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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Signs! Signs! Everywhere a Sign! - Part 1

Station signs are a uniform way of figuring out where you are on the railroad.  Sure mileposts work to, but important landmarks like stations and interlockings and block stations aren't always placed at whole mileposts.  Station signs aren't only a navigational aid, but in many cases a reminder device as many movement authorities are given between stations and if thew sign isn't obvious one is more likely to blow right by it. Of course every railroad is going to have it's own idea about what makes a good sign, some even have more than one.  Here in Part 1 we'll look at the eastern freight railroads, in Part 2 the western freight railroads and then in Parts 3 and 4 the eastern and western passenger railroads respectively.

Kicking things off,, Conrail use what I think is the most visually distinctive station sign in modern times using it's trademark blue and the Futura Bold font.  The signals were typically placed on either side of the main relay hut, although interlockings with two huts could support one each and of course special circumstances could lead to other mountings.  The standard signal was a reflective white lettering on a blue background.

However an alternate version existed that also contained the milepost.  This existed for a time in the late 80's and early 90's, but I'm not sure if ever fully replaced the regular signals. 

There was also this deluxe style sign with a white border and a different font that may have been a one off due to a rush order or something. .

Conrail used a slightly different sign for it's DCS block limits which was based on the PRR style of a vertical name surmounted red and yellow lamps..

Conrail's signage is still relevant today because after the split-up, Norfolk Southern decided to keep the style on all of the former Conrail territory (with a few exceptions early on). 

Elsewhere, Norfolk Southern adopted the style of the Southern Railway with a green background and white lettering.  The signs are smaller than the Conrail variety and use a stick mount with one plate in each direction.  Some of these Southern style signs have appeared in Conrail territory, although the practice seems to have ended.

Southern era signs sometimes have a white border around the outside of the sign. 

Moving on to CSX, CSX is a party pooper and doesn't really use station signs.  At interlockings it just stencils the interlocking name on the sides of the relay cabins.

 The policy applies even to new interlockings in Conrail territory. 

CSX used to use a Direct Traffic Control system with their own signage.  But DTC was largely replaced on CSX by DCS using mileposts.

The Guilford Rail System, currently known as Pan Am Railways, is known for painting some of it's rolling stock in a retro Pan Am inspired livery.  When it comes to station signs however, they can barely be bothered. 

A change in milepost prefixes has further degraded the artistic styling of the already bare bones signs. 

I have previously discussed interlocking names on the former Delaware and Hudson, and likewise, their interlocking signs reflect the period of Guilford ownership, although the association with Canadian Pacific did make things a little better.

The newly re-signaled interlockings have a more standard Canadian font, which I assume is bi-lingual in some manner.

Well that's all the Eastern freight railroads I have photos for.  Sorry Florida East Coast and Grand Trunk Western :-P

Monday, November 5, 2018

NS Dispatching Desks Moved to Atlanta

Following the lead of CSX consolidating all of it's dispatchers in Jacksonville, NS is moving all of it's dispatchers to Atlanta.  This will result in the closure of the Conrail era Harrisburg office on Interstate Drive as well as the Fort Wayne office.  NS will also be re-adjusting a number of territories to coincide with the move because one might as well have one period of screwed up service instead of two. 

Now I previously discussed this in the context of CSX which first consolidated it's dispatching offices and then unconsolidated them only to re-consolidate them again. The benefits of consolidation are reducing manpower requirements with a single extra board, reducing overhead and placing operations next to management.  Downsides are reduced territory familiarity and vulnerability to natural disasters, including mild snow storms which frequently paralyze Atlanta. An ancillary benefit is forcing higher paid veteran workers who are tied to a specific area to quit or retire.

