Operations Primer - Car Cards

Following are the topics/questions discussed in this section of the OpSig PRIMER. You can click on a question to jump directly to that topic. You are invited to address further questions or comments (please refer to question number) to webmaster@opsig.org.

0. Definitions

Car Card - a card used to represent a specific model car on a layout. It will have at least a basic description of the car such as type and color as well as reporting marks and number to identify it. The carcard information is "permanent," ie. does not change regardless of what the car is currently doing.

Waybill (card) - a card used with the carcard (above) to indicate the destination, routing and other information about the specific shipment the car is currently being used for. Usually the waybill card is a separate item smaller than the carcard such that it can be clipped to or (more commonly) slipped into the pocket of the carcard leaving the car identification information showing. The waybill may show information about 1, 2, 3, or 4 (sometimes more) movements depending on which side of the waybill is turned up.

Question 1. What is the reason there are one, two, and four-sided waybills?

Answer 1. The different sides reflect the number of moves in a car's cycle between industries. A single-sided waybill will take a car to an industry as a load of supplies or raw material. When it arrives, the waybill is removed and the car becomes an empty and gets returned to its home yard during the next session. Usually the carcard tells the car's "home route" [if foreign, or home point if a system car] in a notation which is revealed when the waybill is removed.

A two-sided waybill could cover placement of an empty for loading at an industry, followed by shipment of the load. A four-sided waybill (most common) will specify several trips in succession, which could be loaded or empty and involve two or several different customers, on or off the layout. Three-trip bills are also possible. If differing numbers of trip waybills are in use, they should contain a notation instructing whether they are to be turned or removed after each step.

Q2. How many waybills will I need for my layout?

A2.That depends on several things.

a. The number and capacity of industries

b. The capacity of yards, interchanges and staging tracks

c. The number of cars cycled during an operating session

d. The number of cars you have.

Q3. How do you set up the very first op session for your layout with car cards?

A3. This is the toughest question I had to answer and I still do not have the "best" solution. I first "seeded" some industries with cars but did not fill every siding. There were some industries that had no cars and some with less than the maximum siding capacity. I then took the scheduled trains, checked their destinations and compared their drops with the industries needing empties or raw materials. I made up the staged trains with cars that would eventually get to those industries, some would take more than one session to accomplish that. I repeated this process until I had all cars accounted for. I then looked at the cars in the industries and decided which ones were "loading," "Empty," or ready to move on to their next destination. I looked at the trains that would pick up cars from the industries and I adjusted the waybills accordingly and repeated that at every industry until I had covered the entire layout. It took me almost 6 hours to set up for less than 300 cars. Don't try to get it perfect the first time. Eventually the mistakes will iron themselves out over time.

Q4. How long will a car stay at an industry until it has to be removed as a pickup or empty?

A4. This is a matter of personal choice. Depending on the car's next destination and the ability for that industry to accept the car I might hold it for more than one session. Sometimes industries find it cheaper to use a car as "onsite storage" if their warehouse is smaller or a seasonal rush requires more storage space than they have. Making these decisions during between-session restaging also allows adjustment of traffic surges or overflows.

There are two systems of storing carcards for cars placed at industries in a "town" or switching area. One scheme uses one storage box, bin or "pocket" for each industry track (may be more than one customer on the track). Cards for cars set out on that track are placed in the rear of pocket facing away from the aisle. Cars to be picked up are "on top," facing out readable from the aisle, having been turned (and waybills adjusted) between sessions.

The other scheme uses (usually) 4 pockets for all tracks in the entire area. These are labeled

Set Out


Pick Up

Off Spot

All cards "face out." Cards for cars placed at industry are left in the Set Out pocket by the crew. The crew then pulls all cars with cards in the Pick Up pocket. If there is insufficient room to place a car at its destination, it is left nearby and the card left in the Off Spot pocket; the next crew is to place the Off Spots if there is now room enough, and move the card from Off Spot to Set Out. The crew does not pick up the Hold cars, but might have to handle them in the course of switching, then return them to their original track.

The purpose of the Hold pocket is the assumption that cars need two "days" or sessions to complete unloading or loading. Between sessions the Hold cards are moved to Pick Up and their waybills turned, then the Set Out cards are moved to the Hold pocket. Optionally certain cars may bypass Hold for faster turnaround.

