all these Bills?
Waybills, Freight Bills, Bills of Lading, all three are part
of the documentation used to move goods by rail. We all know about Waybills, sorta. They are the documents that travel with the
car (usually) and help it get where it needs to go. The other two are often confused with the
first, including by some professional archivists at the National Archives. Look for waybills on eBay and you will find
examples of all three on almost any given day.
So what are they really, and what do they mean to the model railroader?
First, lets explain what really goes on when a crate or
carload of widgets needs to get from the manufacturer to the distributer. There has to be a legal contract between the
owner of the goods and the carrier so that they get where they’re going and
that the shipper has some recourse if they don’t. Then the goods need to have something with
them that tells the carrier(s) where to take them and how to care for them
during shipment. Finally, somebody has
to pay for these transportation services and they need some kind of invoice to
keep their bean counters happy that they aren’t squandering their shareholder’s
money. Then there are the arrangements
between carriers for use of equipment to transport these goods, that too needs
So how are our bills related to these essential
functions? First comes the Bill of
Lading. It is the contract between
shipper and carrier. It is almost always
on the carrier’s form, but can be on one provided by the shipper. I won’t say that some other carriers forms
where NEVER used, but if they were, they would have to have been modified to
show the originating carrier. After all,
this form is a contract between two specific parties, and those parties have to
be clearly identified in the contract
for it to be valid. So I won’t say that
Standard Oil in Richmond never ran out of SP forms and used and ATSF one for an
SP shipment, but IF (and that’s a humongous if) it happened, it would be
extremely rare. On the Santa Fe, Bills
of Lading were the responsibility of the Freight Department.
Second is the waybill.
Cars don’t (or shouldn’t) move without documentation that tells what to
do with the car. How else are you going
to know where to move it? Switchlists,
cut lists, movement orders and notes fall into this category, but are beyond
the scope of this discussion. They may
be in addition to or in advance of a waybill, but the waybill is the basic
document that gets a car from shipper to consignee. The railroads used these forms for two
purposes. Tracking services provided
shippers so they could get paid, and tracking loaded car usage so the car
owners got paid. Since these forms were
the basis of revenue that had to be divided between those carriers that
participated in providing the service, they were Accounting Department forms on
the Santa Fe and most other roads.
Third is the Freight Bill.
When the dust is settled and the goods arrive, it’s time to pay the
piper. This is how it got done. All the pick up and delivery charges, heater
or icing charges, freight charges, switching charges, and other miscellaneous
add ons that put black ink on the railroad accountant’s books got documented
and paid with these forms. Of all the
various “bills” associated with railroading, the Freight Bill is the one that
comes closest to the layman’s perception of a bill as an invoice that has to be
settled with real money out of your pocket.
So now you know what each of the three kinds of bills are
for, why they are different, and now you need to go find only the waybills for
your cherished prototype to have more realistic documents to operate you
You now have a better idea of what’s what, but they all can
teach you something about how a given commodity was handled back in the
day. Getting a complete record of what
happened fifty or a hundred years ago on a given railroad is tough, these were
business records of mostly long gone businesses. Most of the documents are either ash or
buried in landfills so we need to examine any of the survivors for insights
into ops of the day.
Lets start with the end product, the Freight Bill. A true accounting form, train crews usually
didn’t handle these unless they were attached to a waybill as part of a multi-part
form. Probably the least valuable to the
model operator of the three, but it still has nuggets of valuable information. At the least, you can see the shipper and
consignee, what was shipped, how much of it, and what it cost. You may not care about costs in your model
empire, but knowing that EB Watts received widgets from AC/DC gives you a
documented shipper pair. If extra
services were provided and billed, you might know that the widgets needed
heater service, an extra operation to model if your layout is in the middle of
a shipment, something to do with through freight cars besides icing. It will also document those icing
charges. So don’t toss a Freight Bill in
the dumpster because it’s not your holy grail waybill.
Next come Bills of Lading (BOL). Why do we care about at contract? That’s what they are after all. Yes, contracts between shippers and carriers
that list the car(s) employed, goods shipped, the route taken, and consignee to
which delivered. Sounds a lot like a
waybill. And the good archivists at NARA
SF call them waybills in their finding aids.
They fooled me and I collected images of all the ones I could find in
the records of the Office of Defense Transportation. Imagine my disappointment when these
“waybills” turned out not to be. Well
not as bad as I thought as they do contain an awful lot of valuable information
for the model operator.
Real bills of
lading were normally three part forms with copy one the original bill of lading
with all the standard legalese fine print on the back, copy two, a shippers
order to the railroad, and three, a memorandum copy that the shipper could use
as needed to facilitate his business.
