Friday, May 13, 2016

Hooping up Train Orders

Marty Bernard shared a Roger Puta photo
 ATSF 30C (F3A) with The Grand Canyon stopping at Chillicothe, Illinois to pick up passengers and train orders on October 7, 1966.
Marty Bernard posted
[There are several comments about the paint job.]
Clifford Prather: In the mid 60s, until the down grading of the Grand Canyon in the Fall of 1967, all the overland passenger train into LA ran with 5 units.
Steve Rippeteau: No, by 1966 the F-3/F-7 units were getting worn out so along with a longer train with mail and express it would take the extra power to maintain 90 MPH maximum authorized speed over the entire route LA to Chicago. Plus they were “bell ringers”, as in alarm bell warning the engine crew there was a unit dying or dead.
Don Marshall posted
The light is starting to fade as 4194 heads east at Altamont while being hooped up orders by the tower operator. 8/81

(Update: dispatching with train orders on the Rock Island)

Some of the pictures labeled by "depot" and "towerJunction" in this and the Towns and Nature blogs include the activity of hooping up train orders by the agent or operator. I've come across some postings that don't have enough information to locate the tower, but have insight into hooping orders. I'm using this posting to collect these hooping oriented photos.

The above photo shows that it can be quite a reach when it is done manually. Also, it appears the engineer is trying to grab the papers themselves. Normally, the engineer was supposed to aim at getting his arm in the middle of the hoop, a much bigger target. The string that holds the paper goes down both arms of the holder as well as across the end to make a triangle of string that holds the orders. Looking at the engineer's hand again, Don is probably using a telephoto lens, which compresses distances. The engineer's hand is probably still going down so it will be below the top string by the time the hand reaches the hoop.

Steven J. Brown posted the following two photos with the comment: "Iowa Interstate Paducah GP8 7979 approaches the Ottawa depot. The agent waits then hands orders up to the fireman - March 1986." The fireman has a closed fist instead of an open hand, so he definitely is aiming to get his arm through the middle of the hoop rather than try to grab the papers across the top.


Mark LLanuza's 1983 photo in Tolono, IL, shows that both railroads used an Iron Man to improve the efficiency and safety of the tower operator. The Iron Man in the center of the photo would be for the NS/NW/Wabash whereas the Iron Man to the right of the train order semaphores would be for the CN/IC.

Ken Durkel posted
Eastbound grabbing orders at Pine, Gary, Indiana. Train is just leaving the B&OCT and an arm is extended to grab the orders on the fly. 
This was taken in the summer of 1986, and was a transitional time for cabooses. There is only one set of orders for this train, indicating no caboose. 
But there are also orders already up for a westbound, and that side clearly has two sets of orders, so will have a caboose.
William Billson posted

Mark Hinsdale Bethpage NY
I'll bet the person that specified that wooden platform was a "safety expert" who sat behind a desk and never tried hooping orders himself. The platform needs to be about a couple feet closer to the track. And if you are going to make a platform, make it higher. That is the longest stretch by the tower operator and engineer that I have seen so far.

Wayne Hudak posted
A westbound picking up orders at Porter Indiana Tower. You can tell this train still has a caboose due to a lower set of orders. Less than a year, Porter Tower would be gone.
Photo ©1984
[This is a different style of hoop holder than we have been seing.]
A comment in a Carl Wilson posting indicated that an elephant once got the train orders at Brinkley, AR.

Rochard Koenig posted a crew member waiting for an ICG train in Bloomington, IN, before reaching up the orders.

Raymond Story posted a tower operator holding the orders for a cab unit.

Marty posted a Roger Puta photo
This has got to be one of, if not, Roger Puta's best. Here is his caption, "Operator at White Heath, Ill. handing up train orders addressed to conductor of IC freight which is Champaign bound." 
He took this on May 6, 1966 just before he would receive his bachelors degree at U of I. White Heath is about 10 miles west of Champaign.
Because the light does not penetrate very far into the darkness and because of the sharp shadow of the fork, it looks like he used one strobe. The blur says he used a slow shutter speed, maybe 1/25 th of a second. It's a Kodachrome II slide.
It made my day when I found it yesterday. It deserves to be viewed full screen.
[This shows that it was a lot easier for the tower operator to hold the hoop for the conductor than for the engineer. ]

Phil McCall shared
[The comments discuss that the Monticello Railway Museum now owns this track and the local depot.]
Charles Ritchie updated
Dad was a telegraph operator/chief clerk for the Illinois Central RR for almost 40 years.
Edward Wayne Bridges posted
Edward Wayne Bridges posted

Laird Barber posted as part of a collection
EB ICG GP-10 #8075 picks up orders in Rockford, IL. October, 1977.
Note the paper is by the elbow and the string is still flapping around. Also, because of the lantern, he is not holding onto anything. Note that the photo clearly shows a poling pocket.]
Rob Conway posted

Has it really been three years since this incredible photo was taken? Man, how time flies!

