Re: Per Diem and Demurrage

Malcolm Laughlin <mlaughlinnyc@...>

There have been a few items in this discussion on which I hope I can shed some light. Before addressing specific comments, I’d like to note that we should be careful to distinguish between accounting documents and operating documents. Only the formal accounting documents caused money to change hands. Most notable are the wheel report, interchange report and waybill.

Schuyler asked:
2) OK so there was a huge amount of employment for accountants to
keep all this pretty straight.
No accountants were actually involved but there was a huge army of clerks. It was pretty straightforward clerical work. This may seem like a nitpick, but just wanted to make it clear that railroad carand revenue accounting didn’t really require professional accountants. It was a matter of following known agreed procedures, and no professional accounting judgements were involved.

> But did the railroads actually exchange money on a daily basis,
or even monthly? For most roads
There was a monthly inter-railroad settlement. It was done on a net basis with a check going in the direction of the larger amount owed. That fell apart however in the case of bankruptcy. The bankrupt carrier didn’t have to forward its share, but the other carrier had to pay the amount due. This was also true of revenue accounting. This fact was one of the primary cuase of the other railroad bankruptcy filings that came immediately after Penn Central filed.

Posted by: "Jack Burgess"
I have a copy of the form that the YV used for this purpose...pretty simple.
The form is subtitled "Agent's Report of Cars Received, Forwarded and on

An "Agent's Report of Cars ….”, as mentioned by Jack, was a common document found under various names on different railroads. But it was an operating department document, not an accounting document. Per diem was handled by a car Accounting Department which used as its source documents the wheel report and interchange report. The interchange report was the sole authority determining which railroad a car was on at midnight. The wheel report was the important document for mileage cars. It was the official documentation of car movement from one station to another. Tariff mileages were applied to those movements to calculate the mileage to be paid.
Confirming what others have said, per diem was strictly based on the location of the car and totally unrelated to whether it was loaded, in the shop, etc., etc.
There was also a phenomenon called per diem reclaim, which set forth circumstances in which the railroad in possession of a car could reclaim per diem from the owner. Cars delivered in switching service were an example. The line haul road, not the switching road, ultimately was responsible for the per diem. Thee was also reclaim of per diem for pool cars at their point of assignment. There was a code of per diem reclaim rules that IIRC was longer than the code of per diem rules.

Malcolm Laughlin, Editor 617-489-4383
New England Rail Shipper Directories
19 Holden Road, Belmont, MA 02478

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