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Bluetooth: 1943

Bluetooth: 1943

March 1943. "Amarillo, Texas. Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe rail dispatcher in the general office." Medium-format negative by Jack Delano. View full size.


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Train Orders

This dispatcher is practicing the art of directing rail traffic by the use of train orders, communicating with his order operators by telephone.

The microphone on his chest is activated by a foot pedal while the speaker is an open "party line" to all his operators as well as the offices of yardmasters, wayside telephone boxes, etc. The box in front of him is used to patch in the person he wishes to address. He dictates the orders to one or more operators simultaneously while at the same time writes the orders in his train order book.

To ensure accuracy, each operator reads back the order one by one while the dispatcher underlines each word or number in his book. When the orders are ready to be delivered, the operator (on the Santa Fe) rolls them up and ties them with a string which he attaches to a train order delivery fork.

When the train is approaching his office he will stand a prescribed distance from the track and hold one fork up at the correct height so that the engineman can place his arm through a loop in the string. The operator then takes the second fork and holds it up for the trainman in the caboose or in one of the passenger coaches.

Some things are the same

One of my friends is a dispatcher for a US railroad, and he let me sit in with him one evening. Mostly computerized, of course. Many safety features built in. But they still use the grid paper that you see on this desk, to track train movements.

Hilarious Title

I laughed out loud when I saw the headline and picture.

Modern technology?

I always find it interesting to see the "technology of the time" in action and to wonder. That man could not possibly imagine what would exist in 2009. Blue Tooth headsets? Trains that run on schedules designed by computers? Excel spreadsheets that are self generated? The mind boggles! High speed trains floating on a cushions of magnets and air?

[The future was more like: The rise of truck freight and the demise of his employer as an independent company; bankruptcy, dissolution and nationalization of the passenger-rail system with the disappearance of the major carriers. - Dave]

Way Out West

Looks like something Wile E. Coyote would get from Acme.

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