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Car cards and waybills


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  • RMweb Gold

Anyone who reads MR or any of the US model train mags will know that they are very big on "operation" in North America, far more so than on this side of the pond. By which I mean that a great deal more page space is devoted to ways to run your trains like a real railroad, compared to the content of a typical British mag (generalising wildly, of course, but the point is still valid). I suppose this is a natural consequence of the focus being more about running stuff, rather than building it, since North American RTR has for decades generally been so much better than the British equivalent in both prototype fidelity and mechanical quality, and there's far less reason to move away from RTR track and wheel standards. Obviously things are a bit more even now, but there's still no doubt that the Americans and Canadians put a lot more thought into operating practises than we do. This is especially the case given the focus on multi-operator running sessions that seem to be very much part of the culture of model railroading in America, far more so than over here.

 

I can quite happily watch a train run around and round for hours, but I've long wanted to put a bit more focus into my switching sessions, most of which have tended to involve nothing more than random shunting of cars into different sidings. With that in mind, I've taken delivery of Micro-Mark's car routing starter set:

 

http://www.micromark.com/car-routing-system-starter-pack,8282.html

 

The package arrived today, and even though I'm grumpy at the customs and excise surcharge I had to pay, there's no doubting that the kit is very good value. The car cards and waybills are nicely printed, but I was really struck by how smart the wooden boxes were. I was expecting to get a set of wooden parts that I had to clamp and glue together, but they were fully assembled and certainly a lot sturdier and posher than anything I could knock up from a few sheets of MDF.

 

Onto the cards and waybills, though, and here I'm going to have to feel my way. Most of the layouts that seem geared for operation that I see in MR tend to have lots of industries spread through several distinct towns, whereas my layout has (at the moment, anyway) a small number of industries and really only one town as such. Rather than routing a car from town to town, I'm going to have to go for a different approach, such as town to storage yard and back again, or maybe storage yard -> industry A -> industry B > storage yard, or some permutation of that. Since my layout is still being built, too, I've yet to add either the planned visible freight yard, or the other two or three industries that I think I will have room for. But I'd like to get started sooner rather than later, so I plan to ease my way into a form of low-level operation even with the layout in this incomplete state. If I use pencil to full in the routing slips, for instance, I can always go back and alter the destinations when I add more industries.

 

I'd be interested to hear from anyone else who has had a go with waybills and routing cards and what their findings were. Judging by my reading of MR, there are many ways of implementing the basic set-up, so you can be quite flexible in tailoring the concept to suit the particulars of your own layout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The US tends to use the term "staging" to cover various implementations of storage and fiddle. "Staging" can often imply running a train onto a conceptually off-layout track, holding it, and running it back with no change in makeup as a "different train". A fiddle would be a staging yard where the makeup of the train is rearranged while offstage. There is no question that you can use a shunty-plank fiddle of one, two, three, or whatever fairly short tracks as "staging" in the US sense, either keeping the contents of each track the same between sessions or rearranging them. To some extent, this would depend on whether the layout is run only for exhibitions, in which case the contents of the fiddle would probably always be new for each operating session.

 

If the layout is a pure shunty-plank that remains in order between sessions, i.e., is not upended and placed in storage with stock removed, operation  would be fairly simple, and cars would basically have only a two-cycle rotation. You have, say, a corn flake factory where cars of flour and corn syrup arrive, are unloaded, and leave. The waybill in the car card reflects this. The fiddle yard gets a name -- let's take an example I'm familiar with, a corn flake plant near Bakersfield, CA on the San Joaquin Valley Ry. In this case you would name the fiddle Bakersfield BNSF interchange. You name the corn flake plant Frito-Lay Bowerbank. You would basically have just two destinations on the waybill, BNSF Bakersfield and Frito-Lay Bowerbank. When your local arrives from the fiddle-staging, it carries a few covered hoppers and corn syrup tanks with the Frito-Lay destination on the waybill. For the next session, you reverse the waybill at Bowerbank to represent the new destination of BNSF Bakersfield for these cars,  your local picks them up, and takes them back to the fiddle-staging. You can then work out some sort of disposition for these cars -- for instance, rotating them onto a shelf or cabinet -- that would prevent them from bouncing right back to Frito-Lay Bowerbank the very next day.

