War Department Traffic Way Bill

Even today there is a high reliance on rail transport to move items of military equipment. Military kit tends to be bulky and heavy and rail is a quick and efficient way of moving these loads around the country. In the 1940s the rail network was far more extensive than it is now and most small towns and villages had a goods yard and daily pick up goods service. This meant that it was economical to send one or two wagons to the nearest yard to a small base and then send lorries down to trans-ship the equipment to the stores. Larger bases often boasted their own sidings inside the base itself and some very large establishments had their own internal railways.

In the days before computerisation, there was a huge paper based system to ensure wagons arrived at the right place and the right time. Wagons had spring clips on their sides in which a paper way bill could be securely attached to indicate where a wagon was bound and if there were any special considerations that needed to be taken with its contents. Here we have an example of a War Department way bill:

Here we can see that an LMS owned wagon is being sent from 3 Royal Army Ordnance Corps at Shorncliffe via the Southern Railway to Tongham in Surrey via Reading, the wagon was one of two in the consignment.

One comment

  1. Even though most documentation is now computerized, train crews still carry printed copies of the waybills for the dangerous goods carried in the containers or cars on their train. In part, so first responders know what they are facing and where they are located on the train in case of derailment. At least in North America.

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