Friday, October 28, 2011

Operations: role of the agent

In previous posts I have mentioned how a town agent functions in my waybill system. Just as in the prototype, a person acting as an agent at a model location has a number of responsibilities. As I mentioned in my post about Equipment Instructions, as part of modeling Coast Line freight traffic (see: ), agents had to know how empties would be handled, because they prepared the Empty Car Bills for movement of newly unloaded empty cars.
     They also prepared waybills for newly loaded cars, and handed both kinds of bills to the crew which would pick up those cars. And if there was an empty which could usefully be “confiscated” (as it is termed) for loading, instead of sent homeward by the reverse of its inbound route under load, the agent makes that decision and informs the crew.
     All these duties are included among the jobs described in my article in the October 2011 issue of The Dispatcher’s Office, the OpSIG magazine, and a corrected version of that article (to remedy errors which arose in the production process) is available via Google Docs, with a link in my post on this topic, at
     In modeling, the job of local agent is usually combined with that of operator, so that train orders or other operational paperwork can also be handled. But on many railroads, including the SP, jobs designated as agent-operator, that is, with combined duties, were rare. If an agent was needed at a station, normally it was because there were sufficient agent’s duties, and agents usually worked a daylight shift. Operators, on the other hand, if at a busy location, could well work all three shifts.
     On some layouts, the job of agent may also have duties such as selecting waybills to simulate shipper demand for cars, though in my system that is handled separately from any agent (and of course on the prototype, the shippers, not the agents, created demand). But the core duty is receiving waybills from crews who are delivering loaded cars, and providing waybills and Empty Car Bills for cars being picked up, and directions for car confiscation, if any.
     What if there is no space in the layout room for an agent at a town which would otherwise require one? The person acting as agent can, of course, show up only when a crew needs paperwork to be handled. But an alternative is the use of a “bill box.” This is a box, on the outside of the depot at many prototype locations, locked with a switch padlock. If no agent is on duty, the crew can open the bill box and acquire any paperwork left for them (along with messages which may be needed to direct their work), and on departure can leave behind any paperwork destined to the agent.
     In some ways this is both simpler and more realistic for model operations. Years ago, when I used the 3 x 5 car cards of the Doug Smith-Allen McClelland type, I had built clear plexiglass racks for car cards, which hung on the side of the layout like this:

This rack had “SPOTTED,” “HOLD,” and PULL slots, and at front were pickup and setout slots, and a holder for service slips, completed waybills, etc. But now with the use of a bill box, this can be eliminated. Today it looks like this:
Of course a filing system inside the box is still necessary to keep industries separate and so forth, but no rack intrudes into the aisle, and bills are out of sight.
     Both photos show the same town (now called Shumala), and there is a long shelf under the town for tools, soft drink cans, etc., which nicely accommodates the box. Formerly the rack was at the other end of the same shelf. When I operate a cycle of switching by myself (a wonderfully soothing process, by the way), I can use the paperwork system in the box, and if a visiting crew is doing the work, they too simply use the box if no one is designated as agent.
     Some of the details of how the agent’s job works will require discussion of my system of “demand-based” waybill flow, that is, how the waybills are selected in the first place, based on shipper demand. Posts on that subject are forthcoming. But this post summarizes the basic agent’s job as I see it.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Waybills, Part 14

