The Pennsylvania Railroad
Northern Division

How to Set Up a "Balanced and Proportional" Car Card and Waybill System

Understanding Operations

      My love for trains, and in turn for operations, started for me as a child. My father collected trains and I was fascinated with watching them run. The fascination continued as I got older, living along the Pennsylvania Railroad mainline and having the opportunity to ride the commuter trains almost daily to and from school. My desire to model this world in miniature never diminished! Watching not only the big mainline passenger and freight trains, but also the smaller local freights fascinated me. Seeing cars being switched into and out of industries provided many hours of enjoyment. During this time, my love for operations was born! I was always curious where all these cars came from and where they were going. What were these trains doing? Over time, my love for operations led to research and an understanding to what the railroads did and how they did it. My goal was to recreate this action in miniature.

      In planning the model railroad, the challenge was how to incorporate all of these features, both prototype and fictional into the layout. A railroad's basic function is to carry goods and materials from a resource to a user. The application of a model railroad operating scheme is to rationally facilitate this exchange. As a fundamental starting point, it is helpful to geographically locate the railroad to understand which goods are most likely to require shipping to specific users and the directions of flow.

      The Pennsylvania Northern Division is located in north central Pennsylvania and incorporates a mainline that sees run through traffic as well as several branch lines in the area that I model that service a variety of on-line industries, a large coal colliery, and interchanges with other railroads. In this densely industrialized area of the country, the percentage of local users is proportionally higher than it may be on a typical Mid-Western route. Even with that said, as a main line road, as much as 60% of the cars routed are bridge traffic passing through the system.

      These are the principles required to establish a functioning sequence for car forwarding. Depending on the location of your railroad, or even the type of railroad, some of these elements may vary. The basic premise here though is to develop a system that replicates the traffic flows typical of the railroad and area that you model. In my case, it meant to duplicate serving numerous on-line industries with a variety of loads and empties in and out, duplicating coal traffic from the coal fields to market and to duplicate interchange traffic with four other railroads in five different locations, and tying this all together.

Why The Car Card & Waybill System

      There are numerous types of car forwarding systems out there for modelers to use, from colored tabs on the cars to computerized waybill systems. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages. Some systems allow for a 'random' flow of cars while others maintain a rigid flow of a specific number of cars in and out of given areas, ensuring a balance of traffic. There is no right system or wrong system, but rather the system that best meets your needs and maintains your interests.

      I have had the pleasure of operating on numerous railroads, many of which featured different operating systems. All worked well to meet the needs of the owner and what he was trying to accomplish. The system that I eventually choose though was the Car Card & Waybill system. I had seen this system in operation on several local layouts and read about variations of this system in the model press. But I didn't make this choice without first entertaining the idea of other systems.

      My original choice was a computer generated waybill system. I had looked at several programs, and even tried to write my own. What I learned quickly though is that this system tends to not be user friendly as it remembers where cars are and are going. Should you want to simply run trains between sessions, or if cars get lost in the system, it can get quite cumbersome to correct and maintain.

      I was never a fan of systems such as the colored tack system. Systems such as these are easy to use and quite simple to set up, but tend not to be 'self maintaining' and most importantly to me, affect the appearance of the rolling stock on the railroad, something I did not like at all.

      So what about the car card & waybill system appealed to me? First, it was the ease of use for the operators. Most modelers have used a variation of this system, and even if they have not, it is easy to understand even for the beginner. Simply spot the car where the waybill tells you! The system is also very flexible and can be set up to provide for a variety of operating preferences; from a rigid system to a totally random system, which is what I prefer and will discuss in greater detail. With car cards and waybills, there is a continuum and operations can begin at the stopping point or I can simply operate at my leisure between sessions without destroying continuity.

      So what is it about the "balanced and proportional" system that makes it different? It is the traffic patterns that it will generate! No two operating sessions will be alike. With this system, you will determine the proper capacity of your layout, taking into consideration the proportionate number of each car type. Add to this the randomness of the waybills themselves and the end result are sessions where train lengths will vary, replicating fluctuating business patterns from the railroads customers, thus creating interesting scenarios for your operators to think through.

