, as were a couple of heavily-insulated or frozen food cars from PFE and FHIX.
     There is no way, using these data from largely peak-season trains, to infer what year-round traffic was like, but the occasional train this conductor worked which was out of peak season did show nearly all PFE cars, and the two BAR cars seen were also in those “low-season” trains.
     Thus it seems likely that the proportion of foreign or non-PFE cars shown in the above results is a maximum for traffic year-round. Nevertheless, it’s evident that my main need for empty reefers to be loaded, beyond the obvious predominance of PFE, will be for ART and MDT cars, with a few FGEX and WFEX cars and maybe a NWX car. Incidentally, the data just discussed cannot indicate the proportion of reporting marks among loaded inbound reefers to this area, as almost none of the refrigerator cars in the time book are shown in that category.
     I also want to study these time-book data to see if the presence of individual PFE car classes is representative of the overall PFE fleet. (See my post on a model car fleet, at I also want to look at box cars in the data, to see whether they bear some relation to the Gilbert-Nelson hypothesis.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Choosing a model car fleet-5: flat cars

The flat car handles cargoes of all sizes and shapes, and most flat cars are 
free-running, meaning they are readily confiscated for loads wherever needed. 
But it has to be recognized that flat cars made up a mere 3 percent of the national 
freight car fleet in 1950 (only stock cars, at 2 percent, were lower). Accordingly, 
flat cars from throughout the U.S., though plausible on the west coast, should 
be relatively rare.
     At the same time, it must also be remembered that SP’s freight car fleet 
contained fully 10 percent flat cars, far above the national average, and should 
accordingly be strongly represented in any model SP car fleet.
     Specially-equipped cars  or specialized cars such as depressed-center cars, are 
likely to be in assigned service and, if unloaded on the SP from other parts of the 
country, are likely to return to their owners empty. But general service cars, 
mostly FM designation, are far more common and ordinarily may be confiscated 
for loading.
     The most voluminous traffic on the SP for flat cars on the Coast Line in 1953 would have been lumber for the building boom in Southern California and elsewhere in the West. Most of it came from Oregon and northern California. Because of the vital need for cars in the loading areas, SP purchased considerable numbers of flat cars to ensure that an ample supply would be available. Thus most rough lumber should travel on SP cars on my layout. But it must be kept in mind that finished lumber mostly traveled in box cars, particularly double-door cars (though the AAR classification for such cars is “automobile cars”), so flat cars cannot represent all lumber traffic.
     In terms of flat cars, then, my layout needs are for a strong contingent of SP’s most numerous postwar flat cars, Class F-70-7, which fortunately are available in a very accurate model from Red Caboose. I have several and will eventually have six altogether. Some day some bright manufacturer will recognize the pent-up demand for Harriman flat cars by both SP and UP modelers, and I will be able to add a couple of 40-foot cars of that distinctive straight-side-sill style. Beyond SP reporting marks, a car or two from T&NO and SSW would also be suitable.
     Other roads represented are likely to be either Western road cars, not too far from home, such as GN, NP, ATSF, UP, etc., or cars from the largest national railroads, such as PRR, NYC, or B&O. It may be appropriate to plan for one car representing each of those roads for the time being.
     I believe the relatively rare cars, such as depressed-center or four-truck heavy duty cars, should be equally rare on my layout, and would only operate occasionally. I have one of the Walthers 90-ton GSC drop-center cars, which is accurate for a NYC car, and will likely add a PRR well-hole flat from the F&C resin kit I have for a Class F33 car. These will be used for special loads.
     The photo below show a pair of “plain Jane” SP flat cars, the essential Red Caboose 53' 6" cars, rounding the westward curve into Shumala on my layout. Decks are well weathered using acrylic paint (SP did pressure-treat flat car decking, but not with creosote), and also distressed with some gouging and cutting with a hobby knife before weathering — something more convincing in HO scale on a plastic deck than on a “real” wood one.