In a previous post on this topic (Waybills-7), I described some tentative steps toward waybilling “through” cars, that is, cars which are moving from staging to staging and do not have any activity on the layout beyond movement in a through train. That post is visible at:
     The green “through” bills described in Waybills-7 are in fact in use, but I am beginning to replace them with true waybills, which carry off-layout origins and destinations. Some of the ideas for these have originated in the work done on Otis McGee’s waybills. Since his layout is heavily oriented toward bridge traffic, numerous waybills have been created (or are in the process of being created), and in many cases the loads represent cargo which may have moved over the Coast Line, and can thus be used as through bills on my own layout.
     Most of the shipper-consignee pairs being identified are derived from the OpSIG (Operations SIG of NMRA) database, which is available at their website,, under “Online Resources,” and then “Industry Database.” In addition, I am using the reprinted Shipper Guides for GN, RI, D&RGW, UP, Mopac, T&P and Milwaukee Road (some of their info is already entered in the OpSIG database). All these except the D&RGW are available through Rails Unlimited (website: ).
     As I’ve mentioned in connection with the waybills for Otis, it’s possible to operate cars in both directions loaded, or in both directions empty, just by choosing the paperwork for that car, in addition to the perhaps-obvious cycle in which a car is loaded one way, empty the other. (This of course only works for closed cars, as an open-top car is visibly either loaded or not.)
     For example, a waybill for a cargo such as can-closure machinery, from Consolidated Canning, Atlanta, Georgia, to Oregon Cherry Producers, Salem, Oregon, routed via the Southern to New Orleans, then via T&NO and SP, could well move via the Coast (as well as the Shasta Division), and could be used on either layout. Here is the original waybill for the Shasta Division:

Here is the corresponding bill for my layout, also as a through car, with a different type face used:

Both bills are of course Southern Railway in origin and the bill header reflects this. An important difference between the two is that the McGee bill specifies a particular car in which the load is carried. My bill can be assigned to any XM car for which I have a car sleeve.
     Here’s a perishable bill which represents through traffic on Otis’s layout, again with a specific car identified in the waybill for the “car-card-free” system Otis is adopting, and one which could readily be re-made for the system on my layout.

     As another example, I have the Adam-Hill Company, a South San Francisco distributor of mechanical power transmission parts, along with bearings, hoses, tubing and fittings. In the 1950s, Adam-Hill received some of its material by rail. Among their long-time suppliers is Warner Electric Brake Company, located in South Beloit, Illinois (near the Wisconsin border), on the Milwaukee Road. Shipments directly west on the Milwaukee through the Pacific Northwest might well come southward on the Shasta Division  (a through load for Otis) or might move via St. Louis to unload a partial shipment at Los Angeles (a through load for me). Another possibility might be Union Gear & Sprocket in Pawtucket, Rhode Island on the New Haven, another long-time Adam-Hill supplier.
     Here is a Milwaukee Road waybill of a Warner load for Otis:

These examples should suffice to indicate the kinds of waybills being created at present for through cars.
     I am still exploring ways to make Otis’s through waybills more flexible, because they can in principle be applied (and in my view should be applied) to multiple cars on the layout. I will probably simply reprint some waybills several times, each with a different box car number on it, and we will see how that works in operating sessions.
Tony Thompson

