Comparing the Time

In March of 1943, during his visit to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, Jack Delano photographed conductor George E. Burton and engineer J.W. Edwards comparing time before pulling out of Corwith Yard in Chicago for their run to Chillicothe, Illinois. Accurate time is vital for train operations, and the conductor will synchronize his watch with an “official” clock prior to a run. The crew members will verify that their watches are matching his watch as well.

Comparing the Time

The Yardmaster’s Office

It’s a cold winter’s afternoon in December of 1942. Though it’s only 3:32 p.m., it looks pretty dark and dreary outside. We’re in the Yardmaster’s office located in the Chicago and North Western’s North Proviso receiving yard in Chicago, Illinois. It’s obvious we’re well into the war effort with all the photos and posters on the wall. There are a couple telephones: a typical “split style” desk phone (modified to hang the desk phone back on the wall), and one of those even newer desk phones at the Yardmaster’s right hand. The old stove is keeping those coffee cans on it’s top warm and dry.

Photos like this are fascinating to study, as there is usually a wealth of detail to discern, some of which enables the viewer to better understand the time at which the image was captured.

Photo by Jack Delano

C&NW Yardmaster's Office, Chicago, Ill

Lining the Route

Jack Delano visited the AT&SF interlocking tower at Isleta, New Mexico in March of 1943. Shown here is the tower operator lining the route for an approaching train. Each of those levers controls the route through a track switch and it’s attendant signal in the maze of trackwork below. The board above him shows the track diagram of everything under his control.

At left one can see just a bit of a wall mounted telephone, and below that the wye shaped pole used to pass orders to a train crew. At right the ladder for servicing the train order signal can be seen through the window.

Lining the Route, ATSF Interlocking

Watching the Train

During his visit on Conductor Burton’s caboose in March of 1943, Jack Delano photographed the rear brakeman, Walter V. Dew, watching the train from the cupola. We’re on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad between Chicago and Chillicothe, Illinois.

The Westinghouse train line air pressure gauge is reading 74 pounds. Note the modified King Edward cigar box on the cupola bulkhead above the gauge, containing what appears to be C&NW timetables. A couple more cigar boxes aside the cupola seats have been provided to hold various other paperwork.

Walter Dew, Brakeman, AT&SF Railroad

I.C. Freight Depot, Chicago

A view of the Illinois Central’s South Water Street freight depot in Chicago, Illinois. Jack Delano recorded this facility on a beautiful spring day in May of 1943. It’s 11:26 in the morning according to the clock on the iconic neon Papst Blue Ribbon sign looming above.

Note the blue flags on each cut of cars, along with a carman at right. At left those appear to be blocks of ice in a trough, and behind that one can spot the roofs of a few passenger cars (commuter cars or express?). Studying the boxcars themselves, one can easily see the evolution of this workhorse as they grew larger and larger over the years.

ICRR Freight Depot - Chicago, Ill.

Cleaning the Headlight

Jack Delano has continued his trek into the west, reaching Needles, California. And here he has captured this image of Electrician B. Fitzgerald cleaning the headlight on AT&SF steamer #3891.

The date is March of 1943, and all locomotives operating west of Needles were equipped with hooded headlights in accordance with the wartime blackout regulations. Sharp-eyed readers may have spied the hood on the Santa Fe streamliner diesel locomotive just a few posts back.

Cleaning the Headlight, ATSF #3891

Snatching the Orders

In the days of written train orders, a passing train could, under certain conditions, be passed orders as it rolled by a station. The operator would write out a couple sets of orders, then attach them to a wye shaped affair on the end of a handle, or to a wooden hoop as shown in the photos below. These order hoops could either be held up to the crew to snatch as the train rolled by, or could be attached to a train order post. In either case, the operator would alert the crew that they had train orders to receive by the use of a train order signal, or “board”.

Jack Delano was visiting the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway back in March of 1943, and he recorded the ritual of the passing of orders to a freight train in Isleta, New Mexico as it was rumbling by. The first photo shows the train orders attached to their hoops, and ready for the approaching train . . . the actual orders can be seen tied to the end of the hoop where it joins the shaft.

ATSF Train Orders - Iseta, New Mexico

Here we see the fireman of the steamer leaning out of his window, and he is capturing the order hoop with his arm. He’ll immediately give a copy of the orders to the engineer.

Fireman Catching the Hoop

And now the conductor snatches up the remaining lower hoop with it’s orders. He and the brakeman will each have their copy.

Conductor Catching the Hoop

Nowadays train crews can receive their orders directly from the dispatcher via radio, and this time-honored way of doing things is virtually extinct.

Conductor Boarding His Caboose

Jack Delano also spent some time visiting the Illinois Central facilities while in Chicago. It’s November of 1942, and Jack spied this conductor hopping aboard his caboose as it was pulling out of a yard track for it’s southward journey. He’ll likely settle in place at his desk, with a cup of hot java handy . . . there is still paper work to do during the ride.

Conductor Boarding Caboose

Smokebox Inspection & Repairs

Jack Delano visited the Chicago and North Western railroad’s locomotive backshop in December of 1942. Shown here are a couple workers doing inspection and repairs to a steam locomotive. Opening the smokebox was an important part of the inspection, as it enabled the mechanic to see the tube ends for the boiler, as well as the exhaust components for the steam cylinders. The worker on the left appears to be an electrician performing some work on a class light.

Smokebox Work, C&NW RR -1942