Q5. Who flips the waybills? Should waybills be turned during the operating session?

A5. Adjustment of carcards and waybills represents the paperwork done by the local freight agent and the customers "between" service by the local switch crew.

From this perspective the crews should not be required to flip the waybills. The only person that really knows what is planned for the next session is the layout owner. An exception is a club. In that situation, that would be decided by the membership. On my layout, the waybills get flipped just before the next session. A friend willing to assist is always welcome to join in.

Alternatively, to reduce restaging work, some owners specify that crews WILL move carcards and adjust waybills, probably after they finish switching a particular area. This way they are "acting as" the station agent, just as they do when they report their train's movements to a dispatcher

Q6. Is color-coding car cards a good idea?

A6. Color coding is an excellent way to quickly identify a car type, a town, or a final destination, although too many colors on a card or waybill can get distracting. If color-coding is used, make sure you have a LARGE sign with the legend on it placed in several locations around the layout to help the newbies find the correct meaning for the color coding.

It has been argued that real waybills do not use color codes. However, real waybills don't have pockets and separate cards, and don't contain multiple car movements. This is another personal preference issue.

Q7. What information needs to be on the carcard?

A7. The minimum amount of information needed on a carcard would be the type of car (AAR Code), the roadname or reporting marks, the number, and where it should go when a waybill is not inserted in the pocket. Other useful info is car color, size, distinctive features like State of Maine, or a unique herald. Car type is used to match waybills to appropriate cars, while the descriptive information assists locating the particular car in a crowded yard. Remember to provide a key to your car type codes for visitors.

The carcard is also a useful place for non-operating information such as car owner (when cars are mingled, as in a club), last maintenance/inspection date, era (time period) of model, paint matching information, etc. These items are better placed on the back of the card to avoid confusion with operating information.

Q8. What happens if a car loses its card?

A8. Find out who lost it and have them killed, or simply make another one. But in the heat of the session, specify a specific location, such as a main yard RIP track, where "no bill" cars are sent. Lost cards usually turn up and can be taken to the no-bill track to find or await their car, which then resumes its billed journey.

Q9. What is the best size for a carcard?

A9. There is no "right" or "best" size. Some of our elder statesmen prefer bigger cards with bigger printing, others prefer smaller cards for manageability. Possibly the most common (Old Line Graphics) cards are 2 1/8"x4". Operations SIG cards are 3x5". Smaller and larger sizes are also used. Of course a given layout (sometimes operators in a given area) should standardize on one size.

Q10. Is there a place I can buy pre-made car cards?

A10. Old Line Graphics CARCARD and WAYBILL PRICING (Effective 06-01-2002)

Item 1: CARCARDS (Buff for Freight equipment) per pad of 50 - $2.00 ea.

Item 2: CARCARDS (Green for Passenger equip.) per pad of 50 - $2.00 ea.

Item 3: CARCARDS (Red for MofW equipment) per pad of 50 - $2.00 ea.

Item 4: WAYBILLS (White) per pad of 50 - $2.00 ea.

Item 5: SPECIAL WAYBILL/EMPTY CAR ORDER per pad of 50 - $2.00 ea.

Item 6: MESSAGE PAD per pad of 50 - $1.25 ea.

Item 7: TRAIN ORDER PAD per pad of 50 - $1.25 ea.

Item 8: UNIT TRAIN PAD per pad of 50 - $1.25 ea.

Item 9: MINE BLOCK PAD per pad of 50 - $1.25 ea.

Item 10: BAD ORDER PAD per pad of 50 - $1.25 ea.

Shipping per order: (No matter how large) - $6.00

Shipping outside the United States ADD an additional - $2.00

Maryland residents must include 5% sales tax.

The BASIC SET, priced at $22.00, includes the following:

2 each Carcard Pads (Buff for Freight equipment)

3 each Waybill Pads

1 each Special Waybill Pad

1 each Message Pad, Train Order Pad, Unit Train Pad, Mine Block Pad, and Bad Order pad

Shipping is included with the Basic Set

Orders are shipped as soon as possible. There may be some delay, if any items need to be reprinted. Make checks payable to: "Old Line Graphics."

