Station lighting prior to rural electrification

nw-mailing-list at nw-mailing-list at
Fri Jul 1 02:31:26 EDT 2005

Date: Thu, 30 Jun 2005 09:51:47 -0400
From: nw-mailing-list at
Subject: Re: Lineside Poles.
To: "NW Mailing List" <nw-mailing-list at>

I talked with a retired N&W/NS signal maintainer who
furnished the following additional info: The offset
bracket is made of steel channel and is called
a bayonet. The line that it carries is called a
static line. The static line is fastened directly to
the bayonet without any insulator and is grounded
about every fourth pole or at the location of a
transformer, signal box, etc. The purpose of the
grounded static line is to route lightening strikes to
ground. The N&W standard plans call for the offset in
the bayonet to be away from the track. Where the
signal lines go over a tunnel, river, or similar
inaccessible location, a heaver gage line is used to
preclude breakage.

The 3-phase, 4800 volt signal power lines (also used
to power crossing gates, etc.) were arranged largely
in two ways: 1. All three lines were on insulators
on the top crossarm. 2. Two lines were on insulators
on the top crossarm, and the third line was on an
insulator on top of the pole. This latter arrangement
was the reason for the offset in the bayonet. One
signal maintainer that I talked with years ago,
demonstrated a rare sense of esthetics when he
commented that the arrangement with the third line on
top of the pole made for a good-looking pole line.

I remember back when the AAR blanked off all names on
railroad equipment in pictures to avoid any pretense
of favoritism, you could always identify a photo made
on the N&W by the bayonet on the pole line in the

Gordon Hamilton

July 1, 2005

Good morning, Gordon:

Before rural electrification, electricity usage in
small communities and farming areas was uncommon.
While some small stations and block offices utilized
oil lamp lighting, others were wired for about 60
amps. I suppose the 4,800 volt pole line was the
source of station power during the pre-1930s era.

If anything turns up in the Archives that supports or
refutes this theory, I'd like to learn about it. In
the meantime, turn on the station air conditioning
(read: open the windows) and keep cool this Summer!


Dr. Frank R. Scheer, Curator
Railway Mail Service Library, Inc.
f_scheer at
(202) 268-2121 - weekday office
(540) 837-9090 - weekend afternoons
in the former N&W station on VA rte 723
117 East Main Street
Boyce VA 22620-9639

Visit at

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