 

I know of modelers who have similar small operations who find it easy enough to keep track of such things without any sort of card system or other paperwork -- this is certainly possible on a small layout.

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  • RMweb Gold

I can't claim to have been there and done that, but certainly know the principle and would like to get into it. Have you read Tony Koester's book "Realistic Model Railroad Operation"? The sub-title says it all - "How to run your trains like the real thing". It is full of car card references and showing how the prototype does things and ways we can emulate it. Kalmbach, naturally. 

 

By the way, your OP really should emphasise the point that US railroads, real and model, are all about freight, with passenger trains a bit of a glitzy side-show.

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On the other hand, there is a very, very good computer-driven car forwarding system included with JMRI, and it's free for the download, no customs charges involved. http://jmri.sourceforge.net/community/clinics/NMRA2011/JMRI-Operations-X2011.pdf I've tried most of the computer systems, and I think the JMRI is the best by far, in addition to being free. You don't need to use the DCC part of JMRI to use the system.

 

On a layout of any size, making up car cards and waybills is quite a chore, even with pre-printed supplies. In addition, physically managing a stack of cards while running a train, holding the cards in one hand, the controller in the other, and a radio in the other, is also a challenge, such that some guys use special aprons for use in operation. (Real prototype, that; whenever I go to Pepper Avenue, I watch the crews with their car cards and their aprons.)

 

This is an area where people differ; Dave H and I have long agreed to disagree on this topic.

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  • RMweb Gold

Thanks all.

 

Ian: I do have the Koester book although can't put my hands on it for now. Will have a proper look over the next few days.

 

JWB: I could envisage it being a major chore to create waybills and car cards for my entire fleet, but my plan is to only allocate waybills to a portion of my stock (probably less than 50 cars) with the rest of the cars being assigned to run-through freights which never do any switching.

 

I have 6 roads in my hidden storage yard but none of them can be accessed during a running session, so the formation of the trains doesn't change between entering and departing the yard. The two longest roads will be for the 20 car run-through freights, which are too much long to be handled in my planned visible freight yard. The next two roads will be assigned to passenger trains, which will again be treated as run-through operations, and finally the two shortest roads, 5  and 6, will be for the local trains that actually do the switching. These will be 8  - 10 cars each + caboose and loco, and treated as east and westbound jobs. Allowing for cars in the planned freight yard, and spotted around various industries, I won't need more than 40 - 50 cars on the layout at a time, and that may already be more than is good since my industry tracks are tending to be quite short. Any other cars can be swapped on or off to provide variety, but I won't have to do them in one go.

 

Once I build the visible freight yard, the east and west bound locals may originate there rather than in the concealed storage yard.

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Most of the layouts in my area use car cards and waybills (CC&WB) for operations, as do I.  I wrote my own MS Access application to generate CC&WB. 

 

The whole idea of CC&WB is tha tthe combination of the two is essentially the equivalent of a US freight waybill.  The model version just comes in two pieces so the paperwork can be recycled easily.

 

I have also played with JMRI and it is a nifty program, especially for free, although I will still be using CC&WB on my layout.

 

You can use the waybills as either 1-2-3 or 4 moves.  If you have staging or fiddle capability, that's where most routing would be through (although you could have othoers depending on your industries.)  From staging to industry and then from industry to staging.  If you have a storage track that can be an intermediate destination.  Some people also use CC&WB like real waybills and then hand write switch lists from the CC&WB, which is essentially what the prototype did.

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An interesting topic.