Mail to:

Old Line Graphics

1604 Woodwell Road

Silver Spring, MD 20906-2048


In March 2003 there was a report that OLG may change ownership and mailing address.

Q11. Is there a computer program to make carcards, if so, where do I find it?

A11. There are a couple of commercial programs that can print car cards after you input the data. ShipIt CarCards by Albion Software is one that comes to mind. There is also a FREE program on the Railway Industrial OP-SIG group on yahoogroups.com in the files area. It does require MS Access 97 or newer. MS Office Pro can be purchased at a computer show for less than $30.00. Others include MiTrains by Shenandoah Software, and Quaker Valley Software has an offering. I am sure there are more out there.

Q12. Can a single carcard represent more than one car?

A12. Yes. This is known as a "block". Usually the first and last cars in the block are written on the card and the total number of cars in that block. For example: car type, RS. total number of cars in block, 10, First car #12345, last car #54321. The entire block of cars are treated as one until they are delivered to their destination.

Q13. How do I find out what kind of waybills I'll need?

A13. Visit another modeler using carcards, join the CarCards group on Yahoogroups.com, check out articles in the model press like Bruce Chubb's "How to operate Your Model Railroad" (out of print) or the new Kalmbach book on operations by Tony Koester.

Q14. Do I need cards for my passenger cars?

A14. Passenger cars are usually thought of as a "unit" or fixed consist but they are serviced, added as extra cars at destinations along the way and they are also split up when a train reaches a location where it becomes two sections like the Zephyr or the Empire Builder. "Head end" cars carrying mail, express, etc are switched to "industries." These activities can be controlled by cards, with or without waybill pockets and possibly reversible for the "return trip."

Q15. How do I label the industry boxes at the towns for car card use?

A15. I use the industry's names and I only use one box for Arrival, loading, or pickup. I use the card's position if it is to be picked up (facing the aisle) or left in place (facing away from the aisle).

Q16. Do I need a box for every industry?

A16. Industries can share a box, especially if they are on the same track, depending on fascia space, or you can have one box for every industry if you have the room. Note that some industries have specific "spots" (doors, chutes, etc) where particular cars are to be spotted as specified on the waybill.

Q17. What types of information will go on the waybill?

A17. Usually the destination, routing, the type of car (AAR Code), and track or loading door at the industry it is heading for are necessities. "Via" on-layout routing information or color codes can be helpful to crews.

Information such as loaded or empty, contents, origin customer and location, and other railroads in the route are interesting but not necessary for our crews.

Q18. How do I use carcards with my unit trains?

A18. A block card would be used for this.

Q19. Will I need cards for my engines and cabooses?

A19. I use waybill-sized engine cards with the engine information like engine class, wheel arrangement, number, DCC decoder address, and normal assignment if applicable (passenger, freight, helper service, etc.) I then place them in the Caboose CarCard and put them at the top of the train's pack. Other layouts use separate carcard-sized cards for both engines and cabooses, usually of a distinctive color.

Q20. How do you distribute the car waybills to individual cars?

A20. I keep my waybills at my staging yards. This is where most of the replacement of waybills happens. I use a chart I made to keep track of the industrial status and add, flip, or remove them before the next session.

Q21. A train arrives at an industry setting that has several independent sidings. Let's say there are four companies [#1 - #4] that all have cars sitting on their siding. The arriving train only has one drop off. It's for industry #2.

Do you move the cards for all four industries to their next slot as an automatic procedure?

When do you turn over the waybill [at arrival to bin 1 or at departure from bin 4]?

A21: Concerning carcards, the normal concept is that an imaginary station agent takes care of waybills sometime between when the switching train works there. Usually this is the layout owner between sessions, but a few layouts have the train crews do it after they are done switching the town. Most often there is one set of three or four boxes or pockets for the whole town or industrial area, labeled Set Out, Hold, Pick Up (and Off Spot), but sometimes there is one box for each industry track if there are a lot of them.

Assuming 4 boxes for the whole town, before the train arrives, "yesterday's " Hold cards will have been shifted to the Pick Up box and the waybills turned to show the next destinations, meaning these cars have finished unloading (or loading) and are ready to be pulled. Also, yesterday's Set Out cards will have been moved to the Hold box, meaning these cars are still in the process of being unloaded (or loaded); their waybills still show the destination industry "here." The Hold box implies that loading/unloading takes two "days" while the train runs every day. This can be varied for certain cars if desired by skipping their cards directly from Set Out to Pick Up.

