Sunday, November 5, 2017


Living in the Bay area five years ago while recovering from surgery, I made several pilgrimages across the Golden Gate to the National Archives Regional Center in San Bruno.  Even without the pressure of having to get back to work, there still wasn’t enough time to dig in to all that the Archives hold for the modeler/historian.  Now that I’m working again, I’m expected to show up and produce, leaving less time for pursuit of the hobby.  Tony Thompson’s recent post on mainline freights elicited a comment from me on the header of his Santa Fe perishable freight waybill.  Tony used a version for the ATSF Railway with accounting code 22, while I contended that for a shipment originating in southern California, it should have been on an ATSF Coast Lines, code 30 bill.  (You can read Tony’s post and our on-line discussion at:  We ran in to each other at the Chicagoland RPM last week and had a good discussion of Santa Fe waybilling practice that neither of us can definitively characterize without physical or photographic evidence of actual Santa Fe waybills.  For a company so large and long lived, there are a dearth of examples and I implore those who may have such samples to share with the rest of the community. 

What does this waybill discussion have to do with NARA?  Well, the treasure trove of information gathered has sat, not fully analyzed since shortly after capture on my trusty Canon 30D and storage on multiple hard drives.  The discussion with Tony and his request for a copy of a Coast Lines waybill led to me digging into the files to see what’s there.  One of the reasons for the shelving of the deep dive was the early discovery that what the Archives had listed as “Waybills” were actually memoranda copies of the original “Bills of Lading” for many tank car shipments followed by the Office of Defense Transportation.  The bad news is documents in this form did NOT travel with the car, that document was the “Waybill” which had a different format and header.  The good news is that there is even more applicable information than I first thought on these Bills of Lading.  I knew that the ones in the ODT files at NARA SF had the car numbers, shipper, consignee and lading.  What I didn’t realize five years ago that I discovered this morning is that for the loaded cars, they also had examples of weight agreement stamps and gallonage of the cars that were loaded to full visual capacity.  All of them, empty or loaded, included the car routing.

 The 19 Santa Fe examples cataloged so far have only been for empties returning after delivering sunflower seed oil for export to the Russians through the Dorward & Sons storage tanks on the Richmond Belt in January 1945.  This is good news in a way, as the interchange to the RB comes off the east end of the Richmond yard, something that will be on my layout and I model that month.  The not quite great news is that of those 19 cars, 17 are MPLX and I only have one, a 10K Proto 2000 Type 21, and the cars were a mix of 8 and 10K gallon cars.  Here is an example:

A more interesting example is a later shipment of coconut oil from Oakland to Ohio.  Both WP and SP originated parts of that traffic.  Here is an example of a WP BoL:

And because ODT was redirecting tank cars where they were needed to support the war effort, what follows is an example of one of the world’s shortest return hauls: 

Note that these memorandum copies are not all on the pre-printed memorandum sheet, normally sheet three, with sheet two being the Shipper’s Order copy.  Some examples in the files have the inapplicable pre-printed title struck out and replaced by a stamped “Memorandum.”  Also note that the SP bill is on a “Collect On Delivery” pre-printed form.  The WP form has a weight agreement stamp and the weights entered for the Eldorado Terminal originated loads of crude coconut oil are about 7.5 times the listed capacity of the car in gallons.  I suspect that the companion waybill was in-fact a transit waybill from the notation about storage & refining in transit in the lower left of the item description. 

Although these examples are not the “Holy Grail” of actual WWII era waybills, they do contain most, if not all the information needed to complete one, at least at the origin.  Sorting through the images made that day, I have info on 111 tank car movements in the Bay Area near the end of WWII.  In a couple cases, cars moved from San Francisco to Oakland on one Bill, then were forwarded east several days later on a different Bill.  One has to take care to not read too much into this info though, as the records that made it into the permanent files are the ones that took additional attention.  Not there is the day-to-day flow of feed stock in and product out of the refineries or chemical plants.  Occasionally we see AvGas or asphalt shipments, like some of the latter to a station in Washington state named Hanford earlier in the war.  But those needed attention in the massive freight flow to make sure they did not delay critical war work.  Looking back, I understand why someone thought a paving project in the middle of nowhere should have that kind of support and attention, but I doubt that it was understood by most of the participants at the time.  I hope this and my other posts help you understand how things were done back then.  I’ve been having fun researching the history and recreating it in HO scale.

I will repeat my request for Santa Fe waybills, especially from the Coast Lines during WWII, but examples are needed from all four operating companies: ATSF, ATSF Coast Lines, GCSF and P&SF.  I welcome comments here or at

John Barry
Lovettsville, VA
5 November 2017