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meeting highlights, Lisle

The Railroad Prototype Modelers meeting, hosted for 16 years by Martin and Patricia Lofton (of Sunshine Models) at the Holiday Inn in Naperville, Illinois, changed hosts last year, to Joe D’Elia of A-line Products. That hotel then closed for complete renovation, and this year’s meeting, the 18th, was at the Hickory Ridge Marriott Hotel in Lisle, Illinois, a town adjoining Naperville. It appears likely that next year we will be back at the previous location, with the hotel now becoming a Marriott.
     This year’s meeting was very good, in my estimation (I believe I have attended all but three of these meetings). The vendor rooms were generously sized and there were a great many vendors, with many chances to have a look at products not in every hobby shop--and of course to purchase the irresistible ones. The display room was large enough for perhaps two dozen display tables (I didn’t count them), containing hundreds of outstanding models, and two large modular layouts. But as always, a major part of the meeting is the clinic program.
     This year, there were four parallel clinic tracks, in four rooms. There were six time slots on Thursday and Saturday, seven on Friday, making 76 clinic slots in all. Most talks were given twice, so this means at least 38 different talks. I won’t attempt to describe them all, or even all the ones I attended, but will indicate several that I thought were outstanding.
     Steve Hile gave a fine talk about the Bettendorf Company, its founders and its history, as well as what survives today. Clark Propst gave one of those presentations I’d like to see for many railroads: “M&StL Freight Cars You Should Build.” He showed a lot of models and how to create them. Jack Burgess, dependably an outstanding speaker, talked about tools for model building. Of course we all own a certain number of tools, but believe me, Jack is in a somewhat different league when it comes to serious tools and clever ways to use them. Martin Lofton talked about box cars which had been converted from automobile cars, and yes, as he freely admitted, it was a promo for several of his Sunshine kits, but well presented and informative.
     I always like to hear updates from our fine freight car modelers, on what they are doing recently (Clark’s talk was in that direction), and so I enjoyed Mont Switzer’s presentation on his recent projects, and Dick Harley’s clinic on modeling PFE mechanical reefers. An excellent slice of freight car history was contained in Ed Hawkins’ talk on Bethlehem 70-ton drop-end gondolas, which of course is in written form in the new Railroad Prototype Cyclopedia issue no. 23, but it was intriguing to see the entire thing as an oral presentation. Both Richard Hendrickson and Andy Sperandeo gave fine talks about making “ready to run” models really ready to run, involving correction of minor detail parts and trucks, and particularly weathering and addition of such details as chalk marks and reweigh and repacking dates.
     I’m saving for last the talks that were the most intriguing for me, with my recent explorations of waybills for model layouts. Perry Sugarman gave a really thought-provoking clinic on “Prototypical Car Movements with Realistic Documents,” showing his computer technique, using Microsoft Access, to handle paperwork for Dan Holbrook’s large layout. You can in fact download the slides from Perry’s talk at his website, at: but be aware that it’s a big file and will take a little time to download. From his home page you need to click on “Trains” and then on “Waybills,” then at the top of page, click on “RpmLisle2011” and finally on “Car Cards.”
     The other talk I especially valued was Dan Holbrook’s talk on “Car Service Rules 1940-1960.” (It too is available on Perry’s website; follow the directions above but when you get to the “RpmLisle2011” page click instead on “Car Service Rules.”) Dan is still working as a BNSF Yardmaster and has worked for the railroad since the early 1970s, so with that wealth of experience, you really have to listen to what he says; theory it’s not. This was a great summary of all the Car Service aspects most of us understand only dimly. Hopefully my grasp is now a little less dim.
     There were numerous other talks, but several were ones I had heard before, so did not sit in again. My own presentations were on “Improving Waybills: Adapting Prototype Paperwork,” aspects of which have been posted in this blog, and a joint talk with Richard Hendrickson on “Weathering Freight Cars.” Our handout is really only a summary of tools and materials, but it’s available at this link:
     Another aspect of the meeting was the “Friends of the Freight Car” activities, both in selling the new shirts and in the dinner that was held at the hotel, but that is summarized separately, at: .
     Last but not least, this meeting, along with the January meeting at Cocoa Beach, Florida, is a great chance to meet modelers from all over the country, some of whose names you will know from the Internet but can now put a face with the name--and of course get a chance to chat. And many old acquaintanceships can be renewed, always a pleasure.
     I greatly enjoyed many of the talks I heard, along with the excellent vendor rooms, the fellowship, and the superb modeling display, and would (as usual) rate this meeting as high as any I attend in a year. If you have never been to a Naperville meeting, think about it next year. I’m sure you will be impressed with the experience.
Tony Thompson