Therefore when "today's" train arrives it will leave off all the cars it has for this town (which all happen to be for Industry #2 in your example) and leave their carcards in the Set Out box (with waybills still showing Industry #2). Normally the train is also responsible for picking up all the cars in town from all industries (#1-4) that are ready, if any, which are the cards in the Pick Up box (with waybill destinations somewhere else). The train doesn't pick up the Hold cars (until "tomorrow") but it may have to move them out of the way and then put them back again.

If the siding for Industry #2 is too full (even after removing today's pickups), the train has to leave the excess cars for #2 somewhere else around town until there is room ("tomorrow"). These cards are put in the Off Spot box instead of the Set Out box. It follows that when the train arrives today if there are any Off Spot cars already in town, for any of the industries #1-4, they should be spotted first (if there is room) and their cards moved from the Off Spot box to the Set Out box by this crew.

Therefore when the train is done working here there will be cards in the Set Out and Hold box, none left in the Pick Up box, and may or may not be any Off Spot cards. Either before the next session the layout owner, or just before it leaves town this crew (acting as the station agent), will rotate the cards as explained above.

If more than one train does local switching in the town, it is helpful for whomever does restaging to clip or rubber-band together, and label, cars to be Picked Up by train #1 and those for Train #2 (often East and Westbound). This avoids each crew having to paw through all the Pick Ups to decide which are theirs, which is really "agent's" work. A taller labeled divider card in the Pick Up box is handy for such separations.

If there is one box for each track instead of four for the whole town, usually the cards to be picked up are facing "out" so they can be read from the aisle, with cards not to be picked up, and any dropped off, behind them in the same box but facing "in."

Q22: Could I modify my bin labeling to the following:






I would base my RR on the simple assumption that a car placed at or near a location is acceptable (no "off spots"). Hence, all carcards enter the ARRIVE bin upon their arrival to the area. WAYBILLS is a bin to collect the waybills that are removed from their carcard.

I read about a technique of numbering a waybill in the top right corner so as to accelerate that car's rotation within the bin system (waybill indicates number of days to be held, ie. 1, 2 or 3, with card advanced to Hold/Pick Up bins accordingly).

A22: HOLD and UNLOAD/LOAD provide for 3 "days" load/unload time.

As to a WAYBILL bin, there are two schools of thought about handling waybills. Incidentally as you probably know, the most common waybill forms (Old Line Graphics style) have 4 "sides" to accommodate 4 consecutive movements or shipments. However, it isn't necessary to use all four; a waybill could have 1, 2, 3 or 4 moves on it.

One approach is to leave the waybill with the carcard indefinitely, just turning it to the next move when it is advanced to the PICK UP bin. After side 4 (or the last side if there are only 2 or 3 moves) it is just turned again to side 1. In this scheme there is no need for the WAYBILL bin as bills stay with the car(d)s.

Since some people feel that approach is repetitive, the other scheme is to separate the waybill from the car(d) when the last move is completed. The car then becomes an empty available for other shipments, while it starts its trip "home" as indicated on the carcard underneath where the waybill was. (Home is an interchange en route to the car's owning railroad if it is a foreign or private car, or a specified main yard if the car belongs to your railroad.) In this scheme waybills representing "new" shipments are given to a crewman such as a yardmaster who is responsible to find empties of the proper kind and ownership to accommodate the waybill's side 1, which of course is then inserted into the car's carcard for movement. It is this type of waybill handling where you would need WAYBILL bins. Presumably between sessions the owner would collect the completed bills, refile them, and pull the desired number of "new" shipments for the next session.

Note that these two approaches can be mixed, some bills pulled and some just rotated back to side 1. Also, some of the "sides" will be empty moves, so the "empty" can be appropriated for another shipment by putting the new order card right in the pocket on top of the one already there. When the new order movement is complete and that waybill is pulled out, the previous (or "permanent") waybill is still there underneath and the car resumes that itinerary. Lots of flexibility.

