Dispatching by Timetable and Tain Order -- A Lost Art

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Dispatching by Timetable and Tain Order -- A Lost Art

Postby 2nd trick op » Sun Jun 14, 2015 12:46 am

Fewer and fewer among our ranks can recall the times before CTC ruled most rail mainlines and track warrants accounted for the rest, but this quarter's issue of Classic Trains contains a well-written first-hand account of a night on the Southern Pacific's "Valley Route" via Bakersfield and Fresno, in the last days of steam. Regrettably, we'll see no further offerings from author R. David Read, who passed on before the article appeared in print.

Although I presented a condensed overview at this site some years back, the subject is far too complicated to encapsulate in a single post. Developed for well over a century, and summarized and codified in the reference work Rights of Trains, which was edited by two men, the late Harry Forman and Peter Josserand, for roughly sixty years. the rules and practices involved maintained a high degree of continuity and uniformity; reprints are readily available.

I'd love to hear from any other members here of any personal recollections of their exposure, albeit quite a while ago, to this remarkably adaptable system.
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Re: Dispatching by Timetable and Tain Order -- A Lost Art

Postby ExCon90 » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:17 pm

Not a personal reminiscence, but Trains magazine did an article back in the 1950's or -60's about the activities of the third-trick operator one night at Guadalupe, on the SP Coast Line. Talk about a one-armed paperhanger--everything was running in sections--a vivid picture of what it was like running a single-track railroad with timetable and train orders.
I remember one afternoon at Val Royal on the CN; the operator typed out orders for every commuter train (electric MUs with standard kerosene markers). I lived near Burbank Jct. around 1950, where Track 1, the westbound main, became the single-track San Joaquin Valley Line and Track 2, the eastbound main, became the Coast Line, both of which were single track with automatic block but hand-thrown switches. There was a mechanical lower-quadrant semaphore order board for westbound traffic, and two crossovers; the whole plant was armstrong. There was a post with 3 brackets for order forks (a lot of the freights had a helper). The operator also controlled the manual gates for the Burbank Boulevard crossing, which came between the two crossovers (it's grade-separated now, and the whole territory is Rule 261 or equivalent, controlled from a building somewhere). Of course commuter traffic was a long time in the future (and hardly even thought of), so it's much busier today.
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Re: Dispatching by Timetable and Tain Order -- A Lost Art

Postby rovetherr » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:23 pm

Although I am too young to have operated or dispatched under TT&TO (I'm 36), I have had the opportunity to dispatch TWC territory without the aid of computers and all the fancy gizmos they have. It was challenging, but in a very good way. Almost fun actually. You definitely have to be focused on the job at hand, since you are the railroads collision avoidance system without the computer running. I can see why in the "old days", to be the dispatcher was a prestigious, and extremely demanding job. Not to say that it isn't now, but with the levels of protection built into the dispatching systems it changes ones interaction with the railroad, especially in dark territory.
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Re: Dispatching by Timetable and Train Order -- A Lost Art

Postby 2nd trick op » Fri Jun 19, 2015 12:41 am

Most of my personal exposure to train orders came via "unofficial" visits to block towers on Pennsy's Harrisburg-Buffalo-and-branches Northern Region; almost all PRR train-order offices were at interlocking plants. Train orders were very seldom needed on multiple-track mains where running by signal indication was the rule, and Pennsy did not "card" symbol freights in Employees Timetables; everything ran as an extra. But the Northern Region was mostly either CTC or single track, and "Block-Limit Stations" or "Unattended Block Stations" ( a forerunner of Southern Pacific's DTC system introduced in the Eighties) were very common. A fatal accident at Stanley, NY in the early Sixties also brought back the use of "running orders" on many single-track lines -- for a time.

