From “Just What is a Train Dispatcher?” Copyright © 1992 Thomas A. White

In handling traffic, technology has given the ability to consolidate the functions of many station employees and even some on-train employees to a single train dispatcher. Unlike the visual display of an air traffic controller which is just that and no more, the visual display used by the train dispatcher is also a control system and dispatchers must operate switches and signals along the way, actually controlling the routing of trains rather than merely considering situations and issuing instructions. Part of the workload is simply keeping hundreds of switches and signals properly lined in advance of approaching trains to prevent needless delay. Where automatic signal systems are not used, the train dispatcher must, in addition to preventing collisions between opposing trains, prevent trains from inadvertently overtaking and colliding with slower or even stopped trains preceding them; once the duty of an on-train flagman.

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