Marshall Monroe Kirkman.

Railway service; trains and stations. Describing the manner of operating trains, and the duties of train and station officials online

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the orders given them by the class of men we
have enumerated.

And so it is in reference to special orders.
The engineer of an irregular train that is run-
ning under special telegraphic instructions at
the rate of sixty miles an hour, can not depend
implicitly upon the accuracy of the reports he
receives in reference to the location and inten-
tion of other trains. Doubtless the informa-
tion imparted to him is perfectly accurate and
trustworthy. He ventures no comments. His
orders are to proceed. He has been trained to

Trains and Stations. 35

obey. Outwardly, he is unconcerned, but in-
wardly he is filled with apprehension, and as
he proceeds on his course, he scrutinizes the
track with an intensity and a sagacity that
never wearies.

The anxiety upon the part of the engineer is
not occasioned by fear for his personal safety,
though that doubtless has its influence, but it
is the knowledge, born of observation and ex-
perience, that blind adherence to orders, no
matter what the circumstances or from whom
emanating, may not only cost him his life, but
may involve the lives of many others ; the lives
of people believing in him, and trusting him,
and as unconscious of danger as they are help-
less to avoid it.

Under many circumstances the watchfulness
of the engineer is of no practical avail ; a sharp
curve may bring him face to face with an ad-
vancing train, an open switch or a track torn
up for repairs.

Some rule upon which his safety depends is
disregarded. The train that should wait pro-
ceeds on its way confident of making the suc-
ceeding station ; the night is foggy, a high wind
blows, the track is slippery, the engine will not
make steam, its time is up. Still it advances ;
when from out the gloom there emerges in its
immediate front the light of an approaching
locomotive ; the whistles simultaneously shriek

36 Railway Service :

the alarm ; there is a moment's suspense ; when
high above the roar of the winds, and the noise
of rushing steam, is heard the crash of the op-
posing trains.


That disasters of this character are of rare
occurrence is - attributable to the intelligence
and watchfulness of the men in charge of our

A disregard o the established rules under
which trains are manipulated, not only costs
the offender his place, but it may involve many
innocent lives.

This tremendous responsibility can not be
evaded, and so there grows up in the mind of
the engineer and conductor an intense con-

Subordinate employes participate in this
feeling., and so we find everywhere we go a dis-
position, upon the part of trainmen, to comply
with the literal requirements of each and every
order or rule, and in cases of doubt nothing is
risked, everything is sacrificed that absolute
safety may be ensured; and it is to this
conservatism, this loyal adherence to established
rules, that the railway traveler is indebted for his

Trains and Stations. 37


As we advance in our inquiries into the
rules governing the machinery of the depart-
ment of transportation upon different roads, we
are more and more surprised at the differences
that exist.

Many of the differences are material.
, Others, again, are differences of form, only.

In many cases we can trace in the regula-
tions of a road the peculiar traits of character
possessed by those instrumental in perfecting

The rules of one company will be extremely
exacting ; another company will trust more to
the discretion of its operatives.

Much can be said in favor of each system.
Under one system employe's act automatically ;
under the other they act more zealously, per-
haps, but "with less effectiveness. The first
named system is without doubt best for the
company, the last named is more advantageous
to the men. Generally speaking, one system
breeds dependents, the other engenders men.

38 Railway Service :


But let us notice further some of the differ-
ences that exist in the regulations of different

And first we remark that upon one line the
trains going south possess certain privileges
over trains going north ; that is to say, they are
entitled to the road for a certain specified num-
ber of minutes over and above the time allotted
them in the time-table, and connecting trains
are required to keep out of their way. Upon
a neighboring road the trains going north will
be the ones that are favored.

It does not require a vivid imagination to
picture the consequences of any mistake as to
the rights possessed by a particular train, but
as a mistake in this respect must involve a mis-
apprehension of the facts upon the part of both
the engineer and conductor, it may be said to be
improbable if not impossible.

