In this post, I want to call attention to a truly excellent series of articles about how railroads managed the movement of freight. They are by Eric L. Hiser, an attorney and expert on Santa Fe history. Professionally specializing in environmental and administrative law, Eric is, shall we say, skilled at reading and interpreting rules and regulations.
The entire series is running in The Dispatcher’s Office, the magazine of the NMRA Special Interest Group (SIG) on Operations, or OpSIG. Hard copy back issues are available, though only to members of the OpSIG (see their web page for the magazine at: http://www.opsig.org/doff/ ); the sales of electronic back issues is still being organized, so at this moment only print back issues can be purchased. If you’re at all interested in operations, you should already be an OpSIG member; if you’ve been putting off joining, now is your chance.
I list below the individual articles that have run so far. They are serious, draw upon Santa Fe documents in detail where appropriate, and often cite rules from ICC or AAR as applicable to each subject. Many of us know parts of this stuff, but I doubt anyone, including myself, knows anywhere near as much at the level of detail Eric provides in these articles.
“Transportation Function: An Introduction,” The Dispatcher’s Office, Vol. 24, No. 1, January 2018, page 12.
“Transportation Function 2: Car Ordering,” The Dispatcher’s Office, Vol. 24, No. 3, July 2018, page 28.
“Transportation Function 3: Freight Routing,” The Dispatcher’s Office, Vol. 24, No. 4, October 2018, page 16.
“Transportation Function 4: Carloading and Bills of Lading,” The Dispatcher’s Office, Vol. 25, No. 1, January 2019, page 6.
“Transportation Function 5: Bills of Lading,” The Dispatcher’s Office, Vol. 25, No. 2, April 2019, page 6.
“Transportation Function 6: Waybills,” The Dispatcher’s Office, Vol. 25, No. 3, July 2019, page 8.
“Transportation Function 7: Release of Loaded Car,” The Dispatcher’s Office, Vol. 26, No. 2, April 2020, page 20.
To illustrate some of the kinds of documents that are the background for Eric’s articles, there are many from the Santa Fe Railway Historical & Modeling Society’s extensive collection of Santa Fe forms and documents, but also included are a variety of AAR documents, such as this guide to handling Bills of Lading:
Another example of an individual railroad document, cited by Eric, is obviously part of a very large family of related Santa Fe publications on all the intricacies of handling freight movement paperwork, this one describing how movements were to be routed.
Eric, of course, does not reproduce the contents of these kinds of documents, only (very helpfully) summarizes what they say.
I have learned a great deal from Eric’s articles and I am sure that anyone other than a former railroad agent will have the same experience. They are a great resource and I strongly recommend them.