      Before proceeding, I would be remiss if I did not give credit where credit is due! I did not develop this system on my own by any means. This system has been around for many years in various forms, but the specific system that I am going to explain below came from good friend John Rahenkamp, owner of the Clairmont, Lewiston and Western Railroad. We have been operating at John's with this system for years and it never ceases to amaze me how well it works! When the time approached for me to set up operations on my layout, John was very helpful in teaching me how to set up the system. During the process though, I quickly realized that to properly set up a 'balanced' and 'proportional' system such as this is not as straight forward as some might think; that there are specific steps that need to be followed.

      I helped John present a clinic on this system at the 2006 NMRA National Convention in Philadelphia and more recently I presented this clinic at the 2011 MER Regional Convention in Cary, North Carolina, and as a result I have since received many great comments and questions. What I was quick to realize however is that while there is a lot of information out there about various systems, there is little in depth information on how to set up one of these systems. Our clinic focused on this topic, specific to the 'balanced and proportional' aspect of the Car Card and Waybill (CC/WB) car forwarding system. I have taken the information presented at these clinics and present it here, specific to how I set up the system up on my layout. Hopefully the information here will provide a foundation for you to set up a system for your layout. So, with John's blessing, I have stolen his ideas, put them to good use on my layout, have enjoyed the results and now published them here for all to enjoy.

Setting the System Up

      The Car Card & Waybill system by itself is relatively simple to set up and maintain. The setup of any car forwarding system using car cards and waybills is to reasonably represent a shipper ordering an empty and identifying an end user, either on the line or "bridged" through the line. But it is the focus of this article to discuss the proper set up of a car forwarding system that provides for a 'balanced and proportional' randomness of traffic. As a result of the proportional, although relative randomness of any well designed system, the loading of any particular train will vary from operating session to operating session, making this system even more appealing.

      There are essentially 7 steps involved in setting this system up. They are;

      I will warn you now that this is not a one night project! In fact, this will get rather tedious at times. But the end result is well worth the effort.

      The other advice I will give you from the beginning is that the records you create now will be ongoing records that you should maintain over the course of your layout. As you add rolling stock, or change the layout, it will affect the dynamic of this system. You should enter those additions, deletions, changes into the appropriate areas and modify waybills accordingly to keep the system working properly.

      I use a spreadsheet program (Excel) to maintain all of my records. For me, it's easy to use and it helps with the math I am about to show you. You do not have to use a spreadsheet program though. If it's easier for you, a simple set of paper records in a three ring binder will do as well! What ever method you choose though, neatness and organization will help you to maintain the system as the months and years roll by.

      So let's get started!

Inventory Your Rolling Stock and Print Car Cards

      The first step is to do a complete inventory of all rolling stock on your layout. Items to include in your inventory listing should be;

      * For the car type, use an identifier that will be used throughout. A common approach is to use a variation of the AAR Car Type Codes. Whatever method you chose, this will be used to identify car types at industries, on waybills and car cards, so the identifier you use should be easy to remember. Your inventory listing could look something like this;

      As you can see, I maintain a variety of information for my rolling stock. Also note the column labeled 'Equipment Description'. This information is on the car cards and is used to help operators further identify that specific car. Be as descriptive as you want. Some users of this system actually put a picture of the car right on the car card! The idea here is to be user friendly to your operators. Remember, they may not know what car that is, so any description you put on the car card will help them to identify rolling stock and make their job easier.

Making the Car Cards

      Once you have begun your inventory of rolling stock, you can begin making your car cards. The car cards are nothing more than cards that contain essential information such as the Road Number, Road Name, the Car Description for the car they represent, and the AAR Car Type Code which is used to match the car card with an appropriate waybill.

      While both the car cards and waybills are easy to make and print, they are also available commercially. Micro-Mark sells a very similar variation of this system, however their car cards and waybills are smaller than I like, plus I like to print all the information on my car cards and waybills directly on them from my home computer so I opted to make my own using an Excel Spreadsheet program. You could do the same thing using Word, or any other word processing program.

