Call-on signals

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Sat Apr 22 08:27:50 EDT 2017

Jim, you've got it. The signal was termed "call-on" and used the 
Restricting indication--had to, because Stop and Proceed was not an 
option on a controlled signal, by definition.

My statement you asked about, "The Pocahontas Division was littered with 
these where pushers would routinely get on" was a poor choice of words. 
That should read that the Pocahontas Division was littered with places 
where movements into occupied blocks were common, if not routine.

You wrote:

"I assume that Farm would have been one such location where pushers were 
routinely added for the climb into Bluefield, so they would have to 
enter occupied track to get behind the caboose for shoving. What were 
some of the other locations for regular pushing?"

Actually, pushers were not added in the usual fashion at Farm (with a 
few exceptions), but stopped on their way thru to cut (coal) tonnage or 
originated trains there with the cut tonnage. It seems, operationally, 
Farm was Villamont in reverse. And unlike Blue Ridge, pushers on the 
Pocahontas Division got on in front of the cab.

To summarize pushers on the Pocahontas Division...

They were everywhere. Depending on freight or coal, if they were not 
already on right out of a terminal (Weller, Williamson, Auville, Wilcoe, 
etc.), they might get on anywhere from Devon east to Flat Top, depending 
on the job, traffic, fill tonnage, ruling grade ahead, etc., etc., and 
where the pusher could clear up and wait (like the west end of a middle 
track) and/or the train could avoid blocking crossings. Through freights 
usually stopped at Wilmore where there was a middle track, water and an 
ash man. CV Pool crews returning to Bluefield took on a Valley Pusher 
(out of Richlands) usually on the west end of Finney.

I do not know to what level conditions warranted the installation of a 
call-on signal. From recollections, there may have been up to five at 
one time or another just along the Pocahontas main line, but I need to 
corroborate. They were at the bottom of Finney Hill, Walton below 
Christiansburg, and later on the west end of Whitethorne. To know for 
sure, I should have written this down while looking at the CTC boards, 
but somehow that did not occur to me at the time. I don't know of 
applications elsewhere on the N&W.

The call-on button was added below the appropriate signal lever. The 
route thru the interlocking limits had to be clear to (re)align any 
turnouts, so the obstructing equipment would be in the block beyond. The 
dispatcher would then throw the signal lever in the appropriate 
direction, then PULL the call-on button out (where it then stayed) and 
pressed the coding button to override the Stop and Stay with 
Restricting. To cancel the call-on signal, the dispatcher simply pushed 
the call-on button back in, without having to press the coding button.

The crossover and spur switches at Boaz were hand-throws with no signals.

