Picking up orders at Karlsruhe - Artist Proof
Larry Fisher

Picking up orders at Karlsruhe - Artist Proof

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Picking up orders at Karlsruhe is one of three color prints by well known artist Mr. Larry Fisher.

The image is a high quality 16 inch high by 20 inch wide print. The mat closest to the image can be placed about 1/16 of an inch into the image, as the “signing and numbering” of this print is inside the image. The mat sizes and frame are of choice for the finished print framed.

The crew of an eastbound Great Northern freight train bound for Minneapolis is about to pick up orders’ ‘on the fly’ at the Karlsruhe, North Dakota depot, during a clear, crisp winter’s day in 1959. Today’s engine, diesel units 405A and 405B, is sporting the Great Northern’s famous Omaha Orange and Green paint scheme, introduced to the GN on the railway’s first FT units delivered in 1941. The 405A and 405B are model FT units built by Electro Motive Division in March of 1945. Each unit produced 1350 horsepower, so the two-unit engine shown is 2700 horsepower.

EMD’s standard design for its ground breaking FT model of 1939 was an A unit with cab and a B unit without cab semi-permanently coupled together with two pairs coupled back-to-back in an A-B-B-A consist for heavy freight service. The GN bought its FTs in two-, three-, and four-unit sets. Two-unit sets, an A unit and a B unit, were numbered in the 200 series. Three-unit sets, arranged A-B-A, were numbered in the 300 series. Four-unit sets, arranged A-B-B-A, were numbered in the 400 series. Railroads found the drawbar connection between the A and B units to be inconvenient, and most replaced the drawbars between the units with standard couplers.  Couplers allowed better matching of power to the tonnage of the train and repair of one unit without tying up the other. All subsequent F unit models came from the factory with couplers at both ends of all units.

The station agent is standing clear of the Train Order rack, probably in the nice warm depot, to make his roll-by inspection.  The top order is for the engineer and the bottom is for the conductor in the caboose. Crewmen extend their arms to pass through the middle of the delivery fork to hook the orders which are tied in a string.  If everything goes “according to Hoyle” the train will not be delayed for an unnecessary stop.  The agent has made three copies of the orders, one for the engineer, conductor and one for the station’s records.

This operation was known as ‘hooping up’ the orders due to the previous practice of attaching the orders to bamboo hoops that the agent or telegraph operator held up for the engine and train crews to snag on the fly. The agent or operator had to stand at just the right distance from the track and hold the hoop at just the right height to make a successful delivery, an operation that required calm nerves, particularly with steam engines in the dark of a cold, snowy, windy night. 

Karlsruhe, population of about 140, is located 33 miles east of Minot, North Dakota on the ‘Surrey Cutoff’ of the Great Northern Railway.  The cutoff was completed in 1912 to reduce grades, mileage, and travel time between Fargo and Minot, bypassing Grand Forks and Devils Lake.  This would cut the distance on the original 281-mile run by 48 miles.  The cutoff extended from Surrey, eight miles east of Minot, to Fargo.

There have been times when the North Dakota winter brought the entire railroad to its knees. The Cutoff was closed for eight days following a “once every hundred years’ blizzard in March of 1966.  Of course, they had a similar series of blizzards during the winter of 1968 - 69, but the ‘cutoff’ remained open.

Today the BNSF rattles the windows in this small prairie town. Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) long ago replaced train orders, the hoops, the depot, and the agents and operators who copied and delivered the orders.

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