Q23: You mentioned the approach of leaving the waybill with the carcard indefinitely, just turning it to side 1 again after side 4, noting that some people feel that approach is repetitive. My initial, untested, conclusion leads me to believe that having entirely new waybills inserted would allow a car to visit other locations around the layout, and it would probably facilitate consists of continually changing car combinations, whereas starting again at Side 1 might become predictable.

You mentioned that the two approaches can be mixed, some bills pulled and some just rotated back to Side 1. A mixed approach would surely negate the above concerns.

I also read something about creating certain carcard/waybill scenarios where a specific car makes a continuous round trip between two industries: a linen cleaner and a large resort. I gather this is a one-sided, two-execution waybill that simply remains with its car and turns over indefinitely:

Side 1: To resort

Side 2: To linen cleaner

Please elaborate!

A23: While "permanent" 4-cycle waybills that stay with the same car indefinitely are by definition repetitive, the real issue is how apparent this is to operators, since it takes four sessions before the car repeats. It usually turns out that different cars complete their appointed rounds at different speeds (if the layout is of at least medium size) so they don't "flock together" as you might expect. Also there are many real railroad cars which are assigned to the same service and do in fact "ping-pong" back and forth; and some industries buy the same product from the same suppliers that get shipped in cars that always look about the same even if they aren't identical. So some repetitiveness is realistic.

The "resort/linen cleaner" scenario is an example of an assigned car:

WAY 1: To resort with clean linens

"Upon arrival turn waybill to side 2"

WAY 2: To cleaner with dirty linens

"Upon arrival turn waybill to side 1"

Sides 3 and 4 are blank.

Q24. You mentioned the idea of appropriating an "empty" car for another shipment by putting a new car order card right in the pocket on top of the one already there, and when the new movement is complete that "secondary" waybill is pulled out and the previous "permanent" waybill is still there underneath and the car resumes its itinerary. Please take me through an example using a 4-sided waybill:

Side 1: Unsealed boxes to Glidden

Side 2: Sealed boxes to Smiths via Ashland interchange

Side 3: Empty

I assume "empty" prompts the insertion of a one-sided, one-execution waybill. What would be an example of this inserted waybill? How can the insert be guaranteed to make sense with Side 4 if the insert is pulled at random from some file?

A24: The alternative approach of pulling some waybills after the last cycle certainly adds variety. The task of putting a new waybill with the car can either be part of the owner's restaging between sessions, or incorporated into the session as an additional task for someone who is given a stack of waybills ("new car orders") for which to find appropriate empty cars.

Empty cars can also be moving on a waybill which is then temporarily overridden (sometimes called "secondary waybills"):

WAY 1: To Glidden with empty boxes

WAY 2: To Smiths with cartons of merchandise via Ashland interchange

WAY 3: Empty car returning from Ashland interchange to Beta interchange

WAY 4: To box factory with corrugated paperboard from Beta interchange

(upon arrival turn waybill to side 1)

Now suppose the yardmaster has an order for an empty car (of the same type, eg. boxcar). The order looks like this:

WAY 1: Empty car to Jones for loading

Upon arrival turn SECONDARY waybill to its side 2 (leave primary waybill undisturbed)

WAY 2: To Kaplan with food products

Upon arrival PULL SECONDARY waybill and return to orders file

Sides 3 and 4 are blank.

The yardmaster sees the first car coming through his yard on its WAY 3 move (empty). He inserts the second waybill on top of the "permanent" waybill already in the carcard pocket. Now the car is on its way to Jones, and later, to Kaplan. When the secondary waybill is removed at Kaplan, the WAY 3 routing is again exposed and the car is on its way to Beta interchange again. It could even be intercepted again to fill another order, we don't worry that the mill on the Beta line is still waiting for a car to load with paperboard.

As you see, carcards can be used to handle many different situations.

Q25. Is this how you insert RIP (repair track) and other such oddities [as 'secondary waybills']?

A25. It's certainly one good way to handle "side trips" that interrupt but don't supersede the main waybill flow. Like rip track, icing, car cleaning. They have also been used for "contents of the car" like LCL or coal and ashes to/from locomotive service facilities. The possibilities are endless.