In the case of NS they are actually moving all of their corporate offices too Atlanta with the corporate HQ making the move from Norfolk, VA.  You might recall a post I made about the demolition of the Terminal South interlocking tower in Atlanta.  Well this was to clear the space for the construction of the new NS HQ, which will at least be located vaguely near some railroad tracks.  Will NS decide to reverse the decision at some point?  Probably, new management always needs to do something different and after a couple snow storms or hurricanes snarl freight traffic, some institutional investor might complain loudly enough.  At least for now everyone is jumping on the consolidation bandwagon.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

NS/Conrail Pittsburgh Line Changes

Well the great PRR Main Line re-signaling project has commenced with CP-HARRIS to CP-CANNON having already been changed and more segments scheduled in the next few weeks.  I was making one last trip to document signals on the eastern end of the Middle Division and given what has already taken place I was able to learn a number of very interesting things about the full scope of what NS is doing.  First, here are some videos of a westbound NS freight taking a color light Limited Clear signal off the controlled siding at CP-CANNON.  This is the new reality of the Pittsburgh Line.

 At CP-CANNON the old PRR signal bridge has been removed and scrapped, however the one at CP-BANKS was still in place, for now.

 The old intermediate signals have either been turned or removed. 

However they have been replaced with Conrail blue "Signal Indication Point" signs, complete with a milepost number.

The removal of wayside signals has allowed NS to double the number of blocks by reducing block length from 2 miles to 1 mile.  The track sections between both CP-BANKS and CP-CANNON and CP-HARRIS and CP-ROCKVILLE previously had two auto blocks each.  Now, as you can see from this ATCS display, they have 4 auto blocks each and each block boundary is marked as an SIP.

While out between CP-CANNON and CP-PORT, I noticed some signal men at the MP 124 signal location and whatever they were doing was showing at the MP 126 signal location.  As a reminder these signals are approach lit so not only was the track circuit to the east getting intermittently shunted, the block state east of MP 126 was also changing randomly.

Finally I made one more important observation.  None of the new intermediate SIPs were equipped with those distinctive PTC antenna masts as is seen at pretty much every other intermediate signaling location across the country these days.  Well this confirms my suspicion that the PTC box will be able to take the cab signal indication as an input, eliminating the need for a full time data radio link away from interlockings. At least that's one good design feature.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Buffalo Line: Gone But Not Forgotten

As of a year ago, the former PRR Buffalo Line, running between Harrisburg and Buffalo, was a real oasis of vintage PRR signaling with position lights and 1950's vintage CTC infrastructure.  Even the portions of the line where the signaling had been suspended, still retained a lot of the old hardware in situ.  Unfortunately, over the last year the line has been completely re-signaled or de-signaled as the case may be.  The good news is that over the years I went on several signaling expeditions to document what infrastructure I could.  Because these photos are split between a number of galleries shot between 2006 and 2018 it might be a bit of a challenge to find them so I decided to make a little guide in honor of the Buffalo Line.  Note, I plan to have my old web hosting restored later this year, but I will provide links to my Google hosted albums as those will hopefully be more reliable over the long run.

Beginning at CP-WYE, I first took some photos there on my 2006 PRR E8 excursion chase.

Then again in 2014 chasing an Amtrak Fall Foliage excursion. 

And finally in 2015 where I was looking to capture the signals I missed in my 2014 trip. 

I caught the intermediate at MP 304 as part of a 2007 trip to Harrisburg.

The MP 299 Automatic was also captured in the 2014 excursion chase.

I only got a few shots of CP-SOUTH FERRY in 2006 before the position lights were replaced rather early.

CP-NORTH FERRY was documented in the usual manner during my 2015 trip.

The next location I documented was CP-SOUTH MILLER, which was split between my 2014 trip and my 2017 trip.

While I got a few photos of CP-NORTH MILLER in 2006, I performed the full documentation in 2014.

From here northward the photos are from my big 2017 Southern Buffalo Line survey.  First up was the MP 278 automatic, which was replaced in the early 2000's.

The MP 273 automatic was a rare surviving split position light.  Possibly the only one on this part of the line. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Sounds of Non-PRR Signaling

So I was about to post a second volume of PRR Signaling Sounds to highlight the importance of preserving both audio and visual history, but then I realized that I had a couple of non-PRR clips sitting on the back burner that deserved to see the light of day.

