Timetable Operation: Timetables

Railway Signalling and Operations

Timetable Operation: Timetables

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Recent Evolution of Timetables

In the 20th century, most trains remained scheduled trains. Passenger train schedules were obviously quite rigid. Freight train schedules varied from rigid for important trains (perishables, etc.), to flexible, to ad hoc for "extra" trains. Elaborate rules existed for denoting extra trains. [At some point, when I get the 1925 PRR rules on the Web, you'll be able to see for yourself how many rules were eliminated between that year and the 1956 rulebook already on the Web.]

Over time, fewer and fewer trains ran as scheduled trains, more and more as extra trains. In fact, the word "extra", once consistently associated with extra trains (usually with engine number, as in "Extra 99 East"), is very rarely used anymore. The only time I've heard it used is with railfan trips, which are often termed "Passenger Extras".

The employee timetable used to contain the schedules of all scheduled trains. Most ETTs now contain only passenger train schedules, and some not even that. The passenger train schedules in the ETT are more detailed than those in the public TT, as they contain times that certain places (interlockings, stations) are to be _passed_ when the train does not stop there.

To cite specific examples, the Amtrak Northeast Corridor timetable is about as close to an "old, original" ETT as you can get, with some 45-50% of the content being train schedules. Conrail ETTs, in contrast, list only Amtrak trains that run on its own rails. Schedules of scheduled freight trains are published in a separate volume, and Conrail employees do not use the published schedule as a rigid indicator of the time they need to show up for work (in contrast to Amtrak). Therefore, Conrail's ETT/SI [special instructions] publication is 99.5% Special Instructions [safeworking instructions]. The practices of other railroads differed to some extent, of course, but nowadays, one can find many a divion of many a railroad with no passenger trains at all, and the employee "timetable" contains absolutely no train times at all, just Special Instructions.

Mark's Railroad-Related Stuff
A Pennsylvania Railroad Home Page
Railroad Books of Rules and Signalling: A Home Page
Signalling FAQ (prototype)

Mark D. Bej, M.D.