     A major need for these and other flats is good lumber loads, and I have several under construction. Beyond that, the load possibilities for flat cars are almost endless, and one almost needs more restraint than anything else in choosing loads to model.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Waybills, Part 4

This post is an effort to explain how I went about creating my blank waybills, and how they are printed and cut, as well as how they are filled out.
     I began with some prototype waybills I had collected. These are available widely from sellers of railroad paper. They have also been printed in some books, notably in Freight Cars Rolling by Larry Sagle (Simmons-Boardman, 1960), and are part of the extensive collection of mandatory AAR forms in the Railway Accounting Rules book (AAR, 1950), published every few years by AAR. Both can be obtained through internet used-book sellers. I used the 1950 edition of the AAR book as most relevant to my 1953 modeling era.
     The prototype form contains a great deal of space for information we don’t want to use in modeling. Using an actual Pennsylvania Railroad waybill, I’ve highlighted in pink the areas not relevant (or not very interesting) for model use.

     In my approach, I simply used a scanned image of this waybill in Photoshop, and cut and pasted the parts left white into a single document, discarding the bulk of the pink areas. Here is what it looked like:

     This still contains various gray areas, for specialized uses, and those can be discarded. Note that at this point, the bill still retains its vertical division between destination and consignee information on the left, and shipper information on the right. Conductors often folded waybills in half the long way, so as to look only at the part they had to work with, in forwarding or delivering a car.
     Upon further cutting of the less relevant or irrelevant parts, here is what was left, now pretty much containing all model-useful components:

     As I show it here, it’s no longer symmetrical about a vertical center line, and the Pennsy’s heading, with the elegant keystone emblem, is getting too large to retain. But this is the core of the information I wanted in my model waybill. I further rearranged it into a shape that could fit the size we want in the model world, including retention of the center symmetry. (In this version, I have removed the filled-out entries in the foregoing examples). I also removed the car initial and number from the top left of the bill, because that will go on the clear plastic sleeve (playing the role of a “car card”). This blank can be filled in as desired.

     Once I have a collection of these, using prototype waybills or other freight documents to obtain the distinctive railroad headers at the top, I fill them out as needed for the layout. I described in my article in The Dispatcher’s Office (see link to corrected version in my “Waybills-3” post) the use of various typefaces to reproduce the prototype appearance. That article also contains a number of details about how the prototype filled out the various sections of the waybill.
     I then create a page of these filled-out waybills, nine to a page, using InDesign. The same could be done in any “publishing” application, most of which cost far less than InDesign, and for this usage the sophistication of InDesign is not needed. It’s just a tool I use for other things and am familiar with. Such a page looks like this:

     The three horizontal and four vertical lines are only alignment guides, and are deleted before printing, leaving only the heavier, short vertical lines across the top, which serve as guides in making the first cuts on a paper cutter in the long direction. I print usually on 100-pound light card stock. Thereafter, I cut off the top half-inch of each long strip, then cut at 7 and 3.5 inches, since I know each waybill is 3.5 inches high.
     I am then ready to use the various waybills which I’ve produced. For example, in the page of 9 waybills shown above, there is a PRR waybill at the lower left corner. Here it is, in a bigger size:

     In use, of course, it is inserted into a clear sleeve with car initial and number at the bottom. I will discuss operating procedures using these bills in future posts.
Tony Thompson