Brandon McShane I'd guess more like 30 years.

Mike Polsgrove Maybe even 35-40!

[Since this was posted in a Rondout group, I assume this photo was taken at Rondout Tower.]

Steven J. Brown posted two photos:
1: Soo Line West Line westbound grabbing orders at Tower B17 in Bensenville, Illinois - May 6, 1988

2: Soo Line West Line westbound grabbing orders at Tower B17 in Bensenville, Illinois - May 6, 1988.

The guy grabbing has been identified as Conductor John Hensley

David Daruszka posted
I guess the southbound Flyer is running late.
[Bill Molony recreates a station agent being ready to hoop-up train orders at the preserved Wabash Symerton Depot.]
Brian Skrabutenas posted (source)
[It looks like the engineer had to stretch to get those orders.]
Jerry Jackson posted two photos with the comment: "TwoferTuesday. SOO LINE 6014 West picks up their train orders in classic style from tower B-17, Bensenville, IL 1989."


Charlie Whipp posted
Grand Trunk Western operator George Gall hands "down" orders to the GTW Extra 5829 West on the Mount Clemens Sub. at Tappan tower in Port Huron on Feb. 2, 1985, three weeks before Tappan was closed. The tail end received their orders in a like manner. The line that the front trucks of the 5829 is on is that of the C&O's Port Huron Sub., now gone from the rail scene in Michigan. Interesting tidbit: Years after this photo was made, the CN changed the operating directions for this Subdivision to North-South to more logically reflect the actual map.
[This is the first time I have seen train orders "hooped down" instead of "hooped up."]
Steve LaConte posted
B&O 7610 picking up orders at South Lima, Oh. 05-09-1981

Jim Arvites posted
Memories of a bygone era. Tower operator hands orders to crews of Soo Line steam engine at Rondout, Illinois. But this photo was taken last Sunday (August 19, 2017) at Rondout of Soo Line Steam Engine 1003 enroute between Chicago and Janesville. Wisconsin.
(Keith Pokorny Photos)
Jim Arvites Rondout Tower has been closed for a couple of years. Individual in picture is former tower operator Jeff Varney.
Steven J. Brown commented on the above posting
Opposite view of the same moment!
Ken Jamin posted
Here I am at Rondout tower, handing up the routine register check to a Milw RR commuter train, as it enters the Fox Lake Subdivn. Note the fusee in my hip pocket. Having a fusee "in [my] possession" was required by the rules when inspecting a passing train. The tower is closed, the loco is at IRM and I have the short train order "hoop" I'm holding in my left hand. So all three of us are "preserved." - Bill Christopher photo @ 1976.
[There are many comments that provide insight into railroad operations. It is well worth clicking the "posted" link and reading them.]

Sam Carlson posted two photos of Ken Jamin hooping orders with the comment:
Here's something you rarely see anymore - orders being handed up to a train. We're at Rondout, IL in August, 1987; the train is eastbound headed west, and the handsome devil on the point is running backwards, making handing the orders up a more tricky proposition.
Ken Jamin Handing up to a unit running long end first is no different then heading up to one of the old center cab locomotives the EJE had. Actually it was easier because the center cab locomotives had a higher cab and I always had to stand just a little bit closer to the engine than I liked.

Dennis DeBruler shared with the comment:
Just a couple of weeks ago I shared a photo of Ken hooping orders to a Milwaukee train. Now he is serving the EJ&E at Rondout Tower. Sam's comment of an "eastbound headed west" made me think for a few seconds. Then I realized that "eastbound" was the timecard direction but "west" is the geographical direction. Since Roudout is on the north side of the metro area,…/@42.2893026,-87.9241…/data=!3m1!1e3, the directions are reversed.
Since most of the beltway railroads run about as much north/south as they do east/west, I asked a couple years ago about the timecard direction. I believe BRC, IHB and EJ&E all use east/west. I have read that CN uses north/south. So is a train going from Joliet Yard to Kirk Yard on the Matteson Subdivision going north or south?
Mark Nieting Now the J is single tracked there and the famous EJ&E manhole cover must be in someone's collection (I hope).
Dennis DeBruler
Dave Ladislas Sr. commented: "Our GT pig trains would leave Mkm [Markham].,go thru Matteson to Gary,then N. to Canada.Our WC pig trains would leave,hit Matteson,then W. to Joliet and N. to Wisc. "