Sometimes additional forms would be placed in common with the original
and the preprinted copy numbers would be corrected as memoranda. As legal contracts, there could only be a
single original. The shipper had to sign
the original as his request for transportation and the originating carrier had
to sign as their acceptance. This
established the legal transportation contract.
Copy two, the shippers order, went to the originating carrier, and they
used it to prepare the way bill that would accompany or catch up with the car
as it traveled the rail network with its goods to its destination. Copy three could be used to advise interested
parties of the shipment, as is found at NARA SF and my BOL copies of tank car
movements. BOL are valuable because they
have most of the information seen on a waybill.
It won’t have a weight ticket, but often has a corrected weight. It will have the reporting marks and car
number(s) and the route. It won’t have
the record of movement recorded by the arrival stamps. A pretty cool set of information and very
valuable for the model operator. A note
about routing. Shippers could specify
routing if they so chose. Otherwise the
originating carrier would specify which of any alternative routes would be
used. Relations with shippers was one of
the reasons Santa Fe had a Freight office in New York and NYC had one in San
Francisco. Shippers could say if they
wanted SP or ATSF delivery if the destination was served by both and the
railroads made aggressive efforts at capturing business nation wide. These routings are useful on your model
waybills. The BOL can also contain
special instructions for additional services.
All in all, a great resource for the modeler. And sometimes train crews did handle
BOL. The 1973 ATSF Valley Division
bulletin book has a bulletin on how conductors are to handle them. In a nutshell, at a non-agency station, the
shipper could prepare and sign the three part BOL and place it in a locked bill
box near where the railroad would pick up the loaded car. When the conductor picked up the car, he
would sign the BOL, take copy 2 to the specified agency for waybilling, fill
out a conductor’s waybill to document car movement, and return copies 1 & 3
of the signed BOL to the bill box for the shipper. Something to think about adding to an ops
session enhance play value, or not.
WAYBILLS, the Holy Grail of Car Documentation. The waybill has it all. Many folks such as Tony Thompson, Charles
Hostetler, Andy Laurent and others have written extensively on waybills and how
to model them more realistically. I
refer you to their blogs and websites for more detailed information. What I’ll cover here is a basic description
of what the waybill does and how it is used.
It documents the billable charges and records who performed which
services during a loads transit form origin to destination. It provides the legal basis for the division
of revenue from a given shipment between the participating carriers and tells
those carriers what services to perform and where and to whom to effect
delivery. A lot of responsibility for a
8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Since the
waybill is the basis for the accounting task of interline revenue division, it
is preprinted with the originating carrier’s interline accounting number. This is the number you see next to the
railroad name in the header and the footer.
It facilitates the book keeping by shortening Kewaunee, Green Bay and
Western to 407 in the accounts.
Originating station agents would keep a copy of the Waybill to both make
sure their railroad got paid, and to have a back up in case the original got
separated from the shipment enroute.
Railroads had set procedures for astray freight and waybills, no
0-5-0ing allowed. And there is a good
variety of specialized waybills, ARA recommended pink stock for
perishables. Many roads used cards to return empty private meat reefers, ATSF used green.
ATSF also used blue cards for cotton. That traffic might be moved in bulk to a
compress, then baled for export.
Conductor’s waybills were an interim document to get a car moving until
the clerks could type up the formal copy.
Coal bills, sulphur bills, ore bills, are all examples of specialized
waybills that various roads used to minimize clerical overhead. ATSF used green print on white cardstock to
print their consigned empty car bills, used for cars in dedicated service such
as auto parts pools from the late 50’s.
The variety of specialized waybills is vast, if not endless. Santa Fe had four versions of their basic
waybill, one for each of their operating companies, ATSF, ATSF Coast Lines,
P&SF, and GC&SF. Similarly there
were four Santa Fe versions of the perishable, livestock, transit, and
expedited movement waybills as well. I’m
still looking for images of these ATSF forms.
If you have one to share, please contact me at NorthBayLines at att dot
net. I have not yet found my holy grail.
Modeler’s Dilemma, too many waybill forms? You should see a variety of waybill forms on
your inbound loads. Since the
originating carriers all put the shipping information on THEIR waybill form,
the shipment of jeep parts for the Richmond plant should be on a GTW form
regardless of the reporting marks of the car in which it is loaded. Same thing for the farm implements that
originate on the Wabash or the component chemicals from Texaco on the
CRI&P. Modelling waybills can give
you an additional taste of history in your ops sessions.
Despite all this variety, the outgoing loads are much
simpler. Most of us model only a single
road with industries that originate loads.
Therefore we only need that road’s waybills for originating
traffic. So all of your loads out will
be on the home road forms, as well as the loads in that originated on the home
road. Suddenly your waybill modeling
task is cut in half or less.
Cameron Park, CA