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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Train Order Book Tuesday Part 1

Date: 11/30/21 11:57
Train Order Book Tuesday Part 1
Author: Zephyr

I thought it might be interesting to "open up" a discussion around dispatching by train order as it was employed on the SPRR Los Angeles Division in the year 1971. Train order dispatching was kind of an art.  The basic tools were the Rule Book, the Timetable/Special Instructions and Train Orders issued by the train dispatcher.  Train Orders, according to the Rule Book, were in effect until "fulfilled, superseded or annulled".  Train Orders were "dictated" by the Train Dispatcher to Train Order Operators (in 1971) at stations along the route, in most cases, who then repeated the train order back to the dispatcher to insure all times and locations were correct.  A Clearance had to accompany issued train orders when delivered to a train at a station.  This was kind of the "seal of approval" from the Train Dispatcher listing the Train Orders for the train receiving the orders.  If a train received additional orders that were not shown on the Clearance or in reverse, did not receive orders that were listed on the Clearance, the train was required to stop and stay stopped until such errors were rectified.  There were some exceptions to this process if the Train Dispatcher got in a bind and wanted to move a train that would otherwise be needlessly delayed.

The Train Dispatcher's primary tool used to issue Train Orders was the Train Order Book and a pen (Photo 1).  In this case we'll review the Coast Train Order Book in effect from 1201am November 2, 1971 to November 5, 1971.

At the beginning of each shift the Train Dispatcher would prepare Clearance Pages associated with stations along the route (Photo 2).  Our example shows stations identified by their old telegraph code ID:  BI=San Luis Obispo, GD=Guadalupe, RF=Surf.  The next column depicts the scheduled train, engine or extra to whom orders or a clearance would be issued; the next column indicates what "signals" the Train Dispatcher wants a scheduled train to indicate.  This was kind of a vestigal remains from the days the SPRR required the train schedule and/or section to be identified in the locomotive's number boards.  In 1971 this was no longer required, but scheduled trains continued to be identified by locomotive number.  So, in our example, we see the Train Dispatcher has created sections of First Class Schedule No. 374 indicated by the "Green" in the column adjacent to "1-374".  The next large column contains the order numbers issued to the train, the tiny column the total number of orders for the train and the final column the time the clearance was OK'd for the train by the Train Dispatcher. The Train Dispatcher's initials are on the top of the page (PKB) along with the date and timeframe of issued clearances.  The letters "TRF" written on the right hand columns are indication the next shift Train Dispatcher has transferred these orders to their new clearance pages because the orders were still in effect when the next shift came to work.  Circled, crossed out or identified with an "a" indicate train order numbers that have been fulfilled, superseded or annulled.

The remainder of the Train Order Book after the Clearance Pages for each shift, was utilized to write the train order as it was issued to the stations where the train was going to receive the train order.  Let's look at Train Order No. 16 issued to three trains by the Train Dispatcher (Photo 3).  The Train Dispatcher is issuing a "run late" order to a scheduled First Class Train, in this case, Second 374.  The Train Dispatcher has also realized that the Extra 6609 West at Callender needs some sort of "help" operating against the First Class scheduled Train, so is issuing the order to that train via the radio, kind of an unusual move and something that would pay a Train Order Operator a day's pay if claimed properly.  BI (San Luis Obispo) would be the first station to repeat the Train Order as it was the initial station where Second 374 is being restricted by the "run late" order.  RF (Surf) would be next and then the Extra 6609 West at Callender.  As each station or employee repeated the Train Order word for word and number for number, the Train Dispatcher would underline the word or number.  The time each station completed their repeat was indicated by an "Rc" (Repeated and Complete) adjacent to the station and train ID.  When a Train Order was fulfilled, superseded, or annulled, the Train Dispatcher would use a large blue crayon and initial out the Train Order written in the Train Order Book with his or her initials (PB).  When a page of issued Train Orders in the Train Order Book was completely fulfilled, superseded or annulled, the page was "X'd" out by the Train Dispatcher indicating that particular page was "dead".

That's probably enough for Part One.  Hopefully you will find this interesting and, if so, I'll attempt to go even deeper into the Train Order Book in subsequent parts.

Oxnard, California 


Date: 11/30/21 12:07
Re: Train Order Book Tuesday Part 1
Author: WAF

Have boxes of these books from Oct 1970 to July 1971 for the Coast SF to SLO

Date: 11/30/21 12:10
Re: Train Order Book Tuesday Part 1
Author: WAF

You should post the other orders for that page. I assume a circled order is a voided order?

Date: 11/30/21 12:16
Re: Train Order Book Tuesday Part 1
Author: WAF

834 is probably the Smokey (SMV)

Date: 11/30/21 13:29
Re: Train Order Book Tuesday Part 1
Author: Zephyr

WAF:  Was going to get into the rest of the orders in Part 2.  Thanks.  Nope, 834 wasn't the Smokey this day.  That was 832 and he was somewhere between Santa Barbara and Oxnard.

Date: 11/30/21 13:50
Re: Train Order Book Tuesday Part 1
Author: WAF

I believe they adjusted second class trains times in the era as later in the 70s, the SMV was 834 leaving Guadalupe about 830-930p

Date: 12/01/21 09:40
Re: Train Order Book Tuesday Part 1
Author: cewherry

Looking forward to this; got my green eye-shade and sleeve protectors on!


Date: 12/01/21 11:36
Re: Train Order Book Tuesday Part 1
Author: WAF

cewherry Wrote:
> Looking forward to this; got my green eye-shade
> and sleeve protectors on!
> Charlie
Tobacco can and bug ready, Charlie?

Date: 12/02/21 11:10
Re: Train Order Book Tuesday Part 1
Author: railstiesballast

Thank you sir, this is an excellent body of knowledge to share.
It demonstrates the actual application of the rules and why they were written in such specific formats.
And of course it reminds us of how real people coped with these situaions day in and day out.
TO Book Tuesday is now something to look forward to.

Date: 12/06/21 21:05
Re: Train Order Book Tuesday Part 1
Author: W_P_SignalTechnician


This is outstanding!  Looking forward to Part 2.  
Q:  Were you in the PE Building in LA?  
I grew up in Ventura and listened to the dispatcher's wire at the Ventura depot before it was closed.  E R (Dick) Molina was the station agent / operator at the time.  I also listened to the line in the Santa Barbara depot on Sunday evenings when the relief operator was on duty.  That was Fred French.  When Ventura closed Mr. Molina bumped into the first trick operators position at Oxnard.  I think he bumped Don Dent.  ?               (I was age 16 when you were writing these train orders!  LOL)      I could not do anything at Oxnard as there were just too many people working there at the time; just took pictures around the depot and on the VC Railway.


Date: 12/07/21 11:02
Re: Train Order Book Tuesday Part 1
Author: Zephyr


I remember those names well working the Coast in 1971.  Part Two coming soon today.  Thanks for adding some local "color" to the narrative of the SPRR Coast Line dispatching series.


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