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DL&W Signal Discussions

These are some of the discussions I have come across during my search for DL&W signal information, I don't know the particulars for the DL&W, so I can not vouch for the authenticity of the information these guys are talking about, but nevertheless, it is interesting reading.... Todd (Edited for grammar and punctuation)

From a thread in July of 2002.....

Opposed pairs of three-light signals were used exclusively on the single-track Gladstone Branch prior to re-electrification and installation of TCS. The system was designated as an "Absolute and Permissive Block System".  Signals at the "far" end of passing sidings were "Absolute", and were designated by a number board below the target. A Stop indication (red) on one of these signals could not be passed except on written order. (This necessitated the location of telephone boxes at the ends of sidings.)   On all other signals, at the "near" end of a siding or between sidings, a red light indicated "stop and proceed at restricted speed." In this case restricted speed would be slow enough to stop short of any obstruction ahead.   In addition, each manned station (except Gladstone) had a roof-mounted "order board" semaphore signal which could be manually set by the agent/operator, indicating that written orders were to be picked up. These dated back to the railroad's original construction, but remained for emergency use as long as there were agents who could copy orders!  Kent Loudon

Kent, has most of this correct, but I would like to point out a few technicalities related to the Stop signals, and Stop and Proceed signals encountered at the passing sidings.  The APB (Absolute Permissive Block), that was used on the P&D, ( Gladstone Line) was unique.  It gave a clear block to any train, in any direction, at any time, until one train encountered another.  Then the three block system, CLEAR, APPROACH, and STOP AND PROCEED, indications would go into effect.   I was fortunate to have worked on the line with some great Conductors and Engineers who would make a science of meets. By watching when the opposing train set the yellow either on the signal one block before the meet, approaching the meet, or at the far end of the passing siding, would determine if you backed in, (NOT COPASETIC BY THE RULE BOOK), or you pulled in.  They would have this down to within seconds on which way to proceed.  This was calculating down to within 30 seconds exactly how long it would
take to reach the siding, and the time you would need to make all the necessary moves at the siding.  This is when everybody's watch better be correct to the exact second and everything was a hand thrown switch.  You better know exactly what your assignment was at each end of the siding, in what order things were to be done, where to stand to give a good hand signal, and where to go after you closed up, etc, etc.  One of the most read pages in the entire employees time table was the page dealing with rights of opposing trains, and especially on the P&D.  I remember sitting with crews in the mornings just after going on duty.  One member would have a small pocket radio tuned to WOR on the AM dial. Ever ten minutes or so they would say the time is, (example) 5:40am riiiiiiiighttttttttttttt, and six guys would say NOW in unison. An if you were out of unison, you made sure you took that into account for that the rest of the day, or got your watch set correctly.  You got a stop and proceed signal, which had a number board, entering the passing sidings if the opposing train was already in the RED.  This was simply a, toot toot, and way you went at restricted speed.  No need to talk to anyone at Stop and Proceeds.  You got a Stop signal, which had no number board, at the other end of the siding, until the opposing train was by you.  At the Stop signal, where the term Absolute came from, you did not leave without  permission, and a clearance form B.  Without the Clearance form B, if you couldn't reach the dispatcher, a flagman was supposed to proceed the move on the ground to the next block signal. Permission was received at the phone box like Kent said, but 98% of the time you talked directly to the Dispatcher, not the agent/operator.  You might try the short line if the Dispatcher was not coming on the open line, and then the agent would intervene on your behalf.  Maybe by the bell phone, if the Block Line was out further east.  A little trick you learned when taking promotion in order to remember the open Train Order offices was the saying, Mothers Milk Better By Far.   > Mothers Murray Hill   > Milk Millington   > Better Basking Ridge   > By Bernardsville   > Far Far Hills   This was to remember the Train Order Offices.  NOT the passing sidings.  Not every train order office was at a passing siding, and not every siding was at a train order office.  Passing Sidings were at Murray Hill, Berkley Heights, Sterling,  Millington, Lyons siding, Bernardsville, and Far Hills.  These sidings were the only place you could find a stop signal other than leaving Gladstone, ( first signal) and Summit entering and leaving the Branch.  I don't know, but it seems to me that when the siding were made remote control, and later when the Branch was CTCed this may have been the last place in the country where this type of operation was layed out everyday, especially on the scale that it was?  It was the last old time Railroading, at least around here.  Maybe in Canada or Mexico there is still such a branch, or line, but I'm sure it doesn't have the sheer number of trains the P&D did.  Does anyone know of any passenger, hand operated, time table authority, meets anywhere in North America?  Bob Bahrs