The one time I got to witness TT & TO operation in its purest form came during a vacation in 1984; I was on a long-and-spontaneous trip, most of it by bus, and had several hours to lay over in Alamogordo, NM, on the SP's former Golden State Route with Rock Island. The line was then in the process of what would be an extensive upgrade, and a visit to the office found an operator copying orders, with another set ready to be "hooped up" -- and no interlocking machine or CTC panel anywhere in sight; DTC was still a year or two in the future.
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Re: Dispatching by Timetable and Train Order -- A Lost Art

Postby Gadfly » Sun Jun 21, 2015 6:25 pm

2nd trick op wrote:Most of my personal exposure to train orders came via "unofficial" visits to block towers on Pennsy's Harrisburg-Buffalo-and-branches Northern Region; almost all PRR train-order offices were at interlocking plants. Train orders were very seldom needed on multiple-track mains where running by signal indication was the rule, and Pennsy did not "card" symbol freights in Employees Timetables; everything ran as an extra. But the Northern Region was mostly either CTC or single track, and "Block-Limit Stations" or "Unattended Block Stations" ( a forerunner of Southern Pacific's DTC system introduced in the Eighties) were very common. A fatal accident at Stanley, NY in the early Sixties also brought back the use of "running orders" on many single-track lines -- for a time.

The one time I got to witness TT & TO operation in its purest form came during a vacation in 1984; I was on a long-and-spontaneous trip, most of it by bus, and had several hours to lay over in Alamogordo, NM, on the SP's former Golden State Route with Rock Island. The line was then in the process of what would be an extensive upgrade, and a visit to the office found an operator copying orders, with another set ready to be "hooped up" -- and no interlocking machine or CTC panel anywhere in sight; DTC was still a year or two in the future.


I DO have personal experience as an Agent/Op, or Train Order Clerk on the Southern up into the 1980's.. This was on the Main line between Salisbury, NC and Spartanburg, SC where I copied orders for the Carolina Division and the famous Saluda Mountain Grade. It was quite interesting to listen/talk to trains on their way up to/down from Melrose. At Charlotte, NC, there were 3 Divisions that came into my station, each of which I had to deal with: Piedmont/Main Line, Columbia, and Carolina Division as well. Second trick was the absolute worst because not only did you have to deal with 3 dispatchers, you had all the "hotshot" pigtrains that built or OS'ed at Charlotte, and one's anxiety was certainly high as he copied orders, papers flew, and he ran...literally RAN down thru what was called "The Mole Hole" that went under Track 1 and up onto the passenger landing where the Train order stanchions were. You could not let a hotshot have to stop because your TO signal was "Yellow" (Approach Slow for Orders ) and NO orders in the hoop. You'd get yelled at for that!(Huff-puff, Huff-puff! :( You did not get a break on this shift as you typed "Form 19" and threaded them into the "hoop" that looked like a large slingshot. If the stanchion was broken, you had to rush up to the landing and physically hand these orders up to both the engine and the cab, making sure the spring and knot was facing in the direction of the train's travel. If it was wrong, it would jerk the entire hoop out of your hand, perhaps injure the crewman's arm! Being on that landing has its own set of stories. During the flurry of afternoon activity, the train order board could be lit up with ALL 3 dispatcher wanting to talk to you...BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZZZT!!!!!!! You could only talk to one at a time. Some dispatchers were patient; a couple were not and would scold you for not dropping everything and answering him right away. In some ways it WAS like the 1940's as we had the steam excursions, and we had to handle them just like the rest of the trains, copy orders for them (Order four naught five, to C & E Engine 4501 [forty five naught one]. Period. Engine 4501 (spell again) runs Extra from Charlotte Yard (spell) to Spartanburg, SC [spell] protecting against scheduled trains. Period. Meet 118 at Thickety [spell]. Period. Signed: REP/JC." Then it was up to the landing to stick 'em in the holder, OR hand them up to the train. I have pictures I took of 611 passing my station at outlying points. NO orders, but I had to watch the train by per the Rulebook to watch for hotboxes, dragging equipment, or sticking brakes. "Six Eleven, you're lookin' good on the West side, Over!" And so on. Such was the time-honored job of Agent/Operator.