Dennis Stanczak posted
Handing up the orders at KO Tower, Lake Forest IL on the C&NW New Line. This was from 1978 or 1979 and remains one of my favorite photos from my youth.
[At first I though the conductor did the mistake of trying to grab the orders rather than put his arm through the string hoop. But then I looked closer. He is so efficient that while he hooped the string with his left arm, he is already getting the orders off the string with his right hand.]
Cathy Lastiwka posted two photos with the comment: "Remember this?"
Al Lougheed Yup, getting that close to a moving loco made something pucker!
David Laird Al Lougheed I am amazed that I never took out an eye of a engineer. If the train was going too fast I would just walk away. The train would have to stop. Too Bad. I was worried about something sticking out and taking me out.
Larry Munson Especially on a icy platform..... 
Roger Edington Hey I recognizance that location in the photo, Nassau Tower in Mineola,NY. Soon to be removed when the 3rd track is installed, there is group trying to save the tower.
Charles Adkins Yes did that lots of times from the caboose and eng. At hi speed 50 + miles per hour.
Buddy Simons I used to hand up cups of coffee tied with train order string off the high speeder.... They got most of it!
[It looks like the engineer is trying to grab the orders directly rather than hoop the string with his arm. NBut nne of the comments mentioned the engineer using bad technique.]

Chicago Odyssey 1 Screenshot @ -4:05
[JO Tower]
Mark Llanuza posted
Its Sept 1976 I'm at Adams Tower just east of Fort Wayne on the former PRR with the tower man giving out train order's to this eastbound.
Paul Lutz posted
Warsaw tower operator Royce Burke hands up orders to an eastbound.
Mairk Hinsdale posted
"Handing Them Up"
"Throwing back" nearly 46 years, to a beautiful June, 1973 afternoon, when the operator at "SJ" Tower in Lima OH handed up orders to the engineer of a southbound Detroit Toledo & Ironton manifest freight. "SJ" was situated on Lima's southeast side and protected the crossing of DT&I and the Erie Lackawanna main line. Today, DT&I successor Indiana & Ohio still remains here, but "SJ Tower and the once busy EL are long gone. June, 1973 photo by Mark Hinsdale
Michael Matalis shared
Marc Malnekoff And if the crew didn't like the operator the tossed the train order fork down further away!
Bob Chaparro posted
I found this photo on-line. Photo information subsequently was provided by Glen Icanberry...
"Don Sims took this photo. Chard Walker was handing up orders to "The Chief" at Summit. The photo has been used by Santa Fe in several publications. An 11x14 is hanging on the wall, inside the telegraph office, at the San Bernardino History & RR Museum. Another framed copy was displayed at Chard's memorial, which hangs on my apartment wall. Both prints were obtained from Don Sims."
Bill Nimmo how fast would the train have been going when those orders were grabbed? anyone know?
Al Lyman Bill Nimmo I picked up orders at York NE at 80

Carl Venzke posted
Pennsylvania Railroad operator hoops up train orders to crew of a northbound coal train, Trout Run, Pennsylvania (1956) Jim Shaughnessy photo
Michael Caloroso Do I see a grade crossing guardman at extreme right?
[This is how it was done before they invented putting a string into a forked holder. The operator would then have to walk down the track to pick up the hoop that the crew drops after they remove the train orders.. I read a comment on another post that if the crew did not like the operator, they would delay dropping the hoop.]

Illinois Central Railroad Scrapbook posted
An IC company photographer climbed atop a baggage car in 1950 to capture this view of the southbound "City of Miami" snaking around a curve in Jackson, TN. A pair of E7A's are pulling the train, which is about to cross Sycamore Street. IC's Mississippi Division was headquartered in the large white building to the right, and an operator has come out to hand up train orders to the engine crew.
Meanwhile, a northbound freight powered by 2-8-2 1375 has stopped short of the crossing and is waiting for the "City" to clear. The coal bunker on 1375 is filled to the max. At the I.C. Cafe, on the left side of the photo, a small group of men are watching the action.
Nearly everything in this scene is gone. The "City of Miami" quit running in 1971 when Amtrak took over IC's intercity passenger service. The E7A's have long since been scrapped, while Mikado 1375 was retired in 1959 and scrapped. In 1988 the ICG sold its Fulton, KY-Birmingham, AL line to Norfolk Southern. Traffic on this route was moved onto other tracks through Jackson, and the tracks in this photo have been pulled up. The I.C. Cafe is long gone, but the division office still stands, though, and is home to a law office.
As noted earlier, this photo was taken by an IC company photographer. However, back in those days, if you acted responsibly and used common sense, many railroaders (but not railroad bulls!) would allow you to climb on top of cars, buildings, etc., to take photos. If you fell off, well, it was your own fault and you're on your own. Today, you'd never be allowed to climb atop cars like this, and if you got caught you'd be thrown off the property and/or arrested. And if someone fell off, they'd probably go running to a lawyer, claiming the railroad should have stopped them from climbing up there.
IC photo, Cliff Downey collection.
George Googe Nice to see this shot of my office posted! I moved the Public Defender's office here in July 2003 after a major tornado hit Jackson in May. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and still wears the name "Illinois Central Railroad Division Offices."Dennis DeBruler,-88.../data=!3m1!1e