      The car cards are made in such a manner that roughly the bottom quarter folds up to form a pocket in which the waybill will be placed. My cards measure 2 3/4" wide by 5" tall, and the pocket itself is 2" deep, but you can make them any size that is comfortable for your operators.

      Since I decided to print my own car cards, I also made them double sided as shown in the picture. I use the back side to print information about the car from my inventory program, and also print lines on the back so that I can write in any maintenance records for that car. So my car cards are not only used for operational purposes, but also as an easy to use maintenance record keeping system. Since the card is always with the car, information about that car is easily at hand.

      The important part here is the description of the car. Remember, your operators will use the information here to locate that car in a yard or town. They may not know what the car looks like, so any information you can put on these cards will help your operators locate that car. I know of some who have gone so far as to print a picture of the specific car right on the front of the car card! I like this idea as if you can't find the car you are looking for, you at least have a picture of it so you know what it looks like! You can make these as simple or as complicated as you like.

Create Your Chart of Industries and Interchanges

      The next step in setting the system up is to measure the capacity of all sidings for each receiver or destination of any car, including interchange tracks, staging yard tracks and yard tracks. I started by listing each industry and interchange along with the total capacity of the sidings. This listing will be used to determine the total capacity of your layout which in turn will be used to help us balance your rolling stock according to the needs of the businesses you have, as well as to print out your waybills. The listing should include the following information;

      As it concerns car capacity, consistency is key here. This may depend on the era you model or even the business. For example, if you model the steam era, chances are the average car length will be 40'. However, if you model the modern era, your average car length may be 60'. What ever you choose, apply that measurement consistently over the layout as you develop your list. The one exception might be for a specific business. For example, if you model a TOFC terminal, then obviously the average car length in that facility might be 85'. Take this into consideration as you develop your list. This information will be critical when we determine the layout capacity.

      I want to emphasize that this step is critical as the list you make up now will be used in an ongoing manner over time as you add or remove cars, or add or remove industries, to maintain the proper proportion of traffic. I used an Excel spreadsheet to develop my list and recommend this, however, a simple sheet of paper will work just as well. However you do it, your list should be neat and orderly and look something like this...

      This list is for the town of Sunbury on my layout. It lists all the industries in Sunbury, and for each industry, there is one line per type of car. I have measured each siding to determine the total capacity of that siding. If the industry will handle more than one car type, I have entered an additional line for each type of car and did a breakdown of how many of each car will be going to that industry. For example, Packer Street Public Delivery has a total capacity of 2 cars. I have determined that I will only be sending boxcars to this business, so I have one line for 'XM - Boxcar' and put a 2 in the column labeled 'Car Type Capacity'. Westinghouse has a total capacity of 4 cars. However, of the total 4 car capacity, I have determined that I want 2 of those slots for boxcars, 1 of those slots for a gondola, and the last slot shared with two different types of flat cars. How can I have '.5' flat cars you ask? This will become clearer in a moment.

      As you complete your listing, you will need to determine how many waybills to create for each industry. I use a 'multiplier' of 4 to determine how many waybills to generate for each industry. For each line, multiply the capacity of the siding, or destination, by your multiplier and enter that number in the column 'Suggested Number of Waybills'. This is the MAXIMUM number of waybills you will create for that destination. Create a column next to this one called 'Actual Number of Waybills'. You will fill this column out as you create waybills, incrementing the number in this column by one for every waybill created.

      Why a 'multiplier'? This whole system relies on a proportional number of waybills created for each destination. Since our waybill cards have 4 waybills on each card, 3 of the destinations are hidden from view at any given time. Therefore, by multiplying the capacity by 4, we increase the odds of a car being shipped to a given destination. You can increase or decrease your 'multiplier', but whatever number you use, apply it evenly down your list in order to maintain the proportional properties of the system. Looking at my example above, Diamond Printing only has a capacity of 1 car, but I will make 4 waybills for this destination. Likewise, Packer Street Public Delivery can hold 2 cars, but I will make up 8 waybills.

