When I was in college to earn money — I worked three summers on the railroad as an agent – telegrapher. Part of the duties were copying train orders on a small piece of special paper and ” handing them up ” to the engineer as the train went by. This saved them from reducing speed or stopping altogether. It involved folding the yellow order sheet and then tying it onto a loop of string which was put on the stick so it would come off easily. The engineer would then put his arm out thru the loop as he went by and snag the orders. Many times if the train was on the track right next to the depot — I could put the orders up on a stand and back away from the speeding train. Here is a 35mm slide I took of that happening. The train is going about 50 miles a hour though it looks stopped in the photo —
Sometimes this didn’t work and you had to hold up the stick manually. I was warned to never hand up to 2 trains at one go. However about 2 AM one night — two trains were converging at full speed on my isolated depot going opposite directions. So I was stuck. I positioned myself between the two tracks and handed up ok to the first train feeling the wind blast, then turned to hand up to the second one –getting buffeted by winds going opposite directions. I handed up to the second train ok as well and was waiting for the 2 trains to clear so I could walk back into the depot out of the cold. Something caused me to look back down the track behind me — just in time to see a log had shifted on a flatcar and was overhanging. I immediately feel flat on the sharp gravel and a couple of seconds later heard the log whistle by a few feet overhead. I would have been killed instantly at those speeds as it hit me and then probably run over as well. VERY lucky that night. Here is a closeup of an order stick like the one I used with the string loop and yellow train order secured — ready to be handed up. The station was Ayer Junction next to the Snake River in Washington State in 1974.