Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Waybills, Part 99: more on overlay bills

 This post relates my thoughts after I had one of those stunning realizations that we all have occasionally. More on that in a moment. First, let me mention that this wide-ranging series of posts about waybill topics is quite searchable by using a variety of search terms for whatever sub-topic you’d like, in the search box at right. 

In the present post I will give some background for purposes of clarity for less-familiar readers of the blog, while realizing that some readers will have seen it before. But as Enrico Fermi once said, “one should never underestimate the pleasure we feel from hearing something we already know.” So if you’re in that group, enjoy.

Now I’ll describe the realization mentioned above. I was talking to a modeling friend not too long ago, who was asking questions to understand my use of “overlay bills” or partial waybills. My first description of this was back in 2015 (see that post here: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2015/06/waybills-part-41-overlay-bills.html ). I was repeating those ideas, concentrating on refrigerator car waybills, which on my layout are very predominantly outbound from packing houses on the layout.

Just for clarity, let me show the kind of thing I mean. Below, at left, is a waybill for PFE 36171, with a cargo outbound from the Coastal Citrus Association in my layout town of Santa Rosalia. At right is an overlay bill which, if placed atop the bill at left inside its clear plastic sleeve, makes the outbound load depart from Phelan & Taylor in Shumala. Either cargo would receive a Southern Pacific waybill, so the combination is perfectly suitable.

Obviously this can readily be done for any kind of car, moving anywhere, provided that we have the same “typewriter” face used to fill out both parts of a combined bill. I do use a variety of typewriter faces, as was the prototype case, on inbound waybills from various railroads around the country. An example is below, a typical “typewriter” appearance.

The complication is that I only use the Bell Gothic face for SP and UP waybills, reflecting those roads’ prototype appearance. That’s the face you see in the pink perishable waybills above. So back to my conversation.

My friend innocently remarked, “So the reefers can take any outbound cargo, right?” and I agreed. Then came that kind of moment when your arm jumps up and your palm makes a dent in your forehead. He said, “So do you do this for all your cars?” Suddenly I realized that he was right: as long as I had at least one outbound SP waybill for a particular car, then I could add overlay bills to any destination whatever.

I had never thought it through this way: every freight car that can be free-running, ought to have at least one waybill with the SP header. That way it can accept any outbound overlay bill from any industry on the layout. I will illustrate. First, let’s choose an inbound waybill to one of my industries, California Airframe Parts, and it’s a load in SP boxcar no. 61035.

In the sleeve with this waybill is an Empty Car Bill that would return the car to Los Angeles, empty, after unloading. An example of this arrangement of load and empty bills is shown below, using the “tall format” waybills I created for the layout of the late Otis McGee.

But what if I’d like to re-load the same box car mentioned above, SP 61035,  with an outbound load? I do have overlay bills for this industry, such as the following:

But of course this overlay bill uses the SP billing typewriter “look-alike” face, Bell Gothic. It would have to go over a waybill for this car, SP 61035, that’s an SP waybill. Looking into my “pairs list,” (a very important tool I’ve written about several times before; see for example the discussion at: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2012/02/waybills-17-pairs-list.html ), I find this waybill:

Now I can pair this waybill with the overlay bill above, and it no longer matters that the underlying waybill is to a different industry; the combination is just fine, and it looks like this in the sleeve:

I am now combing through a lot of my waybill files, looking for instances where an outbound SP waybill, from any industry whatever, does exist so that overlay bills can be used for any other industry.  And it’s all from a conversation that I had no idea would lead where it did.

Tony Thompson


  1. Tony,
    Why bother combing through all your outbound bills? Why not generate SP bills for all of your cars with just the car info that shows above the overlay and have the remaining fields blank? Three items in the sleeve, the unique inbound full Bill, the empty car bill and behind it, the blank outbound Bill with the car info. Make all your outbound loads short bills that you can slip on top of the car specific card. File your used inbound bills by industry and car number and your outbound bills by industry only. That should minimize time on searching for a suitable waybill as you re-stage. You can also add yellow delivery overlay bills to direct empties to industries for loading. After a car is spotted, if it still has its inbound Bill, the next session, it's still unloading. If you've pulled the inbound Bill, the empty car card will show, and you can either send it home by simply removing the in round Bill between sessions or Sen it for loading wit an industry overlay. Spotted empties get their empty car card moved to the back of the sleeve when loaded and a destination overlay added. From staging, pull and store the car and store it with its sleeve of empty car and SP blank load bills, ready for a new inbound Bill .

    That might speed up your billing process while keeping it's added realism.

    John Barry,
    Lovettsville, VA

    1. Thanks for these thoughts, John. Rather than reply substantively here, I think (with your permission) I will use your suggestions as a springboard for a future post. I have indeed considered some ideas like these, and will expand on them.
      Tony Thompson

    2. Permission granted. I love the stimulation and cross-pollination of YOU posts.

  2. Charlie Vlk cvlk@comcast.net Tony- I was just thinking about if a prototype waybill, say as originated by the SP for a load of redwood going to a lumber distributor in Chicago, stays with the paperwork handed to the connecting road (say CB&Q) as the car is interchanged. I don't recall seeing a lot of discussion about how the prototype bills were handled. Your use of overlays is interesting, but I don't see why a SP form would be used on a car headed back to the SP from another railroad...wouldn't the empty SP car being loaded get a CB&Q waybill?

  3. You are right that the railroad on which the car is loaded issues the waybill. Doesn’t matter who owns the car, just where it’s loaded. Railroad-owned cars that are empty don’t move on waybills, but on the local road’s Empty Car Bill.
    Tony Thompson