Train order forks

nw-mailing-list at nw-mailing-list at
Wed Jan 26 00:12:27 EST 2005

To: "N&W Mailing List" <nw-mailing-list at> 
Date: Sun, 23 Jan 2005 23:26:54 -0500 
From: nw-mailing-list at
Subject: Re: Train order forks

Train Order Hoops - I was fortunate several years ago
to acquire one from a retired Tower Operator on the
Wabash.  He provided a detailed history on the hoop.
Down to the nail used to secure one of the forks to
the handle. It was used at the Reddick Tower in 
Ill. He mentions working two lines N&W & Penn Central.
Some interesting things about it as mentioned in
previous emails are : The waxed string & slip knot. 
The ends are chipped from hitting the sides of
cabooses.  I was fortunate to acquire just very
recently some copied photos of it in 
use. Most people that come to my home to see my
collection have never even heard of  "Such a Thing".
Thanks for starting the thread on this subject.

Ron Wilkinson

January 25, 2005

Hello, Ron:

Train order hoops --which were a continuous piece of
wood that was bent so the end looped back to the
straight portion, and looked like a "P"-- had a low
survival rate.  After a catch, the train crew dropped
them back to the ground which would eventually
frequently fracture them and render them unusable.

Train order forks --shaped like a "Y"-- were an
improvement from three respects.  First, it was safer
to snag a piece of string instead of wood, not just
from the impact perspective but also if the operator
didn't let go quick enough --as in Harry Bundy's
"nanonsecond."  Second, the string was disposable and
inexpensive.  Finally, the prongs could be unscrewed
from their sockets and replaced if damaged.  I think
forks generally replaced hoops after the 1940s, but
don't have a solid basis for that statement other than
photos I've seen.



Dr. Frank R. Scheer, Curator
Railway Mail Service Library, Inc.
f_scheer at
(202) 268-2121 - weekday office
(540) 837-9090 - weekend afternoons 
in the former N&W station on VA rte 723 
117 East Main Street 
Boyce  VA  22620-9639
Visit at

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