dispatcher communication

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Gentlemen: Do any of you experts know how the dispatcher relayed to train crews that they were to call him before radio. I assume that there was some sort of call light at a signal location that had a phone. I know that a "call on" was when the train crew "called on" the dispatcher for a "restricted" aspect. Thanks, John Edwards

-- John Edwards (anjedwards@enter.net), February 17, 2002


Gentlemen, While interviewing Mr. Vance Peacock and Mr. Don Rountree last year for the "Dispatchers" article in Lines South, Mr. Peacock mentioned "call lights" for just this situation. Of course, this was only after CTC was installed, but on some SAL routes that goes all the way back to 1940. He mentioned that he had a row of call lights on his CTC board underneath each end of each siding, and if he wanted to talk to the train crews he would flip the switch and a white light would illuminate on a signal box at the appropriate end of a siding, or anywhere along the line that a call light was installed. When CTC was installed there were no train radios--realistically speaking--so the call lights were very important for initiatingg communications. Harry Bundy's right about station operators and agents reporting the passing of trains in the pre-CTC days, and they reported passing of all trains to the DS by either telephone or telegraph. In most cases, when a train was ordered to take a siding without an operator or an agent (or if the station or position was eliminated), then phone boxes or booths were providedat each end of a siding so the crew could call in when established in the siding. In "dark" territory" trains ran by the timetable, and the timetable was changed through the use of train orders. Remember, there were not always signals at places required to call in, such as sidings or junctions (excluding crossings at grade). This is especially true of most pre- WWII lines on both the SAL and ACL. Therefore, phone boxes, phone booths, operators, tower operators, agent, etc. were required out on the road to report the passing of trains to the DS. We are used to seeing miles and miles of modern mainline railroad today that are heavily used but totally uninhabited. It wasn't that way 50 years ago--there were lots people everywhere along the SAL and ACL line, even manning the most remote places, to keep trains running on time and the DS informed. It was a different way of railroading but just as effective. Hope this helps!

John Golden

-- John Golden (Golden1014@yahoo.com), February 24, 2002.

I think something like Harry mentions is what caused the ACL headon in Floral City,FL.

-- J..Oates (jlosal@mindspring.com), February 19, 2002.

In CTC territory, it was possible to set a controlled signal at STOP and illuminate the signal maintainer's light on an adjacent relay case to get a train crew to the dispatcher's phone.

In other than CTC territory, contacting a train crew before radio could be a problem. Dispatchers relied on operators, but if between open offices, contacting a crew could be a problem. Although rare in actuality, a dispatcher might uncover a "lap of authority" -- a sequence of events (or non-events) that allows two opposing trains rights to the same section of track. This usually ends in a head-end collision. The dispatcher may have no method of intercepting either of the trains, but can only wait for the inevitable phone call. A dispatcher on the Chesapeake Western detected that a "lap of authority" existed, left his office, and drove by automobile in an attempt to avoid a head-end collision. At the investigation, the dispatcher noted that his duties frequently required him to leave the dispatch center and that his sister, a stenographer, then assumed his duties as dispatcher.

-- Harry Bundy (Y6B@aol.com), February 18, 2002.

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