 

I haven't used car cards and waybills but you may be interested in my shunting spreadsheet, which I developed partly for my small US switching layout, but mostly as an academic exercise, just to suit myself. It generates shunting moves for the stock, loads and locations you specify. It's geared towards a group of industries in one location because there's no option to specify towns as such, but theoretically the locations could be anywhere.

 

It may be a bit simplistic for your needs:

 

http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/newsforyou/shunting.xls

 

Instructions are here:

 

http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/newsforyou/computerisedshunting.pdf

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Wearing of aprons (and, mercifully, radio headsets) is on the way out. To deal with the potential for those unscheduled games of "52 pickup" John mentioned, a lot of layouts I've operated on in the last few years have relegated the handling of car cards and waybills to a designated "clerk" - the card boxes and associated cards are located at one location (the clerk's "office") and he/she makes up the switchlists the train crews use to make their spots and pulls.

Lance Mindheim uses a variant of the system CSX uses - basically a computerized work order/switch list - there's no indication of what's in the car (unless it's hazmat) - and the only "destination" is the next yard. After all, the train crews don't really care if this is a load of oranges going to the A&P Warehouse in Kansas City or whatever - they only know they need to take this car with them to the yard. Where it goes from there is someone else's concern.

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We used CC&WB (a customised version with just 2 parts not 4) for several years, but have recently gone over to JMRI due to some of the reasons below.

 

I'll stress - I suspect most of our reasons won't apply (or at least, won't be such an issue) on a home based layout with regular operators that know, (or will learn over time,) how to work it - but we're doing this on modular layouts that are different every time they get used, with a wide range of people, many of which aren't used to an 'ops' background, or may not even like it.

 

We found with CC&WB that most folk easily grasped the concept and significance of a *single* car card and waybill, what the two things meant, and what needed to happen with that one car. So far so good. :)

 

But we then found that far fewer folk could translate that stack of information in a block of (say) 10 or 15 cars into efficiently dealing with that train.

 

In addition it meant that whilst we'd normally have a 'trainplan' - basically how the trains serving different bits of the layout connected, and so what locations each train served, in each direction, and how and where cars would connect with each other, almost nobody understood the significance of that in advance, and when we used it on larger setups i'd even go as far as suggesting that nobody else really understood how it was supposed to work (there was plenty of instructions, but instructions and understanding are not the same thing...)

 

And the modular setups mean that nobody really has a chance to learn how each job works until the day as the job they are doing hasn't existed before, and likely will never exist again.

 

With the switchlists generated by JMRi it just lists the moves needed at each location, which is much easier for folk unused to that kind of thing to understand, even with no previous experience. Effectively what our crews now have is very similar to the ones Mindheim uses, and which Marty described above - (except mine do list commodities, largely because I tend to try and overcomplicate things build a transportation system with appropriate cars to deliver appropriate loads to the industries being served...I like to think our the railway is actually 'doing something')

 

It also means if you have a complex trainplan with interconnecting trains, or trains that run past an industry in one direction to serve it on their return journey, then the system handles that kind of thing inherently with no extra instruction to the crews. The switchlist says what they do, they just have to try and do it. Your crews don't need to know why a car needs to be dropped in a specific location for a connection, or what train it will connect with or it's final destination. That inherent trainplan to me is the big advantage, no need to have to explain a trainplan to the train crews, they just do what it tells them!

 

A more minor thing is that we're usually running something that looks rather like modern shortline/regional railroading, and the JMRI generated paperwork is much more realistic for that (again, a-la Mindheim) - although a computer printout is much less realistic for (say) a 1950s based layout.

 

Downsides of the JMRI option?

 

It needs a lot of setup, tweaking and experimentation (and much of that needs to be custom for each setup on our modular meets) - on a home layout though once you've got it up and running it would be very low maintainence.