Friends of the Freight Car, Part 2

My previous post describing what the Friends of the Freight Car represents, and how it came about, had a full history of the shirts. Here’s a link:
     I should mention another piece of the FOTFC history, which I failed to include in the previous post. After that initial dinner in 1990, a group photo was published in Railmodel Journal (November 1990, page 4). The editor, Bob Schleicher, was at the dinner and included in the photo caption not only the identities of everyone in the photo, but also listed the invitees who had not been able to attend, something I should have done in my original post. Here they are: John Armstrong, Scott Chatfield, Jim Eager, Martin Lofton, Terry Stuart, and Mont Switzer.
     Another iteration of the Friends of the Freight Car dinner was held at the Lisle, Illinois meeting on the evening of Thursday, October 20. It took place in the Marriott hotel at which we met, and Richard Hendrickson acted as MC. After dinner, Bill Schneider of Rapido was the dinner speaker. He gave us some background and insight into Rapido as a company, and talked about the production process for models, including freight cars. It was a very good after-dinner talk, in that it wasn’t too intense and had some humor from place to place. And for those not aware of how model production is conducted in China, it was a very interesting description of the problems and benefits of that process.
     Richard and I, as ongoing hosts of the FOTFC dinner in a variety of previous venues, felt that this one went very well. We had a good meal from the hotel, the speaker was quite effective, and best of all, we didn’t have to organize the meal itself or deal with finances. Those aspects were handled as part of the overall convention by Joe D’Elia, and everything worked very smoothly. We are certainly open to future dinners in this mode.
     Present plans are to have an even less-formal meal at the Cocoa Beach meeting in January, likely a buffet lunch at the hotel. As in the original idea of these meals, it is really intended to be a socializing occasion for freight car enthusiasts, both experienced and novice, and there is no agenda beyond that. The limited time span available to eat lunch means that we will not have a speaker or any other formalities.
     I welcome the revival of these get-togethers for those of us who concentrate on freight cars in our modeling.
Tony Thompson

Weathering clinic handout

At the just-concluded Lisle meeting, Richard Hendrickson and I did a joint clinic on weathering of freight cars. I talked for 30 minutes about my acrylic washes and related methods, and Richard spoke for the same time span about mostly airbrushing, but with added comments about his use of pencils, washes and chalks. I will probably post some of the content of my part of this presentation on this blog, but the immediate point is that we ran out of handouts, so I will post it here.
     This handout is only intended to provide a brief summary of some materials and methods, obviously not a complete description, but it does provide a “takeaway” for those who saw the talk. We will also be doing it at Cocoa Beach in January, or so I understand, so there will be another chance to see it for those interested.
     Here is the link to the document:

     I will also post some comments about the rest of the Lisle meeting in the near future.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Friends of the Freight Car

I was asked recently to describe what the “Friends of the Freight Car” is, or isn’t. The well-known polo shirts with this legend on them are certainly the best-known aspect of it. The story is fairly simple. I was the Clinic chair at the 1990 NMRA National Convention in Pittsburgh, where I lived at the time, and decided to invite practically everyone who had been active in publishing about freight car modeling, as part of the clinic program.
     This was before the Internet was a significant means of communication, so “publishing” really was all one could go on. I sent letters to those I knew and those I’d only heard of or knew by reputation. In the event, nearly everyone who was invited did come to the convention. The talks they gave fit well into the theme of that convention, “Learning from the Prototype,” which our committee intended partly as a reaction against so many NMRA conventions which had been almost of an opposite theme.
     I wanted to do something to get us all together socially, so my wife and I hosted a barbecue at our house that August, for all these freight-car experts who were in town, and at the last minute I had the idea to call it the “Friends of the Freight Car” dinner, and also to get polo shirts made with that legend on them. Time was short, and I couldn’t get the boxcar-red colored shirt I wanted, so settled for orange.
     Many of us at the barbecue put on our new shirts and posed for a photo. Several cameras photographed the group; here is the photo taken by Patricia Westerfield, whose generosity in sharing this image is much appreciated.

Here are the names of those shown: front row, left to right, standing: Larry Kline, Jeff English; kneeling, Todd Sullivan, Al Westerfield, Stafford Swain, and me. Middle row, left to right: Bob Schleicher, Byron Rose, Richard Hendrickson, Richard Yaremko, Chris Barkan, Jack Burgess, and Frank Peacock. Back row, left to right: Keith Jordan, Staffan Ehnbom and Johnny Johnson.
     The outlined freight car on the shirt was a steel box car, incidentally a Pennsylvania X29 car, mostly because a suitable drawing could be found quickly. But it was surprising how few could identify it from the drawing alone. Here’s what it looked like:

     These shirts had been bought as part of the convention budget, as a thank-you gift to these clinicians, and nearly all were given away for that purpose. But others saw them being worn at various meetings and asked if more could be made. Richard Hendrickson and I had been organizing more “Friends of the Freight Car” dinners at the meetings we attended, and decided to go ahead with another shirt. This was a bright yellow shirt, with a refrigerator car as the freight car. It looked like this (you can see that the printing wasn’t applied exactly flat onto the shirt--most shirt logos in this batch looked like this).

