N&W Color Light Dwarf Signal

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon Sep 3 08:46:33 EDT 2018

Attached is a photo I had to dust off this morning.  It may be of

This is the first signal I ever acquired.  One night about 45 years ago, I
was coming into Roanoke on the rear end of a night freight off the Punkin'
Vine (probably No. 50) and saw this little signal shoved aside into a pile
of bulldozed dirt, ballast stones and splintered cross ties. Some track
changes had been made on the Eastbound and Westbound Running tracks at
about 18th Street, West Roanoke, and this little guy was part of the
"collateral damage." It was a tight fit, but she went home with me in the
VW Bug.

The signal is a home-brew job, no doubt made up in the Huff Mill signal
shop in the mid-1940s, and consists of nothing more than two PL-2 lamp
boxes turned upside town and fitted with 3" visors.  On the back there was
originally a small cast iron box w/ door, containing a 110:10v step down
transformer.  That was just "too much sugar for a cent," and it came off
when "our forces" repainted the signal and set her up on a foundation.

The signal governed eastward movement on the Eastbound Running Track and
protected a hand crossover between the two running tracks somewhere around
16th St. If the crossover switches were reversed, this signal showed Red
for eastward movements on the Running Track, which was pretty heavily used
by light engines moving from the Shaffers Crossing Round House to the east
end of the yard. Notice that the lenses are proper for the PL-2 optical

The signal was an anomaly: it was neither a home signal nor an automatic,
and it was not even mentioned in the Time Table Special Instructions (very
typical for the N&W !)  One of those situations where everyone just "kinda
knew" what was going on... more or less, with a lot of guess work. It was
the only use of a color light signal I recall seeing anywhere in my 15
years of train service on four Divisions of the N&W.  (There may have been
a commensurate signal on the Westbound Running Track, east of the
crossovers... I just don't recall. But some of those really, really old
geezers from the1800s, like Jerome Sandermann, might remember.)  Since she
came from around 18th St, she now carries the name "Signal 18" in my scheme
of things here in Signal Wonderland in the Great State of Delusional Living.

Oh, by the way, aspect lighting of Signal 18 is now controlled by two old
AC Vane relays, named the 10HS and the 10 HSM.  Will attach a photo of
those, too.  The N&W had a lot of AC Vanes back in the very old days of AC
track circuits.  The 18HS relay came from TuscanRed.com, and the 18HSM did
its service to its country on the Reading RR's Reading Belt Line at
Gibraltar, Pa, in AC track circuit territory.  If you ever need advice
(mainly crocodile tears) on setting up a two-element Vane like the 10HSM,
apply to the undersigned, as they are finickey things indeed, and I have
made all the mistakes.

(In case you are wondering, the "bootleg" appearing between the two signal
foundations, isn't connected to anything.  It's just there for aesthetic
value, and the two pieces of Bondstrand track wire attached to the top
bolts just go down into the dirt.  Its original provenance was West Milton,
Pa, on the Reading's Shamokin Sunbury & Lewisburg Branch of the
Williamsport & Catawissa Division.)

-- abram burnett,

deputy assistant amateur student signal helper in training, junior grade

                  Sent to You from my Telegraph Key
Successor to the MAGNETIC TELEGRAPH LINE of 1844

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