 

It's not self-healing - i.e. when you terminate a train on the computer it will assume that you have carried out the instructions for that train, if you've missed a pickup out then the computer will now show that car in the wrong location and that will need to be manually corrected - whereas if you miss a move or even misroute entirely with CC&WB then provided the car and the paperwork both go to the same location then it's self-correcting...

 

It needs to be managed, CC&WB should almost be self-regulating barring turning the waybills, with this somebody needs to have an eye on it as 'traffic manager' to make sure it doesn't get out of control.

 

Ref the 'juggling' of paperwork, throttle, radio etc - that's why we went to 2 person crews at modular meets (again, also prototypical for our prototypes) - one person has the throttle - JUST the throttle (engineer) - all other parts of the role (paperwork, planning the moves, throwing points) is done by the second person (conductor).

 

I wouldn't suggest anyone has to follow all he says slavishly, but the recent 'ops' book from Mindheim is superb for getting your head around how a modern two-person crew works - at least for operations away from main lines, where interaction with other trains isn't needed.

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Lance Mindheim uses a variant of the system CSX uses - basically a computerized work order/switch list - there's no indication of what's in the car (unless it's hazmat) - and the only "destination" is the next yard. After all, the train crews don't really care if this is a load of oranges going to the A&P Warehouse in Kansas City or whatever - they only know they need to take this car with them to the yard. Where it goes from there is someone else's concern.

I'd concur with this.... both from a modelling point of view, where I have Guest-operated on a layout with CC&WB's and to be honest found it more of a chore than pleasure, and from a Professional point of view - as Truck Driver in road haulage, often what is actually in the trailer is of little concern to the driver (beyond the obvious issue of load security); it's where it's going and what time it has to be there that matter.

I have Lance's book and I think it's great. Even such things as "Not all Industries need to be switched at the same time" may seem like stating the obvious, but they are still eye-openers for some of us this side of the Pond.

I've long wanted to put a bit more focus into my switching sessions, most of which have tended to involve nothing more than random shunting of cars into different sidings.

I'd suggest that the very first step is to assign Industries to those sidings. When you know what industries you have, you'll know what cars to switch there - that takes out 99% of the "randomness" of switch operations.
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  • RMweb Gold

.I'd suggest that the very first step is to assign Industries to those sidings. When you know what industries you have, you'll know what cars to switch there - that takes out 99% of the "randomness" of switch operations.

 

Very true. To some extent some of the industries are already assigned - eg, one siding serves Interstate Fuel & Oil, while another off the same spur is Woods Furniture. I already switch tank cars into the Interstate siding, plus the occasional box car delivering equipment to the oil company. The Woods siding has tended to get box cars only but reading David Popp's book on his New Haven layout. I'm reminded that you can also run scrap gondolas in to that type of industry as well. One of the other sidings serves a paint factory, while a fourth serves a tool & die company. There are probably going to be another three or so industries sprinkled elsewhere on the layout, though, and at the moment I don't know what they're likely to be.

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I have been operating for 20+ years on a classic CC&WB layout - nothing has changed operationally in those years.  We still wear headsets...I detest that.  The waybills were actually printed by Al McClelland (of V&O fame) years ago.  The car cards used to be the same vintage until one operator decided it would be good to photograph each of the 400+ cars and put the image on new car cards.  It's handy, I admit...but now operators go by photo and less by car number.  It works, I know how to use the systems and have laid in a pile of CC&WB for my planned layout.  However, I've also operated several times on switchlist layouts.  It's neater, cleaner, and one sheet of paper is much less fuss than a fistful of cards.  So now I'm not certain which I'll go with...