It was introduced in 1996 at the NMRA National Convention in Long Beach, California, since we had one of the Freight Car dinners at that meeting. This time we sold the shirts, essentially at cost.
     There were 100 of the yellow shirts produced, and the ones not sold at Long Beach were sold out at the Naperville meeting that fall. Richard and I thought that they would slake the demand. But before long, once again people were asking how to get one of the “FOTFC” shirts. We decided to do one more. This time, it was a black shirt with a tank car on it, and we introduced it in 2000 at the San Jose NMRA National Convention, again because we could sell them at the FOTFC dinner.

Like all the logos, it was applied to the shirt on the side opposite the pocket. This third shirt took awhile (several meetings) to sell out completely, so Richard and I decided we were out of the shirt business. Below is a photo of me wearing one of the black shirts, so you can see the logo location and relative size.

     Ever since, we have heard regularly from people who either never got one of the shirts and wanted one, or folks who had worn out (or possibly outgrown) one or more of the earlier shirts and wanted a new one. After stalling for several years, this year we decided to go ahead and produce one. The color chosen is red, and the freight car on the shirt is a gondola. They will be sold at this year’s Lisle (neĆ© Naperville) meeting, October 20-23, at the registration desk according to current plans. The logo is like the earlier ones.

     Is this entire story just about shirts? Well, pretty nearly. The FOTFC dinners got bigger and bigger, and harder to manage financially, so we stopped doing them a few years ago. The Lisle meeting will have such a dinner, though, this time managed by the convention organizers, not by Richard and me. We will see how it goes. But the real point is that anyone who likes to model freight cars (and study the prototypes) qualifies as a Friend of the Freight Car.
Tony Thompson

Friday, October 14, 2011

Modeling details, SP cabooses, 1953: Part 2

An earlier post about SP cabooses concentrated on the very numerous wood cabooses of Class C-30-1. (That post can be viewed with this link: .) The C-30-1 cars dominate my model fleet for 1953, as they did the real SP fleet in that same year. But there were also steel cabooses, both cupola and bay-window types, and in this post I want to say a little about those.
     In 1937, SP built 50 steel cupola cabooses in its own shops at Los Angeles, the first all-steel production cars (there had been a single experimental conversion of a Class C-30-1 car to an all-steel body, but it was not repeated). The new cars were assigned to Class C-40-1, and they were numbered from 1000 to 1049, the first SP cabooses with four-digit numbers. They were followed by Class C-40-3, also built at LA Shops, during 1940-1942. This was an almost identical car to C-40-1, and a much larger class, 185 cars, numbered from 1050 to 1234.
     Included in the latter class were a number of cars for T&NO, also in need of new cabooses at the time. Those cars were T&NO 400-429.
     After World War II, SP decided to adopt the bay-window style of caboose, and built no more cupola cars. The first 50 bay-window cars were purchased from American Car & Foundry, Class C-30-4, in 1947, numbered SP 1235-1269 and T&NO 500-514. They were distinguished by a smooth external roof surface. They were followed by two home-built classes, C-30-5 and C-30-6, 130 cars built by SP at the Los Angeles shops in 1949 and 1951. (Thirty of the cars were for T&NO.) Both these later classes had diagonal-panel roofs.
     As with the prior post on the C-30-1 wood cabooses, there is much more history for both the SP and T&NO cars in my book, Volume 2 in the Southern Pacific Freight Cars series, entitled Cabooses (Signature Press, 2002). The coverage there includes plenty of photos of each class.
     Here’s a model photo of a Class C-40-3 car, in this case a Precision Scale brass model (the new WrightTRAK resin kit makes a superb version of this class too).

Note the same white safety handrails (a 1948 paint standard), as described in my previous post on cabooses, are on this model. These steel cupola cars, though far less numerous than the wood cars of Class C-30-1, are nevertheless an important part of the caboose fleet. This model still needs marker lights.
     For the bay-window cars, it has to be remembered that the cars of classes C-30-4 and C-30-5 were all delivered with vermillion (bright red) ends. This was probably an experiment for visibility purposes, though I have not found any SP documents so stating. Though color images of this end treatment are rare, black and white photos clearly show the color difference. But here is one useful color photo, taken in March 1953 at what is pretty obviously the lower yard in Dunsmuir.

