Car Forwarding System

M-I traffic management is handled with Car Cards and Waybills.  Although prototypical cards with detailed information is interesting to read,  it rarely provides meaningful information to the operator for the job at hand: moving cars along our railroad empires.  I started with Micro Mark cards, then printed my own custom Car Cards and Waybills to best fit the needs of the M-I.

Firstly, there are 4 items on each Car Card: the car’s reporting mark and road number are boldly displayed against a background showing the car’s color.  One or two letters in the right upper corner identifies the AAR car type.  This allows nearly instantaneously recognition of a particular car.  Furthermore, the AAR codes are limited to a single character (with an exception made for covered hoppers: LO).  The layout’s industries do not require the complexity of all the AAR codes.

Various AAR codes used on the M-I’s Car Cards.

Along with the Car Cards, Waybills are also printed in-house; the typewritten billing information uses blue Andale Mono font with a drop shadow. This helps the type stand out better for legibility and mimics the look of a carbon copy.

Various Car Card types: the Idler (caboose) cards hold an ETT, the boxcar has a Waybill and the Engine Card holds the Train Order. Once combined to form a train, the packet is secured with a bankers clip.

Each switching location has Micro Mark bill boxes fastened to the trim fascia with a slot for each track.  Extra cubbies are used to store Bad Order cards.

Car Cards in bill boxes at the Thomure boat yard.

When a train arrives at a location, the conductor can easily tell which cars are to be moved.  If the Car Card/Waybill packet is facing outward toward the aisle, the car is ready to be moved.  Conversely, if the packet is facing backwards, the conductor knows that the car is to remain and not be picked up.

If all track spots on a given spur are full and a car is unable to be dropped, the conductor will set out the car at the nearest convenient location and place an Off-Spot notice in the Waybill pocket.  The next train that comes through will see this and re-spot the car to the proper location once room has been made for it.

Waybills show the town where a car is to be delivered along with the industry to receive it (Consignee).  It’s easy for a crew to determine layout locations.  It’s more difficult when a car is bound for a station and consignee which exists off layout.

The layout has 4 points at which cars can exit the layout bound for other parts of the country.   The northernmost point is across the river on the boat from Thomure.  Next is the Frisco interchange at Ste Genevieve.  The third and fourth locations are both at Derby Jct.  The Ste. Genevieve subdivision interchanges with the Bonne Terre (BT) subdivision at Derby Jct. and two spurs are used for these car movements.  The lead and mineral mines on the BT sub generate a lot of traffic moving northward/eastward across the river.

The last interchange point is the southern terminus of the subdivision at Bismarck where the M-I interchanges with its parent line, the MoPac.  However, Bismarck does not exist on the layout – the town is virtual and crews leave or meet their train on the main line at Derby Jct.

If a train is destined for Bismarck, the crew proceeds down the line and performs their duties as normal at Derby Jct., switching the BT sub interchange tracks, including adding any cars bound for Bismarck.  Once their work is finished and the train is ready to depart, the crew essentially “times out” and ties up their train on the main track.  They notify the General Manager who sends a vehicle to retrieve them (or they run off to the local beanery).

To aid crews in determining how a car moves off-layout, the routing portion of the Waybill is completed specifying exactly where the car is to be delivered. One of the aforementioned interchange points is typed under the Waybill’s Route section. For example, a car bound off-layout for Centralia, Illinois, will move across the river on the ferry boat. Therefore, its Waybill will have BOAT entered in the Route space. Other annotations include SLSF, BT SUB and BISMARCK.

Waybill #1 is for a tank car destined for the Western Lime Company, an off-layout industry. The routing entry indicates SLSF. The crew knows this car is to be spotted at the SLSF interchange for subsequent movement by the Frisco to its final destination. The Waybill also indicates the tank car is loaded with dangerous cargo (more info below).

When a car is found to be defective (eg, broken coupler, missing ladder/step, derailing frequently,  etc), the crew shall pink-tag the car by slipping a Bad Order card into the front pocket of the Car Car/Waybill packet.

Dangerous loads, such as fuel in tank cars, should not be entrained adjacent to a locomotive or a caboose.  The Waybill for these loads contains a bold notice of DANGEROUS CARGO printed in red. This alerts the Yardmaster or train crew that there must be at least one car in between this car and a locomotive, caboose or passenger carriage.

Additional Waybill-sized inserts were created for Engine and Caboose Cards. Train orders for a particular job are inserted into Engine Cards, whereas an Employee Time Table fits into the Caboose Card.

Train Orders and an ETT fit into Engine and Caboose cards respectively.

New Operator’s Primer on Layout Geography

The M-I layout represents a single subdivision of a short branch line. Therefore, cars are rarely moved from one industry to another on the layout. Most car movements involve entering or exiting the layout through various points. New operators who are not familiar with the layout geography may be unaware as to what cities/stations are on the layout and which are off-layout. This primer will help eliminate confusion.

The first step is to glance at the car’s Waybill – if the third line (the Route field) is blank, then the the top field (To) destination is guaranteed to be on the layout and will be one of five (5) station locations. Therefore, this car will end up in one of the following locations: Ste. Genevieve, Mosher, Weingarten, Millers or Derby Jct.

If the Route field is completed, then one can ignore the To field designation. Follow the Route entry – that car is destined for one of four locations on the layout and will be for either interchange (SLSFBISMARCKBT SUB) or for the car ferry (BOAT).

The left Waybill denotes a car to be delivered to an on-layout industry (International Shoe Co.) in Ste. Genevieve. The right Waybill shows a car destined for the ferry boat.

The second field (Consignee) is the name of the specific industry to receive the car. Examples include Peerless White Lime Co., Shapiro Brothers Scrap Metal, Falk Electric Supply, etc.  There are times when an industry is listed with an abbreviation of TM TK or HS TK – these are situations where the car is to be spotted on the location’s Team or House Track. These spots are for businesses which do not have their own industrial spur.

So, what are these Route designators and what is their purpose?

  • BOAT means the car is to be loaded on ferry boat crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois (located at the far north end of the layout past Thomure yard)
  • SLSF is the interchange with the Frisco railroad and located on a spur just south of the Ste. Genevieve depot
  • BT SUB is the M-I’s Bonne Terre subdivision which runs north of my sub and is switched using the interchange tracks at Derby Jct
  • BISMARCK is the prototype’s end of the line where it connects with the Missouri Pacific; on my layout, Bismarck is not modeled and is off-layout; it’s treated as an imaginary station and the crew completes their switching duties in Derby Jct and ties down their completed train on the Derby Jct main

In summary, the geography is quickly learned after a session. To recap the basic north to south line……

  • Thomure [BOAT]
  • Middle Yard
  • Ste. Genevieve [SLSF]
  • Mosher
  • Weingarten
  • Millers
  • Derby Jct [BT SUB] [BISMARCK]