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Before you masters of the search bar scold me, I did try to find if I asked this before, and I think I did, but heck, maybe get newer input.  Does anyone know when 2 way radios were installed such that the engineer could talk to a dispatcher or crew man in the days of steam?  Many of the Lionel and MTH steam locos have crew talk where they are talking to a dispatcher, but I have never seen a picture of a steamer with a  mic cord hanging down, or a handset.  Now if we are talking the modern world with museum pieces on the rails, that would explain it, but in real world did they have an FM transceiver in the steam engine?  Also, some of the crew talk is in modern vernacular, not what you would expect in 1940. Motorola made 2 way FM gear for biz, police and fire, and they took one model that was a hybrid with all transistors except for the transmitter finals, normally a 100 watt transmitter, and offered it in two versions, 100 watts or 10 watts to the RR's and some RR's bought them.  The way to spot a 'Railroad Motrac' was if it had a round Cannon jack on the front instead of a standard Moto rectangular.   Had a good friend who used to maintain the radio gear in the Geeps of the FEC until he worked his way to engineer back in the pre-strike days.  I was working with him at NAS JAX in the 70's when he got a letter that said the strike was over and he could come back to work.  He didn't go back to the FEC.

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PRR's Trainphone system was a short-range, 2-channel induction radio.  One channel was for in-train communication (locomotive to cabin car) and the other was for communicating with the closest tower operator.  PRR typically passed trains tower to tower.  The dispatcher talked to the tower operators, but not directly to the trains.  All of that Lionel and MTH "crew talk" on their steam locomotives is fantasy.

What did the engineer and the fireman actually say to each other in the steam era, if anything?  I've read accounts by firemen who wrote that the engineer would say almost nothing at all for an entire trip, especially if the fireman was new on the job. I got the impression that there wasn't a lot of camaraderie in the cab in the steam days: "You do your job, I'll do mine, and otherwise just shut up."

As Boc Bartizek pointed out, "crew talk" on O gauge steam locomotives is pure fantasy.  But many enjoy the feature.  Each to his own.

When a steam locomotive is working, it is way too noisy for chit-chat, and, in fact for almost any verbal conversation across the cab.  Hand signals were used for some things such as calling out the upcoming signal indication.  The arm was used like a semaphore blade -- horizontal, 45 degree angle, or vertical -- and opening and closing the fist indicated a flashing signal aspect.

The Engineer had custody of the Train Orders, but the Fireman was required to read them (after the Engineer, of course) and remember instructions contained therein, such as speed restrictions, track gangs, meeting points fixed by Train Order.  Because it was likely to result in being unpleasantly rebuked, Firemen did not generally call the Engineer's attention to upcoming meets and restrictions unless it was apparent that there was no required action of the part of the Engineer.  

Unfortunately, in the steam era there were a good number of Engineers who were little kings in their own view, very unpleasant while at work, and some of those just plainly did not like Firemen.  Those Engineers did not say even one unnecessary word to a Fireman, and some did not speak to Firemen at all, unless it was to criticize the Fireman for something.  One on the Santa Fe Los Angeles Division was particularly snarky until a big, strong Fireman who had endured enough verbal abuse, took the Engineer by the back of his overall suspenders, opened the fire door, put the old man's head into the opening for a second, and singed the old man's eyebrows off.  After that preview of the place of eternal punishment, the old sourpuss Engineer made a 180 degree turn in his attitude and treated Firemen very well.  I knew the Fireman, who by then was an Engineer near the top of the seniority list, and he told me exactly what happened.  Other Engineers who were steam Firemen verified the complete change of attitude.

But they still could not have conversation across the cab when the engine was working steam because of the high noise level.  And, very often, the atmosphere in the cab was unpleasant and not friendly.

Last edited by Number 90

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