MichiganRailroads.com - Lower Peninsula Railroads
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Re: Making train meets
As a former Chessie/CSX train dispatcher in Saginaw, I can chime in a little on this. I last dispatched in 1988 which was before computerized dispatching and was either by train orders or CTC. (We did use DTC (verbal via radio) on some of the branches starting in 1986). We were provided the loads, empties, tonnage and length on a train before it left the initial terminal. We were also given the same info on any pick ups along the way, so we could "manually" keep track of length and get it fairly close. I'm sure the information is much more accurate today. We had the length of all of the passing sidings from the timetable. Beyond that, the crews knew the places where their trains would "fit" in order to stay off crossings if at all possible. Once we dispatchers finally got radios (which in Saginaw wasn't until 1986), in CTC would could give trains a "heads up" over the radio where we planned to make a meet -- of course they still operated by signal indication. That way, they could adjust their speed if necessary or "lay back" to stay off crossings and/or make a running meet. Why race to the meeting point at max speed if you are only going to block crossings or have to cut crossings? In train order territory on Chessie (non-CTC territory), the Chessie rules required that the train order have the wording "take siding and meet" for the first named train. This superseded any rules regarding classification or superior direction. Of course before radios it was very different, but trains also had cabooses and eventually at least the crew had end-to-end radio communication. In the old days, there were times when the rear end cleared the switch, the conductor would pull the air on the caboose to stop the train! Also, when there were 4 or 5 crew members on trains it was much easier to cut crossings and make back-up moves.