 

A curiosity with the radios is that one night. for some reason, all the radio frequencies were full of static.  Unusable.  The layout has a phone system (900 sq ft layout) between the dispatchers and the various yards - so we ran on improvised train orders.  The railroad actually ran BETTER that way.  However, the layout owner would have of our suggestions to ditch the radios...*sigh*

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  • RMweb Premium

The N American layout I used to operate on used computer generated lists. (I was recruited partly for my computer skills).  Each train had a route and a list of cars to be picked up or dropped or just moved at each station. This was based on shipments needing a certain type of car, taking a number of "days" to load or unload. The later versions included the load and even had provisions for, say, icing the refrigerator cars.  Because of the size of the layout, cars often went from siding to yard to another yard to siding.  Or they might go sding to siding on the same train.  The final version was supposed to have "waybills" where carloads of whatever were specified from one location to another.

There were off-layout locations for the odd cars (well, many of them) would go that didn't have both ends on the layout.

 

There were fun situations where a load of flour was to be shipped in a cement-coated covered hopper. And the cardboard box factory's biggest customer was on the next siding, so every session a "full" boxcar and an "empty" boxcar were exchanged over a distance that could have been done with a handcart.

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The weak spot of most computer list systems (JMRI included) is the concept of "standing order", the order of the cars in the train or track.  For that reason they also don't support yard operations or blocking in a manner similar to the way the prototype does.  Since Lance Mindheim's focus is on the industry switching,  yard and through freight operations are secondary or not even adressed.  For a 'shunty plank' that's not a problem

 

For a typical US layout that has classification yards and through freights its more problematic.  Most of my friends who have used computer generated lists in yards want nothing more to do with them after the experience.

 

For industry switching, most computer switch list programs (including JMRI) do a good job of replicating the "work order" that crews get to tell crews what to spot or pull.  They just do a poor job of replicating the train consist that a through freight uses.  A JMRI list on a real railroad would technically be illegal as a train consist if there was a car of hazmat in the train.  Just depends on your focus and the scope of your operations.

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There were fun situations where a load of flour was to be shipped in a cement-coated covered hopper. And the cardboard box factory's biggest customer was on the next siding, so every session a "full" boxcar and an "empty" boxcar were exchanged over a distance that could have been done with a handcart.

Sounds like you needed to have more car types in your system, I think I'm up to about 8 categories of covered hopper so that should never happen on our version - the system we use also has several ways of preventing cars from going 'next door'....

 

Dave is quite right though that standing order is a weak spot...

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The weak spot of most computer list systems (JMRI included) is the concept of "standing order", the order of the cars in the train or track.  For that reason they also don't support yard operations or blocking in a manner similar to the way the prototype does.  Since Lance Mindheim's focus is on the industry switching,  yard and through freight operations are secondary or not even adressed.  For a 'shunty plank' that's not a problem

 

For a typical US layout that has classification yards and through freights its more problematic.  Most of my friends who have used computer generated lists in yards want nothing more to do with them after the experience.

 

For industry switching, most computer switch list programs (including JMRI) do a good job of replicating the "work order" that crews get to tell crews what to spot or pull.  They just do a poor job of replicating the train consist that a through freight uses.  A JMRI list on a real railroad would technically be illegal as a train consist if there was a car of hazmat in the train.  Just depends on your focus and the scope of your operations.

The switch list layout ran short trains, nothing more than 7-8 cars with no intermediate yards for pick ups or set outs so that lack of blocking wasn't an issue.  The computer DID put multiple cars for a given customer together.  The CC&WB layout runs 16-17 car trains with two manned intermediate yards and two other pick up/set out locations so blocking is important.  Each of the manned yards (two staging, two on line) have notebooks with instructions on blocking.  In addition where locals are built the notebooks have instructions for blocking and details on how many cars a given industry can take.  It was well thought out and functions well when people take the time to think!