      For an industry that handles different car types such as Westinghouse, you can break down the 'distribution' of waybills to various car types, as long as you maintain the proportional allocation. In my example, Westinghouse can handle a capacity of 4 cars, but I also have 4 different types of cars being routed to Westinghouse. I could have 1 spot for each type of car, but I want more boxcars shipped to Westinghouse than say flat cars. So I can play with the numbers a little to force more boxcars than flat cars. Remember above I put .5 cars for flatcars? If I multiply that .5 times my multiplier of 4, I get 2. So I will make up 2 waybills for flatcars, but 8 waybills for boxcars. But you will also notice that my maximum number of waybills does not exceed 16, or 4 cars times my multiplier of 4.

      Finally, I have also recorded information that will be on the waybills, such as loads in/out.

      Continue this listing for every town and destination on your layout, including any off-line destinations such as staging yards. In theory, every car on the layout will be routed to some destination off the layout which is represented by a staging track or yard. Just like industrial sidings on the layout, the interchange tracks and staging yards also have a given capacity and we want to keep car routings balanced according to capacities. My list of off line destinations looks like this...

      You will note that I have a new car type code that I am using here - 'AC' for 'Any Car Type'. Because these are staging yard tracks for through freights, any car type can be routed here. In this case, I am more concerned with the capacity of the track as this will factor in later on when we determine the layout capacity and car balancing.

      The one exception to this is the first entry for 'Harrisburg - Enola Coal Block'. In this case, I know this train will be entirely coal hoppers, so I have assigned the 'HC' code to this track. Again, this will help me when I determine the proper balance of car types later on.

      Again, since my staging yard represents a destination, I will be generating waybills to this destination. Accordingly, I have determined how many waybills to generate for each track and keep track of the waybills as I generate them.

      In addition to your industries, interchanges and staging yard tracks, you also need to account for the capacity of your yard tracks as well. This is a little different though. For yard tracks, since cars are being held there, we need to take into consideration how many cars the yard can hold to help us later determine the capacity of the layout, but we will not be making waybills for the yard tracks since a yard is not a destination but rather a stopping point for reclassification.

      In the example above, I have three lines for Northumberland Yard. The first line refers to the yard tracks themselves, indicating Northumberland's classification yard has a total capacity of 90 cars. I have used the code 'AC' since any car type might be in the yard. The other two lines show destinations for cars at the engine facility where fuel and sand will be delivered, therefore, specific car types have been determined and there are 'Loads In/Out' references for the waybills, as well as information as to how many waybills I will need to make.

      Continue this listing until you have every industrial siding, interchange track, yard track and staging yard track listed. In other words, every area on the layout where a car will be spotted or stored on your layout should be listed.

Determining the layout capacity and balancing the rolling stock

      As model railroaders, we love buying car kits and collecting cars! But how many cars does your layout really need to operate? More importantly, how many of each car type does your layout need to accommodate the needs of the various businesses on your layout? The answer to this question is critical as the correct answers will provide for a proportional balance of traffic flowing around the railroad! Fortunately, you have collected all of the information you need to figure this out.

      The first step, using your chart of industries, is to add up the total number of each car type throughout the layout. Add up the total number of boxcars, tank cars, etc., including 'AC - Any Car Type'. Record your findings on sheet like shown below in the first and second columns. The total of all these car types is the total capacity of your railroad, in this case, 448 cars.

      In the next column, we are going to figure out the percentage allocation of each car type around the railroad. To do this, we divide the quantity of that car type by the difference between the total numbers of cars less the 'AC' car types. Using 'HM-Closed Hopper' as an example from the chart above, we have found that we have a total of 50 spots that hold hoppers on the layout. So, 50 / (448-289) = 31.4%. What this tells me is that of the 448 total cars on my layout, 31.4% of them should be a 'HM-Closed Hopper' type of car.

      Next, in the fourth column, we now want to find the total number of cars needed for each car type. To do this, multiply the percentage of the total capacity in the third column by the total capacity for the layout. Again, using 'HM-Closed Hopper' as an example from above, we have 31.4% x 448=141 hopper cars.