Sam Carlson posted
Orders are being grabbed from EJ&E caboose 539 at Chicago Heights, IL, on June 24, 1982.
Charles Heraver That is a fairly substantial order stand.
Dennis DeBruler It's nice seeing a conductor in action. Most of the photos in my "train hooping" notes are of the engineer getting the orders.

Michael Riha posted three photos with the comment:
Picking Up Orders: Earlier this year, I attended an open house at a restored depot. One of the artifacts that the visitors found most interesting were the train order hoops the agent would use to hand paper orders to the crews on trains as they went an era of wireless networks, this most basic method passing a message seems quite the novelty.
But they ran a railroad doing it this way. On a slightly overcast day in 1977, a westbound Rock Island freight on the main accelerates and picks up their orders at Blue Island's Vermont Street. (Photos by my late father, John.)




Brian Watt commented on Michael's post

Sam Carlson posted
There was talk here about the bells bottoms that were in style back when there was no question who wore the pants in a family. Here's a Rondout operator in maroon bells, handing up order to a scoot in May, 1976.
Ken Jamin I had a pair like that but that’s not me and it doesn’t look like the regular RO oprs in 76. (Ed, Joe, Don and I) maybe Merlin Nelsen filling in?
Ken Jamin And it looks like there’s no orders in the hoop! What’s with that?
Sam CarlsonAuthor I zoomed in on it, and it sure doesn't look like there's any orders there. And I don't see anything on the bricks anywhere. Yeah, what is with that?
Tom Stone Looks like Merlin
Ed Fehrman ya prob Merlin posted
The operator at White Heath, Illinois hands orders to the conductor of a passing Illinois Central freight bound for nearby Champaign on May 6, 1966. Roger Puta photo.
Bill Molony shared
Don Meyer: That wasn’t as easy as it appears depending on speed, weather, personnel. posted
The old art of grabbing train orders is demonstrated here by an Illinois Central Gulf crewman on caboose #199456 as part of a northbound freight crossing the Norfolk & Western diamond at Tolono, Illinois on August 4, 1982. Jack Kuiphoff photo.
Greg Phelps In the mid-seventies I handed up train 🚂 orders with a forked stick! Had to stand close beside the train and hand up to the engineer, step back and then also hand up to the conductor on the caboose! At Horse Branch, KY handing up to a North bound coal train coming down a hill and around a curve at 60+ miles per hour! The engines would get to swaying so much you could read all of the number plates on the locomotives, six of them! First time I did this was a bit scary!
Justin Gillespie What happened when they missed or dropped it on a busy main line like that?
Terry Taylor The head brakeman , if it was the headend, or rear brakeman if it was the caboose started walking back and the operator ran toward the train knowing the dispatcher was going to eat his rear out for delaying the train and probably messing up his meet, whether it was his fault, or not.
Michael Megee My first time . . . I tried to grab it with my hand. I ended up walking/running about 1/2 mile each way to retrieve them.
Dan E. Brodigan Don't miss, or there's hell to pay!

Todd A. Warrick shared
Norm Alexander Pic is a great demonstration of why those IC cabooses were so long. Conductor has a level covered platform with a railing to stand behind when snagging orders. I understand those buggies gave a nice ride too.
Mark Rickert They got tired of losing crew out the side door overreaching.

Dennis DeBruler shared
Thomas Kaufman: Having done what the trainman i doing on the caboose, I can tell you all it is not as easy as it looks, lol.

Ken Jamin posted [to the Rondout Junction group]
A friend just sent me this photo. Anyone recognize the opr?
[Lloyd Weigert, around 1987]

Waybills are being grabbed in Tolono, IL.

Flickr photo at Rondout Tower.

There is a video of a hooping operation as a comment in this posting of three pictures of a train hoop. Skip the first 30 seconds unless you really like hearing train horns.

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