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Actually, I think JMRI can be set up to work like real yard operations -- the issue is getting a model yard big enough, it seems to me. JMRI has no problem letting you set up "sub destination" towns/yards -- let's call them West Colton - 1, West Colton - 2, up to as many bowl tracks as you need. Thus a car that you would normally run to "West Colton Yard" on a typical model railroad, destination onward to Memphis, would instead go to "West Colton - 12", the bowl track corresponding to Memphis. The model Memphis manifest would then be built up by the bowl trimmer in the departure yard with blocks from the corresponding bowl tracks. The problem is that you'd need a really big layout with a lot of manpower to duplicate it. I'm fully aware that the yards on my home layout don't work the way the real ones do. A yard of 5 or 6 tracks, maybe 35 cars capacity, can't handle that sort of thing. Nor do I have to write paychecks for my model crews, and so far, while I don't have any little Renzenberger vans anyhow, they wouldn't operate by remote control depositing little robot Presier guys along the right of way, either. (I'm not at all sure how many club layouts have departure yards at all, for that matter.)

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We normally try and keep that under control by limiting departing trains from a yard to less than the number of tracks, keeping ops very simple. The inbound train gets classified, the outbound is then (usually) just a case of pulling what's on its designated track.

 

Trains are normally short enough that blocking isn't a show stopper, the crews have the Hazmat rules so can sort the train before departing if they choose (we don't rigorously enforce the Hazmat rules...)

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  • RMweb Gold

Just a quick thanks for the contributions on this thread, all - much appreciated. I've had a busy week so haven't made any progress on the CCs&WBs, other than reading into a few articles, but as a side issue, are there any tips for attaching the card boxes to the side of the fascia? They're almost too nice to drill and screw, and I wouldn't want to glue them too permanently, so I was thinking of using stick pads, but wondered if they'd stand up to usage?

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Barry, here’s what I use.

 

These six DT&I boxcars are on a  mid-1950s lease from the PRR (X26c). The waybills (WBs) show a captive service of Ford (Detroit) to Ford (Havana). The cars are equipped for auto parts loading and use individual car numbers for car-cards ( CCs) listed in DT&I ORER entry.

 

A  car image: http://dti.railfan.net/Pototype_Images/rs/DTI104452Tichy293_9128DTIdiag.jpg

 

The 1/53 ORER shows cars equipped for auto parts loading with individual numbers listed.

http://dti.railfan.net/Equipment_Database/ORERs/ORER1_53/ORER1_53a.html

and shows XAP is 104337-107113 is 39 cars and are note FF.

 

Then note FF on: http://dti.railfan.net/Equipment_Database/ORERs/ORER1_53/ORER1_53c.html

 

I cut these numbers from the Tichy decal:

104452        104551       104596        105189        105200        106311       

106912

107113 from PENNSYLVANIA  decal.

 

The routing Detroit to Key West presumes the line to Key West is still used after the 1935 hurricanes and that a much improved car ferry sails to Havana; and that Ford has a plant in Havana.

 

I edit then print, on 220gm card, the CCs/WBs on my computer. You’re welcome to copy. I’m on philclark834 at gmail.com

 

Phil.

 

 

post-14852-0-67382600-1361526581_thumb.jpg

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This afternoon I finally discovered where I had (very carefully) put the carcards - so I have done this as the easiest form of explanation - with a photo. The car cards each have a photo of the car included, so they can be used at an exhibition, and laid out in front of the layout, so that the punters can see exactly what you are (supposed to be!) doing. The waybills are simply cut slightly longer than the car cards, from ordinary plain card postcards, and slot in behind the car card, leaving the destination exposed.They can have 2 or 4 destinations. Both sides include an arrow to show the next destination (pointing towards the bottom of the card) and the second destination (if it is a four destination card) includes PTO hidden below the top of the car card out of normal sight, below the second destination  If anyone needs a fullsize photo of a carcard let me know. Small point - this waybill includes a spot/door number - if you want to make life slightly more "real" and have your brakeman report to the manager for spot/door number - write that on below the destination so that it is hidden behind the car card, and isn't seen until the waybill is pulled up slightly, and have a small up pointing arrow ^ on the right hand side so the crew doesn't know initially where the car needs to be blocked

 

post-6688-0-73963000-1361634061.jpg

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