Re: Wine traveling on the Overland Route in 1949
Need I remind you of Larry Jackman's carload of "lumber" on the UP in Topeka, KS?
It was a tank car.
After analyzing many thousands of entries in various UP conductor's time books (source of the hand-written train consist records), I can tell you that they're surprisingly accurate. I've entered many records into Excel spreadsheets, then cross-checked the reporting marks, car numbers, car types, contents, destination codes, icing instructions, etc and I'll say that I've noted relatively few obvious errors. Sure there are mistakes, but after reviewing a typical book containing 2500 or so car records (total of ~13,000 data entries) I'll note something on the order of 50 errors, < 1/2 %.
The most common entry error I find is the car type code, such as entering a "B" for boxcar when the car was actually a flatcar. We don't have a way to cross-check the contents of the cars, but very few obvious ones pop up, such as the one Jeff mentioned above. Car initial / number errors show themselves quickly when you check them against ORER records; very few of those appear.
On the whole, I'd say the UP conductor's books are an excellent source of information and have been surprised at how accurate they are considering that many were written at night, by lantern light, in a jiggling caboose, looking at documents created using worn carbon paper, written by sleep deprived conductors, etc. For what it's worth, I tend to find more errors while looking through the computer-based information that's typically provided by present-day RRs as I carry out my RR consulting work...