crew replies at the next. The dispatcher may seek additional information or
clarification which he requests at the third station; then the crew replies
at the fourth telegraph office. A humorous although farfetched story, which
illustrates the point, is told about an engineer who had difficulty
negotiating a hill. At the station beyond it, he received this message from
the dispatcher: "What was the delay on Fulton hill?" At the next telegraph
office, the engineer threw off a reply reading, "Out of sand." At the third
station, a dispatcher message asking for additional details was waiting for
"What were you doing on Fulton hill without sand?"
fourth station, the engineer threw off this terse but perfectly logical
FORMS 19 AND 31
Two distinct kinds of train orders in use on commercial railroads are
known and numbered form 19 and form 31. The form 19 is green and form 31 is
canary yellow. Both forms are printed on a fine grade of transparent tissue
paper and are popularly known as "flimsies" because of their texture. They
are so thin that numerous carbon copies can be made easily.
transparency makes it possible to read them at night by holding them in
front of a lantern or other light that would ordinarily be inadequate for
These train orders are always referred to as "a 19 order" or "a 31
order," and the principal distinction, aside from their color, is the way in
which each is delivered.
When delivering a 31 order, the train must be
stopped and the crew must acknowledge receipt by signing for it. Generally,
the delivering operator first reads the order to the crew members who then
read it back to the operator and sign a receipt. Both the engineer and the
conductor read the order and familiarize the other crew members with its
contents. Everything is done to insure that, first, the operator has copied
it correctly by his reading it to the dispatcher, and second, that it has
been read by the operator to the conductor and engineer who have read it
back and acknowledged their understanding of it. The engineer sees that the
fireman, if one is aboard, understands it, and the conductor does the same
with the head brakeman and flagman.
A 19 order, however, is delivered to
moving trains with a message loop and no signatures are required.
Nevertheless, it is vital that the crew's interpretation of the order be
After train orders are received, all members of the train and engine
crew should have easy access to them at all times. This is often done by
having, on both the engine and the caboose, a clipboard to hold the orders,
located where anyone can examine an order quickly.