Tuesday, February 26, 2019

CW Branch Last Telegraphed Train Order Discussion

From the NP Telltale Email Group

Last telegraphed train order

May 6, 2011

On May 6, 1982, the last Morse code train order issued in the U.S. or Canada was sent to the operator at Whitehall, MT on the Burlington Northern.

Do you know when Morse telegraph use ended on various lines around your area?

I know that in the Spokane area the BN [ex-NP] CW Branch had telegraphy between Cheney and Davenport and maybe Coulee City until the early 1970s. Spokane still has an active Morse telegraph club, led by L. R. Keith and Del Klakken. I hope they will set up at the IERHS train museum open house at the Spokane Fairgrounds June 10 and/or 11.

Also on this date in history: May 6, 1910 -- The federal Accident Report Act requires railroads to file a report of all accidents with the Interstate Commerce Commission. Compliance was spotty in the early years. These reports can be helpful when you find old wreck pictures.

[These listings are from Mark Tomlonson's DailyRRhist site.]

Mike Denuty

May 8, 2011

The last use of telegraph I remember on the Tacoma Division was on the South
Bend branch. Orders were sent by telegraph to Pe Ell to fix up the Chehalis Western trains running to Millburn.

Jim F.

Mike Denuty & List - It would be nice to nail down some verification that this indeed was the last Morse train order - it might not have been. I recall a blurb in BN News at some point about a Morse wire still being in service between Spokane and Cheney and probably down the P&L branch. The article cited the quaintness of the system being in existence and my guess is it was only used for message traffic from & to SF relay office rather than occasional train order by dispatchers, but you never know.

I do know that there still was a Morse circuit in service on the Milw Coast Div until 1975. I used it one week to send a message from our BN office at Maple Valley to Milw Chicago via MA Tacoma relay; the following week I had a similar message to send and the wire was dead. Finis. One of the Milwaukee dispatchers, Don Lahr, sensing this was coming told me that one of those nights very soon when he was not real busy he would send me the various orders for No 200 via morse and we could tape-record the session, but alas the wire was discontinued before we could execute our plan. Curses foiled again. // Dave

May 08, 2011 7:52 PM

Dave XXXX and all:

The key to this discussion is "telegraphed train order" -- not the use of
telegraphy. My experience was that railroad telegraphy still existed in the
late 1960s/early 1970s, but on the NP Idaho Division train orders were not
to be telegraphed unless the phone lines were down.

"On May 6, 1982, the last Morse code train order issued in the U.S. or
Canada was sent to the operator at Whitehall, MT on the Burlington
Northern." I got this information from Mark Tomlonson's This Day in Railroad
History Yahoo group site. I will contact him, but it sounds right from
materials that I have somewhere around here.

I believe both the NP P&L [Palouse & Lewiston] and CW [Central Washington]
branches had Morse telegraphy into the BN era, but not as late as 1982. I do
not have the specifics on the P&L, but the following is what I wrote at
SpokaneRH [Spokane Railroad History] in response to a question about
telegraphy on the CW Branch.

"I was a student operator breaking in at the NP Cheney depot in the late
1960s. Most communications were by phone, with Western Union by teletype.
However, telegraph lines were still in place and most of the regulars
[agent-operator Del Roberts and the "trick" operators] still used telegraphy
for some complex messages between Cheney, Spokane and Yardley.

In addition, the agents at Davenport and Coulee City still preferred
telegraph to the often-interrupted NP "message phone" open line. Just about
every morning they telegraphed Cheney with their "yard check" [car report],
anticipated business, weather conditions and whatever else.Since I did not
have any telegraphy experience, Del Roberts taught me to send the message,
"Del not here. Use phone."

"About 3-4 years later, we heard that BN was taking down the telegraph

Mike Denuty

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