Monday, February 14, 2011

Choosing a model car fleet-4: automobile cars

Automobile cars can be a complex topic if traffic is to be understood. The cars are distinctive, usually in assigned or restricted service, and require special handling, often expedited. They can form an interesting and vital part of a model car fleet.
     For my own layout, considering SP Coast Line traffic in 1953, I recognize significant auto parts and assembled automobile traffic. Auto assembly plants in both the Los Angeles area and in the Bay Area received most parts deliveries directly from plants predominantly in the east, but partial loads of parts were sent between plants via the Coast Line.
     What plants are we talking about? Here is a list for 1953, probably not complete, but sufficient for my use.
     Los Angeles: GM/Chevrolet in Van Nuys (called “Gemco” by SP) and also a Buick-Olds-Pontiac plant in South Gate; a Ford plant in Long Beach and a Lincoln-Mercury plant in what is now Commerce (Commerce didn’t become a city until 1960)Studebaker in Vernon; AMC/Nash in El Segundo; and Chrysler in Commerce.
     Bay Area: GM/Chevrolet in Melrose (Oakland); Ford in Richmond; Chrysler in San Leandro.
     Automobiles which were assembled at those plants were then shipped around the west, along with assembled cars coming from the east (mostly models of automobiles not assembled on the west coast). Thus there are two kinds of traffic: auto parts, much of it in specially equipped box cars; and finished automobiles, usually in double-door 50-foot cars. The loaded traffic, of course, is complemented and almost entirely balanced by empty equipment of the same type, moving in the opposite direction to return for reloading.
     Specially-equipped cars, usually with loading racks, were extensively used for this traffic. The presence in a car of loading racks, which may or may not make the car unsuitable for general merchandise traffic, is indicated by a white stripe on the door (on the right door of a double-door car), at about 1/3 of the door height. Cars, which contain racks, so designed that they are stowable, permitting use of the car for merchandise loading, carry AAR class designation beginning with “XM”, as in XMR.
     The car’s AAR class may also reflect fixed equipment, with such designations as XAP for auto parts. Most parts racks were not stowable. The 50-foot single-door cars were often in auto parts service. Typically the “stripe” (auto rack) cars, and any other cars in assigned service, are returned empty to origination point for reloading. Others are subject to confiscation for merchandise loading.  Note that some regular XM cars are also used for parts loading.
     West coast auto parts came primarily from the north-central Midwest area, along an arc from Buffalo to Milwaukee, centered on Detroit. Railroads along the service routing from these areas participated in car pooling, with each railroad contributing cars to the pool according to a formula, separately negotiated for each pool, which takes into account route miles, switching and terminal costs, and load origination and delivery revenues. Some traffic, however, was too light or variable to make a pool worthwhile, and originating railroads tended to provide the cars. 
     Shipments of auto parts typically moved on the Overland route to the Bay Area. For the Coast Line, this means Chicago-Detroit loads moving eastward (south), with empties in the reverse direction.  Loads bound to Los Angeles from the upper Midwest and Detroit tended to be routed through St. Louis for Cotton Belt’s “Motor Special” to LA, but sometimes also moved by the Golden State route. Some part inventories were also equalized between the GM and Ford plants in LA and the Bay Area.  
     The other side of the auto traffic is assembled or set-up cars. Most assembled automobiles delivered to the West Coast originated in Detroit and moved via Chicago onto the Overland route, or were shipped from St. Louis or Kansas City, and moved, respectively, over the Cotton Belt and Golden State routes, giving Coast Line loads in both directions. Cars assembled in LA or the Bay Area may also move in either direction for eventual delivery in various parts of the west.  This includes Ford automobiles assembled at Long Beach, served by ATSF, which were shipped in ATSF auto cars for Coast Line destinations.
     Those interested in this traffic may benefit from the Walthers book, America’s Driving Force: Modeling Railroads and the Automotive Industry, Walthers, Milwaukee, 1998. The book is out of print, but can usually be found at used book dealers on the Internet. It does not contain great detail about the 1950s, however.
      Modeling needs: this is almost all mainline traffic, not traffic on my branch line. The intent is to have  mostly 50-foot long cars, to reflect post-World War II practice, and (by AAR definition) double-door. Rather less than half should be designated auto parts, just because the bulk of AP traffic arrives directly in LA or the Bay Area. Many parts cars are lettered for appropriate originating roads (C&O, GTW, DT&I, NYC, PM, PRR, WAB) or from pool roads (ATSF, MP, NKP, RI, SSW, SP  and UP) for eastern traffic, as well as SP and ATSF cars for western traffic. 
     In addition, some regular XM cars are in parts service, while some “auto cars” (meaning double doors, in AAR parlance) are classified XM or XMR and can be used for merchandise. Cars designated XAP or XAR cannot be used for other than auto parts or automobile shipping assignment. Cars classed XML are largely PD cars or equivalent, and would probably be restricted to auto parts.
     Until more operation with symbol freights takes place, exact numbers needed cannot be identified, but preliminary planning includes 1 each C&O, GTW, NKP, MP, NYC, PM, PRR, RI, SSW, UP and WAB; 2 DT&I, 2 ATSF, and 5 SP. Total cars, 20. Probably an additional Cotton Belt car should be added to this list, possibly also C&NW. Most are 50-foot double-door cars, with a few 40-foot double-door cars and 50-foot single-door cars, all of which can be mixed in cuts of auto cars.
     Here are some of the models already in service, concentrating on the SP cars since this is mostly an SP blog. First, the old Athearn double-door car, with wrong numbers of both side panels and roof panels, but an “okay” stand-in for the time being. It’s been modified with a straight side sill and wood running board, and various detail upgrades (including removing the door “claws”). It represents Class A-50-12 with auto racks (AAR class XMR), thus the white door stripe. It will be restricted to my main line.

