Southern Pacific Railroad History Center

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Communications Department

The communications department, headed by the  general superintendent – communications, operates one of the world’s largest privately-owned communications systems.  It is a service organization and provides the same type of communication services for the operation of Southern Pacific as are offered by commercial telephone and other communications companies to the public.  Some of the services provided:

  1. TOPS[i] data circuits
  2. Intercity dial network
  3. Radio – microwave and VHF
  4. Dispatching centralized traffic control circuits
  5. Teletype message network and administrative traffic
  6. Facsimile and closed circuit television
  7. Communications services for Southern Pacific’s subsidiaries, including Pacific Motor Trucking, Southern Pacific Pipe Lines, and Pacific Fruit Express.

Assistant superintendents direct the engineering, maintenance, and operational activities of the department.  The assistant general superintendent, and assistant superintendents report to the general superintendent – communications, who is responsible for communication operations on Southern Pacific and its subsidiaries, including the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company, also known as the Cotton Belt.  Details of everyday operations are handled by engineers and supervisors of varying levels.

[i] TOPS (Total Operations Processing System) is a set of programs developed by Southern Pacific in the 1960s  to provide for real time reporting of its operations. It covers all aspects of monitoring its operations, including the location of rolling stock, maintenance of equipment records, train consists, and train operational reports.

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