Railroading as it Once Was: Hooping Up Train Orders With an ‘Iron Man’ in Sterling in the EL

EL at Sterling

One of my favorite hang outs during my “formative years” was Sterling.

The Erie Lackawanna and Baltimore & Ohio mains crossed each other and traffic was always plentiful.

The tower had friendly operators who were willing to explain railroad operations to a novice including what the “iron man” was.

In this 1975 photo of Second NY100, the engineer is leaning out of the window to grab his “19s” on the fly.

The 19 orders were how such things as slow orders and meets were relayed to a train and were typed out on a thin onion skin-type paper.

The rear end crew would also pick up a copy the same way. The iron man is the tall pole that the operator could string the orders on in lieu of standing next to the train and hooping them up. This was everyday railroading back then, but it’s basically a lost art these days.

Article and Photograph by Roger Durfee

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