Car forwarding 
A second carload of Grist for the mill 
Okay, enough already with the shouting!

I concede that there are people who must fill out forms and other paperwork when they operate their model railroad. I guess that, for some reason, they don't feel fulfilled, productive, or at one with their model empire if the paperwork is not properly filled out at the end of every operating session. It has been mentioned that many modelers are not motivated enough to complete an assignment unless they receive step by step instruction for it's completion.

I don't understand the reasoning (see
 Car Forwarding...or Not: a carload of Grist for the Mill) but I accept the possibility that such feelings exist. So, for those of you who absolutely, positively have to have paperwork with their hobby, for whatever reason, I have adapted the "Conductor's Log Book" I used when I was a conductor on the Morristown and Erie Railway for model railroad use.

I find it more that adequate for most model railroad needs because:

1. The Conductor's Log provides a simple, easy to use method for keeping track of cars and locomotives used by a crew for switching industries around your miniature railroad regardless of scale, length of mainline, or number and complexity of your industries.

2. The Conductor's Log does not require knowledge of computers or computer programming. Nor does it require time at the keyboard laboriously entering locomotive numbers or car reporting marks. The placement of cars on the layout does not have to conform to some computer generated fantasy. After all, aren't computers strictly for playing solitaire?

3. The Conductor's Log can be transferred from conductor to conductor without concern for what was switched during a previous operating session.

4. The Conductor's Log maintains a record of all car movements previously made in a simple to understand format and is normally updated during each operating session. If the empire's master wants to "play" between operating sessions he can either update the log or not as he sees fit because the log only reflects what the conductor marks in it while he makes the moves in the current operating session. He does not have to rely on what was done while he was not "on duty".

5. The only "tools" required are a simple small spiral notebook and a pencil (or pen for those of you who can do the New York Times crossword puzzle without mistakes). Having no switch lists to file away in some subterranean vault like nuclear waste, the Conductor's Log Book saves paper and is environmentally friendly.

6. The Conductor's Log need only be used for keeping track of local switching moves. Through freights need only the train symbol and engine numbers unless the crew is scheduled to do switching along the route.

Behold, the Conductor's Log Book

At the beginning of the operating day, as on the M&E, the conductor on the job enters the date of service, the locomotive number(s), the crew's names and on duty time and the cars that form the train's consist. As conductor, I would always walk the train while I marked the numbers in the book to check for turned angle cocks, damaged brake rigging, sharp or excessively worn flanges, and other problems that might affect the safe operation of the train (on the model railroad this time could simulate a Terminal Brake Test, effectively preventing your crews from departing town in an unprototypically short time).

The destination code number of each car is put in the book even though the car may be spotted at another siding temporarily. As the day progresses all the cars will be spotted somewhere and the final location entered in the book. When I was conductor I would also mark the consignee's code numbers and date of interchange on the side of the cars near the ladder with a large "lumber yard" crayon 
(Hint: don't try this on a model. You will almost certainly knock the poor things over). This way other crews or crew members could see at a glance when the car arrived and where it was going. These marks made it easy to sort the cars for delivery without reference to the Conductor's Log. When a railroad has a large number of cars on line waiting to be delivered to a customer, the cars can be stored in normally unused sidings all over the railroad. If the cars are not marked, more recent arrivals may be spotted before older cars increasing the cost to the railroad in a very real manner.

The switching moves would later be discussed and planned with the brakeman as we walked the train during the Initial Terminal Brake Test. On a prototype railroad, switching moves at customer's siding(s) become fairly routine since most customers receive specific types of cars with customer specific commodities. (PJ's warehouse would receive RBL (insulated) boxcars of dog food, Polaner [manufacturer of jelly and jams] would receive tank cars of corn syrup and high fructose sugar and refrigerator cars of frozen fruit. Flat cars and "All Door" boxcars of lumber for Standard Roofing, a building supply company, boxcars of various configurations for Channel Lumber and 23,000 gallon tank cars of base oil for Royal Lubricants Division of Shell Oil Company). The variety of cars on your railroad is limited only by your imagination.

Regular crews will become accustomed to the different type of cars each customer receives and with one look at the train will be able to determine which goes where and what drill moves will have to be made to get them there in the most expeditious manner. Visitors may need some help in this respect but that is the job of the "Benevolent Dictator" (Remember: He is your friend and is always there to help).

