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Rogers Historical Museum  

Donation of the Month

Railroad Automatic Car Identification
Donor: Robert Johnson

Waiting on a package is hard, but with a tracking number you can check to see its progress thanks to modern technology such as barcodes, scanners and computers. Companies don’t like to wait either and have for years tracked shipments across the globe with waybills. These pieces of paper tracked where and when a train car, tractor trailer or boat stopped for fuel or maintenance. Reliability was only as good as someone’s eyesight and penmanship. In the 1960s the railroad industry started looking into a more reliable and automated tracking system.

In the early 1960s the Association of American Railroads looked at four different systems of tracking railcars and locomotives. The system developed by General Telephone and Electronics called KarTrak won. Using a series of thirteen blue, black, red and black and white checkered encoded stripes relayed equipment specific information back to a central server. The code was read by a rail side scanner. Each stripe relayed a specific piece of information as you can see below.

Tag from Western Refrigerator Line Company of Wisconsin box car number 9213. Click here to see an image of the box car taken in 1975

1. The first (bottom) line is the start label.
2. The second line is the equipment code number. "0" is used for railroad-owned equipment, "1" for privately-owned equipment, and "6" is used for non-revenue equipment.
3. Lines three, four and five are a number indicating the equipment owner, with each reporting mark given a separate number.
4. Lines six through eleven are the car number, padded with leading zeros as necessary. On locomotives, line six indicates the type of unit and line seven the suffix number.
5. The stop label will be on line twelve.
6. The last (top) line is used for the check digit. This check digit is calculated according to the following formula: multiply the first digit by 1, the second by 2, the third by 4, the fourth by 8, the fifth by 16, the sixth by 32, the seventh by 64, the eighth by 128, the ninth by 256, the tenth by 512. Add the results together and divide by 11. The remainder after the last full division by 11 (0 to 10) is the validity digit.
These tags were mounted on the side of railcars and read by track side readers mounted at interchange areas, rail yards, fuel tracks and maintenance areas. By 1975 90% of the railcars in America were equipped with these tags, but the read rate was only 80% due to maintenance issues. Maintenance requirements were instituted but not maintained and by the end of 1978 the system was abandoned.
By the mid-1980s the railroad industry again wanted to tackle automated tracking systems for the industry. This time led by the rail company Burlington Northern extensive testing of nine different systems brought about the introduction of an RFID tracking system developed by TransCore. Between 1992 and 1994 all rail cars were to be equipped with two tags.
Today all railcars in America have RFID tags. TransCore continues to produce the tags and readers and their technology can be found in 24 countries. The new tags have improved from those produced in the 90s and include high speed readability, enhanced memory and on-the-fly programming. While these high tech tags have replaced the first system some of the older cars still sport their barcode stripes.

Photo caption: Tag from Western Refrigerator Line Company of Wisconsin box car number 9213. Click here to see an image of the box car taken in 1975


More Donations of the Month

Arts & Crafts
Charles Summey Painting
Elsie Sterling Drawings & Photo
Erwin A. Doege pastel
M.E. Oliver’s Strange Scenes in the Ozarks
Roy Harris Carved Wagon
Seed Art

War Eagle Store

Household Goods
Andersons Grade A Egg Scale
Applegate Apothecary Bottle
Benton County Wine Bottles
Circa 1923 Eureka Vacuum Cleaner
First M.E. Church, North souvenir plate, circa 1910
Gasoline powered iron
Grape Press
John Edwards china
Open Salts
Red Wing Crock, 1910s
Rogers Fairgrounds Souvenir
Cut Glass Dresser Box
Marshmallow Toaster
Fairy Lamps
Bubble Up Soda Bottles
Farmers Produce Co. Feed Sack
Butter Molds
Hand Painted China
Flow Blue China
Ritz Christmas Lites
Stove Top Steamer
Sunbeam Dairy Milk Bottle & Photo

Paper Ephemera, Books, & Photos
Advertising Folding Table
Camp Joyzelle Booklet
Callison-Lough Funeral Home Sketch
1943 Benton County Nursery Company Catalog
Apple Blossom Festival Postcard Booklet, April 1927
B.P.O.E. photo, 1960
Christmas Carols Songbook
Civil War Clothing Ledger
“Coin” Harvey family letters
Edsel Ford Poetry Books
Frisco Railroad Pass
Gold mine photos
Lime Works Stock Certificate
Louise Thaden Note
Menu from the Orchard Room
Cumberland Presbyterian Ladies Cook Book
Rogers Public School catalog, 1892-3
Elizabeth Miller Autograph Books
Discharge Papers
New Year Postcard
Political Campaign Buttons
Women's Study Club Program
Howard Fowler Photographs
Railroad Automatic Car Identification
1933 World's Fair Objects
Tobacco Tax Receipts
Valentines cards
Vandover & Sons Livery Stable Photograph
Printing Blocks
World War II Photos

Billiken Doll
Russ Troll Doll
Schoenhut Circus Toys
Steiff Teddy Bear
Horse Drawn Wagon
Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb Ring
J.D. Kestner Doll
Winter Sled

Textiles, Clothing, & Clothing Accessories
Confederate Officer’s Artillery Frock Coat?
Apple Blossom Festival Crown
Bicorn Hat
Blackburn Preaching Shirt
Christmas Stocking
Friendship Quilt
Garrett family coverlet, 1860s
Help One Another Club Quilt
Mary Van Winkle Steele’s Traveling Dress
McClain Family Crazy Quilt
Norman Tailor System dress pattern
Pillbox Hat
Hannah Lumm Dress
Whig Rose Quilt
Celluloid Items
Hair Work Jewelry
Evening Gown
Mesh Hand Bags
World War I Uniform
1906 Wedding Gown
Majorette Uniform & Spirit Ribbons


1860s Green & Sager Bedstead
Henry Tribble’s Speaker Cabinet
Tom Morgan’s Desk & Chair
W.H. Jewett Piano
Adding Machine Stand
Apple Cider Press
Colonial Revival Dining Room Chair
B.F. Gleason Cooling Table
Grundig Majestic radio

Kroger Shelves

Barbed Wire Samples
Betty Blake’s Composition Stick
Carry A. Nation Hatchet Brooch
Cash Register
Harris Baking Co. Souvenir
“Coin” Harvey Death Mask
KAMO Shovel
Erwin Funk’s Newspaper Convention Badges
Diamond Jubilee Badges
Tracy Lockhart’s Peddler Basket
Van Winkle Lumber
Surveyor's Compass
Remington Revolver
John Deere Corn Sheller
Rogers High School Dedication Stone
Permanent Wave Machine
City of Rogers License Plate
Chaplain's Field Kit
WWI Army helmet & print

Civil War Re-enactor Items
Lever Action Winchester Model 1892
Silica mining bucket






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