May 8, 2013

19th Century Waybills or Switch Lists?

I have been doing some research on how railroads made switch lists and waybills in the early 19th century and how to apply that to a model railroad. 

From the sample waybills I have seen from 19th century RRs, they seem to cover less than carload shipping from a customer to the railroad. They seem to be receipts for shipping more than instructions for train crews and conductors. I have not seen any 19th century waybill that contains information on what railroad car the freight is carried on. This is considerably different from the way model railroaders use waybills.  
CV Waybill back
1889 Waybill Back
CV Waybill front
1889 Waybill Front

What I have not been able to find are examples of 19th century switch lists or car forwarding information.  This one from the Central Vermont in 1889 seems to be the closest to what we need. 

I have copies of the conductor reports used on the USMRR. I previously posted copies of these on my blog. These look like switch lists but appear to me to de done after the fact, hence the term "conductor's report." See this image for an example of a conductor report.

I have made my own copies of these and printed them on "antique" paper. For now we are using these as switch lists, but I wonder if this is correct. If you would like a copy you can download a pdf version at this link

This hand written version of the conductors report was used on the USMRR Aquia Line.

I also have copies of the USMRR agents' report for the two terminals at each end of the line, Aquia and Falmouth. These list what cars were delivered and the contents.  See this image for an example.
Note how each car has a consignee. Occasionally you see a listing for "misc. goods," which may mean what now call less-than-car-load good.  

Also note the entry for "express" at the bottom of 
the form, train number 9, car 1253. That is probably for the Adams Express.  From this I gather they did not use their own cars, but used USMRR cars.  But photos exist of Adams Express cars on the USMRR, so this may be a peculiararity  of the Aquia line.

What I have not found is the paper work that would go with each car.  Any suggestions?


  1. Could it be that paperwork was stabled to the car itself? So the conductor would go look at the paper on each card, construct a 'switch list' on scrap paper, and then file the after-the-fact report. From the conductor's perspective, this is pretty efficient, it requires minimal paperwork. From the model operator's perspective, this is a bit frustrating since we can't easily staple and then read papers affixed to our cars.

  2. I have never seen a waybill tacked to the side of a car in any photo, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

    I don't think the had staplers in the ACW.

  3. AnonymousMay 09, 2013

    While I admit to almost complete ignorance about this subject, the word that comes to mind is 'manifest'. If the conductor had a manifest then he would know the destination of the cargo.

  4. Interesting point, I am aware of the use of the word "manifest" in other shipping context, but I have not seen or heard it used much in the arena of railroad shipping. Manifest used in railroad context implies a freight train with mix cargo types, as opposed to a unit train.

  5. However, a quick google search turned up this:

    This series consists of bound records of way-bills and unbound manifests of freight way-bills for freight received from stations on the Western & Atlantic and connecting railroads and forwarded from or to Atlanta and stations on the W&A and beyond. The bound way-bills include: number of the way-bill, date of shipment (original date), date of bill (stamp date), point of origin, destination, receipt of goods by the W&A conductor, date of receipt, and remarks. The manifests of freight way-bills, which include consolidated reports, have slightly different formats but generally show: date of period ending, date of stamp, number list, whether or not pre-paid, point of shipment, destination, total costs to W&A, total costs to other railroads, additional expenses, recapitulation at bottom of page, and agent's signature. These records are both daily and weekly forms and include Forms #6, #7, #8 and #11. Included also is a single "Copy of Abstract Ledger of Freight Way-Bills" for April, 1870 located in the front of Unit 4. The records of this series were created to help control the exchange of freight between the W&A and other railroads.

    This looks like an archive worth investigating.

  6. AnonymousMay 09, 2013

    I'm a Brit with next to no knowledge of the ACW but some knowledge of railways/railroads and general history and it just occured to me that in the very early days of rail transport they would be likely to borrow terms from other types of carrier. Also I recall in the film, The 49th Parallel, a German POW fails to escape from Canada to the then neutral USA by stowing aboard a freight train because the conductor found him and said he wasn't on the manifest. Funny thing, knowledge...
    Glad to be of help. Colin