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Old Time Trains

Hooping Up

Hooping up train orders/clearances and/or messages was a 24/7/365 practice for untold decades
transmitted by telegraph then telephone on railways everywhere all across Canada.


Engine 2228 assisting Extra 5375 West. Guelph Junction July 16, 1959 Bob Shaw

Note the train order signals are both displayed at yellow (caution) to deliver orders to trains in both directions.

When the dispatcher had orders to give to the crew he would tell the operator, "19Y West copy 4" e.g. make four copies,
one for each engineer, one for the conductor and an office copy for the operator. The operator would set the train order
signal at yellow and respond, "SDY West", signal displayed at yellow for westbound trains. The operator would write out
the order and the signal would remain in that position until the orders had been delivered to the crew. Form 19 was pink.

Note: Form 31 Orders required signal be set at Red for stop. These orders restricted a First Class train and required holding all trains affected until received, signed and read. 31's were white and had space at bottom for signatures of engineer and conductor. Likewise Form 19R Orders were required in some circumstances when First Class trains were involved.

Terminal Clearance B (short green) was required at the originating terminal and enroute junctions with other subdivions.


Extra 2802 West bound for Smiths Falls passing Bedell, ON c.1950. NMS&T Walter Casselman Collection

Extra 8911 West and another brand new Train Master are westbound from St. Luc Yard to Smiths Falls just entering the Winchester Subdivision and about to cross the diamond with CNR L'Assomption Sub. from Quebec City to Montreal.
Yard engine movement is on the eastward main track (Winchester Sub.) Crossover (to the right) leads into Sortin yard. Photographer standing on the South Independent Lead. Parsley interchange is just to the north of here. (CLC 2932 9/1956)
J.Norman Lowe/Bruce Chapman Collection

This shot is taken at beautiful downtown Stittville, mileage 13 on the Carleton Place Subdivision. Bill Linley took this shot of me hooping up orders to regular freight train #90 engine 8784 which ran from Smiths Falls through Carleton Place to Ottawa West. This was on Dominion Day 1965, my first year of employment as an operator. The train order signal at Stittville was only a 2-indication signal, red and green, meaning 'stop for orders' or 'proceed, no orders'. But if we only had train orders that did not restrict the train, a yellow flag by day or a yellow light by night had to be taken out with the train orders by the operator hooping the train, to let them know that they didn't have to stop. But holding 2 train order hoops and the flag sometimes got a little squeamish, so we'd often jam the yellow flag into the cracks in the wooden platform. That motorcycle on the platform was my transportation for the first year of my employment as an operator on the Smiths Falls Division. The town's real name is Stittsville, but a typo in an old employee's timetable meant that the error was carried on for years and years, until a short time before the line was ripped up. Bill Linley/Bruce Chapman Collection

Stittville over the Decades



Bill Linley has slides of me hooping #4 (The Dominion) engine 1420 running about three hours late at Ottawa West on Saturday, July 31, 1965. I had a yellow flag in one hand, engineer's hoop in the other, and the staff with orders (clearance and a meet order) in its leather pouch around my neck to hand up to the conductor. Passengers were alarmed when the train did not stop. They were waiting for a train going in the opposite direction, the morning Brockville train No. 261 a Dayliner due in about ten minutes which made close connection with Pool 5 over CNR to Toronto. Eastbound No. 8 had a meet with westbound No. 261 due at Hull West at 8:45 A.M. Bill Linley/Bruce Chapman Collection

The engineer of CNR RS-10 3821 is about to snag orders as an outbound freight departs Turcot yard late on a Sunday afternoon. This train proceeded up the line that connects with the CPR and runs to Joliette and Shawinigan Falls.
November 10, 1957 Bob Krone

Yellow flag displayed to alter red semaphore indication. Hugh Strobel

Two views of an age-old practice known as "hooping up". Delivering train orders on the fly. The order board is at red, however, with the Operator on the platform it permits Extra 8758 West, the Cornwall Swing (a St.Luc- Cornwall Turn)
to pass without stopping. By rule, a yellow flag should be displayed. Note the green and white flag (above head of middle man), to flag passenger train due. At night green and white lights were displayed in electrified hand lamps on eves bracket. Dorval, Quebec March 1967 Kevin Day

Hooping up orders to No. 8 eng. 4033 at Banff.

1432 and a B unit power northbound No.11 stopping at West Toronto depot. July 2, 1957
. Toronto Public Library/James V. Salmon Collection

Operator is hooping up orders to the headend. Freight trains got their orders at the Diamond tower.
Viceroy Rubber plant in background. Billboards advertise Toronto General Trusts and
New Milemaster Gasolene by Cities Service.


Hooping up! Extra 5752 West trailing 6030 and another unit. Note both train order boards at yellow.

Hooping up! 8785 carrying green.

Hooping up! Looks like the engineer about to grab the hoop. Fireman running 8471?


US Roads in Canada

The fireman has just snagged the train order hoop from the CPR operator as the "Montreal Limited", moves through the Napierville Junction Railway and onto the northward track of the CPR Adirondack Sub. D&H 17 Train No. 9
has become CPR Train No. 221 at this point. Delson, QC June 14, 1969 Ian Stronach


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