Prior to the adoption of newer train dispatching methods, train orders were the primary means of providing temporary instructions, or instructions for a specific train. Train orders were issued at stations along the route. If a train crew reported for service at a station, the orders would be received there. At other stations, the orders would be handed up to the train crew members "on the fly".
As radio communication became available to the railroads, there initially was resistance to the use of radio for the communication of train orders. But some railroads eventually adopted radio train orders. Many railroads eventually replaced train orders with track warrants, as a "multiple choice" type of train order form which could be transmitted and copied using radio communication.
Train orders were of two basic types.
1. Train orders pertaining to authorization of train movements. These orders were not needed for CTC territory, or for normal right hand operation on double track lines.
2. Train orders pertaining to operating or track conditions. These orders could be used on any line.
Train orders of the second type usually involved temporary speed restrictions, or maintenance of way personnel on the tracks. And certain other situations, which could apply on any railroad, including CTC or double track lines.
Train orders of the first type are more interesting, and are the main focus of this page. These orders often provide for meets on a single track line. Such orders might also confirm for trains entering a single track line, that all opposing trains have arrived and are out of the way. Or on a double track line, train orders might provide for left hand operation, which the automatic signals do not accommodate.
On a single track line, meets between opposing trains may be either fixed, or "floating". Two opposing passenger trains will typically be issued an order providing for a specific fixed meeting point. Passenger and freight trains will typically have "floating" meets. Passenger trains will be considered "superior", and freight trains will be required to stay out of the way, based on the scheduled time of a passenger train. That is, the freight train must go into the siding, if it cannot make it to the next siding before the scheduled time of the passenger train. If the passenger train is running late, train orders will specify a later time, which can be observed for the freight trains to stay out of the way.
Train orders on Canadian railroads were basically the same. Many railroads identified their train order forms as "Form 19". A "Form 31" train order also existed, with more restrictions, but by the 1970's nearly all railroads discontinued its use.
On the train orders "C&E" stands for "Conductor and Engineer".
A meet involving Amtrak's Southwest Chief.
The line to Churchill, and the commuter line in Montreal.
Chesapeake & Ohio
Amtrak using an unsignaled line in Indiana.
Slow orders on this financially struggling line.
South Shore Line
Typical meet in single track territory.
New Jersey Transit/Lackawanna
Authorization for an electric train to enter the single track Gladstone Branch.
Illinois Central Gulf/Alton
Temporary suspension of CTC system on a segment between Chicago and St. Louis.
Authorization for left hand running on the old double track main line.
Long Island Rail Road
This commuter railroad's unusual procedures or a single track branch.
Louisville & Nashville/Monon
A meet involving Amtrak's Floridian.
Authorization for a commuter train to enter the single track line towards Fox Lake.
Reflecting that railroad's uncooperative attitude towards Amtrak in Texas.
Steam excursion trains.