Q26. I'm planning to recycle a waybill after the fourth assignment. If assignment #2 is to return empty because the first receiver doesn't ship via rail, do I pull the waybill to show a "return to" order, or should I turn the waybill and mark the waybill for an empty return to the home road? If I pull the waybill, how does it get back into circulation?

A26: On the real railroads, of course, each waybill is a separate trip. Before the load is moved the customer has to order a suitable car to be placed for loading. After the shipment is complete a decision has to be made where the now-empty car is to be used next. This scenario is modeled by a "customer order" card, which someone uses to find an "empty" to move to the customer. The order card is turned to its second side which specifies the loaded trip. When movement is complete the order/waybill is removed, revealing the bare carcard which specifies the "home route" for the car, and the "order" returned to a file for future use. The car moves toward that "home" unless/until it is matched with another order card.

While realistic, this scenario requires clerical intervention for every loaded trip. To reduce this it was realized that one waybill card could easily have 4 sides (sometimes more, sometimes not all 4 would be used). Typically they could be used as follows:

Side 1: Load from A to B

Side 2: Empty from B to C

Side 3: Load from C to D

Side 4: Empty from D to A

Note that side 4 should return the car to where it can logically resume Trip 1. Now NO clerical intervention is required except advancing the waybill to the next side between sessions only if its current trip is complete. After Trip 4 the bill is returned to Side 1. With this type of waybill the "empty" move bill is not removed but stays with the carcard. Also, the "empty return to" notation on the carcard is never exposed unless the waybill card should happen to get lost.

These two approaches can be mixed but it is well to have some indication on the waybill instructing the "turner" between sessions what is to be done with each card, ie. turn or remove. Note that a car-order can be filled with either an "empty-return" car/card (no waybill in its pocket) or by car/card which has a waybill indicating an empty movement; in the latter case the "order" card is inserted in the carcard pocket on top of the 4-sided bill without removing the latter. When the "ordered" trip is complete it is removed, revealing the previous, now-again-empty, 4-sided bill. If the "order" trip has taken the car to a location which is illogical for the underlying empty bill (for example, the destination of the empty move) the 4-side bill is just turned to its next side.

Q27. Let's say that I am shipping [paper] in a boxcar from Point A to Point C. It requires the use of a major interchange at Point B. I drop off the boxcar at Point B. It is classified on a small yard track to be taken by an independent, branchline RR different from the carrier who brought the boxcar from Point A.

How do I fill out the waybill [side 1] for this Point A to Point C delivery by way of the interchange at Point B? I am not clear how to incorporate the interchange on the waybill.






A27: One waybill covers an entire shipment, ie from a shipper to a consignee, even if they are on different railroads. (Do NOT make separate waybill sides/steps for handlings such 1 - industry to yard, 2 - yard to interchange, 3 - interchange to customer.)

Real world waybills display near the top, just below the car number and even before the origin or commodity, the complete beginning-to-end railroad routing of the shipment. It will name the railroads involved and possibly, but often not, the junction points between them. In your example this would be


A real example (more lengthy) might be

To: Alexandria VA


From: Northern Maine Jct ME

Contents: Paper

In this case the junctions aren't named because workers who use these documents every day know where the connecting points are (and what the rr initials stand for :-)

The model waybills have a space for ROUTING near the top just below CARTYPE. They might not spell out the full origin-to-destination route because of space or because the part from the origin to HERE isn't really relevant (just interesting). Likewise the handling beyond our layout. What our crews want to know is, where do WE take this car to? So if we're modeling the Boston & Maine our waybill ROUTE might say Mcville (Mechanicville NY) D&H. In your example if we're the originating line, ROUTE might be

BLRR via PtB (we already know that we're MYRR)

"Via" can be helpful for visitors, etc, who aren't closely familiar with where we connect with BLRR.

Note that if Point C was on a branch on OUR railroad the real waybill routing would be left blank, indicating MYRR all the way, the assumption being that our employees know how to get to all of our stations. Again, to help modelers the model ROUTE could say "Via PtB."

Q28. My club is going to begin operation using a car card system. Where can I get information on the "how to" of such a system? We are completely new to the operations arena.

A28. Just to get you started with the very basics try this page.