The direction in which the greatest average
number of people travel varies in different sec-
tions. In one section it will run to the north,
elsewhere the stream will be southward.
The discrimination we have mentioned is usu-
ally in favor of that current of travel that it is

Trains and Stations. 39

most important the railway company should

The granting of certain privileges to a train
moving in one direction, not granted to trains
moving in an opposite direction, is, therefore,
not the result of chance or caprice, but the ex-
ercise of a shrewd discretion.

In pursuing our investigations, we find con-
stant evidence of the exercise of this discretion.
One company will insist upon its gravel and
other working trains keeping ten minutes or more
out of the way of all goods trains, that is to say,
they must be clear of the main track at least ten
minutes before a freight train is due. These
working trains employ hundreds of men, and in
the event the freight train is delayed, or wheth-
er it is or not, the loss of money to the company
through the enforced idleness of its men must,
in the course of a year, amount to a large sum.
A neighboring company, keeping this fact in
mind, will give its gravel trains permission to
continue at work (keeping out the required sig-
nals) until the approaching freight train is in
sight, when the working train must hasten to get
out of its way. Under this rule no time is lost
unnecessarily by the employes of the company,
and under its practical working it may be en-
tirely safe, though examined theoretically it
would seem as if the order requiring working
trains to keep at least ten minutes out of the

40 Railway Service :

way can not but be safer than the rule permit-
ting them to continue at work, no matter what
careful provision may be made for watching the
approaches to such train.

The margin of time allowed trains of a su-
perior class, which time must never, under any
circumstances, be used by those of an inferior
order, is not the same upon different roads.
One company will require its freight trains to
be upon a siding twenty minutes in advance of
the time a train of superior grade is due. Up-
on another line fifteen minutes will be allowed.
Upon still another road ten minutes is consid-
ered sufficient. The object of each manage-
ment is, of course, to strike a happy mean.
The safety of trains, and especially those of a
high grade, is always of paramount considera-
tion, but a due regard for their safety is not
necessarily inconsistent with an active, expedi-
tious discharge of business, and if a margin of
ten minutes is considered sufficient by the man-
agement, and has been proven to be so by years
of experience, then to allow a longer time
would be an unnecessary delay of the traffic of
the line, and a gross extravagance upon the part
of the company's representatives.

An effort upon the part of railway managers
to make the most of every circumstance is ap-
parent in many ways. That these efforts at
economy are often times illy directed and un-

Trains and Stations. 41

fortunate in their results is made apparent from
time to time, and these failures teach us to re-
main silent when we would otherwise be dis-
posed to criticise what seems like a want of
thrift, an improvident use of the resources of a

One company will require its detached en-
gines, when passing over the line, to precede, in
all cases, the regular trains. Another company,
with a careful eye to the saving of a few pence,
will require that when such engines accom-
pany freight trains they must follow rather
than precede. The object of the latter case
being, doubtless, to make the detached loco-
motive assist the engine attached to the train
in the event assistance is required. The danger
to the train and its operatives is apparently
much greater from an engine following, than
from an engine preceding it, but the opportunity
of using the detached locomotive, as occasion
requires, is thought to more than compensate
for the slight risk that is run. Whether it does
or not no one can definitely determine.

Of the many differences that attract our at-
tention, not the least surprising is that which
exists in reference to the manner of conducting
business upon double track roads. While it
seems perfectly apparent to us that vehicles
should, to prevent collision, turn to the left
in passing each other upon the public highway,

42 Railway Service :

it also seems equally clear that upon a railway
line where the danger of collision does not and
can not exist, that trains should in all cases take
the right hand track. As the regulations of
the English companies and many of our own
lines require that trains shall run upon the
left hand track, we must accept such regula-
tions as conclusive evidence, that in the
estimation of the managers of such lines at
least, there are many weighty reasons why
trains should run upon the left hand track in
preference to the right.