This color is very striking, and naturally I had to add this end color to a model:

Here again, the white handrails are an important part of the appearance. This is a Class C-30-4 car, with its distinctive roof, in brass from Precision Scale. Marker lights remain to be added.
     The red ends often lead to questions about the later orange ends. Here’s a capsule summary. The 1947 and 1949 cars were delivered with red ends, but no other cabooses seem to have received this end color. In March 1954, SP set out to test whether aluminum ends might be a good visibility paint, and that color was to be compared to the red already in service. Each division was to paint two cabooses with aluminum ends and observe performance. By that fall, it began to be concluded that aluminum was really not much better (think of it in a snowy environment), but then the suggestion was made to try Daylight Orange. It was a success. In October 1955, the orange was made standard and cabooses system-wide began to receive that new color. But of course that’s well beyond my 1953 modeling date, so I have to be content with red ends, though I have always thought the orange looks terrific.
     To sum up, most of my cabooses are wood cars of Class C-30-1. But I do have some steel cupola cars and two bay-window cars. They typify the variety present on the SP in 1953.
Tony Thompson

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Waybills , Part 12: update

In my earlier post about waybill design and use (“Waybills-12,” which can be viewed at ), I included a waybill with erroneous information on it. Thanks to Jim Lancaster, who worked at Boeing and knows the area (and who commented helpfully on that post), I’ve corrected that waybill. Here is how it looks now:

The parts delivery is now via Northern Pacific, the railroad which actually did serve the Boeing plant in Renton.
     The correction of this single waybill may seem fairly trivial in the greater scheme of things, particularly for a single layout. But the information provided by Jim shows that in many cases, it can be difficult to use existing information (such as the OpSIG data base) or to find new information, and get it entirely right. The OpSIG database is an excellent starting point; so are shipper guides for the railroads, when they can be located (or if they are reprinted). Double-checking whether businesses were operating at the time you model is always wise, too. Both shipper guides and the OpSIG entries are for specific years. The history of larger businesses can be Googled; smaller ones can often be traced through library collections of telephone books. Of course, the area you model may not be near your home, and it might be necessary to travel to a town or city near the modeled area to find a good phone book collection.
     Individuals who know the area you model, and its history, are a good source too, as Jim showed in his responses to my original post. But be aware that Jim is very conscientious about information, which cannot be said about everyone you might talk to. This is definitely a situation where double-checking verbal information is a good idea.
     I have had the experience of interviewing retired railroad people, and though they are irreplaceable as sources of how and why things were done, they are typically not very reliable on facts and dates. This is not a criticism of railroaders; a historian colleague of mine said that I should expect “95 percent of factual data in oral interviews” will be wrong. Of course, it may not be as high as 95 percent in every case, but the warning is sound: be careful with facts in oral histories.
     All these worries about accuracy, you may be thinking, are readily avoided if one simply invents waybill information, or else just uses what comes to hand, without worrying if it is correct for a specific year. Of course those are options we all have. In my own case, I certainly have imaginary model industries, mostly my on-layout ones, but whenever I can, I like to use real ones. Just my personal preference, and something that often adds that “texture of realism” to waybills. My view is that in modeling, we need to insert as much realism as we can, given that so much selective compression and other compromises are unavoidable.
Tony Thompson