The nice thing about carcards and waybills is that you can make it as easy or as complicated as you wish. There are several different ways to work them. Most of the variation is in the waybills. You can make single trip waybills (each waybill moves a car through 1 loading) or multiple cycle waybills (where each waybill moves a car through 2 to 4 loading cycles). Your choice. Neither is right, neither is wrong.

You mentioned that you are starting operations for your club. A couple questions. What type of layout will the club operating on? (a fixed layout, member's home layouts, a modular layout, etc) Will the layout have a fixed roster of cars? (will the same cars be on the layout each session or will the members that participate bring cars just for that operating session). The answers to those questions will help you define what type of operation you want to design.

The classic 4 cycle waybill works best with a stable sequence of stations and a stable roster of equipment. The 4 cycle waybills are sequential so each operating session automatically leads into the next. The 4 cycle system is self-regenerating, you mostly don't have to re-bill cars, just turn the waybills.

Single trip waybills may be better if you have a modular system since they are independent of the previous operating session, but do require more set up time.

The easiest part is making the carcards, since you can put any type of waybill in the carcard. Several people I know have eased into operations by starting with very simple single trip waybills, with just the station or industry name on the waybill. Then as the operators become more sophisticated, the waybill complexity can be notched up. The waybills can be printed or photocopied onto 67 or 110 lb cardstock for handwritten waybills. If you have anybody who is familiar with spreadsheets or databases you can easily make computer-generated waybills and car cards.

That makes trying a variety of waybill types easy. The Ry-ops-industrialSIG@yahoo.com files section has a MS Access 97 database to generate CC&WB's that I wrote, but you can use much simpler systems. The excellent link provided above will let you get started with a minimum of investment. If you don't want to jump in with 4 move waybills to begin with, just fill in part of the waybill info.

The bottom line is don't be afraid to experiment. Don't be afraid to redo your waybills. It's only paper. You have to buy paper by the ream, and a ream will make thousands of waybills. -- Dave H.

Q29. I have the cards and waybills made up. How do I make up trains after I have placed the card/waybills in the designated track box?

A29. The first time, you find the cars whose numbers match the carcards, then make them into a train in the order of your cards. Add an engine and caboose and you're done.

I may be mistaken, but I interpreted the questions as, "I have the carcards and waybills in the yardtrack boxes matching how the cars stand on the yard tracks. Now which car(d)s go into which trains?" If that's the question, the answer lies in the definition of what traffic each train is supposed to handle. Railroads don't just grab a bunch of cars and ride off in all directions, they define the stations a given train will work and what it will do at each one, ie, just leave a block of cars for processing by another crew, or deliver cars to specific industry sidings and pick up outbound shipments. These definitions have been called "arranged freight service" or the "transportation plan."

This plan implies the blocks or classifications (groups of like waybills) which this location will use to make up or add to trains there. So the first step is to sort ("classify") the car(d)s into those blocks on separate tracks. Similarly all cars arriving into the yard are classified as soon as possible. Adding a "block code" or color stripe or dot to the waybill simplifies interpreting the waybill for the yard staff. Be sure to move the carcards from pocket to pocket as you switch each track so that they are always in correspondence.

Now when a particular train is due to be made up, the yard pulls the track(s) containing the blocks prescribed for that train and couples them up with power and caboose, preferably on a separate departure track.

To build on this, consider there are two types of trains (more or less, ignoring unit trains for the time being) local and through freights. Locals move cars to and from industries and through freights move cars over long distances. The local would be like the taxicab and a through freight an airliner. The taxi takes you to and from your origin and destination, but the airliner does the long haul.

First you need locals to serve your industries, one or more trains that switch groups of customers. Normally these are grouped by geographic area or a time frame (all the industries on the north end of the layout or all the industries that need a switch on daylight shift). The locals gather up the cars and bring them to the yard. In the yard they are switched and assembled into through freights that carry them to other yards. Each through freight has a route over which it operates and carries certain destinations. Destinations beyond the route of the freight train might be put in with the cars going to the last station. If a train runs from Los Angeles to Chicago, then a car for New York will be carried with the Chicagos and will be switched at Chicago for a train going to New York. On each waybill there will be a destination and you use that destination to determine which train to put the car on. In addition there may be a route specified. If you model Los Angeles and you make one train for New Orleans and one train for Chicago, a car going to New York would probably ride the Chicago train and a car for Atlanta would probably ride the New Orleans train. You can simplify it by putting a route on the waybill that says something like "LA-Chicago-New York" That way it's easier to know it goes on the Chicago train. While New York may be an easy one, something like Institute, W Va. would be harder unless you were really familiar with routings. So if you put a route on the waybill of LA-Chicago-Institute you would know it went on the Chicago train.