The first two were captured at some former Boston and Maine intermediate signal locations (BM mileposts 162 and 150) on the current Guilford Rail System Freight Main Line.  To the untrained ear they might sound a lot like the PRR signaling sound samples of cab signal code generators, and you would be right.  However why would cab signal code generators be used on non-cab signaled territory?  Well while the trains might not have been equipped with cab signal apparatus, the signaling department would use the 75, 120 and 180ppm codes sent through the rails as way to replace signal state wires on wayside poles.

When a signal location "heard" an Approach from the location ahead, it would know to display an Approach and transmit Clear.  When it "heard an approach medium it would display approach medium and transmit Clear and when it "heard" a clear it would display Clear and transmit Clear.  Hearing nothing would of course mean to display Stop and Proceed and transmit Approach. Later this technique would be updated with audio frequency signals instead of pulses of power frequency current, but at the time it was a clever way to use catalogue parts to eliminate costly pole lines.

Next we have a flashing Approach Limited signal at the 1950's vintage CP-LAUREL on the former Reading railroad Belt Line extension. A visit to the relay cabinet reveals a sound pulsing in rhythm to the flash of the signal, which of course indicates of an electro-mechanical flashing relay.  nothing super fancy, but it is a lot more reliable than what one might have to blink their Christmas lights on and off.  

Well, that's the extent of the non-PRR signaling sounds I have collected.  Don't worry all your PRR fans.  I'll be back soon with a second volume ;-)

Monday, October 8, 2018

Former Conrail Territory News

Over the last couple of weeks I have taken two trips to the PRR Main Line in Central and Western PA and have also gotten some other NS signaling updates on the Philly to Chicago rail corridor. At this point the Pittsburgh Line re-signaling project has stripped all pneumatic point machines between Harrisburg and Johnstown, with CP-MO and CP-AR/CP-UN having been converted since July.

Going, going, gone.
 However from Johnstown westward, interlockings including CP-C, CP-CONPIT, CP-RADE, CP-TRAFF, CP-WING and CP-HOME, are still pneumatic. No word on cut-over timelines, but the west slope is going to lose a lot of iconic signaling locations including those at Lilly, Portage, Cassandra and Summerhill so get your photos ASAP.

CP-CONPIT, still holding on.
On the Connemaugh Line, the Rule 562 expansion has taken place with all ABS signals between CP-KISKI and CP-ETNA being removed. One note is that the Penn Central signal bridge in Tarentum is still intact even if the pair of PL signals have been taken off. No word on the PRR signaled interlockings on the classic portion of the Conemaugh line.

Alas, I was too late :-(
 The new signaling has been cut over on the eastern end of the Harrisburg Line. This removed the Rule 251 operation between CP-ROCK and also saw a number of re-configurations. This includes the removal of classic Reading interlocking CP-TITUS, which was replaced by a more traditional crossover called CP-LORAINE about 2 miles to the east. Also CP-PHOENIX was cut back to the east end of the tunnel with a new CP-CROMBY appearing about 2 miles from the west end of the old limits of CP-PHOENIX. CP-CROMBY takes the form of a double crossover to accomidate a "new" siding that takes the place of the second main track . This lengthens the single track bottleneck by about two miles. I am not aware of any other new crossovers, except for one or two at CP-BIRD.

Finally, new signals are going up on the western portion of the Fort Wayne Line past alliance at least as far as CP-MANCE.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Central Buffalo Line Re-Signaling Due Soon

If you wanted a photo of the unique compact PRR position lights at CP-NORRY or just some run of the mill pics of the "downtown" PL's at CP-SF in Sunbury, now is the time to jump into the car and start driving because the word is that the Darth Vaders will be cut in sometime within the next week or so. 

Next Stop Ebay!
 Although the new signals only went up within the last few months, it looks like NS had put the pedal to the metal to get the project finished instead of letting it drag on for some number of years.  I don't know if the cut-over will extend all the way to CP-WYE at Rockville or just around the Sunbury area, but this is likely your last chance to get photos of some very accessible PRR PL signals, including the famous roadside ones at North Miller.

I did my photo surveys of the entire line last year, but the more photos the better.  get your ass out there before it all goes away!