Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Waybills, Part 12: Car Service Rules

I am continuing to experiment with the waybill system for Otis McGee’s layout. I have given previous examples of what has been developed in posts entitled “Waybills,” from -9 through -11 (the last one is at:  http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/08/waybills-11.html). In that last one, -11, I described what I call “simple cycles” and “repetitive cycles.” In this post I want to describe more complex cycles and in particular, work toward a realistic yet practical means of dealing with box cars.
     Although box cars might be unloaded and sent homeward empty, they were free-running, which meant they could be confiscated by the host railroad and used for any suitable cargo. The intent was to reduce empty mileage on such cars and allow them to be loaded in many directions. The AAR Car Service Rules provided a guideline for choice of these cars, as summarized in the back of many issues of the Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER), in E.W. Coughlin’s fine book, Freight Car Distribution and Car Handling in the United States (AAR, 1956), and many other places. Here is a summary of those rules (click to enlarge):

The reference to districts is to “home territories,” in which a railroad would have facilities. Here’s the map:

     The result of this approach was that unlike privately owned cars or cars with special equipment or special assignment (tank cars carrying a specific cargo), box cars might well carry a wide variety of cargoes in both directions over a particular line. From the modeling viewpoint, this would mean that some box cars would move loaded in both directions on a layout, with origins and destinations of all the cargoes off the layout, rather than simply returning empty in one direction.
     Here’s one example of such a pair of loads, one northward (railroad east) and one southward (railroad west) on Otis’s layout. Note in the first instance that the Seaboard has properly loaded this UP box car to a destination in a home district:

This the second or westward load.

Thus on the layout, this box car will move loaded in both directions. As the base waybills are completed, it will be appropriate to add more waybills to the sleeve for this car (thus duplicating the “four-cycle waybill” approach) for variety. Here’s an example. Again, the SP has properly routed a UP box car to its home district.

Note that the car has an origin for this eastward move (on the Shasta Division) which is far from the previously-shown westward destination of Oakland, California, but all that matters is that the car moved westward to staging, and will return from staging in an eastward direction.
     Of course either a fourth westward load, or a westward Empty Car Bill, would be needed to balance this third loaded waybill, if a strict rotation of sequenced bills were to be followed. But another option is for the person conducting the layout re-set between operating sessions to choose either westward bill whenever the car needs to move that direction. There could even be more than four cycles in a sleeve to make this process more flexible.
     Another area of concern is open-top cars, which when loaded have visible loads (unlike house cars). Either the modeler glues loads to cars, and arranges waybills for these loads to serve in either direction (while “permanent” empties would likewise have Empty Car Bills to move them empty in both directions), or else one has removable loads, permitting the same car to operate loaded and empty. In the latter case, the inventory of removable loads at the staging locations has to be managed along with the waybills, but the approach certainly allows much more realistic car operation.
     I will present more about both the box car issues, and about open-top cars, in a future post.
Tony Thompson


  1. I've enjoyed the series on waybills but the last waybill on this page raises a question. As far as I know the UP did not get to Renton. The railroads serving Renton were the NP, Milwaukee Road and Pacific Coast. Of those, Boeing may have only been served by the NP. Since that last leg would have been a short distance from the UP is it not necessary to show such a transfer on a waybill?

  2. Jim, I relied on the OpSIG data base which shows that Boeing was served by NP, GN, UP, and Milwaukee. The entry is dated 1962. Do you have info that that may not have been true in 1953, when I model? Or is the data base wrong?
    Tony Thompson

  3. Just thought of an added comment: there may have been a reciprocal switching arrangement so that all four railroads were listed as "serving" Boeing, even though only a single railroad's tracks might have reached the plant. It would be interesting to know more.
    Tony Thompson

  4. The Milwaukee and UP met at Black River Jct in a wye. The Milw ran east through Renton and then there was a short Pacific Coast connection that ran north sort of towards Boeing, but only NP served Boeing directly. So if there was reciprocal switching (seems likely) I would guess UP ran on the Milw and PC up to a junction north of the Boeing plant, and then down the NP.

  5. Thanks for the clarification. I would definitely think this was a reciprocal switching arrangement. Would it be the same at Boeing Field? There were manufacturing activities there too.
    Tony Thompson

  6. This waybill caught my attention because (a) I lived in Seattle from 1956 to 1968 (minus two years in southern California during that period), (b) I visit there frequently to see family members, and (c) I worked for Boeing for eight years (and still do some consulting work for them) and am familiar with the Renton plant. From my knowledge of the area I didn’t recall the UP serving Renton. I also looked in my 1955 Official Guide and the only railroads listed for Renton were the NP, Milwaukee Road and Pacific Coast. That was the basis for my previous comment.

    Since then I’ve done a little more research and directed some inquiries to Seattle area railroaders. Here is a summary of what I’ve found and what I’ve been told by others:

    1. Renton was served by two railroads: the NP and the Pacific Coast (PC), which after 1951 was operated by the Great Northern. I’ve made a simple track diagram for Renton. It’s located here: http://coastdaylight.com/drawings/np_pc_renton.gif

    2. The NP line ran from Black River to Sumas, WA via Renton, the east side of Lake Washington, Woodinville and Snohomish. The Boeing plant in Renton was located just west of the NP track and was served by the NP.