      Now we want to factor in our capacity limit. Why a capacity limit? Well, in our example, we determined that the layout has the TOTAL capacity of 448 cars. But if we put 448 cars on the layout, nothing would move! So we need to reduce that number proportionately to allow for flow on the railroad. Usually, it is somewhere between 60%-80%. In our example above, we have decided we want to limit the number of cars on the layout to 70% of the total capacity. So now we multiply each car type by 70%. Again, using 'HM-Closed Hopper' as an example from above, we know we will need 99 hopper cars.

      Since you have already done an inventory of your rolling stock and know how many of each car type you presently have, you can compare this to the information you have to determine how many cars you may need, or might have too many of! So in my case, I have 55 hoppers and can see that in order to have a proportionate number of hoppers on the layout, I need an additional 44 more.

      Knowing not only the appropriate number of cars to have on the layout, but also the correct proportionate number of each type of car is essential to provide for a smooth balance of traffic flowing over the railroad.

Making the Waybills

      The Waybill cards are the cards that slip into the pocket of the car card, exposing information that tells the operator where that car is being shipped to. Our waybill cards are actually double sided cards, each side containing two waybills. Each waybill contains information such as...

      While this represents fairly standard information, you can add or delete any information you want. The object here is to provide the essential information needed to route the correct type of car to it's destination. Most everything else is optional.

      Earlier I mentioned that I use a modified version of the AAR Car Type codes. The reason for this is so that I can match waybills to the proper type of car. For example, we want to send an open top hopper to a coal mine for loading, so I use the AAR Code 'HM'. The 'HM' appears on all car cards for open top hoppers, and likewise, the 'HM' appears on all waybills for open top hoppers. This assures that a waybill shipping an empty car to the mine is matched with the proper type of car, specifically an open hopper. This way, you don't send a tank car to that mine!

      My waybill cards are 2 1/2" by 4", wide enough so that they fit inside the pocket on the car card and high enough so that only one half of the waybill card, or one waybill, is exposed at any time.

Entering Information on the Waybills

      With each town, industry, interchange and staging destination listed on your chart, car cards and waybills made, we can begin entering information on to the waybills with a logical movement sequence for each car. I must warn you that starting this project will be interesting, but once you get into this stage, it will become as exciting as watching paint dry! But don't despair. Once this step is done, you will have years of enjoyment watching this system bring your railroad to life! So let's get on with it.

      For each waybill, you will determine a logical 'starting point' for the car, which will be where the car will be when Waybill #1 is inserted into the car card. In most cases, it is an off-line point. On my layout, the 4th side of every waybill card routes the car to an off-line destination, sending the car into my staging yard. Between sessions, all of those cars with Waybill #4 showing are in the same place. The waybill will be removed and a new waybill showing the 1st side, or Waybill #1, will be inserted. We will discuss this further later on. However, with this in mind, I know to make all my waybills so that they are originating from an off-line point. As I make up each waybill, I try to actually envision the moves that will take place to get this car from one location to another. In most cases, it involves several moves; from an off-line point to a classification yard, classified onto another train, usually a local, then moved and spotted into it's destination on the waybill. Sometimes, additional moves may be required, but there are not noted on the waybill. These moves are simply a result of the movement of the car from the shipper to it's destination.

Figure 1
      Let's start with a waybill for a flat car. In my example, on Waybill #1 (See Figure 1) I have this car being sent to Brocious Lumber Co. in Sunbury, Pa. On my listing of industries, I increase my waybill count for this location by 1 under 'Actual Waybills', indicating I have created one waybill routing a flat car to this destination. This car was sent to Brocious Lumber by Weyerhauser Dist. (an off line shipper) with a load of lumber. Once the car is spotted there, it will be unloaded and readied for pickup during the next operating session.

