Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Route cards, Part 22: additional examples

This post extends the coverage I have been posting about these interesting railroad documents, small cards usually applied to the route card boards on a freight car, nominally 5 x 9 inches in size. There were in fact a range of informative cards that might be attached to those boards, but in the present post, I am concentrating on the ones that would direct the movement of a car, to a particular yard track, or outbound train, or specific destination, including interchange.

As before, all these were loaned to me by Michael Litant, to whom I am indebted for this generosity. If you’re interested in previous posts in the series, I recommend using “route cards” as the search term in the search box at right.

I’ll begin with a clearly identified card, in use at the Oakland interchange of the Western Pacific and Southern Pacific (it’s an SP card, 3 x 4 inches). The car in question is clearly PFE 8475, a 40-foot plug-door reefer, Class R-40-26, which is empty and is en route to Salinas, on July 29, 1965.

You might wonder about the bold number “82” on this card. As it happens, I do have a copy of SP’s Oakland route card meanings, which I showed in an earlier post (you can find it at: ). The code “82” means destined to Coast Division beyond San Jose, which exactly describes Salinas.

Next up is a classic interchange card, this one from the L&N, for transfer to the Monon. It’s 3 x 3 inches. Only the car number, 164194, is given, so it's not clear who was the owner; and the location is only a station number, 31, which I can’t identify on the L&N. (The “31” might also be the date.)

Another example of what is likely an interchange car is this one from the Kentucky & Indiana Terminal Railroad Company at Louisville, Kentucky. The K&ITRR was the owner and operator of a bridge over the Ohio River between Louisville and Indiana, and switched a number of industries near their yard in Louisville. For many years, the K&ITRR was jointly owned by the B&O, the Southern and the Monon. This one is 3 x 4 inches, and the car was IC 120891 (a 40-foot box car); the cargo, whiskey (not unusual in Kentucky).

Found under the above K&ITRR card was a different card, this one from the L&N, and naturally for the same car, IC 120891. Its date shows only “25” while the K&ITRR card above only shows “12” for a date, possibly 15 days later but possibly much later, with a different cargo. I don’t know what “Dispatch” may mean, possibly an urgent move. The card is 3 x 4 inches.

Although the great majority of the route cards I have seen are rectangular and meant to be written in a dimension parallel to their long side, there are exceptions, such as this Grand Trunk Western card, 3 x 3 inches, and evidently intended to be attached in a diamond orientation, which is how I’m showing it. It is another interchange card, in this case to the Detroit & Toledo Shore Line (D&TSL). Note, though, that the destination stamp is arranged as if the card were to be conventionally oriented.

One final example has a very complete set of information, almost of waybill completeness. It is from the Kansas City Terminal Railway Company and is dated April 18, 1967. It is 4 x 4 inches and has been typed. The car was 50-foot mechanical refrigerator RMDX 717 (an ART mark) and the cargo, frozen turkeys from Norbest Turkey, en route to New York City, care of a Produce Distribution Agency, outbound via N&W.

These examples were chosen either for intrinsic interest or because they extend the range of types of route cards that I have seen. I certainly find them all interesting and informative.

Tony Thompson


  1. On the Monon card, isn't the initial given below the car number? It definitely ends in "P" - UP or NP, perhaps?

    1. You are right, Jeff, that line is marked "INT" which I presume means "initial." It could be a hastily written NP initial, but I think it's actually UP. There were no NP cars with this car number, 164194, while UP did have such cars, 50-foot box cars with one each plug and sliding doors.
      Tony Thompson
      Tony Thompson

    2. It is interesting to see that some cards put the "initial" [railroad name] first, while others put the car number first.

  2. Hi, Tony -

    The frozen turkey car card is more than likely bound for the New York Central's 30th St Branch, more commonly and popularly known as "The High Line" today. Why do I say that, you may ask? Well, the last carload of freight before Conrail abandoned it (in the 1980's, IIRC) was a carload of frozen turkey's, so it's a pretty safe assumption to make, considering the New York City destination.