The diversity that exists in the rules of dif-
ferent companies governing the movement of
train operatives also exists in the telegraph
department of railroads.

Upon the lines of one company, the signal
" 27 " flying along the wire closes every key
and silences every operator ; it is a magic num-
ber ; it hushes all disputes ; it means life and
death ; it is a warning to clear the line ; it is a
signal that the waiting message must take pre-
cedence of every thing else, no matter how

Upon another circuit " 27 " possesses no sig-
nificance whatever, and its repetition would

Trains and Stations. 43

never still the struggle that is forever going on
amongst operatives for the use of the line.

Upon one line the cabalistic sign " 19 " serves
instantly to hush all rivalry and contention, it
is the signal of the general manager, and woe
to the unfortunate novice who incautiously ven-
tures to break in upon the business that fol-
lows. Upon another line number " 19 " has no
special meaning, and its repetition would only
serve to excite idle curiosity or profanity.

Upon some of the telegraph lines the most
extended and ingenious ways are sought to ab-
breviate and save time. Each number will be
made to convey some special information, an
elaborate question perhaps, while still other
numbers furnish an answer for every emer-
gency. When this field has been exhausted,
the alphabet will be resorted to and isolated
letters or simple combinations of letters will be
made to stand for words, the words selected
being those most in use in the business vocab-
ulary of a railroad.


While we find that the rules of no two com-
panies are exactly alike, so we find on a careful
examination of the regulations of many differ-
ent lines that no one of them contain all the
rules that possess a positive practical value ; no

44 Railway Service :

one of them that is not deficient in some impor-
tant respect.

Investigation elicits the fact that the rules of
each company contain many valuable hints and
suggestions not embraced in the directions of
any other company.

It has been the aim to embrace in the rules
appended hereto the salient features of each, so
far as the same was practicable. The magnitude
of the work has for the present rendered the
effort only measurably successful.

The bits of information gleaned in pursuing
the wise provision made by different managers
are interesting as well as instructive. One man-
ager who has, doubtless, in his time given spe-
cial attention to the subject of claims, directs
his subordinates in all cases of accident to re-
port with other facts the names of witnesses.
He has undoubtedly been sorely pressed by
some unfriendly claimant in consequence of
lack of information upon this very point.
Other companies note the provision made and
insert similar instructions.

The same manager we h*ve mentioned also
warns his employe's in his printed rules that his
company will not under any circumstances be
responsible for accidents to employe's while
coupling cars, etc. Evidently he does not in-
tend his company shall suffer from negligence
in this particular field, if warnings will suffice.

Trains and Stations. 45

Another manager will take a rule common to
all roads and, by adding a clause, perhaps a word,
give it a finish and completeness that it did not
before possess.

Another manager explains to the operatives
of his trains that they must not exceed fifteen
miles an hour, and that, when running at that
rate, they will pass seven telegraph poles a
minute. Probably this would be only approxi-
mately true upon many lines. It is however a
fine illustration of the acute observation and
good practical sense of railway managers.

Another manager provides a system whereby
trainmen may signal each other in the event
a train should break in two, special provision
being made in case the train should break into
more than two parts. We should probably find
upon inquiry that the company represented
by the official promulgating these signals, has at
some period of its existence suffered disastrously
from the inability of trainmen to convey quick
intelligence to their companions of the breaking
in two of trains.

Still another manager is at considerable pains
to define the rights possessed by an extra train,
in the absence of special orders, in the event it
can not reach the meeting point without tres-
passing upon the time of trains going in the op-
posite direction.

And so we might go on at much greater

46 Railway Service :

length, but enough has been written to illus-
trate the differences that exist in the laws gov-
erning the movement of trains, and here for
the present we drop the subject.


Of the many remarkable things noticeable in
the experience of railroads, not the least curi-
ous are the technical phrases in common use,
in connection with the train service. Many of
the phrases are, without doubt, re-adaptations
of old expressions common to the early experi-
ences of the pioneer managers of railways.
The necessities of the service have given rise
to many other expressions peculiar to it. and
not to be found elsewhere.