Figure 2
      Since this car is now empty, I can route this car to a shipper on my layout for loading, or to an off-line shipper for loading. In this case, I have chosen to ship the car off-line on Waybill #2 (See Figure 2) since I do not have many on-line destinations for flat cars on my layout. I have decided to ship it to the D&H Railroad interchange in Wilkes-Barre. Remember that as I select a destination for this car, one of the things I want to consider is the movements it will take to get the car to the destination that I selected, thus creating some operational interest. On my listing of industries, I increase my waybill count for the D&H Interchange by 1 under 'Actual Waybills', indicating I have created one waybill routing a car to this destination. I have also placed a note in the instruction box on the waybill telling the yard operators to route this car via train CSB-8, the train that serves the D&H Interchange. Once this car arrives at the D&H Interchange, I will again flip the waybill between sessions so that now Waybill #3 is showing.

Figure 3
      Since this car is coming from an off-line destination (the D&H Interchange), I can do just about anything with it. I can ship it empty to a shipper, loaded to a receiver, or simply ship it to another off-line destination as bridge traffic, which is what I have decided to do here on Waybill #3 (See Figure 3). On my layout, CSB-7 is the train coming from the D&H, stops at Wilkes-Barre and Northumberland yards to set off and pickup cars and continues on to Pittsburgh. I have entered 'Chicago' as the final destination for this car which means it will be placed in the Chicago Block of CSB-7 and run right through to a different staging area on the layout. On my listing of industries, I increase my waybill count for 'Chicago' by 1 under 'Actual Waybills', indicating I have created one waybill routing a car to this destination. Again, between sessions, I will flip the waybill so that the 4th position, Waybill #4, is showing.

Figure 4
      Now that I am at the 4th position (See Figure 4), I know that I need to route this car to an off-line destination as discussed above. But to at least create some switching opportunities for this car, I will have it transferred to another train at Northumberland. Therefore, I will route this car to 'Baltimore, MD'. Again, on my listing of industries, I increase my waybill count for 'Baltimore, MD' by 1 under 'Actual Waybills', indicating I have created one waybill routing a car to this destination. This car will arrive 'from Chicago' on train CSB-8 and be set out in Northumberland to be classified into the Enola Block of train BF-4 to Harrisburg. Once in Harrisburg (in the staging yard) between sessions, I will remove this waybill card since it is now in the 4th position, having completed all it's moves, and insert a new waybill card into the car card pocket, starting the process over again.

      Keep in mind that if you operate once a month, and assuming that a car goes directly from shipper to receiver in one session (which is not always the case), it takes at least 4 months for a car to complete this 4 cycle process! And in this process, that car has gone through numerous moves to get to each of its four destinations.

      On the card jacket is a line that reads "When Empty return car to". I do not use this option on my layout since the 4th position on my waybills always routes the car off-line into staging, but many do. Depending on the car's origin, it would interchange in the direction of its home base. Remember that if you do use this line on the car card, to increase your waybill count for the destination you choose by 1 under 'Actual Waybills', indicating you have created one waybill routing a car to this destination.

      This only one example of setting up one waybill card. You will obviously need at least one waybill card per car on your layout, however I maintain about 50% more waybills than there are cars on the layout. When new cars are added, I generate at least 2 more waybills. The reason is to avoid redundancy. As each new waybill is added, I check off its moves on the industry listing as explained above.

      Remember, the key in routing the waybill moves is to maintain the proportions in relation to the track capacities to avoid overloads. As I write a movement on a waybill, I check off against that industry or interchange, maintaining a ratio of moves and capacity. I follow a similar routine as new industries are added. Rather than start all over again, I produce new waybills focusing on movements to and from the new industry in the proportion of its track capacity.

      There are many variations of this system that I use as well. For example, many of my cars are for specific industries and are in dedicated service, which is very common on the prototype. For example, I have an industry called Barrett Industries on my layout. There is a boxcar lettered for Barrett Industries as well. This boxcar has a dedicated waybill card that routes it between Barrett Industries and off-line to a customer in Chicago. Waybill #3 on that waybill card simply reads 'Dedicated Service - Do Not Remove Card. Flip back to Waybill #1' which routes the car back to Barrett Industries.

