waybills, bills of lading, and switch lists

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue Jan 11 23:37:37 EST 2005

Date: Sun, 9 Jan 2005 22:52:30 EST 
To: nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org 
From: nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Subject:  A question about waybills, switch lists and
other paperwork. 

I am curious about the daily business of running a
railroad.  I hope that the members of the mailing list
will shed some light on the use of waybills, switch
lists and other paperwork need to move freight.


C E Stewart
Bahama, NC

January 11, 2005

Hello, C. E.:

A waybill is a document that accompanies a shipment
that states the origin, destination, routing,
commodity description, number of pieces, and type of
packaging.  It may have other handling information,
such as regarding a hazardous material or
heating/cooling requirements.  The waybill was in the
possession of a agent, yard clerk, or conductor during
the shipment's life-cycle from origin to destination. 
Keep in mind that at one time, shipments were both
full carloads as well as less-than-carload (LCL). 
When LCL, there would be a waybill for each shipment
in a car.

In most cases and in later years, a waybill was one of
the pull-apart copies of a multi-part form.  The top
copy was often the bill of lading, which was the
contract between shipper and carrier for
transportation of the shipment.  Another copy was the
shipping order, which the origin consignor signed and
kept as a receipt for tendering a shipment to the
carrier.  A third might be a delivery receipt, which a
consignee at destination would sign as a record for
the carrier's delivery.  There might also be a freight
bill, that was the invoice for whoever was to pay for
the shipment.

A switch list was prepared by a yard clerk which
listed in order the cars on a track that had to be
sorted to other tracks in order to build "blocks."  A
block was a grouping of cars for a like destination,
usually another yard.

I'm sure others will provide information about
operational aspects I may have missed, wuch as a
conductor's wheel report.

Good night and good morning,

Dr. Frank R. Scheer, Curator
Railway Mail Service Library, Inc.
f_scheer at yahoo.com
(202) 268-2121 - weekday office
(540) 837-9090 - weekend afternoons 
in the former N&W station on VA rte 723 
117 East Main Street 
Boyce  VA  22620-9639
Visit at http://www.railwaymailservicelibrary.org

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