So the yardmaster switches out the outbound cars based on the routing and switches out the inbound cars based on the station or industry they go to. -- Dave H.

Q30. I have cards for all of the rolling stock that I own, but my layout obviously can't hold them all. Is there a way to limit the number of cars used during an operating session? Can they be changed from time to time?

A30. Having too many or too few cars on the layout can lead to less than desirable operations. Balancing the number of cars needed at industries, the number that can be comfortably handled in the yard with the cars you have is important for successful operations. Many prefer not to recycle recognizable cars too often least you get tired of seeing the same car every session. In planning my traffic flow, I write down the maximum number of cars that can be physically placed at each industry. I then go through each industry and derive a "typical" number of cars that might be placed at that location. That is the figure I use in determining the total cars on the layout (you also have to allow for cars in the yards and "en route."). It is very important, on both the model and the prototype, to have maneuvering room. You need space to temporarily put the pulls and to have capacity for cars destined for industries when the industry tracks are already full. I model the Santa Fe so I have a high volume of grain hoppers, boxes and reefers all lettered for my home road. While there are different paint schemes and variations in these car types, many are look-alikes differing only in car number. So who is going to remember car 690453 from one session to another? I can successfully recycle these cars each session and everything looks good. i.e. they stay on the layout. It is the uniquely-identifiable cars that do need a rest from operating for a couple of sessions. For example, I have a bright yellow covered hopper lettered for Shell and it has "Plastics" in big letters on the side. It is very recognizable. So, in between sessions, I will remove my unique cars off the layout and substitute others that have literately been off line for a couple of sessions. I only change the cars in staging. On my layout, the staging yard is more like an interchange yard because the yard is used to store cars and not trains. Thus, cars that arrive in the staging yard during a session are those that have completed their waybill cycles. When I remove a car, I also remove the carcard+waybill and keep it with the car. For every car removed, I replace it with one from storage. I also use the rule of one day to load, two days to unload for many, but not all, industries. It depends on the industry. A load of cement to the cement company will follow this rule. Thus, the car is on the layout for three sessions. This also increases the switching interest on the second day of unloading. That car, if needed to be moved to spot other cars, must be replaced by the switching crew. Not all cars get pulled or spotted in any one operating session. This scheme tends to mix up the cars so that day 3 is not the same as cycle 3 on the waybill. No one session is the same as any other. Once that car gets pulled after unloading, it goes to the staging yard on the third day. After that session, it is removed from the layout and put into storage. I then substitute another car of similar lading to keep the overall balance flowing. After three days, it is removed and the first one is put back on the layout. In this example, the car is on layout three sessions and off the layout for the same amount of time. Thus, I need twice the number of cars (for industries like this) to keep the overall flow balanced. I can keep three cars with the same routing and have two cars in storage so the same car appears on the layout after 6 sessions. This is so I don't get tired of seeing the yellow plastics hopper too often! Incidentally, I like to use that yellow hopper in a train for newbie operators. If they can't spot that baby at the plastics company, I might just suggest they consider model airplanes. One industry that does not strictly follow this rule is the grocery distributor. The track servicing the building has a capacity to unload 5 cars. An adjacent "off spot" track for this industry also has a 5 car capacity. Thus, a 10 car grocery turn departs the yard in the morning for this industry. It spots the reefers containing frozen or perishable foods first at the industry. Dry, canned and other stuff we can buy at the grocery stores these days are spotted at the structure to fill up the track and the remainder are spotted on the "off spot" track. Later in the day, a way freight servicing the other industries arrives at this site. In addition to its switching duties, it must pull the empty reefers and other empties at the grocery distributor and swap these with the ones on the off spot track. When the grocery turn arrives the next session, all cars at the industry are empty. So, yes, limit the cars on the layout to make operations comfortable least your sidings and yards get clogged. Do swap out the uniquely lettered cars on the layout so the same ones are not recycled too often. -- Peter White