Sleeping at stations

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Wed Jan 26 23:52:10 EST 2005

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2005 18:08:10 EST 
To: nw-mailing-list at 
From: nw-mailing-list at  View Contact Details  
Subject:  Re: Train orders --NOT--on the fly at night

Bidding in a swing job, I worked 2nd trick Tidewater
on Saturdays.  Tidewater was supplied with N&W Form
"19" orders.  On the NS, however, there were both "19"
and "31" orders in use.  The "31" order is usually
issued when the rights of a superior train are
restricted.  It requires that the train's conductor
(or engineer in the conductor's absence) sign the
order.  NS had a wrinkle, though.  It wasn't in the
rule book, but at the dispatcher's direction, the
operator would sign the order and hand it up on the
fly. Most N&W and VGN people wince at that
One particular night, an extra board operator was
sleeping at a station because, unlike those in train
and engine service, operators did NOT received
away-from-home lodging .  The dispatcher saw an
opportunity to advance an inferior train by at least
55 minutes.  At 3:00 AM, most agencies were closed.  I
noted to the dispatcher that an extra man was boarding
at the depot.  He immediately rang
"HD"  and woke the operator.  He issued a "31" order
to the superior train which changed the meet. Then the
dispatcher noted, "if he stops and signs the order,
it'll make any delay at the meeting point a little
more palatable".  The operator set the train order
signal to STOP and placed a red flag on the mast (the
signal that a "31" order was to be delivered).  When
the engineer rounded the curve and saw the STOP train
order signal, the red flag, and no operator, he put
the train in emergency.  Sixty two cars behind the
engines, a draw bar got snatched out of a tank car,
which stopped in the middle of the
Perquimans River bridge.
Harry Bundy

January 27, 2005

Hello, Harry:

I can imagine a train crew encountering a red train
order board where they expect a station to be closed
would be most surprised.  You also mentioned something
that many folks might not realize: that stations were
the Motel 6 of operators.

While on the C&O in the 1970s, I received about $2.50
per day per diem plus rail mileage (not road miles)
when posted to a location that was not my "home
terminal," which happened to be G Cabin at
Gordonsville.  In most cases, I covered a position for
a full week since most operators wanted summer
vacations.  When 4 or 5 PM came, the train order light
went off, shades went down, and a caboose cushion
donated by a freight conductor came out of the car and
onto the agent's office or waiting room floors.  In
rural areas such as Beaver Dam or Columbia, there was
no portable television reception
so an AM radio was my only entertainment other than
occasional passing trains.  I used to do hobby
correspondence on the station typewriter.

Before I became really familiar with agency work, I
would also make my daytime activities a little less
hectic by typing most of the bill of lading
information for predictable loadings, except for car
initials and number and date.

When working at continuous offices such as R Cabin or
DO at Main Street during daylight hours, I'd stay at
the nearest rural depot to Richmond which was Sabot. 
Admission to every station was via switch lock on one
of the freight house doors.  At Sabot, there was no
running water and only an outhouse.  The back seat of
my car was loaded with a water can I carried, plus
orange sodas and canned food such as Dinty Moore beef
stew.  Those were heated on the ubiquitous hot plate
that was the only convenience other than electric



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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