While the words and set phrases employed
are perhaps not as copious or extended as those
in use among sailors, still, many of them are
quite as enigmatical, and to any one ignorant
of their application they possess a significance
that is startling in the extreme.

Thus, when the ukase of the manager goes
forth that u flying switches " will not be toler-
ated upon the line under any conceivable cir-
cumstances, the verdant observer is quite justi-
fied in picturing in his mind's eye an ingenious
contrivance whereby certain vicious and unruly
employe's are accustomed to amuse themselves,

Trains and Stations. 47

surreptitiously perhaps, from time to time, to
the great distress and alarm, of the manage-

Our verdant friend finds that " running
switches," " shooting stations," and " wild
trains " are everywhere spoken of as the most
natural and proper objects in the world things
too well known and understood to require elab-
oration or explanation.

And in this way his mind becomes expanded,
so that when he reads that " enginemen must
not fail to note all 'whistling-posts' they may
pass upon the line," he is neither daunted nor
discouraged, but at once acknowledges and ac-
cepts the presence of " whistling-posts " as he
would any other phenomena in nature.

However, when he reads that conductors will
44 side-track," under certain stated circum-
stances, he is at a loss to know whether their
doing so will be voluntary or involuntary. Are
they to side-track of their own accord, or will
they side-track in spite of themselves ?

These and similar questions constantly recur
to disturb him as he progresses ; they can not be
absorbed, and are too enigmatical to be solved

When he reads the terse command that con-
ductors must " take a side-track," he wonders,
inwardly, if they take it as they do medicine or
food, or, as an outlying fortress is taken by
storm with attendant sappers and miners.

48 Railway Service :

And so he wonders how it is possible to turn
trains upon the letter "Y," and why so foolish
a thing should be done.

He can not understand why it should be nec-
essary to tell a man of sufficient intelligence, to
act as conductor, that he must "keep off" the
time of other conductors, and speculates what
connection, if any, this has with the "lost
time " of trains.

What process is necessary to enable one train
to " clear " another ?

Why should not an engine be allowed to slip
her " drivers " if she or they can get along
easier thereby ?

How are switches " set," and in what manner
can a train be operated upon a " block ? "

Questions like these occur to him at every

In another chapter we have endeavored to
explain the meaning of some of the more obtuse
phrases common amongst trainmen. Some of
these phrases are well understood, others again
are unintelligible, except to those versed in
what we may call the phraseology of trains.
The list is susceptible of infinite expansion,
but it is sufficient in its restricted form for the
purposes of the present work.

Trains and Stations. 49


While the phraseology employed upon English
roads is radically different from that in use
in this country, it is in no respect less peculiar.
Yet it is probably true that any Englishman
who should attempt to explain the phrases in
common use upon the roads in Great Britain
would be generally laughed at by railway men
in that country ; to them such phrases are a
part of their mother tongue ; by many they are
supposed to be in universal use ; by others they
are thought to have always formed a part of
the English language. -Yet, while the English
language is still tolerably well understood in
the United States, it is nevertheless true that
there are probably not one hundred Americans
connected with the various railway companies
in this country who understand the significance
of the great bulk of expressions in common use
upon the railways of England.

How many Americans are there who know
what a Scotch block 1 or a sprag is ; or a trol-
ley, 2 lay bye, 3 lorry, 4 ganger, 5 or train staff 6 ?
This list could be extended indefinitely.

1. A block laid across the track to prevent the movement of

2. Car used by trackmen.

3. A side track.

4. A flat car.

5. The foreman in charge of sectionmen.

6. A staff used upon a single track road and placed in a


50 Railway Service :

In England, as in the United States, the
names of many things connected with the rail-
way lines had a significance half a century
ago that they do not possess under the ne'w
order of things. 7

socket upon the engine to indicate that such engine has been
granted the right to run over a particular section of line.

