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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like


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Date: 09/05/19 23:37
Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: CA_Sou_MA_Agent

When I worked for Santa Fe Railway from 1979 to 1985 I was in the clerical craft but I also worked a bunch of miscellaneous other jobs.  At one time or another, I worked as a clerk, a  train order operator, a towerman, a crew and company mail van driver, a janiitor and a "trucker."  That last one was a temporary assignment in San Bernardino where about four other guys and I had to unload the contents of a boxcar that had some damage due to a hotbox and resulting fire.  Why they called the position a "trucker" I do not know.  Clerking involved everything from working the interchange desk at Hobart Yard to working as a "mud hop', where you walked through the yard and visually inspected all the freight cars, making sure what was on paper matched what was in the "real world."  We determined load or empty status, among other things.  To do this, we would look at the springs on the trucks and sometimes toss a rock against a covered hopper.  If it echoed, it was an empty.  Such high technology for the 1980s.  But it worked.  And it might have even worked better than the more modern methods of today.  Under more "modern" arrangements, I've heard horror stories of freight cars moving back and forth between L.A. and Barstow two or three times before they could figure out if it was a load or an empty or where it was supposed to go.  Sometimes freight cars have been known to get lost for weeks on end, and written notices would be issued to crews to "be on the lookout for" a particular freight car.  The reduced manpower attributed to automation and "better" methods may have been a factor in this as well, but no one would ever want to admit to that.  Sometimes even locomotives get lost.  Santa Fe had a system for figuring out which freight cars were supposed to go where.  Every freight spur had a number and it was specific right down to a certain door at a loading dock.  It was called CLIC -- for "Car Location Inventory Control".  We also joked that it stood for "Car Lost in California."  I would imagine they're still using this system or a variation of it.  You can buy old CLIC books at railroadiana swap meets.         

In L.A. working the interchage desk involved processing all the freight cars that were being interchanged between the Santa Fe, the Southern Pacific, the Union Pacific and the Los Angeles Junction Railway.  There was a "paper trail" of what was going on with each freight car in the form of a waybill.  I found this job interesting because the waybills provided a lot of information about how the car was routed and other information.  The waybill accompanied the car from origin to destination and showed what happened and when.  The junction stamps revealed when the car was handled at a certain point.   The conductor carried a big stack of them in the caboose, a waybill matching each freight car on his train. 

Since I left Santa Fe, everything has since gone electronic.  The transition was happening about the time I left.  I could see the writing on the wall that they weren't going to need nearly as many clerks.     

Over the years I made a few photo-static copies of some of the more unusual waybills and ran across this one the other day when I was cleaning out some junk.  I figured I'd post it here as a lot of people are now probably totally unfamiliar with waybills and what they did.   I found this one to be a little unusual in that it was issued by the Spokane International Railway, even though I thought that railroad had been fully absorbed into the Union Pacific by 1984.  Apparently that did not happen until the end of 1987.  This waybill has a rubber stamp of the symbol of the UP train (the PLA) that carried it from Hinkle to Los Angeles.   The consignee who was receiving the car in San Juan Capistrano is long gone, and the rail spur leading into the place is long gone.

Maybe the green fir lumber that the freight car contained is now part of some houses in south Orange County, CA.  Since this is from thirty-five years ago, maybe the wood has since been eaten by termites!         



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/06/19 00:19 by CA_Sou_MA_Agent.




Date: 09/06/19 04:22
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: alco244

in 2019 cars still get lost, still have to walk the yard at times, some times you need an old fashion clerk to keep the railroad moving.



Date: 09/06/19 06:47
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: Railbaron

When I was a conductor I enjoyed looking at the routing some cars took, sometimes detouring on a shoreline for no apparent reason.

I also remember sorting the way bills out so when cars were set out at an intermediate yard or station the proper way bills would be left.

Posted from Android



Date: 09/06/19 07:56
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: tomstp

Routed to shortlines since car's contents would be sold in route and thus interchanges gave it time to sell the load and then re-route it.  Common on lumber shipments.



Date: 09/06/19 08:12
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: Waybiller

Cool waybill!  These days if you print one out, they don't come out on the form, but the fields are basically the same and in the same spot.  If you found a box of form paper you could probably print one out.  the main differences would be the lack of stamps, since there wouldn't be a paper original, and the rate is now on a separate "revenue" waybill.  They split the two when they went from paper abstract settlement to electronic interline settlement.  



Date: 09/06/19 08:39
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: WAF

Railbaron Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> When I was a conductor I enjoyed looking at the
> routing some cars took, sometimes detouring on a
> shoreline for no apparent reason.
>
> I also remember sorting the way bills out so when
> cars were set out at an intermediate yard or
> station the proper way bills would be left.
>
> Posted from Android

Those were lumber loads wandering around looking for customers



Date: 09/06/19 09:02
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: LarryDoyle

Many shortlines made their money on "Divisions".  MainLine RR A may have connected with MainLine RR B at BigCity.  Shortline C connects with both, and their salesman has been able to convice the shipper that faster service could be provided by routing the shipment over their line to avoid terminal congestion.  The $ rate of the shipment is determined by the published taffifs regardless of the routing, so the shipper pays the same and the shortline gets a "division" of the revenue.