Monday, October 3, 2011

Waybills, Part 13

The exercise (from my point of view) of creating a waybill system for Otis McGee’s layout has been interesting for several reasons. First, it’s a different shape of waybill, as I observed in my first post on the topic (Waybills-9), so I had the opportunity to see how I might rearrange and re-space the prototype waybill elements. Second, it’s a waybill with car initial and number included (just like the prototype), thus avoiding the creation of “car sleeves” carrying that information. I made both these points in my first post about this new waybill format (at:
     But perhaps the most interesting aspect is that the mental process of deciding which  bills to make, and what they should contain, is entirely different. With this new system, the thought process is centered on cars: what they can reasonably contain, and of course constraining their movements so that they plausibly travel on the Shasta Division. Among other things, this means that use of the AAR mechanical designations for cars is almost irrelevant, because the process of matching cars to loads begins with the car itself, and loads are naturally matched to the car. Probably the main use of the AAR class in this system is to help find the car in a yard or train (I’m looking for a gondola, etc.).
     In the system I use on my layout, which does have car sleeves with car initials and numbers (see, for example, the post at: ), the process is industry-centered: what loads would go in and out of a particular facility, including what AAR class of car would be needed. This information is on the waybill, and in matching up waybills to available cars (which have the AAR classes on the sleeve), obviously AAR class can be and should be matched.
     Car service rules come into play about equally in both systems, primarily at the level of resetting the layout for a future operating session on my layout, but entirely in the waybill creation process for Otis’s waybills.
     The end result for my layout is that I have a considerable pool of waybills for each industry, thereby providing variety and also minimizing any recognition of repetition. With the much larger freight car fleet which Otis has, and the far smaller number of switching locations (the Shasta Division is in many ways primarily a bridge route in the area Otis models), avoiding the recognition of repetition relies on the sheer size of the car fleet, and on the fact that a large majority of the freight cars are mundane boxcar red without eye-catching lettering. As Tony Koester is fond of saying, if the freight cars are pedestrian in appearance, operators can’t remember them individually and won’t notice a certain amount of repetition.
     To say it another way, I have more waybills than cars on my layout, by a big margin, and since layout operations are heavily oriented to switching, the variety of waybills is essential. On Otis’s layout, there are not many more waybills than cars (though I hope to enlarge that ratio over time), and there is less switching of individual cars, so variety comes from the size of the pool of freight cars which move over the layout.
     Of course Otis’s cars also have Empty Car Bills in addition to waybills, and these have to be chosen so they move the cars in the opposite direction to what the waybills direct (or form a triangular or more complex pattern of car movement, when multiple bills are used). I’ve thought about using “overlay” or short bills to see if a demand system for consuming empties could work. More on that later if it seems to prove practical.
     A point worth emphasizing is that all waybills and Empty Car Bills in both systems are “single purpose” paperwork, that is, they are one-sided items. A different bill needs to be brought forward in the plastic sleeve for each new car movement.
     One thing I am gaining from working on the waybills for Otis is information about through loads, that is, loads which move from staging to staging without interruption. I had not worried much about this for my layout, but now can see ways in which I can make my through cars have more varied and interesting waybills in their own right. That’s where the focus on car movement pays off.
     The advantage of confronting an entirely different layout approach to waybills is, as I’m stating, that one can appreciate different ways of thinking about the process. This can happen when operating as a guest on someone’s layout, but in that situation one ordinarily only “goes with the flow” for that layout, without necessarily understanding the ideas behind that flow. In my situation, thinking about two quite different layouts, the need to create the waybills in a different system from my own affords a much more intimate view of the reasoning behind each system.
Tony Thompson

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The content of waybills, Part 2

