Facebook Page
Old Time Trains

What's New ~ Articles ~ Stories ~ Archives ~ Photographs ~ Preservation ~ Library ~ Home

Rules & Regulations


One of the many interesting artifacts in the archives of Old Time Trains museum collection is an old C.P.R. rule book dated 1890 bearing the famous name of W. C. Van Horne, President.

It was very kindly donated by Conductor Ken Armstrong. In his younger days as a trainman he was often referred to as "Saturday Night" Armstrong since he seldom if ever worked on a Saturday!

This was in the days prior to Federal Government regulation of operating rules as evidenced by the statement re the Board of Directors.

The Board of Transport Commissioners, governed until it became the Canadian Transport Commission (itself replaced Jan.1-88) Prior to that it was the Ministry of Railways and Canals.

Many interesting things are revealed to the reader of this old book.


FIRST & SECOND CLASS TRAINS will show two red lights, all other trains three red lights on rear of train at night.
Two red flags or red lights indicate following train, absolutely stop all trains until signalled train passes.
Two white flags or lights indicate another train following which will keep clear of all regular trains.

REGULAR TRAINS are in the Time Table and classed as follows:

  • Passenger trains, lst Class.
  • Mixed Trains, 2nd Class.
  • Freight trains, 3rd Class.
  • All others designated Special Trains, whether Passenger, Freight or Work.

    Conductors, brakemen and switchmen must carry two detonating signals when on duty. REMEMBER THAT THIS IS A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH.

    Full stop at all Diamonds & proceed 10 m.p.h., and Drawbridges & proceed 4 m.p.h.

    Running shunts are strictly forbidden.

    Comparison with more recent rule books will of course accent the major differences in signals etc. Red, green and white are now red, yellow and green.

    White was replaced with green as the proceed signal because of incidents involving mistaken signal indications, some where a coloured lens fell out of a moving semaphore arm leaving just a bare white light. It also played a roll in the wreck that killed Frank Blaine when he momentarily thought the dim headlight of another locomotive was actually a clear signal.

    Crossing signal is two long, one short, and one long; but until about 1930 is was two long and two short.
    The bell cord was soon replaced by a small air line and the familiar "peeeep" whistle in the cab.
    And of course two red flags on the front of an engine was replaced by two green flags to designate "sections following" with the last one displaying no signals. Two white flags now indicate an extra train for the train displaying these signals, not a following train.

    Special Trains are now, of course, called Extras.

    Some additional comment on old terms:

    Public timetables often refer to Express trains. These should not be confused with trains carrying express (packages) but rather they referred to fast trains making a limited number of stops.

    Accommodation, was another old term and it referred to local trains making all stops (or flag stops) and usually handling all types of head-end traffic, mail, milk, newspapers, express etc., thus "accommodating" everyone and everything!

    WHISTLE:    Level Crossing   One Long & Two Short


    What's New ~ Articles ~ Stories ~ Archives ~ Photographs ~ Preservation ~ Library ~ Home

    Old Time Trains © 2001