      There are a few notable exceptions to the normal sequence of the waybills. I have some cars that I like and add "texture" to through freights, but I have no local industry to receive them. Similar to the example above, I put 'Dedicated Service. Flip back to Waybill #1' and they move from one interchange to another interchange as bridge traffic.

      As you gain a basic understanding of this system and start to use it, you may develop additional ideas of how you can customize it better for specific uses on your layout. Like anything else in our hobby, you can experiment and see how it works.

Making Your Waybill Boxes

      Now that you have made all of those car cards and waybill cards, you need a place to put them! Again, like everything else, there are variations to this step of the CC/WB system, but I will only elaborate on the method that I have found to be most common and that I use on the PRR Northern Division.

      In each operating area or town, you will have a set of three boxes as pictured here. We simply call them 'Waybill Boxes'. Note that each box is labeled from left to right "Set Out", "Hold" and "Pick Up", and contain the town name on the face of the boxes. Also note that there are cards in the "Hold" and "Pick Up" boxes.

      When a train comes to this town, the operator will take the cards out of the "Pick Up" box and locate these cars. These are cars that he will need to pick up. Like wise, the cards in the "Hold" box stay where they are as they represent cars that are still being loaded or unloaded. Finally, as the operator sets out cars as per the instructions on the waybills, he will place those cards in the "Set Out" box. When he is finished switching this area, the boxes will contain cards in the "Set Out" and "Hold" box, and the "Pick Up" box will be empty.

      In between operating sessions, I will go to each town and move the cards in the "Hold" box to the "Pick Up" box, flipping the waybill cards for those cards to the next waybill, revealing the next destination for that car. I will also take the cards in the "Set Out" box and move those into the "Hold" box, but NOT flip those waybill cards yet as those cars are being held for loading or unloading.

      You will need to have a similar set of boxes for yards and interchanges. Typically in a yard, there will be a box for each classification track in the yard, so that as cars are classified, the corresponding card is put in to the corresponding box.

Putting the System to Work

      Putting that last waybill card into the last car card is a big step and means only one thing; you are ready to operate your new system! You may be wondering at this point is there any specific order to how the waybill cards should have been placed, and the answer is no. But since you are setting up the railroad for your first operating session, you should set it up as if it has already run before. Therefore, mix it up a little. Make sure that not all the waybill cards are showing waybill #1, but they are instead mixed up so some show side #2, others show #3, etc.

      It is going to take several operating sessions before things start to settle into place. The first session will eventually get everything to it's new destination. At this time, you may notice some imbalance. This is ok. You may have to force the balance the first few sessions simply by advancing a few of the waybills and forcing the movements of cars until things appear balanced. Just remember, the nature of this system though is the randomness also. This means one industry may only get one car this time, but next time it might get three.

      After two or three sessions, things will begin to settle in nicely. At that point, you may notice some industries getting more cars that others. Make a note of this for now, but resist any temptation to change things right away. Remember, this is the nature of the system - the randomness - and that's what makes it truly interesting during operating sessions! Let the railroad now dictate to you what is working and what is not working. Over time, you may find you need to add a few waybills to a specific industry, and in other places you may want to eliminate a few. But don't react too quickly. Let the system settle into place first.


      I have mentioned the many variations of this type of system. It is flexible so that you can begin to modify certain aspects of it depending on your needs or wants. For example, not all cars have to go through the "Set Out/Hold/Pickup" sequence as described above. Once exception might be express cars, LCL, and express reefers which, instead of following the normal set-out, hold, pickup sequence, would go immediately to pickup box. The beauty of the relative randomness of the waybills, although not without proportionate loadings and logical sequencing, is that assembly and switching of trains is always varied.

      You will notice some interesting variations in your operations. The same scheduled through freights may vary from 10 to 30 cars in any operating session, requiring decisions on the engine consist to pull the tonnage and decisions on the need for helpers and dispatching decisions for scheduled passes. Also, the lowly way freight operator always has fresh and varied decision making.

       I hope this has helped you to understand how to set up a successful Car Card & Waybill system. To learn more about how to operate this system, see the section entitled "Using the Car Card & Waybill Car Forwarding System" on the Operations page.

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