The Train Staff System, Published 7 November 1950

A customer wrote in, asking about some stick an engineer carries when he takes a Canadian Pacific train across the Alexandra Bridge. I publicly appealed to Marc McNeil to reply on behalf of the Canadian Pacific, and explain exactly what goes on. Here is Public Relations pundit McNeil's response:

"Dear Austin: The wig-wag to me for information in your column of even date is acknowledged, and I shall endeavor to explain the 'baton' mentioned by your correspondent.

"As a railroad enthusiast and authority yourself, I am sure if you give a second glimpse at the reference to 'baton' you will recognize it as a 'staff used in the 'staff-signal system', a quite common safety measure utilized by railways over single-track rights-of-way, which handle heavy traffic loads. In this area the system applies on our line from Ottawa Union Station over the Interprovlnclal (Alexandra) Bridge to Hull and Hull West, and over the Prince of Wales Bridge to Ottawa West, and return.

"For the benefit of the uninitiated the 'staff is a steel rod about 10 inches in length on which are four steel rings so spaced as to fit into corresponding slots in the 'staff-signal system' machine, which closes on the 'staff by an automatic locking device. The 'staff can be withdrawn by the operator only when the portion of track over which the 'staff' governs is clear, and when the 'staff' delivered to the preceding train has been placed in the machine at either end of the signal territory to release, by electrical Impulse, the locking device at the other extreme.

"As long as the 'staff' is in the possession of a conductor or engineer his train or engine has full and exclusive running rights over the territory.
"Trusting this will answer the question. I am, with kind regards, Marc T. McNeil, Public Relations Officer."

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Updated 16 September 2019 2019