Saturday, August 28, 2021

Waybills, Part 88: temporary waybills

 Ordinarily, a loaded freight car ready for pickup by a switch crew would have its full waybill ready to go with it, typed by the agent. In fact, the waybill was required for pickup — usually. But on some occasions, a hot shipment might need to move immediately, while the waybill was held up for some reason. 

Most railroads dealt with this situation by having a particular form, called a “loaded car card” (example below) or “interim bill” or “temporary car slip” or something similar, so that the car could begin its journey. The waybill might then be prepared the following morning, and would catch up later. 

A second reason why a waybill might not be available immediately is if the shipper were located at a station with no agent on duty. The temporary waybill then allows the conductor to pick up that car. The Bill of Lading then must be transmitted to a station with an agent for waybill preparation, likely a nearby station.

Below is an example from the Northern Pacific, and it is 9 inches tall and 4 inches wide: just what will comfortably fit in a stack of 8.5 x 11-inch waybills folded in half the long way. This original form was given to me by Gary Wildung, and I have briefly described it previously (see the post at this link: ).

Use of such bills was certainly intended not to be frequent. Among the indications of that are the instructions printed right on the card, suggesting that conductors might not be familiar with this procedure. Let’s look more closely at them (I also showed these instructions in the post cited above). 

In the full card, above, there are nine instructions. For our purposes, there are really four important ones, shown below. They are largely self-explanatory. You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.

Note a couple of things in particular. First of all, the second instruction makes clear that this is an on-line bill only. It cannot served beyond the rails of the issuing road, just like an Empty Car Bill. And secondly, the idea is for the full and complete regular waybill to be sent by passenger train, to catch up with the loaded car at or before it reaches the destination point filled out on the slip.

In the very interesting volume, The Station Agent’s Blue Book (by O.D. Kirkpatrick, Kirkpatrick Publishing, Chicago, 1928), this kind of document is called a “Card Waybill,” in the chapter entitled “The Freight Waybill.” Little is said about it, however, and perhaps in that era it was not much used. 

But as already noted, the NP example above, dated 1950, clearly explains the usage, and Southern Pacific’s Circular 39-1, “Instructions to Station Agents,” contains extensive coverage of such waybills.

[Incidentally, I might mention that I posted a series of what I found to be quite informative descriptions of SP practices, taken from the “Instructions to Station Agents.” You can use that title as the search term in the search box at the top right of the first page in the present post. But none of those five posts were about these particular waybills.]

Southern Pacific called these waybills “conductor’s memorandum waybills,” which were standardized as Form 704. (My previous posts from Circular 39-1 mentioned several different waybills with 700-series numbers.) Directions for the use of Form 704 make clear that it was used in nearly exactly the same way as the NP form shown above. 

The directions in Circular 39-1 for using form 704 waybills are contained in rules 1103 to 1117, most of the rules dealing with details of accounting. But here are the main directions of interest, which you will note are quite similar to those of the NP form above (again, click to enlarge). 

The emphasis in the text above is on “non-agency” stations, meaning stations at which no agent is on duty.  Obviously with no agent available, there would be no one to prepare a waybill. But some other comments in the Circular 39-1 rules suggest, exactly as with the NP document, that for any situation where waiting for a waybill would delay a shipment, Form 704 was to be used.

How might we implement such a waybill slip on model layouts? I would like to have one so that it can be used just occasionally, perhaps in peak perishable shipping season, or some other kind of vitally-needed load. Obviously we can begin with the NP card — I would use an SP version if I had one — and see how it can be adapted and simplified. I have been experimenting in this direction, and will take up a description of all that in a future post. 

Tony Thompson


  1. This would not be hard to implement on a layout. Assuming you are using car cards and four part waybills, you could just use your existing waybill with part one instructing the crew to deliver the car to ABC yard. Then when it is at the yard, and the yardmaster flips the way bill to #2, they will see instructions to hold the car until the real waybill arrives.

    The real waybill then gets added to the paperwork of a passenger train that stops both at the station where the load originates (or closest to it), and at the station where the yard is. As owner of the layout, you can decide whether to do this as part of the current operating session, or the next one. You might want to paper clip something to the real waybill to identify the car number it is associated with, or include it somewhere on the waybill.

    A another option which would operate as above is to create a custom waybill (of different color so it's easy to identify) just for this use. It wouldn't need much information, mainly to take the car to ABC yard, and hold pending arrival of actual waybill. The real decision is it worth the time/effort to create a custom waybill for something that you will use only occasionally, as opposed to using something you already have.

    Just one man's opinion

    1. Thanks, Bill, interesting suggestions that I think would all work. I will be doing a follow-up post about how I am going to use these temporary bills in my operation.
      Tony Thompson