Unloved and Unnamed Orphan Signals at Roanoke

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sun Nov 12 08:28:07 EST 2006

I can make one of those. I have enough junk laying around here to do that easily. Those are PL-2 light boxes like the ones that are on my signals. They've been turned upside down so the lenses deflect upward instead of downward. The mounting flanges on the pipe have also been installed upside down to give them even more of an upward deflection, and the visors have been cut short and new holes have been drilled and tapped in the housings for them so they could be mounted "upside down".
Ha ha! New project coming soon!!!


nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org wrote:
Ken Miller and I were talking this morning about the location of this picture of the 1364, given at the following link, which is identified as "Roanoke 9/14/1947."


We have agreed that the location is Shaffers Crossing and the engine is headed west, that the building at left is the "South Lubritorium" and that the stack at right is the one located adjacent to the east edge of the Round House.

What throws us both, however, is the position light dwarf signal pictured just in front of the 1364's #5 driver. The signal probably governs westward movement on the Westbound Running Track near "Switch Box 606," but neither of us remember any signal at this location... in the middle of the yard and a good distance from any interlocking. We concluded (and I think Ken concurred in this) that it is one of those "switch indicator" type signals the N&W had stuck around at various places, without mention in the Timetable Special Instructions. Employees were, I guess, supposed to figure it out for themselves.

In my time (i.e. beginning 1964,) there was a dwarf signal on the Eastbound Running Track just a bit west of the 16th Street Yard Office. All eastward engines destined to Park Street on the EB Running Track had to pass this signal. It was of the color-light type and showed only Green or Red. None of the crews knew what it was for or what its aspects were called, but everyone stopped when it was Red. There was no name or number associated with the signal. (In retrospect, I wonder how we would have performed if we had found the signal dark, or if it stayed Red for an hour...? But that's hindsight.)

I've thought about this signal many times and now believe it was put there to "protect" the Running Track crossover switches when opened for crossover moves made between the Pull Up Yard at 16th Street and the Classification Yard. When the Pull Up Yard was operating, crossover moves of this nature were probably made on each of the three shifts daily, and both Eastbound and Westbound Running Tracks had to be crossed to get to and from the Classification Yard. At the time the signal was installed, there was probably a bulletin issued describing its function, but that information had never found its way into the TT Special Instructions. It was in use until a bulldozer rooted it out in the mid-1970s, during some kind of track reconfigurations (the nature of which I do not recall.)

The interesting thing about the signal is that it was a home-brew color-light signal fabricated by clamping to a pipe two "light boxes" from a Union Switch & Signal style PL-3 signal, and substituting colored roundels for the "No-Viol" amber conical cover glasses ! Fabricated, no doubt, in Roanoke Shops. Perhaps there had been a position light dwarf there at one time, and it had been changed out with this home-brew arrangement.

Anyway, here's a picture of the signal. You will notice that the flanges holding the roundels (lenses) have been cut out of the cast iron housing, repositioned so as to give a more acute "upward" angle to the light emitted by the little signal, then brazed in place again. The "light boxes" are still equipped with their silvered parabolic mirrors.

-- abram burnett

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