SP Pages


last addition: 2-25-23

Tucumcari at low ebb, July 1980: the day's sole eastbound exchanges its SP crew for their Cotton Belt counterparts, lately employees of the recently abandoned Rock Island. While the yard is empty now, in four years the railroad would be in the throws of gridlock.

When Wx4 staff began laying out the Jawbone Dispatching pages, we aimed to tell a tale of transformation on SP's Golden State Route, but we quickly realized that the reader would not truly fathom the enormity of the change unless he/she possessed a basic grounding in the train order and Direct Traffic Control (DTC) methods of dispatching trains.

So, we elected to write brief primers for each - and the DTC offering is just that - but true to the nature of train orders, our primer for same quickly wound out of control. You just can't explain train orders in a sound bite.

In retrospect, this is as it should be. Train orders can be complicated, time-consuming hell, while your pet Airedale can quickly comprehend DTC: "bark at the radio, Fido!"

While the Tucumcari story seemed to write itself, the train order primer presented a challenge. Every professional explanation of movement by train orders that we've ever seen is downright B-O-R-I-N-G, because they always deal in Anna, Bess and Cloy theoretics. In the real world, an operating crew reads train orders as an enigmatic story of their future: a pile of flimsies might foretell a "straight shot" to the other end of the railroad, or twelve hours of misery stuck in a siding on the outskirts of Pluto.

This is what fascinates us about train orders: you can often see a story in them, and this is how we've approached the subject. We've got some fascinating train orders here, and you'll enjoy them.

A Plan of Attack:

We recommend that you read Part One and Part Two, Page One of the Tucumcari story first. Then head for the Train Order Primer to bone-up on flimsies: it's fun stuff. Then go back to Part Two, Page Two, followed by the DTC Primer and finally, Part Three. With all of the asides, and such, you can figure on an hour or two of pure Wx4 fun.


Jawbone Dispatching Comes to Tucumcari: The tale of how DTC (radio dispatching) replaced an antiquated train order system and unclogged the SP's Carrizozo Subdivision

PART ONE: The low point and the onset of traffic and headaches - 9-29-22: new photos of employees, Vaugn depot; map

PART TWO, pg.1: Train Order War Stories - Motive Power Problems - 9-29-22: new photo of RFE J. R. Efaw

PART TWO, pg. 2: Train Order War Stories - The Big Jackpot, A Long Day(s) & other tales

PART THREE: Jawbone Dispatching Arrives - 9-29-22: new photos of Tucumcari depot

related pages:

NEW 2-25-23: 1984-04-29 SP Tucson Division Employee Timetable #16: my well worn personal copy
How to Call the Dispatcher
How I Came to Embrace Direct Traffic Control

Santa Rosa, NM Work Trains, 1984
Work Extra 6353 Train Orders - An Argument in Favor of DTC (these TO's are now enshrined at the Tucumcari Railroad Museum)

SPMW 4679 - Pressed Steel Car Co. (?) flatcar/bridge near Santa Rosa

A Train Order Primer: Basic training, stories and many examples of how SP moved trains using train orders.

PART ONE: The Movement of Trains

PART TWO: Fun With Train Orders (includes many pages about individual forms)

related pages:
Last SP Standard Gauge Steam Revenue Freight Train: Train Orders
Work Extra 6353 Train Orders - An Argument in Favor of DTC (these TO's are now enshrined at the Tucumcari Railroad Museum)

Forms 19 & 31: Train Orders Used On Other Railroads
The Clearance
Check of Trains
Form G Running Order
Form H Work Extras; also Intro to Flagging
Rule 99: the Flagging Rule
Form S-A Flat Meet
Forms S-C, D & Other Right Over
Column Wait
Forms for Conditions Affecting Movements
Modifying or Annuling Orders
Using the Timetable & Special Instructions
Rule 93: Understanding Yard Limits
Restricted Speed

Direct Traffic Control
Direct Traffic Control Explained: As easy to comprehend as train orders are not...
related pages:
How I Came to Embrace Direct Traffic Control