     Cotton Belt was an important partner for SP and T&NO in premium auto parts and automobile traffic. I have one such car on the layout, a Sunshine model of an XMR car.

     A correct SP car and one which is important for this service is the Class B-50-22 car for auto parts. Here’s the Proto2000 version, almost exactly accurate right out of the box. By AAR definition this is a box car, not an automobile car, but is part of the automobile traffic fleet. It carries AAR class XME (stowable parts racks).

     Finally, another car which is close to correct but has too-narrow side doors, the Red Caboose representation of Class A-50-13. I regard it as an acceptable stand-in but do plan to replace it eventually with the Sunshine resin version. This particular car is AAR class XMR, thus the white door stripe.

     If anything, I have too big a fleet of automobile and parts cars, but they will provide variety in my auto-traffic cuts in mainline trains. And there may occasionally be that delivery of a couple of sedans at the freight house for a local auto dealer . . .
Tony Thompson

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Choosing a model car fleet-3: stock cars

I have been devising what I call “car plans” by car type. Each plan lists the cars I already have of that type, including unbuilt models, and lists what may be needed as to road names or other additions. This helps identify models that should be sold or modified, as well as unfilled needs.
     In this post, I’ll talk about stock cars. It’s well known that stock could not be confined in a railroad car for more than 28 hours (36 hours if so requested in advance by the shipper) without being fed, watered and rested. [I have space on my livestock waybills to indicate whether the 36-hour rule was invoked.] “Rest” meant letting the animals out of the car, unless they had room to lie down in the car and could also receive feed and water in the car. The minimum time for rest was 5 hours. All this was federal law.
     These regulations meant that stock traffic was handled as expeditiously as possible, usually in the hottest manifest trains. But when animals were unloaded for rest, it was common to send any empty foreign cars homeward and reload into the home road’s cars. Of course if a home road car was not available, this could not be done. It was permissible to reload animals into the same cars, but fresh cars had to have fresh bedding, as did the cars spotted for initial loading. Cars were normally steam cleaned between runs, and shippers had the right to reject for loading any car which in their judgement was not clean.
     These background facts mean that on a railroad the size of the SP, foreign stock cars would not be common except for direct connections. Study of SP photographs in southern and central California has shown me the following foreign cars on line: ATSF, CB&Q, D&RGW, MKT, NP, T&NO, T&P, and UP. Of course T&NO is only formally a foreign road and its cars would be expected to be freely mixed with SP stock cars.
     My current stock car plan provides for one each ATSF, D&RGW, NP and T&P cars, along with three T&NO and three UP cars. I already have six SP cars and will add an NWP car. Stock cars in the 1950s were sometimes in surplus, and as observed in the “Equipment Instructions” document (described in my post “Modeling freight traffic: Coast Line, 1953-Part 4”, available at:, divisions were instructed to store surplus cars. I need to have an adequate stock track to accommodate a couple of cars stored there even if no inbound or outbound loads are in prospect. Here’s a photo of one of my SP cars, a Red Caboose Class S-40-5 car:

