It’s in the (Car) Cards

After using JMRI’s great software to produce switch lists for the past 3 op sessions on the Eagle River Division, I’ve decided to switch back to car cards and waybills.  This isn’t any fault of JMRI.  Their program is jam-packed with features.

Why am I going back to car cards and waybills?   First, I miss the hands-on set-up that I get with the paper waybills.  Prior to a session, I enjoy putting together switching scenarios for my operators.  This was missing with the computer-generated switch-lists.  Second, I just felt like it was taking too big of an investment in time to continually tweak the computer program to the point I wanted.

The pros and cons of each system could be discussed and discussed (and frequently are).  I’m going to spare you that for now, and explain how I am doing my car cards and waybills instead.

My car cards are printed on Avery business card stock.  To print them, I created a vertical business card template in Word (or you can find one of these on Avery’s website as well).  If you take the horizontal card included in Word, and just switch the vertical and horizontal dimensions and margins it will get you the same result.  Be sure to rename it when saving your new format.

Data for the car cards was obtained by exporting the car roster from JMRI into Excel.  If this is starting to sound like an advertisement for Microsoft, I apologize.   The Excel list is used to create a mail merge into Word, resulting in a fine looking car card.  I prefer Word to Excel whenever creating tables, labels, etc.   Excel is my go-to for number-crunchin’.

Once the car card is printed, it is inserted into a clear plastic business card sleeve.  I found some I like from Desktop Publishing Supplies.  Clear Business Card Sleeves, Item # 98319-200.  They come in boxes of 200 sleeves, and are available via Amazon.  There are other sleeves available from other sources.  The Desktop sleeves opening is at the top when the vertical business-card car-card is inserted.


Click to view full waybill image.

The waybills were also created in Word starting with the same vertical business card template, but modifying it to make the waybills shorter than the car cards.  The width was left the same.  Data for the waybills was entered into Excel and mail-merged into Word.   The waybills are printed on plain paper, four across, and folded accordian-style.  There is no upside-down or reverse-side printing required using this method.

View full page of ERD waybills.

Car cards are printed on business card stock as vertical business cards. View ERD car cards example page

And here’s what it looks like when the car card and waybill are united within the clear plastic sleeve:

ERD car card and waybill




Keep on trainin’ – Mopac Mike


Mike enjoys family, music, computers, photography, travel, trains and most all facets of model railroading, especially ops.

Comments are closed.