History of Form 19 Train Orders
by Dave Keller

     The Long Island Rail Road has finally reached the end of an era. . . an era where train movements were ordered by lightweight, onion-skin-style paper train orders nicknamed "flimsies" which were issued to the conductor and engineer of a train.

     These orders originated first at the Train Master's office in L. I. City and later from the Superintendent's Office at Jamaica station and were sent via telegraph and in later years telephone to the various block offices.  The telegraphic calls were sent over the wire or the phone rang a set number of times in the block office to identify which office needed to pick up the phone. 

     The block operator would answer by identifying his office and the dispatcher on the other end would say "Copy 3" and the operator would pick up his pad which held sheets of loose carbon paper between the Form 19s with a hard piece of cardboard after the last form required and proceed to copy what was sent to him.  In the effort to save time, and as most orders were in triplicate (Engineer copy, conductor copy and office copy) or quadruplicate, he'd keep two separate pads ready with the carbons already in place for a "copy 3" or a "copy 4" and grab whichever one was required.

     These orders were delivered either by hand if the train stopped at the train order office (later block office) or on the fly by means of, at first, a hooped stick and later a Y-shaped stick.

     The order was rolled up, usually with a clearance card, and clipped to the train order hoop and later on, tied with string to the train order stick.  The engineer and conductor would stick their arms out and aim for the opening in the stick and catch the orders in the crook of their arms.

     This method of train movement dated back to the days when the railroads encountered problems with two trains running on the same track, discovering the principle of two objects being unable to share the same space at any given point in time.  Signals and train orders were the result of numerous disastrous "oopsies".

     This system of train orders, which has worked so well for so many years, has gone the way of the strong-arm and electro-pneumatic levers as well as the many manned signal / interlocking towers and block offices which once existed at nearly every station and points in between and which are, today, just about all gone on the LIRR.

     Per General notice GN 4-16, effective 12:03 am on Tuesday,  September 4, 2012, a new train movement form "L" will replace train movement form 19 (train order).

     As befits a long history of train orders, I've posted some early samples of LIRR Form 19s that are still in existence today, preserved in my archive. I hope you enjoy them.  


