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Sunday, July 24, 2011

New Haven Railroad Miniature Suspended Semaphores

Perhaps the oddest semaphore signals ever see in North America were those in the New Haven Railroads electrified district. 3-position electrically driven semaphores were mounted on the overhead electrification cross supports. Due to the complexity of the catenary obstructing the view of any signal mounted above the gantries, they were suspended down between the tracks with a stub semaphore blade as to not obstruct the loading gauge. The motors for the blades were mounted on top of the gantries and drove the blades via long connecting rods

All of these signals which had not been converted to US&S H-5 searchlights were removed in the early 1990's and replaced with nothing as Metro North went to an all cab signaling based system. I bring this up because some wonderful person posted a mess of photos of these signals, something I have never seen before, so I have decided to give them some exposure here.

Our first batch of  suspended semaphores have the rounded end, normally used for Train Order signals, but in this case I am not sure of of its significance, although from context I can assume it is a type of absolute signal.  These signals were installed in a 2+2 ABS 251 configuration and we can see come bagged H-5 units for the coming 261 operation on all 4 tracks.  Also note the H-5 on the read of the closest semaphore.

Here is a closeup of that nearest signal this time displaying an Approach Medium (Y/G) indication.  The New Haven RR used Y/Y for Advance Approach instead of either Y/G or *Y*.

Some more images of single round bladed suspended semaphores.

Here is a more standard ABS style blade with a pointy end in this case displaying clear.

Here we see a pair of square ended absolute signals.  The left track is displaying Clear, the right Approach.

Here we find some of those round headed signals as the westbound entrance to the interlocking surrounding Bridgeport station.  The U-boat towing the M-1 is getting an Approach signal.  Note the wrong direction semaphore dwarfs for the other two tracks.

Same location with a Phase III painted Amtrak AEM-7 about to take a Clear signal.

Here we see a pair of ABS semaphores in use as interlocking exit signals as indicated by the two reverse direction semaphore dwarfs.  In the far background we can see sets of suspended H-5 searchlights waiting to go into service.

Here is a closeup of one of those GRS two position semaphore dwarf signals.

To round things out here is a side view of some of those suspended H-5 replacements.  These themselves would be completely replaced between 15 and 20 years later when MNRR implemented its Rule 562 vision with Go/No-Go dwarf signals.


  1. Hi New Jersey Mike. I assume you mean the oldest Upper Quadrant semaphores. The New Haven's Suspended left hand U.Q. Model 2A semaphores were among many, on numerous railroads across the U.S. that were installed in 1909.

    The Erie actually was ahead by one year being the first to use the US&S Style "S" U.Q. semaphores on their mainline. These slowly beginning to replace their much older double armed 60 degree Lower Quadrant Union Style "B" semaphores. Those were installed between 1898 and 1908, the last coming out of service in the Buffalo N.Y. area in the middle-late 1960's.

    I have some L.Q. mechanical semaphore photos I took in mid 1980 at Norwalk, Conn. on the Danbury Branch. There was a "T. George Styles & Co." mechanical dwarf semaphore signal there which somehow ended up in a friends collection which was then bequeathed to me on his passing. I have fully restored it.

    As for round end blades I believe the New Haven used these as interlocking signals with pointed being used for A.B.S.

  2. Oddest semaphores...oddest, not oldest :-P Thank you for the history and the comment though. I appreciate the feedback.

  3. Growing up in ex-NH territory 1970-1982, and being fascinated by the signals during that time (probably the most unusual detail of the entire operation at that point), I reached the conclusion that the New Haven used Y/Y and Y/G pretty much interchangeably as a second yellow, although Y/G also was used as the advance signal for a R/G or R/Y. The appearance of Y/G as a second yellow was especially common west of Stamford, where no single-head signals were used.

  4. Oh... oddest. Well not really, they were just left handed with short blades on some of them, other wise very standard. Those identical left handed semaphores may still be found in service in Australia. Also, many traction or interurban lines used left handed semaphores to have them visually clear of the catenary support masts.

    I shot some photos of the mechanical semaphore installation entering the Danbury branch at Norwalk in summer 1980. The first northbound signal was a T.George Styles dwarf semaphore with many bronze instead of iron castings at the foot of a two position 60 degree lower quadrant semaphore. Some 20 years later, that very dwarf signal was given to me by a good friend. That's how I know it was bronze.