     Stock traffic on the Coast Line by the 1950s was not extensive, but did include both animals being moved to slaughterhouses, and inbound breeding stock. There was only limited traffic in animals being moved between seasonal pastures.
     A stock pen should have some size relation to expected shipments. Ordinarily about 25 cattle (typically weighing around 1000 pounds each) were loaded in a car, or 75 hogs in a single-deck car, or 240 sheep in a double-deck car. Needed pen capacity for these sizes of car loads is about 850 square feet per car. I am doubling the size of the pens in the old A.H.M stock pen kit to provide pens of this size. It’s easy to modify or scratchbuild pens with stripwood or styrene.
     Anyone interested in typical stock pen sizes and designs, with detail drawings of loading chutes and other details, may wish to look at Chapter 13 in John A. Droege’s book (Freight Terminals and Trains, McGraw-Hill, 1925; NMRA reprint, 1998). The chapter also contains detailed comments about stock handling by railroads.
Tony Thompson

Monday, February 7, 2011

Modeling meat reefers

One part of my freight car fleet which is seriously deficient is meat refrigerator cars, and I will need a few for inbound loads to the wholesale grocer warehouse on my layout. I am in the process of modifying some existing car bodies for this service, and also am looking forward to the release (maybe by summer) of the new Rapido meat cars. For more on these forthcoming cars and their paint schemes, visit
    In addition, there are the Atlas 36-foot reefers, which are an unusual car design with just four hinges per door instead of the usual six. Atlas has also chosen to decorate most of their offerings in the flamboyant schemes of the “billboard era,” but those schemes could not have survived past 1937 and thus, strictly speaking, cannot be operated on a 1953 layout like mine, which attempts to model its era correctly. [For a full discussion of the end of the billboard car era, see Richard H. Hendrickson and Edward S. Kaminski, Billboard Refrigerator Cars, Signature Press, 2008.] One of my projects is to replace a set of Atlas (working!) door hinges with six conventional hinges and, of course, suitably repaint and reletter.
     For my fleet, I want to model cars of the major meat packers. In the year I model, 1953, these were as follows:
Swift         4064 cars
Armour     3747 cars
Wilson      1469 cars
Cudahy     1097 cars
Rath           691 cars
Several other packer fleets are hard to research because they were embedded in the lease fleets of General American or GA’s subsidiary, Union Refrigerator. Others were simply very small, such as Morrell, with 186 cars in 1953.
     Although I’m not aware that there are good decals available for most of these, there are excellent Clover House dry transfers for all of them but Rath. I have purchased a number of Clover House sets to address the car owners listed above. You can download their catalog as a PDF at Clover House has a well-deserved reputation for emphasis on old-time car lettering, but their Private Owner section, beginning on page 43 of the catalog, does contain some 1950s meat reefer lettering. These include Armour, Cudahy, several 1930s-1950s Swift schemes (all yellow, yellow with red box, all red), and Wilson, and for more packers, URTX cars leased to Dubuque Packing and Oscar Mayer.
     Incidentally, if you’re placing an order with Clover House, don’t forget to include in your order some of their fine “graffiti” chalk markings (taken from prototype photos), as the dry transfer is an excellent way to add these markings after painting and weathering is complete. These are sets 9911-01 (white) and 9911-08 (yellow), shown on page 66 of the catalog. I highly recommend these sets. There is also a set of black markings, but such marks seem to have been rare.
     A comment on the size of the meat cars: the great majority were 37 feet long, although after World War II several of the companies did begin to add 40-foot cars to their fleets. Many of the commercially decorated model cars out there on the market, new and old, are 40-foot cars carrying the paint schemes of 37-foot cars. I prefer to avoid them unless the particular packer also had 40-foot cars (and, of course, unless the model decoration includes a car number in the 40-foot series for that fleet).
     Part of my meat car project involves the old models with one-piece plastic bodies, originally marketed by Varney, then by LifeLike (prior to the advent of Proto2000), and with molds modified in various ways over the years. Though detailing needs to be entirely upgraded, the 37-foot car body is not a bad starting point for meat cars. Here is a snapshot of one of these bodies, with the cast-on grab irons already sanded off in preparation for replacement (the sill steps also will be replaced). The model’s paint scheme, incidentally, does not correspond to any prototype I know about and will be stripped prior to painting.