    3. The PC had its own line from Black River to Renton, separate from the NP line. It continued on to Maple Valley and Black Diamond. The Milwaukee Road used the PC track between Maple Valley and Seattle but the track was owned and controlled by the PC (this differs somewhat from what Tim wrote). One ex-railroader said the PC might possibly have served the Boeing plant in Renton but only by using the NP line from Black River. The MILW had some limited switching rights in Renton but could not get to Boeing (see 5).

    4. The PC and NP lines crossed in downtown Renton. East of the crossing a PC branch turned north toward Lake Washington where there was a second crossing with the NP near the end of the PC track (a crossing, not a switch or turnout). This location was later called Scopa (probably for Scott Paper Co.; they had a log dump near the crossing). The major customer served by the PC in Renton was Pacific Car and Foundry.

    5. There was no connection between the NP and PC in Renton until the 1960s at the earliest when the NP quit using its own track between Black River and the Boeing Plant. A connection was made with the PC at Scopa by replacing the crossing with a switch and the NP began using the PC line from Scopa to Black River. Boeing was then on a spur (the former NP line) from Scopa. BNSF still uses the former PC track from Black River to deliver 737 fuselages to Boeing.

    6. The UP never served anything in Renton and did not go to Renton at all. Their closest track was at Black River. No one that responded to my inquiries indicated a reciprocal switching agreement existed to let the UP get to the Boeing plant. (Such an agreement would have required the UP to use the NP track from Black River since, as pointed out above, there was no connection with the PC at Scopa until the late 1960s at the earliest. Thus I would disagree with Tim’s suggestion of how the UP could get to Boeing via the PC-MILW.)

    All of this indicates that the waybill might need to say “SP-PORT-UP-SEA-NP.” Maybe that’s unnecessary since the NP part would be only a few miles. Another possible routing on the waybill could be “SP-PORT-NP” since SP connected to the NP in Portland. Maybe it would also need to be an NP boxcar to make your point.

    I’ll add a separate comment about the OpSIG database and Seattle destinations, including Boeing.

  7. I looked at the OpSIG database and found the location for Boeing listed as Seattle, but not Renton. Boeing had facilities in both locations (which are several miles apart) and in Seattle the listing of NP/GN/UP/MILW as the railroads serving Boeing is correct. In fact, many industries in the OpSIG database for Seattle list the four railroads. This is evidently because about 1920 the four Seattle railroads established seven ‘Zone Switching Arrangements.’ According to a 1922 article in Railway Age
    the NP, GN and UP (OWR&N) each switched two of the zones and the Milwaukee Road switched one (the Railway Age article is an interesting read). The multiple entries for NP/GN/UP/MILW in the OpSIG database may reflect these switching zones.

    Boeing’s aircraft assembly plants in Seattle were clustered along East Marginal Way South on the west side of Boeing field. The UP had (and still has) an industrial track that ran along this street and directly in front of most of the Boeing buildings, including its headquarters. It was part of one of the Zone Switching Arrangements so the OpSIG listing of NP/GN/UP/MILW would be accurate.

    I was also curious about the entry for Pacific Car and Foundry in the OpSIG database where it lists the location as Seattle and served by NP/GN/UP/MILW. Again this could be correct since PC&F possibly had a facility in one of the Seattle switching zones but their facility in Renton on the Pacific Coast Railroad (PC) was by far the largest.

    At least one known part of PC&F in Seattle was Kenworth Motor Truck Co., which they had purchased in 1945. However, Kenworth has its own entry in the OpSIG database with the location Seattle and the railroads NP/GN/UP/MILW. Kenworth was located on the same UP East Marginal Way South line as Boeing so would be in the same switching zone.

    I’ve found no indication that the ‘Zone Switching Arrangements’ applied to Renton. The Railway Age article lists only Seattle, Tacoma and Everett.

  8. I decided I should list my sources. I first looked at old messages in the NP TellTale Yahoo group, searching first on Renton then Scopa. Several individuals provided answers to specific inquiries: Ken Seacrest, Bill Sornsin, Dave Sprau and Jim Mattson. Sprau and Mattson are former railroaders (GN, NP) who both worked in Seattle and Renton at one time. Mattson mentioned the Zone Switching Arrangement. I googled 'Seattle Zone Switching Arrangement' and found the Railway Age article.

  9. Thanks for all the info, Jim. And apologies for the slow reply, as I'm in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the last several days.

    Obviously you're right about Seattle vs. Renton locations for Boeing, and I will indeed correct that waybill for Otis. As I said before, I wish we had detailed info like you've provided for LOTS of industries around the country.
    Tony Thompson

  10. Railroading around Seattle has always fascinated me so looking into the railroads in Renton was quite enjoyable. I forgot to mention one resource that was helpful and that was a BN station plat for the Renton area posted on the GN-NP Joint Archive. The plat can be viewed here:
    Although from the BN era it shows the (former) NP and PC tracks all the way over to the wyes at Black River (left side), both Boeing and PC&F - and Scopa in the upper right corner.