Grant Carpenter

On 4/20/2017 6:45 AM, NW Mailing List wrote:
> Grant,
> Once again you have my thanks for sharing from your wealth of 
> operational knowledge.  Allow me to confirm my understanding of your 
> statements.  In cases where both the dispatcher and the engineer knew 
> exactly why a movement would be entering an occupied block (to pick up 
> a previously set off cut of loads or to get behind a drag to help 
> shove it), the dispatcher could "override" the Stop and Stay that 
> would normally be set automatically by the occupancy detection, with a 
> Restricting/Call On to facilitate the movement.  This makes good sense 
> and since the preponderance of such movements would have been from the 
> East-bound main in the case of Villamont, it also stands to reason 
> that the extra expense of allowing for such movements from the 
> West-bound main may not have been justified.  Did all/most middle 
> track storage sidings have this arrangement?  You mentioned that "The 
> Pocahontas Division was littered with these where pushers would 
> routinely get on."  I assume that Farm would have been one such 
> location where pushers were routinely added for the climb into 
> Bluefield, so they would have to enter occupied track to get behind 
> the caboose for shoving.  What were some of the other locations for 
> regular pushing?  And now to expose more of my ignorance, I believe 
> the dispatcher could establish a route through a control point by 
> "throwing levers" on his machine to set the turnouts and signals.  I 
> assume that occupancy detection would try to prevent him from setting 
> a route for the pusher into the occupied track, so how was able to 1) 
> set the appropriate turnout and 2) cause the appropriate signal to 
> show the Restricting aspect?  My assumption would be that there were 
> special controls on the board for these locations that would allow the 
> dispatcher to set the signal to Restricting overriding the occupancy 
> signal.  If this is the case does anyone have/know of photos/diagrams 
> of boards showing this facility?  I would further assume that the 
> signals governing movements for pushers out of Boaz siding would have 
> needed this same capability for the same reasons and I will track down 
> my photos of these signals to have a look.
> Thanks again,
> Jim Cochran
> On Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 10:39 PM, NW Mailing List 
> <nw-mailing-list at <mailto:nw-mailing-list at>> wrote:
>     Jim,
>     I would suggest that the Restricting aspect is for a call-on signal.
>     One would be looking downgrade when looking east at Villamont, so
>     grade signals would not apply, plus grade signals are automatics,
>     these are controlled (but note lack of "S" plate). They have a
>     full compliment of diverging aspects at point-of-switch to govern
>     middle track pull-in, so the middle track is bonded and signaled.
>     A dark middle track would rate hand-thrown turnouts and no signals.
>     Actually, note that the track layout is not exactly symmetrical,
>     but favors an easier alignment/higher speed pull-in off of the
>     eastbound and standard crossover for pull-out to the westbound.
>     One exception to above is if a spring switch is on the pull-out,
>     it must be installed using the easier alignment and the signal
>     would lack diverging aspects.
>     Before the Virginian merger, I believe a train's worth of
>     eastbound loads were set off here (and further east?) to fill
>     tonnage for subsequent eastbounds. That is a whole lot of back and
>     forth thru controlled signals displaying Stop and Stay into
>     occupied blocks of the middle track and EB Main, so to cut down on
>     phone traffic and expedite matters, the dispatcher can override
>     the Stop and Stay indication with Restricting, called a "call-on"
>     signal. The Pocahontas Division was littered with these where
>     pushers would routinely get on.
>     Grant Carpenter
>     On 4/19/2017 10:44 AM, NW Mailing List wrote:
>>     Mr. Powers,
>>     Thank you for your response.  I understand your comments on
>>     geography.  My remaining question is why would it be advantageous
>>     to allow an Eastbound movement to proceed at restricted speed on
>>     the East-bound main and not be advantageous to do so for an
>>     Eastbound movement on the West-bound main?  The layout of the
>>     middle siding appears to by symmetrical with respect to both
>>     mains and I am trying to understand why the signalling should be
>>     different.
>>     Thanks for your help,
>>     Jim Cochran
>>     On Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 8:26 AM, NW Mailing List
>>     <nw-mailing-list at <mailto:nw-mailing-list at>> wrote:
>>         Jim,
>>             A restricting signal indicates the right to proceed at a
>>         restricting speed. That aspect does not deal with geography,
>>         it deals with trains ahead and track circuit continuity. It
>>         sits one position above "stop and proceed", which only deals
>>         with trains ahead - you must stop and then proceed at a
>>         restricting speed. Below that is "stop and stay". If there is
>>         a yellow plate with the letter "G" on it below the signal
>>         head displaying "Stop and stay" on the mast, a train on an
>>         ascending grade can pass the signal without the stop, ready
>>         to stop short of a train ahead. All the above very fine
>>         delineations of keeping your speed safely in check.
>>             From the photo, I cannot tell what track the furthest EB
>>         signal controls. If it has a dummy mast to one side of it, it
>>         may control the center siding, and most likely be like an
>>         interlocking home signal and not have any aspect allowing a
>>         stop and proceed.
>>             Wm J Powers
>>         On 4/19/2017 6:54 AM, NW Mailing List wrote:
>>>         I believe the attached photo may show the West end of the
>>>         middle siding at Villamont (confirmation would be
>>>         appreciated).  My question concerns the East-bound signals
>>>         that are visible.  The signal for the East-bound main is
>>>         capable of displaying the RESTRICTING aspect while the one
>>>         for the West-bound main is not.  In my understanding, one
>>>         reason for the RESTRICTING aspect was to allow a train to
>>>         proceed without coming to a complete stop on  a grade where
>>>         it might have been very hard to start again.  Since this
>>>         stretch is signalled for bi-directional running, why would
>>>         the signal for the West bound main not also be capable of
>>>         showing RESTRICTING?  It seems like the grade would have
>>>         been the same for East-bound movements regardless of which
>>>         main they were using.  Any thoughts?
>>>         Thanks, Jim Cochran
>>>         Moderator:
>>>         <>
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