Car cards and Waybills

Discussion in 'Model Rail Operations' started by Starman, Feb 26, 2007.

  1. Starman

    Starman Member

    Sep 21, 2006
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    I would like to see if i can get some information on the model railroad operations,i have a 8x8 layout that i have been working on for sometime and i am getting to the point of being ready to start my operation.My question is about the useing of car cards and waybills,i have not seen to much about this but it sounds very interesting to me and i would like to learn more about it.I have been trying to find some information on the internet but not with much help.I am looking for a way to inventory all of my stock and also be able to print out a detail report of everything that i have.I would like to know about routing and what to do with the cars when they are empty.I am not a operator and this is my first layout but i would like to be able to run my layout like the real thing.I would like to know if there is any programs on the internet that you can download to get you started as i have already wrote down some of the books that was listed on here and i am going to see if i can get these from our local libary.{Sorry for the spelling}If anyone could help i would appreciated as i would like to some day be able to share this with my grandkids.please help me with this. Thank You
  2. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    Jun 18, 2002
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  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Oct 31, 2002
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    If you have MS Office or even some of the lite "Works"-type products on your computer, you can start off with an inventory in a simple spreadsheet, or even a table in the word processor.

    You can also use the word processor to make templates for your car cards and way bills. The car card should show car road and number, and possibly any limitations on load (e.g. clean lading only for box cars, or food products only for tankers - wouldn't want any crude oil in the corn syrup...! ;)).

    The way bill should show at minimum the destination for the car - and possibly include details like track or door number, or other switching instructions.

    Getting into prototypical operations can be a huge "sub-hobby" in and of itself...

    A simpler way to get started is to try switch lists - simply a single piece of paper with all instructions and cars listed for lift and set out (pick up / drop off).

    Model Railroader has had some articles over the years about the paperwork involved, and there are numerous resources on the Internet for both car cards/way bills and switch lists.

    Model Railroader index is at
    The NMRA also has car card info -

  4. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Sep 7, 2005
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    My son set up an inventory page for me using Excel, but until I find the installation CD, I'm unable to view it on my new computer.
    He arranged columns for roadnames, numbers, car type, dimensions, manufacturer, and special info about some cars. My free-lanced roadnames are listed separately and sorted by number, while the prototype roadnames are listed alphabetically, then sorted by number for multiple cars.
    For the free-lanced cars and locos, I also have colour-coding to show cars sold, given away to friends, or stricken from the roster due to wrecks or scrapping. This ensures that I don't make duplicate numbers of any car, and that a number that is used a second time (such as for a car that has been scrapped, and another car is replacing it) is noted as a second or subsequent use of that number. This is important to me, as there are probably in excess of 100 cars and locos lettered for my lines that are no longer in my possession.
    The next revision of the list will probably also show values for all cars and locos still on hand.

  5. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Nov 8, 2001
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  6. kutler

    kutler Member

    Oct 30, 2007
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    Operation by Switchlist

    I might add that step 1 of this process might be to put your railroad on the map. This mental exercise might help determine how cars are handled on your layout.

    For example:

    Southern Railway 001 ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,NF&G Railroad 002,,,,,,....,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, NYC RR 003

    If your railroad the NF&G existed as a short line sandwiched between the SR and NYC, cars interchanged from the SR for unloading on your railroad might predominately bear initials from SR or roads that connect with SR such as ACL, SP, SCL. Cars from NYC in addition to NYC cars might be PRR , NW, and other eastern roads dependant on commodity.

    A simple switchlist can keep track of where the car originated as this is where it should be returned when empty.


    NFG Railroad Switchlist Feb 29th 1973

    Car # ---Taken from--- Left at--- Load/Ety--- Commodity--- Notes

    NFG 13 ----002--------- 002-------- E--------------------- Caboose
    ACL 13456 -001 ---------002-------- L-------- tractors----- team track
    NFG 77 ----002--------- 002-------- L--------- rails--------- re-spot
    NFG 79 ----002--------- 002-------- L--------- rails--------- re-spot
    SR 67345 --001--------- 002-------- E---------------------- Box Factory
    NYC 56342 003---------- 001-------- L--------- wigits
    SP 56844 --001----------002-------- L--------- lumber-------Box Factory
    NFG 7566-- 002--------- 002-------- L----------------------- Locomotive

    In the above simple switchlist is a simplified example of a work record for a local train operated on the NFG railroad with locomotive 7566 on Feb 29th 1973. The last car on the list is the caboose, cars are always listed in reverse order because this list is compiled by the conductor and his office is the caboose. Don't let any engineman tell you he is in charge of the train!

    Next car the ACL 13456 was taken at location 001 the SR interchange and delivered to the NFG team track with a load of tractors. The information contained on the switchlist is critical to determining the routing of the car once it becomes empty. Basic Car Service Rules specify that the car will be returned to it's home road via reverse routing. On a short line railroad like this when it's time to move the empty car back it's easy to verify where the car came from simply from observing the previous operating session(s) handling of the car.

    Next two cars are NFG cars of Rail that have been respotted from the yard to a spur track where the rails will be inventoried by the MOW department. When empty they should be placed back in the NFG yard at 002 as they are home road cars

    Next Car SR 67345 is an empty taken from the SR interchange 001 to the Box factory at 002 for loading. As the NFG does not have any cars that can go offline they rely on emptys from the interchanging railroad.
    When this car is loaded from the box factory something must be devised to determine where the load will be routed. As owner of the RR you may determine that the box factory delivers all it's loads to the northeastern cities, therefore all loads are sent to NYC interchange 002. A more interesting scenario is that 80% of all loads go to the northeast but 20% goes to the southwest via the SR interchange. To determine the route of this particular car a DIE may be cast to determine which route the car is to take. Example. Rolling a 1 would have the car routed via SR 001, rolling a 2-5 would have the car routed via NYC 002. A 6 might mean that the car is not yet loaded.

    The next car NYC 56342 is a load of wigits that is being "bridged" over the NF&G from an SR interchange to a NYC interchange. The particular story of this car may be of no interest to the operator, but how it's handled is. When this car is delivered to the NYC interchange no other action is required of the NF&G railroad. The NYC is the homeroad and will spot the car at location 003 or (likely)somewhere else on the NYC system or it's connections. Under normal circumstances the empty will not be routed NF&G

    SP 56844 is a load of lumber bound for the box factory at 002 from SR interchange 001. When empty return via SR interchange 001. When is this car empty? Usually the car can be empty within one day. However if the car is delivered late, it might take another business day to complete the task. Recording the delivery time under notes or simply applying the DIE principle to determining when the car is empty.

    NFG 7566 is the locomotive, some switchlists don't have the locomotive on them, it depends on the railroad or the operators.

    This is a simple example of how a small railroad could be operated by switchlist and car cards are not necessary. On larger railroads switchlists could still be used, but at the end of the day someone might have to compile an 'on hand' list of cars with critical information. Staging between sessions and creation of switchlists may have to be performed on off hours time.

    A friend of mine had a layout where most of the cars operated in through service and only a handful were regularily spotted at industries in his town. Swichlists were only compiled for these cars which were segregated in the consist at the front of the train. Any car not on a switchlist went through.

    Some people insist a computer is necessary to compile switchlists. Computers are great tools , but they require a certain amount of programming and data entry to track down and make corrections for cars that were not spotted as per the plan.

    Once again the first step is to put your railroad on the map and plan out a logical operating scheme. Everything else will fall into place in time.