1-Form-19-Glen Cove-1896.jpg (269915 bytes)Early Form 19 from September 25, 1896, issued at "X" which represented the Train Master's office at Long Island City and copied at the Nassau, Glen Cove train order office by operator Hall.  Notice this early Form 19 was similar to the Form 31 orders in that they required the signature of the engineer and Conductor but it appears that this procedure was not in force any longer, as the train crew have not signed the bottom.  This is most probably due to the fact that Form 31 orders were in effect in 1896, replacing the signing requirement of the early Form 19s.  The initials at the end of the order "W. L. J." represented then what it has always represented since:  that the order was issued under the authority of the Superintendent of Transportation.  In this case, the initials belonged to Super William L. Jarvis.
2-Form-19-Glen Cove-1897.jpg (242396 bytes)This Form 19 is similar to the one above, also copied at Nassau, Glen Cove and dates from April 8, 1897.  
3-Form-19-GV-Glen Cove-1898.jpg (140870 bytes)Notice the shape and format has now changed for the Form 19 orders.  This sample was also issued at "X", the Train Master's Office at L. I. City and copied at train order office "GV" which were the telegraphic call letters for Nassau, Glen Cove on June 8, 1898.  The operator's name was Best and the initials of the Super, L.P.P. represented L. P. Pairo.
4-Form-19-GV-Glen Cove-1899.jpg (128543 bytes)This Form 19 is similar to the previous one in format.  Also copied at Nassau, Glen Cove, operator Hall indicated the station name and not the telegraphic calls.  This was common practice up to the end of the 1920s.   
5-Form-19-LI City-1906.jpg (273125 bytes)The format has again been changed as we can see on this new Form 19, issued at "X" (indicated in front of the date at the top) and also copied by the train order office at L. I. City . . . not to be confused with the Train Master's office from whence it was issued.  Two different locations.  This order is quite interesting to read the routing of engine #41.  The operator copying the order was named Neesham and the initials F. H. represented the Super, Frank Hartenstien.  Note that this order was directed to veteran LIRR engineer Sylvester P. Doxsey whose name appears at the top of the order and who was operating this light engine.  
6-Clearance Card-Eastport-1906.jpg (103422 bytes)This is an early LIRR clearance card that was issued with Form 19 orders in 1906.  It was copied at the Eastport train order office which was located in the ticket office of the depot as "PT" cabin at the junction of the Manorville-Eastport branch had not yet been constructed. The operator appears to be named Tuttle, an old Long Island name.  
7-Form-19-Mineola-Oct-1929 (LIRR Form).jpg (221699 bytes)The Pennsylvania Railroad took control of the LIRR in 1900 and by 1928, major changes were set in place, one being the employee timetable copying the style of the PRR ETTs and the other being the installation of unattended block office signals along with the institution of the "K" clearance card block system, which had been developed by and was already in use on the Pennsy system.  The clearance card in use by the LIRR as depicted several images above was discontinued and replaced with the Pennsy-style "K"-card however the Form 19 train orders and the "K" cards still read "Long Island Railroad" (one word).  This was soon to change.  This order was issued on October 22, 1929 at the Superintendent's Office at Jamaica (which had replaced the old Trainmaster's Office at L. I. City after the 1913 opening of the new Jamaica complex) and was copied at MT tower in Mineola by operator Webb with the initials of F. R. G. representing the Super, Felix R. Gerard.  Note the order is addressed to the C&E (conductor and engineer) of work extra locomotive #141 and to the C&M (conductor and motorman) of MU motor #1349 running between MT tower and HC tower at Hempstead Crossing, Garden City.  I know a lot of LIRR engineers have argued over the years that NONE of the MU engineers were called motormen . . . a term "relegated" to trolley operators and elevated/subway train operators however, here's living proof that LIRR men who operated MU cars during that era WERE referred to as Motormen.
8-Form-19-PD-Patchogue-Oct-1929 (PRR Form).jpg (232655 bytes)Major change. . . . this order was copied on October 24, 1929 at "PD" tower in Patchogue but you'll notice that two days after the issuance of the previous order depicted above, this Form 19 is now on Pennsylvania Railroad stationery.  Form 19 train orders will remain so, going from green paper to yellow paper up until 1950 when "Long Island Rail Road" will again be indicated on the forms.  There will be flimsies as well as carbon-coated-back forms in use during these years. This order was copied by block operator Rees and again, the initials of F. R. G. represented Super Felix R. Gerard.  Train #63 to whose crew the order was addressed, was the Patchogue-Babylon "Scoot".  The block station identified in the order as "Y" was the block office cabin at the end of double track east of the station in Sayville.  
9-Form-K-Clearance Card-PD-Patchogue-Nov-1929 (LIRR Form).jpg (152774 bytes)This is a sample of one of the early PRR-style "K" cards printed with "Long Island Railroad" (one word) on the form.  It was copied by block operator Ray Hubbs at "PD" tower in Patchogue on November 14, 1929 and issued to the C&E of H10s locomotive #102 pulling freight L107 east.  The call letters "BP" represented the unattended block signal at Bayport.
10-Form-K-Clearance Card-PD-Patchogue-May-1932 (PRR Form).jpg (150854 bytes)Here's a "K" card copied at "PD" tower in Patchogue by block operator H. Ruff, on a Pennsylvania Railroad form on May 25, 1932 and addressed to train #25.  The call letters of "VN" and "BO" represented the unattended block signals at Brookhaven and Bellport respectively.  It's 7:36 pm and the 2nd trick operator is on duty at "PD" but the operators on duty at those stations indicated on the "K" card were gone for the day as those offices only had 1st trick operators, so the unattended block signals were in service for all trains after the offices closed and until the men returned in the morning to start their 1st trick jobs.  
11-GN 4-16.jpg (313965 bytes)General Notice GN 4-16 which effectively ends the long use of the Form 19 train order on the Long Island Rail Road.
12-Form L Front.jpg (153161 bytes)The front of the new Form "L"
13-Form L Back.jpg (237523 bytes)The back of the new Form "L"
14-Clearance Card Form A.jpg (83657 bytes)The new Form A clearance card