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


  1. Dear Tony and List,

    I feel bad in light of this very relevant information on freight cars and prototype operation that you are providing that "the class" has little to comment on or question.


    Please understand that all of this information is extremely relevant to my modeling and I am sure others on this blog feel the same way. I think the reason for little feedback is that many of us are years away from where you are with regard to a home layout. And to many of us, this is the first time that we are in benefit of most of this information. I am in a big time rolling stock push to complete my 1938 Daylight now, but I am saving all of this info for the future.

    The most relevant information I am benefiting from on this blog is regarding the proper “mix” and proportion of the various freight car categories in Coast Line freight trains. Like you I have way too many auto box cars and in my case it is because of the beautiful P2K 50’ single and double door box cars. I also love the look of double door 40 foot boxcars from Sunshine. And just because they are “home road” auto box cars does not justify having 3 to 5 of a certain type of boxcar.

    So I am hoping that feedback is not essential for you to continue providing this great source of freight car information. This blog is the first source of internet railroad information that I check out daily when I log onto the internet (the second is the Espee Yahoo List).


    Paul LaCiura
    Glendale, CA

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Paul. I'm glad that the information seems helpful, even if only for future modeling. My main purpose in starting the blog was to share information I've collected, and to describe how I'm implementing some of my ideas on my layout, so I'm gratified to hear that it's useful.
    Tony Thompson