-LD



Date: 09/06/19 12:24
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: CA_Sou_MA_Agent

A friend of mine who grew up in Pittsburgh mentioned that the city was an originator of a tremendous amount of freight carried by rail, since it had so much heavy industry.  Consequently, a lot of railroads from all over the U.S.A had sales offices there.  Even the little Roscoe, Snyder and Pacific had an office.  If I was a shipper, I would have liked to have heard the sales pitch from the RS&P rep, as to why I should route my carload of freight down to that little obscure region in Texas and why it would, supposedly, save transit time. 

I'll bet a lot of those transportation people from various industries were heavily "wined and dined" back in the "good old days."     



Date: 09/06/19 15:14
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: Waybiller

Coincidentally, I've been playing around with waybills and mocking up some electronic data interchange (EDI 417) waybills, so below is how the orginal waybill would look today.
Bonus points if you can find any errors in my EDI syntax.

ST*417*000000001
BX*00*R*PP*SI-4807*SI*L*M*N*V
BNX*A**S
N9*BM*SI-4807*BILL OF LADING NUMBER*19841120*10070 000*PT
N7*UP*170241*147434*N*66000******RR*****A**** *
N8*4807*19841120
M7*W-249190-91
F9*5764*COEUR D ALENE*ID*****830740
D9*12197*SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO*CA*****887194
N1*CN*SERRA LUMBER & GLASS
N3*25802 VIATORIA PLACE
N4*CAPISTRANO*CA**US
N1*SH*IDAHO FOREST INDUSTRIES, INC
N3*P O BOX 1030
N4*COEUR D ALENE*ID*83814*US
N1*PF*GOLDING SULLIVAN LBR SALES INC
N3*C/O SERRA BLDG MATERIAL
N3*25802 VIATORIA PLACE
N4*CAPISTRANO*CA*92624*US
R2*SI*S*SPOKA
R2*UP*1*LOSAN
R2*ATSF*2
LX*1
L5*1*LUMBER, GREEN, FIR*2421170*T           
L0*1***1474340*N***1*CLD
H3*UN      
PI*CT*EXEMPT FREIGHT***UP*                 
SE*27*000000001



Date: 09/06/19 15:47
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: LarryDoyle

CA_Sou_MA_Agent Wrote:

> I'll bet a lot of those transportation people from
> various industries were heavily "wined and dined"
> back in the "good old days."  

My father did an excellent job keeping bread on our table as one of those winers and diners.  Yes, he taught me to drink Manhattans.

-LD



Date: 09/06/19 16:05
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: CA_Sou_MA_Agent

alco244 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> in 2019 cars still get lost, still have to walk the yard at times, some times you need an old fashion clerk to keep the railroad moving.


Since they've laid off so many clerks, who does the visual yard checks now?  The Trainmaster? 

I would imagine the technology improvements have made a big difference.  An example would be the automatic equipment identification tags on freight cars.  That system appears to be a huge improvement over the KarTrak ACI system.  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_equipment_identification



Date: 09/07/19 17:07
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: SanJoaquinEngr

I remember looking at waybills on SPFE and UPFE cars that originated out of Oxnard. Especially loads of oranges or lemons that were destined all the way to Bangor, Maine. As I recall there were 10 interchange and railroads that handled one of these loads. SP,SSW, and including the BM. As I remember the freight charges were around $3500 to $4500. The transit time was around 10 days.

Posted from Android



Date: 09/08/19 03:50
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: CA_Sou_MA_Agent

This operation must have been a nightmare for the rate division people, trying to figure how much money went to each carrier.  

Can you imagine today's railroads trying to efficiently operate something like this? 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphabet_Route



Date: 09/08/19 08:14
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: cewherry

SanJoaquinEngr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I remember looking at waybills on SPFE and UPFE
> cars that originated out of Oxnard. Especially
> loads of oranges or lemons that were destined all
> the way to Bangor, Maine. As I recall there were
> 10 interchange and railroads that handled one of
> these loads. SP,SSW, and including the BM. As I
> remember the freight charges were around $3500 to
> $4500. The transit time was around 10 days.
>
In January 1963 I found myself working as a fireman on SP's subsidiary San Diego & Arizona Eastern. I was cut-off the working
list of the SP and had been pointed there by SP's road foreman of engines in Los Angeles, who wore many hats and was also
the RFE for the SD&AE.
It was celery harvest season around San Ysidro and the SD&AE was calling an extra job every day to provide an iced reefer
for the shipper, I recall only one. One day I had occasion to ask the railroad's General Foreman, who was the ranking guy
on site in San Diego just how much money the railroad made on this one car of celery.
His answer shocked me; if it goes east of the Mississippi around $1000, if it stays west of the big muddy, $500. Now I could
see why the railroad was calling the extra for only one car of revenue. Wages in 1963 were  not what they are today.

