ACL Flag Stops - What Signal Used to Indicate Passengers : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

Does anyone know what method was used on the ACL to signal passenger trains to stop at a flag stop station to pick up waiting passengers? Looking through an 1939 ACL timetable indicates that nearly all flag stop stations lacked train order boards so that method couldn't be used to stop a train. Was the notification to stop for passengers simply telegraphed to the nearest train order office up the line and delivered to the train crew before arriving at the flag stop? What about those flag stops that simply consisted a covered shelter or shed and therefore lacked a communications? It just seems that a train crew travelling at high speed is going to have trouble seeing a hand signal much less stopping anywhere near the flag stop - especially if the flag stop is on a curve. Thanks in advance.

-- Buddy Hill (, April 06, 2001


Curtis hit the nail on the head. The crews were prepared to stop at the flag stops as most of them were on the secondary/tertiary trains- tertiary being the local mail and express trains, which maybe had a coach or a combine for strictly local traffic. Most of the stations were equipped with some means of a signalling device, whether it be a flag, a board or a paddle. Others would rely on the passenger being visible. Most of these stops had rudimentary shelters and a very short stretch of built up platform-sometimes brick, sometimes cinders. I remember when riding the Havana special or the Palmland, most flag stops were actual stops, sometimes just a second or two to verify that no one was waiting, and then, after the mail was dropped off and picked up, two to go and off we went, only to slow down a few miles ahead for the next stop.

Other times, the crew would have a message to expect a passenger at a certain station, wired ahead by an adjacent ticket office, or by a previous train. The Champion or the Meteor were not burdened with many flag stops-as an example, the Meteor had a conditional stop at Thalmann, but that was mostly pre-arranged as the train was reserved seats only.

AS for Harry Bundy's point-a lot was dependent upon the crew. A lot of the "stop for passengers bound to X and no further" or other similar restrictions, were codified in stone in some archaic tariff filed in 1915 say, and kept as such because the effort to change it before the ICC just wasnt worth it. In any event, I am sure that the crew would accomodate all who needed a ride-it was the Coast Line way. However, maybe the towns people did not like the restriction-by April 24, 1960, the town is no longer shown as a stop- in fact, the town is no longer shown.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, April 09, 2001.

OK, now how about the "p" stop shown for No. 78 at Benson, N.C. in the January 1957 Official Guide ? No. 78 is scheduled for Benson at 11:18 PM and the "p" indicates "Stops to discharge from Florence and south and to take for Rocky Mount and north." If they're no passengers from Florence and south, how does the train crew determine that passengers are for Rocky Mount and north ? Stop and ask to see their transportation and if it's for Wilson, drive off and leave them standing on the platform ?

-- Harry Bundy (, April 08, 2001.

Flag stops have pretty much been eliminated where Amtrak trains use CSX tracks and probably on most of the Amtrak system. I remember them being taken out of the timetable about five years ago, and probably for the same reasons mentioned above that dated back to the early days of passenger carriage. As an engineer, you had to keep that timetable out in front of you (especially if you worked the extra board and covered a lot of different trains) in order to look for persons attempting to board. (The operating rules state that "motions by persons on or about the track are to be regarded as a signal to stop".) I've stopped quite a few trains at Ashland on the former RF&P, only to find that instead of a revenue passengers awaiting the train, I was being flagged down by a father pointing out a train to his son, or a group of railfans simply waving to me, even people who wanted to "ask a question". Then, I've also had to stop the train and get permission to back up, or have the passenger walk a short distance to reach the end of the train after it appeared that there was "no business" at a flag stop, only to have a frantic passenger appeared from out of the shadows at the last second and I'd blown by. These days, the conductor will usually radio the head end and tell us that we have passengers detraining or not, and we'll tell him if we observe any as we approach a station. It's normal for me on No. 86 to pass No. 67 just north of Ashland, Virginia (a station where I've just stopped) and warn him that he has passengers. Required to stop at stations now, whether or not there are people getting on or off, you'll usually hear on your scanner "No business at Ashland (or Quantico, or wherever), No. 86. Stop and go. over".

-- Doug Riddell (, April 08, 2001.

While not an ACL station, I remember seeing the Station attendant or baggage man at the SAL Delray Beach station flagging trains. He would stand in the middle of the track and wave a flag mounted on a stick (approx 18"X18"). The Engineer would acknowledge with a blast from the horn.

-- Jim Coviello (, April 07, 2001.

Buddy, the engineer would be expecting and running prepared to stop at any designated "Flag Stop" for his train. The flag stops varied according to train. The express and mail trains were marked as flag stops more frequently than a crack train such as the Champion.

A person standing along the track with luggage and making a rudimentary hand signal would effectively stop the train. The Conductor, would take aboard the passenger and either sell him a ticket, or take him to the ticket agent at the next open passenger station to purchase a more complex interline ticket. Often that was also done to make the Conductor's paper work simpler.

At times the stop would be effected by someone merely offering a friendly wave. The conductor would then determine the signal was false, and give the highball to the engineer.

Sixty years ago, when my Dad, was the Section Foreman in Sears, Florida. My Mom, would flag the Northbound Everglades City to Haines City passenger train. iShe would give the Conductor a small grocery shopping list and some money. (The ACL commisary groceries often lacked some items)

The Conductor, would pick up the items in Haines City, and the next day on the Southbound train, they would stop and drop off the items on her list. Not frequently, but it happened on such an isolated Section. Needless to say, when my Dad, had more seniority he bid in the Orlando Section in 1944.

-- Curtis E. Denmark Jr. (, April 06, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