Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Train-order delivery devices (hoops and forks)

From: Fred C. Gamst

What follows is material that hit the cutting room floor when I wrote Highballing with Flimsies. Espee innovated with widespread use of the high-speed delivery fork. (The IC, Q, and B&O also thus innovated.) The IHB first used this delivery device ca. 1933. The High-Speed Delivery Fork Company of Shelby, Indiana apparently held its patent. This innovative device eliminated the pain imparted to the on-train receiver of clearances, TOs, and messages (hereinafter documents) handed up while tied to a solid hoop (often of bamboo or wood, earlier of willow wands). The solid hoops could either be handed up manually or mounted at right angles to a delivery post, illuminated with a white light or not. Fifty years ago, a chief DS told us that dozens of patents for solid hoops and even for delivery posts existed, from the 1880s onward. Early hoops were sometimes made from plain old steel barrel hoops. Espee made solid hoop at its West Oakland lumber mill. Thru the late 1980s, operators also handed up a roll of documents by hand. It took more skill to catch these on the fly. If a receiver crewmember missed the documents handed up by any means, the train had to back up to retrieve the flimsies. You cannot run past a "red board" (TO signal), without at least receiving a clearance card for your train. Crews were supposed to provide flag protection for the rearward movement when thus backing in a block, but. ... If a train had, say, head-end, swing, and rear-end helpers, a delivery post would not suffice, and the delivery devices had to be held up by hand by the operator, for each engine and the caboose. During 1956, in the Valley, a young operator told me, "it is a thrill," to have us barreling and roaring toward him while rocking sideways, as he held up the delivery fork. It was a bigger thrill at night in the rain, he explained. A hand held delivery device could catch onto a part of the engine before the cab reached the standing operator. Oh, oh! Ca. 1904, the Espee Pacific Lines (and other lines) implemented the 19 Order. The 31 orders had to be signed for prior to receipt but not the 19 orders. This should be about the time documents of the safety-critical kind were handed up (clearances and Form 19 TOs). But the earlier existence of solid delivery hoops could mean that messages, at least, were hooped: "SET OUT AJAX LOADS AT ACME PICK UP LOADED REEFERS AT SUNKIST SPUR GO TO BEANS AT NOWHERE" Eventually 31 orders were eliminated in favor of all 19 orders. (From 31 sheets found use as office notepaper.) Espee delivery posts sometimes had a short ladder for climbing and affixing the delivery device. Espee's latest delivery fork (I hold one in my hands as I write this) consists of two stiff wooden arms, each having, at the far end, a cylindrical steel tip with a hook. The paired arms are joined at the center of the fork by a spring loaded steel clip, having a mounting bracket for attachment to the delivery post. A loop of TO cord binds with a slip knot a tight bundle of documents and attaches to the two hooks pulling them toward each other to a spring-tensioned position about 18 to 20 inches apart. Accordingly, the entire assembly now has the shape of a triangle, with the white cord between the two arms. This assembly the operator attaches to the deliver post. The high-speed fork's cord does not hurt the receiver's arm.


[from the R&LHS Newsgroup.]