I saw many things in my career, many of which some of you dream about. I heard freight trains "slipped down" on Saluda, and having to double the hill at Melrose, sometimes setting off half of their train in siding there after flagging back to clear up. Trains used to stall at Spartanburg trying to get into the yard.

Train order and timetable was the rule of the day, and I lived it! Got lots of stories related to it. During that time, it was VERY stressful. I was NOT amused!
Today I can look back and say, "Well, I did it and..............if they asked, I guess I'd do it again. ...........................Maybe! :wink:
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Re: Dispatching by Timetable and Tain Order -- A Lost Art

Postby Gunsnclapton » Sat Nov 07, 2015 4:52 pm

Train sheets and Form D's--thats how I was taught. We dont need no fancy stinkin computer programs here.
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Re: Dispatching by Timetable and Tain Order -- A Lost Art

Postby vermontanan » Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:27 pm

I have indeed dispatched trains by timetable and train order. The biggest problem with train orders overall is that relatively few people understood them, including many in management. But train orders were clearly superior to track warrants. Today it pains me hearing about how cumbersome it is to move trains with track warrants, basically only authorizing movement to the next location where a meet would occur whereas with train orders you could set up the railroad 12 hours or more in advance and if things didn't change, would need to issue no additional orders. Today's track warrants are "one 'after order' after another!"
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Re: Dispatching by Timetable and Tain Order -- A Lost Art

Postby rovetherr » Fri Nov 13, 2015 9:26 pm

I have a question for those of you who have worked with TT&TO. How, or indeed did, the dispatcher provide protection for maintenance activities? Today's rules allow for various methods of protection depending on the level of disturbance of the track structure, including track warrants, Form B's (if on a GCOR road), track out of service, etc.
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Re: Dispatching by Timetable and Tain Order -- A Lost Art

Postby vermontanan » Sat Nov 14, 2015 11:15 am

For railroads governed by the Consolidated Code, protection for MOW was generally two ways:

For planned work, a form "Y" order was used. It usually was on a preprinted form the operators would use, and in the dispatchers offices I worked in, we had a big stamp that we'd press on an ink pad and then press onto the page in the order book. The text was:

"Men and equipment on _______ track between ________ and _________ from ____m until _____m
All trains on ________ track proceed through these limits at reduced speed unless a different speed is verbally authorized by employee in charge or entire train has passed a green flag"

And of course, the form came with several rules in the consolidated code.

For day-to-day activities such as section crews and track inspectors, train location line ups were used, and were issued several times during the day (depending on the amount of traffic), similar to this:

"Train location line up: 801 Between Ardvaark and Zebra From 701 AM to 1201 PM

Westward trains

Extra 1234 West leave Ardvaark 801 AM Eagle 930 AM Leopard 1030 AM Puma 1115 AM
Extra 5678 West leave Ardvaark 930 AM Eagle 1101 AM terminates at Leopard

Eastward trains

Extra 9012 East by Leopard 646 AM leave Eagle 745 AM
Extra 3456 East leave Zebra 1101 AM

Work trains

Work extra 7890 working betwen Ostrich and Quail from 801 AM until 1201 PM

Eastward trains will use westward track between Ostrich and Quail"

The train dispatcher must hold the trains at the aforementioned locations as not to depart prior to the times indicated. This could be done by train order wait times, train order signal at open train order stations, or by absolute signal if there was a manual interlocking or another control point under the jurisdiction of the dispatcher (or operator taking instructions from the train dispatcher). The train dispatcher could grant additional "time" for the trackmen by placing an additional train order (later wait times) or holding the trains as previously mentioned at locations for a later time.

As always, the MOW forces could also protect themselves with track flags.