Charlie



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/08/19 11:32 by cewherry.



Date: 09/08/19 09:14
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: WAF

CA_Sou_MA_Agent Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This operation must have been a nightmare for the
> rate division people, trying to figure how much
> money went to each carrier.  
>
> Can you imagine today's railroads trying to
> efficiently operate something like this? 
>
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphabet_Route

There were division tariffs and meetings were held monthly on divisions



Date: 09/08/19 09:32
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: BNSF6400

CA_Sou_MA_Agent Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> U.S.A had sales offices there.  Even the little
> Roscoe, Snyder and Pacific had an office.  If I
> was a shipper, I would have liked to have heard
> the sales pitch from the RS&P rep, as to why I
> should route my carload of freight down to that
> little obscure region in Texas and why it would,
> supposedly, save transit time. 

The Roscoe, Snyder and Pacific didn't solitice traffic to be routed via there railroad per say.  Back in the day, many shippers that made products that were identical to their competition (lumber companies especially) would load and ship railcars without yet having a buyer for the product.  Since waybills required a destination, they arranged that RS&P would be the receiver.  A few days after shipping, but long before the car ever reached the RS&P, the shipper would find a buyer and have the railcar diverted to its new buyer while enroute.  For their trouble, RS&P got a small part of the shipping costs for doing nothing more than allowing there name to used as a receiver and for filing some paperwork.



Date: 09/08/19 13:40
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: SanJoaquinEngr

BNSF6400 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> CA_Sou_MA_Agent Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > U.S.A had sales offices there.  Even the
> little
> > Roscoe, Snyder and Pacific had an office.  If
> I
> > was a shipper, I would have liked to have heard
> > the sales pitch from the RS&P rep, as to why I
> > should route my carload of freight down to that
> > little obscure region in Texas and why it
> would,
> > supposedly, save transit time. 
>
> The Roscoe, Snyder and Pacific didn't solitice
> traffic to be routed via there railroad per say. 
> Back in the day, many shippers that made products
> that were identical to their competition (lumber
> companies especially) would load and ship railcars
> without yet having a buyer for the product. 
> Since waybills required a destination, they
> arranged that RS&P would be the receiver.  A few
> days after shipping, but long before the car ever
> reached the RS&P, the shipper would find a buyer
> and have the railcar diverted to its new buyer
> while enroute.  For their trouble, RS&P got a
> small part of the shipping costs for doing nothing
> more than allowing there name to used as a
> receiver and for filing some paperwork.

I remember the SP did the same thing. Lumber shippers would ship a load and the car load would be sold enroute and divered to the new consignee. Or the consignee would resell the load to another lumber company.

Posted from Android



Date: 09/08/19 15:01
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: Shafty

Perishable cars were allowed, if I remember correctly, 3 free diversions.  Perishable/PFE waybills were pink, and had provision near the top for up to 3 diversions.

As mentioned above, when a perishable car was on its way to Bangor, ME, before it ever got to Bangor it would most likely have been diverted at least once to wherever, during transit, the shipper could get the best price for the contents of the car.   

For some time, spuds coming from Idaho to Los Angeles were billed to Riverside, CA.  The U.P. brought them into Los Angeles per railroad convenience.  They were held in the yard in Los Angeles until being diverted to a consignee in Los Angeles. They were all unloaded on the Alameda Team Track. 

Eugene Crowner



Date: 09/09/19 09:45
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: OldPorter

SanJoaquinEngr Wrote:
 
> loads of oranges or lemons that were destined all
> the way to Bangor, Maine.

!  Was it scheduled on the Third Boxcar, Midnight Train- destination Bangor Maine?
Sorry couldn't resist. From the old song we all know...  King of the Road~

Interesting thread- thanks Ca Sou Ma Agt.
 



Date: 09/09/19 11:57
Re: Before Railroads Went Paperless - What A Waybill Looked Like
Author: dispr

Before Staggers and rail shipping contracts, shippers would specify the route that a car was going to take on the bill of lading, including which railroads would handle the car and junction points.
So, the choice of a route didn't necessarily involve the shortest or fastest route. As a result, many small railroads, like the Monon, the Chicago South Shore and South Bend RR, Western Maryland, MKT, RS&P maintained sales offices across the US.
Additionally, many of these small railroads would run fast freights, not always to speed the car fro the shipper, but to move the car from interchange to interchange in the least amount of time, since the longer the car stayed on the railroad, the more the railroad had to pay in car hire fees.



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