For example:
 On August 16, 1985, my erstwhile crew and I handled twenty six freight cars (not all shown) and three passenger cars (the NJ Transit coach 5676, The Nutmeg State, and the Virginia Beach).

The car's reporting marks are listed in the first two columns across. The third column is the type of car: P=Passenger, B=Boxcar, CH=Covered Hopper, T=Tank Car, F=Flat Car, Etc.

The fourth column is L=Loaded, E=Empty.

The fifth column is the location where the crew picked up the car: M=Morristown, C3=Paul Jeffrey's Warehouse, M8B = Royal Lubricants, etc. The codes can be based on a combination of consignee's name, milepost of the siding, or any criteria which helps the crew remember it's location. If there are two or more industries close together, you could add a third letter to further indicate a specific siding.

The sixth and seventh columns are where the car was placed after it was moved. 
The consignee's particular code information is written on the inside front cover of the Conductor's Log for easy reference by the crew. Track plans of the various industrial tracks can also be inserted in the beginning of the book for easy reference by visitors.

The last column is the time of placement. The prototype railroad would use this time for calculating "Per Diem" should the consignee take longer than normally allowed to unload the car 
(another important reason for using a fast clock during operating sessions).

We can use the first car on the page above as an example:

CR 360850 was a loaded boxcar (50' RBL, insulated boxcar filled with dog food) that was moved from the Conrail interchange in Morristown, NJ (M) to Paul Jeffrey's Warehouse (C-3) but was not placed for unloading. It was instead spotted, as was normal practice, at C-2 which is an unused siding within the Vornado Industrial Complex in East Hanover, NJ. It was not placed at a loading dock. This could be because there are other cars being unloaded or the product has arrived early and the warehouse is not in need of it. It will be spotted for unloading when all earlier arrivals have been unloaded. The time of placement was 4:30 pm.

You will notice that SOU 527959 (bottom of the page) was removed, loaded, from C-3, door 6 (PJ Warehouse has 6 doors for handling freight cars), and taken to Morristown (M) and left for interchange with Conrail at 5:30 pm.

Disclaimer: The Log Book shown here is only an example of how things were done on the M&E. For modeling purposes, not all columns have to be used and not all information I used on the prototype need be entered. The log, if you use it, should contain only the information you feel is relevant to your operation and on the M&E not every conductor filled in as much information as I did.

For those of you who must, the initial startup list can be computer generated.

I would, however, be reluctant to computerize the switch list because manually entering the reporting marks and other information  into the log book helps the conductor become familiar with the car types and where they are going to be placed. In addition, cars may not end up where they are first requested. This sometimes happens because cars that were still loaded when the request for placement was called in to the railroad are now empty allowing new cars to be placed or partially loaded cars have to be moved to another door closer to where the material will be stored. There are as many variations as there are warehouse managers so be sure to work some into your operating session.

BTW, you probably noticed the check marks next to the car's reporting marks. This is where I marked each car as I placed them on the daily wheel report (or, Heaven forbid, you place them in the computer) which was filled out at the end of each day's assignment.

You will notice that between columns five and six is a space for remarks such as "car has no seal" or car was placed on the "Pad track" (for truck work under warranty by Bombardier). These remarks would not normally be used on a model railroad unless your conductors have vivid imaginations or are detail freaks with an obsession for jotting down useless information.

It doesn't matter where the cars start from or where the end up. Each customer has a code (A5 = Channel Lumber, or whatever you want to make up). Once the regulars learn the company codes, it becomes easy to remember and write down. 
For visitors, industrial buildings can have the company's code number placed on a corner of the building and the door numbers placed above the doors with decals. This makes the process of spotting freight cars  easy for the beginner or experienced crew members alike and its much better looking than placing tacks or "stick'ums" on the tops of those finely detailed freight cars.

Remember, you only have to mark down the cars you move so if the conductor who works the job the day before messes up and doesn't mark down the car or marks it down incorrectly, it won't affect the next guy who works the job. Likewise, misinformation will not be entered into a computer (there's that word again) so a lazy or dyslexic conductor can't foul up the next session's computerized switch list.

Like the operating system on the Lackawanna Terminal, your car forwarding paperwork can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. I believe the Conductor's Log Book is a low impact method of maintaining a constantly updated archive of the movements on your railroad and, at the same time, keeping your imaginary freight clerks happy and well fed on the overtime you will create for them.

Stay on the rails.

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