No trains could be operated that were not on the line up as indicated (except in an emergency, but then an order would have to be issued to the effect that the train was not on the line up and operate at reduced speed prepared to stop short of obstruction, etc.)
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Re: Dispatching by Timetable and Tain Order -- A Lost Art

Postby rovetherr » Sun Nov 15, 2015 7:31 pm

Interesting, thanks for the answer, it clears a few things up for me and gives me a place to start for a little more digging. While talking with some of the older MoW guys at work they mentioned getting a line-up for the day before heading out on patrol, but never really talked about more than that. I'm not exactly sure when we changed from TT&TO to Form M (our own version of moving block control, essentially based on NORAC but without any of the wayside signal rules), but it was well before I started.

In today's regulatory environment, I can only imagine what the response would be to the MoW folks grabbing a line-up, and heading out to work! Now we protect them just like a train (at least in dark territory, we aren't signalized so I have limited experience with that on the DS side), with a few exceptions that are spelled out in the GCOR book.
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Re: Dispatching by Timetable and Tain Order -- A Lost Art

Postby Gadfly » Thu Nov 19, 2015 6:19 pm

rovetherr wrote:Interesting, thanks for the answer, it clears a few things up for me and gives me a place to start for a little more digging. While talking with some of the older MoW guys at work they mentioned getting a line-up for the day before heading out on patrol, but never really talked about more than that. I'm not exactly sure when we changed from TT&TO to Form M (our own version of moving block control, essentially based on NORAC but without any of the wayside signal rules), but it was well before I started.

In today's regulatory environment, I can only imagine what the response would be to the MoW folks grabbing a line-up, and heading out to work! Now we protect them just like a train (at least in dark territory, we aren't signalized so I have limited experience with that on the DS side), with a few exceptions that are spelled out in the GCOR book.


If I remember correctly, it was, indeed, the Y order./ Ours read something like this. Order #405 (four naught five) to C & E Engine 5007-5552 Coupled (or to the numbered train). "Approach milepost 492.6 prepared to stop, and do not pass this MP until notified by M W Foreman, J. W. Trexler the way is clear. Period. Signed REP (chief dispatcher/operator JWO) This practically assured that no train could slip up on a crew before they could clear up. Likewise, the Rule provided that work crews/work trains, etc. must clear the time of scheduled trains based upon their departure by 5 minutes. SO. If a train arrived at a designated MP and was unable to contact the Foreman, the monkey was on HIS back to STOP until he made contact. Most of the time, the MW Foreman had already talked to the train via radio, and it was rare that they had to stop, or that a work crew was not in the clear at the proper time. This system worked well for ages. :-)

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Re: Dispatching by Timetable and Tain Order -- A Lost Art

Postby 2nd trick op » Sat Nov 21, 2015 2:26 pm

rovetherr wrote:I have a question for those of you who have worked with TT&TO. How, or indeed did, the dispatcher provide protection for maintenance activities? Today's rules allow for various methods of protection depending on the level of disturbance of the track structure, including track warrants, Form B's (if on a GCOR road), track out of service, etc.


Another option would be to issue an order to an operator at a manned block station to hold all trains headed in a specific direction, or via a specific track. And in the later years of manual block operation, the Pennsy custom-built "blocking devices" which could be attached to the lever for a specific signal governing movement into a block where a track crew was working. The act of applying or removing a blocking device had to be recorded on the operator's train sheet, and in red ink.

The late Harry Forman and Peter Josserand, who are honored in a separate thread at this forum, created and regularly updated the reference work Rights of Trains, in which just about any situation encountered under the timetable/train order system is discussed. Although superseded by GCOR and NORAC, it's still in print.

http://www.amazon.com/Rights-Trains-Com ... B00289C202
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Re: Dispatching by Timetable and Tain Order -- A Lost Art

Postby rovetherr » Sat Nov 21, 2015 10:13 pm

Ah, perfect, another addition for the library! Much obliged for the link.

*edit* Which if I had re-read the first post, I would have seen referenced. Doh!
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