Pneumatic Tube Message System at Shaffers Crossing

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Sun Jun 16 18:32:00 EDT 2013

Thanks for this very interesting info.
May I presume that there was some sort of tubular container that the form was placed in for carriage to its destination. I guess it would be similar to those systems used by a branch bank drive- through?
Jeff Sanders

From: NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at>
To: N&W Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at>
Sent: Friday, June 14, 2013 2:17 PM
Subject: Pneumatic Tube Message System at Shaffers Crossing

Yesterday I put out a little essay on the pneumatic tube system which  used here in the Harrisburg area. 

A part of that little musing contained some memories of the pneumatic tubes the N&W used at SX. I am posting the N&W information to the List herewith.  The younger generation would never imagine that the N&W had such a system in place.  The tubes are, no doubt, still in place somewhere under the soil at SX.

Somewhere I have several copies of the "Engine Tickets" mentioned.  When I run across them, I'll scan one and post it to the List.

-- abram burnett

The only place I ever saw a functioning pneumatic tube system in a railroad
operation was at Shaffers Crossing in West Roanoke.  It had been
installed as part of the 1942-1943 rebuilding of the Hump, and was
really quite a clever operation.  The system connected the Shaffers
Crossing Yardmaster (on the second floor of the Hump Yard Office) with
the Round House Foreman and the Crew Office.  The system was used for
the transmitting "Engine Tickets" between these three offices and worked
on a system named "Ordered/Furnished/Called."  Here's how the system

An "Engine Ticket" was a three-piece document about 
10" wide, and the three portions were made separable by vertically punched
perforations.  When the Yardmaster wished to run a train, he removed
one of the three-piece Engine Tickets from a book or pad (I can't remember which.)  He filled out the
left coupon, which was marked "ORDERED," indicating the time he wished
to run the train, the destination, and the tonnage, and then send the
entire ticket to the Round House Foreman through the pneumatic tube.

the Round House Foreman could furnish an engine good for the required
tonnage, he indicated on his portion of the Engine Ticket, which was
identified as the "FURNISHED" coupon, the time the engine would be
available,  and tubed the Engine Ticket to the Chief Crew Dispatcher.

the Crew Dispatcher could get a crew for the train, he filled in in his
portion of the Engine Ticket indicating the time and the crew names. 
This was the "CALLED" portion of the Engine Ticket.  The Crew Office
then tubed the Engine Ticket back to the Yardmaster, and at that point the
Yardmaster knew he had both an engine and a crew.  The Yardmaster then
hung the Engine Ticket up on a spike on the wall, where the Telegraph
Operator and crews registering on duty could see it.  Somewhere in the
process the two coupons on the right were torn off...  the Round House
Foreman and the Crew Office each probably retained one of the coupons, but I
am not sure of the exact procedure.  At any rate, only the left coupon
came back to the Yardmaster, and it had all three times on it:  Ordered,
Furnished and Called.

"Ordered/Furnished/Called."  A pretty
slick system.  The tubes were still in use when I hired in 1964, but I
think they fell into disuse a year or two thereafter.  By the 1970s, I
think the three offices were working by telephone, but the Engine
Tickets (showing Ordered, Furnished and Called times) were still hung up
on a spike in the Hump Yard Master's office.

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