     As my model projects progress, I will post photos of the modeling, with comments on the various prototypes and their paint schemes.
Tony Thompson

Friday, February 4, 2011

Waybills, Part 3

The development of a prototypical waybill for model use is an ongoing interest of mine. It all started with Bill Neale’s article in Model Railroader (“Plastic pocket car cards,” February 2009, pages 62–65), with his idea to use clear sleeves, intended for baseball-card collectors, to play the role of car cards. Waybills are simply inserted into the sleeves, which bear labels for individual cars. This meant that the waybills would be about the size of baseball cards, 2.5 x 3.5 inches, plenty of space for generous information (something I like) but small enough to fit in a shirt pocket and easy to handle. I thought Bill’s waybills were a little primitive, but the car sleeve idea really caught my imagination.
     The overall ideas I developed for better waybills were shown in my RMC article (“Prototypical Waybills for Car Card Operation,” Railroad Model Craftsman, December 2009, pages 71–77) and expanded in The Dispatcher’s Office (“Contents of a Waybill,” April 2010, pages 17–24), a corrected version of the latter article being provided on Google Docs, as linked in my previous post, “Waybills-2” of January 31, 2011 (see But the waybills shown in those two articles had some shortcomings.
     A major one was the lack of space for car routing, something I wanted to include, and also (as indicated in my post “Waybills” of December 9, 2010, available at:, those bills failed to maintain the vertical division between shipper and consignee information which is so characteristic of the prototype waybill. My December 9 post showed a blank waybill of my new design. Enzo Fortuna’s comment about routing, directed at my “Waybills-2” post, stimulated me to show some examples of filled-out waybills to illustrate how they work.
     I will start with a simple example, a carload of ballast which moves within the SP system. Thus routing is not complex, but the features of the new waybill are visible. This bill is filled out with the Bell Gothic typeface, quite similar to SP’s billing typewriters. At the bottom is a car label, which is on the clear sleeve, not on the waybill.

Here is a model GS gondola (a Detail Associates car) with this load:

     To show a more complex routing, here is a load coming from the eastern U.S. via Chicago. Junctions which were frequently used had common abbreviations, as here for Youngstown (YNGS), Blue Island (BI), Council Bluffs (CO BL) and Ogden (OG). The bill, of course, is a document of the originating railroad, P&LE, and has P&LE graphics at the top. It is filled out with the “Mom’s Typewriter” face, a good representation of slightly dirty typewriter keys (and available free at 

     The car in question is an SP car. Modelers often like to have incoming loads arrive in foreign cars, perhaps the home road of the shipper, but under the Car Service Rules, a home-road car for the destination is at least equally probable. That’s what I show in this case. The car (a Sunshine SP Class B-50-14) was photographed on my layout at Ballard prior to delivery.

     I’m happy with these revised waybills and think they do a better job of prototype appearance than my original ones, as first published. Operating experience with them is equally as good as with the prior version. Although it’s true that operating crews on my layout have no need whatsoever for this information, nor have they any need to know the shipper, I like to maintain this content in the waybill in deference to the prototype. Prototypical waybills were and are my goal for operation.
Tony Thompson