Saturday, November 19, 2016

Welztalbahn: Car Cards and Waybills

Car card prototypes: Front on the left, rear on the right.
So far I have been using the well-known MicroMark Car Card and Waybill system. They are functional, simplistic, ... and the English labels bothered me, too. Redesigning the car routing system for the Welztalbahn has been on my to-do list for a while.

European freight cars have one distinct disadvantage over American cars in that the car numbers are stenciled in rather small print on the cars, which makes them hard to read at a distance or at an angle. Therefore, one feature I certainly want to include was to have a picture of the car on the card. Over the last few months I've drawn inspiration from Tony Thompson's Waybill series on his blog, as well as from how the FREMO operates cars and loads at meets.

I like Tony's use of baseball collector card sleeves to both protect the car card and act as a pocket for the waybill with the basic car information printed on a sticker applied to the outside of the sleeve. Tony's car card / waybill layouts are obviously inspired by American prototypes and he goes to great lengths to apply the look and feel of the prototype to his cards. I like this general approach.

The FREMO car card nicely organizes prototype information for cars and waybills on their car cards including detailed information about car capacity, weights, brakes, etc. with detailed model information, including picture, on the rear of the card. I like how the UIC car type is clearly visible, and how loads are matched to cars using the UIC codes. There are multiple programs that produce very nice looking car cards and way bills in FREMO formatting. However, the cards are big, and I don't have space.

Here are two examples of Deutsche Bahn (DB) waybills as visible on cars ("Hauptzettel").

Waybills used by Deutsche Bahn today are impressively utilitarian with routing numbers in large print being the most prominent feature, ... and the least useful for the model railroader. In this photo from September 2016 taken in Fichtenberg, Germany, we have a car waybill for heavy scrap metal going to Italy. The destination is coded in the Richtpunktcode field as 83 23100. 83 is the UIC code for Italy. The car routing is coded in "Leitungswegcodes": 8063 is the border crossing at Kufstein to Austria. 8132 is likely the border crossing at Brenner to Italy. 81 is UIC country code for Austria.

Here's a waybill I photographed 30 years ago in February 1987 on a boxcar in Ludwigsburg:

The main difference is that the routing number seems to be simpler (not surprising this car is not operating internationally), and fields are filled in by hand. Yet again, the routing number dominates. This car comes from Neheim-Huesten, a town I never heard of before, carrying LCL freight ("Stueckgut"). Upon some Internet research, I'm guessing it originated at Wesco Westermann, a manufacturer of furniture and household items made from aluminum. They are located right next to the station and even today have multiple tracks serving the industry. Destination of the car is Leonberg. There's no information about shipper or consignee on this Hauptzettel.

Update 12/23/2016: 
I've been reading up more about how car routing for DB worked in the 80's and 70's. The keywords are "Richtpunktverfahren" and "Knotenpunktverfahren" which are improvements on previous systems. The number above reads 731-0. The first digit codifies the region where the car is supposed to go by Bundesbahndirektion (7 stands for Direktion Stuttgart). 31 is the station code within the region. The number after the dash identifies the location within the station code. Switchers at intermediate yards have tables that identify how finely cars need to be sorted into trains.
Coming back to the topic of car cards and waybills for the Welztalbahn: I settled on a compromise as a first iteration. I'll use Tony's approach with baseball card sleeves, a sticker on the outside with basic car information, and waybills inserted into the sleeve. I use the FREMO approach of putting model information and a picture on the rear of the card. The photo at the beginning of this post shows my test card set, one front, one rear. I don't have stickers for the sleeves yet, so the test card has the basic car information inside the sleeve. I'll print the picture in color to make it easier to discern cars.
The waybill is simple, with the relevant information easily visible. At the top the waybill will have fields for the UIC code appropriate for the load and optional comments to make picking a load for a car quick and easy. Those fields will be hidden by the sticker on the sleeve.

In the future I can add special waybills appropriate for the German prototype. An approach similar to what Tony did as he learned more and more about prototype practices over time. I'll also add prototype details on the rear where I have them (either off the car, or from Stefan Carsten's "Gueterwagen" books).

I'm planning to make the sleeves and car information cards in the coming weeks with enough waybills to populate one or two operations sessions. Along the way I'll rebuild the car card boxes on the Welztalbahn to accommodate the somewhat larger sleeves, and then it's time to try out the system and see how it performs.

Update November 20, 2016:
Expanded this post with photos of DB Hauptzetteln and some speculation how to interpret them.

Update March 12, 2021:
I wrote a post about how the routing numbers are actually used here

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