Monday, September 25, 2023

Route cards, Part 25: still more grading

In a series of posts, I have been writing about both route cards, cards that direct movement of freight cars, and grading cards, those that give results of an inspection of a car interior for loading. This one continues my topic of grading cards and systems. The previous post like this can be found here: . As before, all cards are from the collection of Michael Litant. 

For my first example, an interesting instance from the Great Northern in which specific commodities are called out for the inspector’s use. Notice that there is also a provision to identify an empty car or to reweigh it. The card, 4 inches square, is dated March 7, 1967 at Grand Forks, but lists no car.

A second example is a joint card from the C&O and B&O, colorful and attention getting. It’s 4 x 8 inches overall, but is intended to be folded with the relevant grade outermost (here, grade D), and when so folded is about 2.5 x 4 inches. In addition to the usual grades A through D, there is a grade K for either wash-out or clean-out needs, and a grade H to direct a car to its home shop for repairs. Unfortunately, no car is identified, nor a full date.

Third, I will show an interesting card, because vertical in format, from Norfolk & Western. It only allows for two grades, A and A-1. Date is October 16, 1966, and the car was NKP 18451, a 40-foot, 50-ton box car. Card size is 4 x 7.5 inches.

Fourth is a 4-inch square card from the Peoria & Pekin (Illinois) Joint Car Inspection Bureau, doubtless serving multiple railroads (at least including Rock Island, Burlington, TP&W, New York Central, M&StL, C&IM, C&NW, Pennsylvania, Illinois Central, GM&O, and of course the Peoria & Pekin Union). It is 4 inches square. One side shows grade A for high-quality cargoes including bulk starch, while the other side show other relatively high-grade commodities. No car or location is shown.

Fifth, an interesting though single-sided Union Pacific grading card, with considerable information printed on it, though no car is identified. The card shows the section for grain highlighted by crossing out the other commodities there. It is stamped for Council Bluffs, Iowa, and has hand-written on the back, “Cargill, So. Omaha,” presumably where the car was destined for loading. It is 5 x 7.25 inches in size.

For a sixth example, a Burlington card, 3.5 inches square, with the usual categories of grading by commodity, interestingly including the notation “O.K.” to indicate suitability. The car is shown as CB&Q 18207, a 40-foot steel box car, but no location.

Finally I will show is one of those interesting ones used in a switching district or terminal area, this one from Atlanta Joint Terminals. It’s 3.5 inches square, and being single-sided, can only identify “grade A” cars, and the car identified appears to be B&O 478159, a 50-foot steel box car with double doors.

All these cards differ from most of the ones shown earlier in this series of posts, and continue to demonstrate the wide variety in how individual railroads chose to categorize grading and its designation on empty cars. I think all of them are nice examples.

Tony Thompson


  1. For the Atlanta Joint Terminals card, how do we distinguish it from an ordinary Route Card? Is it because it uses a letter instead of a number?

    1. You're right, "A" could designate a yard track or industry; but since it's also an inspection grade, such a designation would seem like asking for trouble. I assumed that a card with a grade on it would most likely be a grading card.
      Tony Thompson