What Does the "Class" of a Train Mean...?

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu Jul 9 18:10:39 EDT 2015


Reading this email has almost answered a question I was pondering the 
other day. While I understand the Class of trains and who has Rights 
over who, and the fact that these rights can be superseded by train 
orders stating otherwise (ie. new meeting point, a superior class train 
taking the siding, etc etc etc.).

But how did this come into play ON a Signaled SINGLE track railroad, 
such as, for instance the N&W Shenandoah Valley Line. Did signal 
indications supersede the Superiority of Trains? Did trains still need 
to receive Train Orders stating where train A was to meet Train B and 
who was to take siding which this was a change to the typical 
Superiority of Trains?

Now on a totally different but slightly related note, I was shown this 
last night at work:

Dated November 3rd, 1979, at Bridger Jct for a Westbound Extra. What is 
significant about this, well, you know that Orin line out here? Yeah the 
coal line that is now completely Triple Track with a section of 
Quadruple track. Well this clearance card is for the last rock train 
that entered the line BEFORE it opened. The engineer that worked this 
train was my engineer last night and still has this card. He was telling 
me that they were not going to give him a clearance card, stating that 
he didn't need one since the line was not in service, and his train was 
the only train that was to enter the line. He refused to go with out a 
clearance card so they gave him one. Interesting that this card if for 
clearance onto a piece of railroad the technically didn't exist yet. The 
line officially opened for Business on November 6th, 1979.


PS I'm CCing this to the NWHS list for anyone that wanted to read in on 
the Superiority of Trains, and the clearance card is just a bonus 
although WAY out of the area.

On 7/8/2015 13:28, кириллъославъ бериновъ /Abram Burnett wrote:
> May be of interest.  Few people today understand the "Superiority of 
> Trains."  So here is a simple explanation to the question, "What does 
> 'First Class Train' mean?".
> -- adb
> ===========================
> Sent to You from my Telegraph Key
>     ... better than AT&T 4G LTE
> ===========================
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *From: *"кириллъославъ бериновъ /Abram Burnett"
> *To: *
> *Sent: *Wednesday, July 8, 2015
> *Subject: *Re: Time Table Question
> Same question I had when I started out on the railroad...
> The "Class" of a train could be anything the railroad wanted to assign 
> to it.  I have seen Second Class passenger trains, and Second Class 
> freight trains.  But local freights tended to be designated Fourth 
> Class on most railroads.
> The /only thing/ the "Class" of a train meant was its rights vis-a-vis 
> other trains (especially opposing trains) on the road.  At meeting 
> points between /opposing trains/, "the train of inferior Class" went 
> into the passing siding, unless otherwise directed by Train Order.
> For /following movements/,  trains "of an inferior Class" had to clear 
> the time of following superior trains (i.e. trains of a higher Class,) 
> but did not have to clear the time of following trains "of the same 
> and inferior class."   Example:  If No 27 is a Third Class train, it 
> will have to "keep off the time" of following First and Second Class 
> trains, but it can waddle along ahead of Third and Fourth Class trains 
> and Extras, without regard to delaying them.
> Extra Trains, of course, had no Class, and were inferior to everything 
> shown in the Time Table.  All scheduled trains (of whatever class) 
> were superior to all Extra trains.
> On the old N&W (say 1920s, 1930s,) the through passenger trains were 
> usually designated First Class.  Branch line passenger trains and all 
> mixed trains were usually designated Second Class.  Time Freights were 
> usually Third Class, and Local Freights were generally Fourth Class. 
>  But again -- the Class of a train was arbitrary and could be anything 
> the Division wished to assign to it.  There was nothing which said 
> that all passenger trains had to be First Class, etc.
> Assigning Classes to trains just made the Train Dispatcher's job 
> easier, and made things predictable for the crews.  It set a protocol 
> for who held the main, and who went in the hole, at meeting points.
> When two trains of the /same Class/ meet on single track, the train of 
> the "/superior direction/" holds the main.  Every railroad Time Table 
> specified the "superior direction" for the Division,  e.g. the words, 
> "Eastward and northward trains are superior to westward and southward 
> trains of the same and inferior Class."  Translation:  If trains of 
> the same Class meet on single track, the train "superior by direction" 
> will hold the main, and train "of inferior direction" will go in the hole.
> Be aware, however, that the Class of trains /only makes a difference 
> on Single Track/.  On double track signaled railroad, signal 
> indication "supersedes the superiority of trains,"  and the Class of a 
> train means nothing.  Which is why railroads, over time, abandoned the 
> Class-thing.
> Caveat Emptor:  The above is not a full treatment of the subject, but 
> only a sketch.  Which is probably all you wanted, anyway... ☺
> If you want the whole story, go to any Rule Book issued between 1910 
> and the time railroads went-silly, and start reading at Rule 71.  "A 
> train is superior to another train by Right, Class or Direction. 
>  Class and direction are conferred by Time Table, Right is conferred 
> by Train Order.  Right is superior to Class and direction," and so forth.
> The above explanation holds for anyone's railroad... da Su'thin, da 
> Narrow & Weedy, da CeeNo, etc.
> -- adb
> ===========================
> Sent to You from my Telegraph Key
>     ... better than AT&T 4G LTE
> ===========================
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *From: *
> *To: *
> *Sent: *Wednesday, July 8, 2015 2:38:34 PM
> *Subject: *Re: SR timetable question
> Hello,  all:
> First class was ordinarily passenger or mail - express only trains.
> Second class were through freight trains
> Third class were local freight trains
> Hope this helps,
> Sent via the Samsung Galaxy Mega™, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphon
> -------- Original message --------
> From:
> Date:07/08/2015 12:49 PM (GMT-05:00)
> To:
> Subject: Re: SR timetable question
>     I am looking at the SR Employee TT No 54 for June 30, 1946 and it
>     shows 3 types of trains:
>     First Class - is the passenger trains.
>     Third Class - is the freight trains.
>     But what are:
>     Second Class
>     Train SRR #51, 52, 73, 74, 57, 58 C&O 93, 95 90, 98.

Nathan Simmons
trainman51 at gmail.com

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