Monday, May 27, 2024

More about railroad paper

I have posted a number of descriptions of various kinds of railroad paper, meaning all kinds of printed matter. Many posts have been about route cards, and they form a series, called just that; easily located by using “route cards” as the search term in the search box at right. I also wrote an article for Model Railroad Hobbyist on a range of kinds of paper railroad communications, which appeared in the issue for March 2022.

In the present post I want to show a few more. One has to do with weight agreements, administered in each region of the U.S., Canada and Mexico by regional Weighing and Inspection Bureaus, often called WIBs. The one the covered the entire Western U.S. was called, not the Western WIB (there was such a WIB, but it covered the western half of the Midwest), but the Trans-Continental Freight Bureau. I showed its territory in a post about waybills (see it at: ).

I happen to have a copy of one of the many, many tariff books issued by this WIB, as did all of them. It’s shown below. These make laborious reading, as they primarily comprise minor modifications to innumerable individual tariffs. But it is part of the documentation behind those WIB stamps on waybills.

Next I wanted to show another example of a “Home Shop” card. This reflects a car that was inspected, or caused problems en route, was then forbidden to be loaded, but could safely be moved homeward empty for repairs. (For additional discussion, see: .) 

The car in this case was a Western Maryland 70-ton covered hopper, WM 5265, and the defect is “trucks worn out.” The car is directed homeward to the WM shops at Elkins, West Virginia, from the inspection point on the Seaboard Coast Line, Tampa, Florida. Notice the now-faded diagonal stripes, doubtless of an eye-catching color originally.

I at one time was a tireless collector of discarded railroad paper such as train orders. Occasionally one of them represents something that could be used on a model railroad, such as the one below. It’s a Southern Pacific order, and it identifies a car, MP 820207, a flat car, with a broken center sill, on a spur at San Ardo, California. Such a car of course acts like an obstacle on its track, as it can’t be moved by ordinary equipment. This could certainly foul up other operations.

Finally, I remain fascinated by route cards. These were small, often 3 x 5 or 4 x 6 inches in size and thus almost vanishingly small in HO scale, but quite visible in prototype photos because they were almost always light-colored and thus stand out against a darker car side. The photo below, taken at Fresno, California on May 8, 1956 (Chet McCoid photo, Bob’s Photo collection), shows a typical route card location on a tank car: attached to the edge of its wood running board, near the left-hand truck. This four-compartment wine car, GATX 950, was leased to Gibson Wine Co. of Elk Grove, California.

(Incidentally, note in the above photo that SP Mogul 1727 is just visible behind the tank car. That locomotive was still in yard and local service on the date of this photo. When taken out of service later that year, it would be donated to Dunsmuir, California, for display, where it remains today.)

A good example of one of these route cards was sent to me by Charlie Duckworth, and it is noteworthy for its very prominent number 29, and even if we have no idea what “29” referred to, it stands out. It is not easy to try and handwrite something like this on an HO-scale piece of paper for model use, but of course today we have decals for this from Owl Mountain Models (for more, see this post: ).

As these kinds of paper do relate to how we can conduct operations on a model railroad, I continue to find them interesting and, often, suggestive of things I could implement on my layout.

Tony Thompson

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