I have discussed a number of times in this blog my ideas about how to maximize both convenience and flexibility in a waybill system. You can search for specific parts of these topics using the search box just to the right of this paragraph, and with search terms including “waybills,” which is in the header for all the posts. You can also obtain the first 29 posts in this series in a PDF assembled by Mike White and available from a link on this blog post: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2013/02/waybills-27-collected-posts.html .
My most recent post about waybills explored the idea of “overlay” bills, and you can read it at this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2015/06/waybills-part-41-overlay-bills.html . These are an important part of my flexibility ideas. The core concept here is that in the transition era, there were many cars that can be termed “free running,” that is, they could be confiscated for loading on any road, not just on their owner’s or lessor’s rails. The primary group of this type was box cars, but many gondolas and flat cars were also free-runners. What that means on a layout is that a particular loaded car could arrive from almost anywhere in the country, and in turn could be reloaded outbound to almost anywhere (for the moment I ignore Car Service Rules, which I have also covered in prior blog posts).
If a person is using car cards and separate waybills (or car sleeves and separate waybills, as I practiced at one time), the movement of cars just described is easily reproduced. Any waybill can be put with any car card (even steel beams in a tank car, if you don’t pay attention), and flexibility is as complete as you could wish. But the problem with those systems is that the waybills are not particularly prototypical (though Jeff Aley and others have made advances in the right direction). If you want realistic waybills, and I recognize that not everyone does, you need a different system.
Several people have been developing various realistic systems in recent years. Dan Holbrook was really the pioneer here, as far as I know, and more recently Tony Koester, Ted Pamperin, and I have been among those trying to implement several refinements in these ideas. Here are a few of my current waybills, set alongside the corresponding freight cars on my layout, during an operating session.
Actually, I prefer that operators not “decorate” the layout like this, but I know that making this arrangement can be a big help in making sure all cars and bills match up and are accounted for.
The good news with “modern” waybill systems is that a very prototypical and realistic waybill can result, but the bad news is that it is for a particular car. If you wished to depict that same load arriving in a different car, you need an entire new waybill for the same load, but in that different car. In the old car card systems, only a single waybill for any given load was needed; in the realistic systems, you could need (in principle) as many waybills for that load as you have suitable cars, so that any one of your free-running cars could handle the load. If I roster, say, 100 box cars, you can see the dimensions of the problem.
That’s where overlay bills come in. They allow more flexibility, though not as much as in the car card systems. I commented on that in the post which is linked in the second paragraph, above. Here I want to talk about the patterns with which I use these. Since I have lots of PFE cars and lots of outbound perishable loads, overlay bills work very nicely with these cars and loads. I have also created a lot of overlay bills for outbound boxcar load, naturally all SP waybills like the perishables, and again, it gives me good flexibility. But there are still further issues to confront.
The first problem I have found with waybills tied to specific cars is to implement my system of car movement scheduling. Waybills are all very well by themselves, but which ones are chosen, at which times? Answering that calls for a schedule — though of course you can just pick and choose by eyeball if you wish. My system, which is a version of what is properly described as “demand-based car flow,” was described earlier (see this post: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/11/operations-demand-based-car-flow-2.html ), and I even devised an approach which can allow randomization of the sequence of waybills if desired (that post is at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/11/operations-demand-based-car-flow-3.html ).
My scheduling method gives me the needed waybills, by industry, for an upcoming session. If the waybills are filed by industry, these are quickly pulled from the file, and now the question is, where is the corresponding freight car stored? The answer, for this system, requires a master list of all car locations. Alternatively, if the waybills are filed by car reporting mark and number, there needs to be a list of waybills and associated car numbers (what I have called a “pairs list” in prior blog posts, such as this one: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/02/waybills-17-pairs-list.html ). Then the needed car would be found from a master location list. Either way, there has to be some paperwork by the layout owner so that cars and waybills can be found and put together. (Unless, of course, all cars can be accommodated in plain view on the layout. That is not my situation, having a considerable collection of cars stored in various places.)
Currently I am using a file box designed for baseball card collectors (logical, since I used baseball card sleeves for my waybills), and waybills are filed by industry or siding. You can see this below from the tabs in the file. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)
Some of the old “car sleeves” remain in this file, as you see by car type in the foreground area. But of course they are not part of the problem I’m discussing.
So far my efforts to marry the waybill file, shown above, with an incomplete “master roster” of all stored freight cars, is working all right, but that roster needs to be completed. At some point, I will likely publish another post to show how that works.