7. " At the ' booking-office ' no booking is done. You merely
say, to an unseen if not invisible person, through a small hole,
4 First (or second) class, single (or return)' put down your
money, receive your ticket, and depart. But as there were
booking-offices for the stage-coaches which used to run between
all the towns and through nearly all of the villages of England,
,the term had become fixed in the minds and upon the lips of
this nation of travelers. So it was with the guard and his
name; and when the railway-carriage supplanted, or rather
drove out, the stage-coach, the old names were given to the
new things, and the continuity of life was not completely
broken." Richard Grant White in the Atlantic.

Trains and Stations. 51



Ahead of Time. When a train reaches a
place before it is due at such place, according
to the schedule or special order under which it
is running, it is said to be ahead of time ; in
advance of its time.

Behind Time. When a train fails to reach a
point at the time specified in the schedule or
special order under which it is operated, it is
said to be behind time ; when a train is late.

Block System. A system devised for the
expeditious movement of trains without jeop-
ardizing life or property. Under the block
system the track of a road is cut up into short
sections of a few miles in length called blocks.
Not more than one train is allowed on a block
at a time, except as noted below. When a train
passes off from a block the fact is at once tele-
graphed to the operator at the opposite end of
such block ; the track thus becomes free for the
use of any following train. Until receipt of

52 Railway Service :

this notice no train is permitted to enter the
block without specific notice in each instance
that the block is already occupied and that its
speed must be governed accordingly. Under
the block system the officials of a train are
warned and the train is itself protected when
the road is obstructed by preceding trains.

Brake. In railway parlance an apparatus
attached to engines and cars for the purpose of
bringing them under more complete control, to
be used when occasion requires in lessening
their speed or stopping them when in motion.

" A piece of mechanism for retarding or stop-
ping motion by friction, as of a carriage or
railway car, by the pressure of rubbers against
the wheels." Webster.

The application of this power or friction to
the wheels is called " setting the brakes," "set
the brakes," "the brakes are set."

Oars. The cars employed by a railroad in
the conduct of its business may be enumerated
as follows, viz : In passenger trains, baggage,
business, directors, drawing - room, express,
hotel, mail, milk, officers, palace, passenger 1

I. Passenger cars are called coaches or carriages in England.
In Europe the passenger cars are divided into compartments,
with separate entrances on each side of the car. The compart-
ments of first-class carriages usually contain seats for eight,
four on each side. In the lower classes there is no partition
between the seats, and a greater number of passengers can
consequently be accommodated. Passengers in different

Trains and Stations. 53

first-class, passenger second-class, parlor, pay,
saloon, sleeping, and smoking. In freight
trains, boarding, box, caboose, ditching, dump,
flat, freight, 1 horse-boxes, mineral, oil, ore,
paint, pile-driver, platform, refrigerator, stock,
way, and wrecking.

Classes of Trains. " Regular," " Extra,"
and "Wild."

Clearing a Train. Keeping out of the way
of a train. Arriving at a meeting, or passing
point, before the train to be cleared is due.
As " clearing a train ten minutes."

Closed Switch. When a switch is " closed "
the principal, or main track, is uninterrupted,
continuous, not diverted.

Construction Train. A train employed exclu-
sively in the transportation of material belong-
ing to, and used by, a railroad company in
connection with the improvement of its prop-
erty, or the building of new lines. It usually
embraces trains engaged in hauling ballast, dirt,
gravel, stone and timber, or employed in remov-
ing earth from ditches and cuts. Trains occu-
pied in the work last described are frequently
called ditching trains.

compartments of first and second-class cars can not communi-
cate with each other (the partitions extending to the ceiling)
and are isolated from the officials in charge of the train. The

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Online LibraryMarshall Monroe KirkmanRailway service; trains and stations. Describing the manner of operating trains, and the duties of train and station officials → online text (page 3 of 17)