Found in Rural Retreat Depot

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Mon May 2 08:46:04 EDT 2016

Mr. Frank Akers, 
Agent "AY" 
Mount Airy (Rural Retreat,) Va 
V&T RR. 

Your photograph shows the tray used for holding the torpedoes, fusees [yes, that's the proper spelling,] and flags. 

The curled metal brackets above the tray were for holding the flags. Each open Train Order Office was required to have a red flag (for obvious reasons,) and a green-and-white flag for signaling trains to make a "flag stop." The Rule Books contains the particulars. Train Order Offices were also required to have a supply of torpedoes and fusees, for emergency signaling purposes. 

Prior to the 1913-ish period, Train Order Offices also needed a green flag, because green was, back in those days, the color for "Caution." 

Also, during hours of darkness, Train Order Offices were required to keep a Red, a Green and a White lantern burning... again for signaling purposes. Red for giving stop signals; White and Green used together for signaling passenger trains to make a flag stop, and "for signaling local freights to stop and perform switching." 

The colors of required flags and lanterns changed over the years, as did the colors displayed on the Block Signals and Train Order Signals. Yellow was not a color used in railroad signaling until sometime around 1911-1913, because the glass manufacturers had great difficulty perfecting a yellow glass that was reliable for railroad signal purposes. So, the colors used on signals were Red for Stop, Green for Caution, and White for Clear. The logic of the flag colors followed the logic of the signal colors. 

BUT YOU NEED TO CONSULT RULE BOOKS ND TIME TABLES of the period, if you want complete details. Practices varied over time, and practices varied from railroad to railroad. For instance, after the color n Yellow came into use in signaling, it was used for "Permissive Block" on railroads which operated under Manual Block Rules (as the N&W did.) When Yellow came into use, Train Order Offices in Manual Block Territory would have been required to have Yellow flags and lanterns. One must sift through the old Rule Books and Time Tables to piece together a complete picture of practices for any given period. 

So, your tray was used for holding flags, torpedoes and fusees. As I remember, they were painted red... but they were always filthy (and full of cinders and dirt, too !!!) 

-- abram burnett 

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