In my previous post on the “working” content of waybills, by which I mean shippers, consignees, and cargoes (see: ), I described some general approaches to research on these matters. In this post I give some specific examples.
     For a simple case, consider an example from the Shasta Division layout of Otis McGee. The layout includes an interchange at Mt. Shasta City with the McCloud River Railroad (MCR), which served a considerable timber harvesting area on the southern and eastern flanks of Mt. Shasta, along with sawmills in that area. Obviously, then, lumber loads should arrive at this interchange point from the MCR. From what shippers and locations did these loads originate?
     A helpful web site for this topic is the series about MCR history on Trainweb, specifically (for Otis’s modeled year of 1952) the page for 1940-1963, available at: . There we learn that the Red River Lumber Company, with a sawmill at Westwood, sold out to Fruit Growers Supply Company (FGSC) in 1944.  A part of the Sunkist family, FGSC primarily produced box shook for citrus shipping boxes, with their main mill being located at Hilt on the Siskiyou line of the SP. After 1944, FGSC also produced shook at the Westwood mill, so that is one producer on the McCloud we can use.
     (You may ask, how did I find this useful page of railroad history? I simply used Google and requested “McCloud railroad history.” For many, many things--though not all things--this kind of simple approach will yield helpful resources.)
     The other producer in the area was of course the McCloud River Lumber Company, owner of the railroad since the 1890s, and operating a very large sawmill at McCloud, which is a short distance from Mt. Shasta City. All that would end in 1963, when U.S. Plywood bought out McCloud River Lumber and ceased hauling logs by rail to McCloud, but for a 1952 modeler, that’s far off in the future. So there are at least two major lumber shippers on the McCloud in 1952, FGSC and McCloud River Lumber.
     Now the need would be for prototype paperwork of the McCloud, so that realistic waybills or other documents could be prepared. I was able to borrow from John Signor a pad of MCR switch lists, and Jeff Moore, who is near to completing a history of the McCloud, sent me a 1950-era waybill. Here’s a blank waybill in the format of the 2 inch by 4 inch bills for Otis’s layout.

The AAR number code for MCR, 466, was interestingly retained when the more recent railroad, simply named McCloud Railway Company, came along.
     Lastly, we need consignees for the lumber loads. In 1952, the building boom in southern California was in full swing, so that’s one logical destination. I’m still assembling a list of lumber receivers in that area (more on this in a moment), but one large building materials supply company was the Ward Lumber Company of Fullerton, California. Accordingly, here is a sample waybill using the information generated here:

     As I mentioned in the previous post on this topic, a strong source for both shipper and consignee information is the OpSIG database collection, and certainly many possible consignees can be identified therein. The example just given was based on recollections of someone active in the lumber business in California decades ago, but here is a second waybill, using a 1950 entry in the “West” file from OpSIG:

Also note that this waybill is from McCloud River Lumber, not FGSC. On the layout, its car will show up on the McCloud River interchange track at Mt. Shasta, to move westward (railroad direction) on the SP. Both of these waybills, incidentally, are for 40-foot double-door box cars, as would be normal for finished lumber loads. Most lumber shipped on flat cars was rough lumber.
     Another source of information on shippers and receivers is track charts, either the diagrammatic kind or scale drawings of track layouts at stations. For SP, a number of these have been shown in the SP Historical and Technical Society magazine, Trainline, for example an article on the Oakdale branch in Trainline issue 104 (Summer 2010). Shown at Oakdale (pages 16 and 17 in that magazine) is the plant of Hunt Wesson Foods, a shipper of canned foods. On that same chart is a receiver of lumber shipments, Diamond National Lumber. Either could be used for waybills. I have examined some of the station track drawings at the California State Railroad Museum for this purpose also.
     A third source is period telephone books, collections of which are in many city and town libraries. The business section, or the Yellow Pages, can be a rich source of local businesses. In general, more information would be needed to determine if they actually had sidings and were rail-served, but many businesses received shipments at the local depot’s freight platform or team track.
     It is of course not really required to use actual businesses as shippers and consignees. One can construct plausible names by free use of regional or local geographic names. In Seattle, for example, a business might be named for the county (King County), for nearby geographic features (Cascade Range, Olympic Mountains, Lake Union, Elliott Bay, Puget Sound), or for the region (Pacific, Pacific Coast, Northwest, Mt. Rainier, Columbia River), and of course for city neighborhoods (Queen Anne, Wallingford, Delridge, Ballard) or nearby towns. These kinds of names can also be readily discovered in business directories or Yellow Pages if you are not familiar with a particular area or can’t find a good map.
     Not every business bears a strongly local name. Beyond the kinds of regional and local names just described, one sees broader examples (Western, Eastern, Northern, Southern, etc.), and also the generic names used for many businesses (Acme, Allied, Amalgamated, Consolidated, General, Merchant, National, Paragon, United, Wholesale, etc.). But I still like to use actual names when I can find them.
     To me, creating plausible shipping information on model waybills is definitely part of the fun in model railroad operation.
Tony Thompson