Monday, March 27, 2017

Waybills, Part 58: more on managing bills

I was sent an interesting question following a prior post. Andy Love asked about how my newer waybills have affected the process I use to handle waybills. (You can read his comment at the end of an earlier post, at: .) I have touched on this point in prior blog posts but perhaps never presented the full description of how I do that work.
     Andy’s first question was whether I still use the same plastic sleeves (baseball-card collectors’ sleeves). I do, partly to protect bills in handling, because I do re-use them, but also to permit pairing loaded and empty (or loaded and loaded) paperwork in that sleeve. The sleeve also permits use of “overlay” or short bills. I discussed those at modest length in previous posts, starting with this one: . That basic idea has been extended in other posts, but perhaps most clearly here: .
     I do use these overlays often, especially for my outbound perishable loads, which all are moved on Southern Pacific waybills and thus have a common header. The overlays, among other things, allow me to consistently ship seasonally-correct produce in operating sessions (see for example: ). But the overlays do not “live” in the sleeve. Instead, they are stored by industry (more on that in a moment).
     Andy also asked if there are multiple waybills for each car. Certainly for some cars, there are, but others have essentially singular application (such as a Union Oil Company tank car delivering to a Union bulk dealer) and could not readily support two or more different waybills. Free-running box cars, of course, are almost the opposite, and could in principle have many, many waybills each, though I have not followed through to make anything like those kinds of quantities. But any multiple waybills are generally not stored together in a single sleeve for a car. Let me explain.
     My core waybill management is by industry. So any car with waybills to or from more than one industry needs to have those bills separated. That’s because my whole management of car flow within and between operating sessions is a demand system, as I’ve outlined previously (see for example this post: ). Accordingly, I file all waybills by industry in a single box (you can click on the photo to enlarge it).

     The town dividers are the bright magenta cards that you see above, with separate industries between them. The right half of the box is just materials storage. This box, incidentally, happens to be a file box designed for baseball cards. These are available from several suppliers; I use BCW (visit  them at: for more info; there are four pages of box listings). They call it a “Shoe Storage Box,” and it is indeed reminiscent of a shoe box. It also has a lid (not shown). Any overlay or short bills are also filed by industry.
     My key “finding aid” for these waybills is a computer list, also organized by town and then by industry, much as you see in the bill storage box above. I call it a “pairs list,” because it lists pairs of load origins and destinations. I attempted to explain this, and how it works, in a post some time back (you can read it at this link: ), The example shown in that post was for Otis McGee’s layout, for which I first developed the idea, and now I maintain such a list for my waybills as well as the one for his layout. Shown below are a few selected entries (not complete for any of the industries, but chosen to show examples only). Here again, you may click to enlarge.

Entries within each industry are in order by AAR car type, then by reporting marks. Note the overlay bills, listed as a “half” here.  The column of entries in parentheses lists the location of the original file for each waybill.
     This being an electronic list, it is quickly and easily searched, for example by car number, or by reporting mark if I want to find all cars of a particular ownership, or even by AAR car type if I want to find, say, all the covered hoppers (AAR type LO). I can then go to the physical file box and pull the desired waybill(s).
     Even this modest sample of my pairs list should answer Andy’s last question, whether there are multiple waybills to or from any particular industry. There certainly are! Some, like the packing houses, are predominantly outbound; others, like manufacturing businesses, may have a balance of inbound materials and outbound products; and a wholesale grocer, like my Peerless Foods, has only inbound loads (over 80 at last count).
     I know from inquiring at many visited layouts over the years, that every layout owner evolves a method of accomplishing car flow, managing car cards or waybills, and storing and retrieving the cars themselves from storage. What is described above is just one such approach, one that I’ve found to work for me.
Tony Thompson

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