RAILROAD SIGNALS of the U.S.
and Collecting Advice
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RAILROAD SIGNALS HOME
Unfortunately, I did not start collecting signals until about 12 years ago (~2000). What a shame! Many signals have passed me by because of this. I am not as active as others who collect signals, oh well......
Where have I gotten my signals from? Good question.
Dealers. There are a number of dealers who deal almost exclusively with railroad signals. I like dealing with this fellow named Brian out of Ohio. Brian is always at the Gaithersburg (MD) Train Show in November, and I have bought something from him almost every year for the last five years. I understand that because of the business he is in, he has (probably) the largest private collection around.
Private sales. There are many, many people selling signals, some reputable, some not. There is no way to know if the guy is selling in "onesy's" or "twosy's". The best advice I can give here is buyer beware (I know, it's not really that good of advice), for if the signals are illegally obtained by the person you are buying from, someone might come knocking at your door! Worse yet, you may wind up in trouble for receiving stolen goods.
The Railroads. Most railroads are funny about selling signals. I guess the paperwork isn't worth the trouble for most of them, so it is cheaper and easier just to give the stuff to scrap dealers. On rare occasions, railroads like CSX, sell their wares. A few years ago (~2003/4?), CSX had an auction for semaphores it removed off the Monon in Indiana. CORP in Oregon has a waiting list for the semaphores they are in the process of replacing. I understand (and the info may be incorrect) that the SIRT in New York has a list going for their B&O CPL's they are replacing. I have tried going to the CSX superintendent in charge of signals here in Baltimore (at their Hollins Ferry Rd offices), and I got the dribble that they send them down to Savannah for refurb, but at some point, with less and less in the field, there has to come a point at which they have to start scrapping them cause they just have toooo many! If anyone lives near Savannah, you might try to find out where this shop is and approach them directly. Signal maintainers are another source I hear, but they have to unofficially tell you where they are "on the ground", and you go after them at your own risk. I had a signal guy in Charlottesville VA years ago tell me about some on the ground about a half a mile from the station, but I never did find them
EBay. EBay can be a good source of signals, and signals parts and accessories. However. The same warning applies to EBay sales as does the warning for private sales, after all, most people selling their stuff on EBay are individuals. Since there are more of US around collecting signals these days, and we all know about EBay, prices are somewhat higher than they were years ago. A lot of times, you will get someone who thinks his signal is worth a lot more than it is really worth. For instance, there was one fellow who had an "as-is" 3 color light signal with a starting bid of $1500, stating that it came from a particular station in Virginia. He had no picture of the signal. The signal did not sell the first time he had it listed. I emailed him, FYI, and told him he needed to have a decent picture on the listing if he was even thinking of getting it sold, and then I told him the only person who would be willing to cut loose with that kind of cash for a color light signal (unrefurbished) is someone who is A) into collecting signals, and B) grew up next to the station. He dropped the starting price to $800 the second time around, but it still didn't sell. Also, in listening to the postings on the Railway Signaling group, there was a bloke who had some lenses for sale last year, and people sent them money but never received the lenses....so you have to be careful, and pay attention to how long the seller has been on EBay, and check out the feedback.....even with all these precautions, it still doesn't guarantee anything.
Museums. Once in a great while, you may find a museum that is thinning out their collection. Museums like Orange Empire and the Illinois Railway Museum probably get more signals than they know what to do with. Even down at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, we have some old streetcar signals (not enough to give away tho). I picked up my Wig-Wag from one such museum in western Wisconsin around 2001. The only hitch was that I had to drive out there from Baltimore to pick it up. It's lucky I got to charge the trip off to business, for I was on the way out to Minneapolis.
Stealing. Not an option you really want to try! The penalties are severe if you get caught.
A B&O CPL (no markers) I got at the Gaithersburg Train ~2007 from a private seller. Refurbed by the seller. $600
Still on the ground as I just got it home and off the truck, is a US&S TP-5 tri-light signal. I got this one from Brian Mahrer, and altho it never had hoods on it, he gave me two to put on - I guess I'll have to fabricate the third one. The holes match, so I guess they are US&S hoods. Not refurbed when bought. $200
A straight on shot of my US&S H-5 searchlight signal. I picked this one up from Brian in 2002 for $225. Not refurbed when bought.
A shot of my wig-wag. I purchased this off EBay ~2001 for $750 plus 50 bucks for storage till I could get out there to pick it up. Runs great. I use a hefty battery charger to run the thing, and my neighbor hates it when the bell goes off. It is off the CNW, probably from the western Wisconsin area.
US&S drawing for the subway signal
This signal from the New York City Subway System was sold by an individual at 2009's Gaithersburg MD show for $175. It was originally a two head signal, as they just used a hacksaw to cut the pipe on top of this one to get the other one off. It operates off of 120VAC, and all positions use two bulbs in case one burns out. The "REP3" indicates that this signal was a repeater, most likely located in advance of the "4La" signal around a curve. I used to love the heck out of riding the subways all day long as a kid and watching these things change!
If you look hard, you can see the Light Rail tracks and a catenary support pole thru the trees.
Last Modified 08-Jan-2014