From a thread on www.railroad.net dated September 2004

The cover photo of the current CLASSIC TRAINS clearly shows a westbound signal 151.3.  This is a lower quadrant semaphore with two arms.  The upper 'A' arm has three roundels but the top two are both red and would display a red aspect as a night indication in both the horizontal and upper positions of the blade. The lower 'B' arm has three roundels but the top two are yellow and would display a yellow aspect as a night indication when the blade is both horizontal and in the upper position.  It seems inconsistent from a rule standpoint that two positions of the semaphore blades would display three aspects when seen by day and only two when seen by night.  Additionally each blade is different in that the 'A' arm is red and pointed end & the 'B' arm is yellow and forked.  Anyone with access to DL rules from this period that can explain the names of these semaphore aspects & the indications derived from these aspects?   urrenger2003

Well here is a link to a DL&W Rule Book dated April 27, 1952 about 11 months after the photo on the cover of classic trains was taken. It doesn't appear to shed any light on the matter as all I see are two position automatics. not three. Checking the only EL Rule Book I have handy gives the same general info as the 1952 book.   Cactus Jack  (The link was bad... Todd)

Perhaps this will help:  http://raildata.railfan.net/dlw/dlw_sig.html  (We all have to thank Henry Sundermeyer for the chart!)

The lower quadrant semaphore signals on the DL&W and most other eastern railroads used two positions for each arm.  The purpose of the two red roundels in the top arm and the two yellow roundels in the bottom arm were to cause the signal to display the more restrictive aspect while the arm was in motion, or not fully lowered to the less restrictive position.  The top arm, being red with a pointed end, was the home signal portion of a two-arm automatic signal, indicating the condition of the block immediately in advance of the signal. It was controlled by the H (Home) relay, which was in turn controlled by all of the track relays and switch circuit controllers in that block.  The lower arm, being yellow with a forked end, was the distant signal portion of a two-arm automatic signal. It was controlled by the D (Distant) relay, which was in turn controlled by contacts on the H relay at the next signal in advance and the H relay at the immediate signal, mentioned above.  The distant signal governed the approach to the next signal in advance.  When the block immediately in advance of this signal was occupied or otherwise not clear, the top arm was horizontal, as was the lower arm, account of its control by the same H relay. When the block immediately in advance was clear and the next block in advance was occupied, the top arm was diagonal below horizontal, and the lower arm was horizontal, its D relay being de-energized by the next H relay in advance.  When both blocks were clear, both the H and D relays were energized, and both arms were diagonal below horizontal.  So that signal with its two arms could display aspects conveying three indications - "Clear," Green over Green, "Approach," Green over Yellow, and "Stop and Proceed," Red over Yellow.  If it were an absolute signal that could display a "Stop" indication, the top arm would have a red square end blade, and there would be no number plate on the mast.  At some locations where blocks were considerably longer than the maximum stopping distance, home and distant signals were at different locations. The single-arm home signal (red arm) governed the entrance to the block, and the single-arm distant signal (yellow arm) somewhere in the block governed the approach to the next signal in advance.  By the way, the three-position upper-quadrant semaphores on the Erie used yellow blades west of Port Jervis, and red reflectorized blades on the New Jersey and New York RR. In the 1964 EL Book of Rules the colors of the blades were not significant, but the shapes of the ends were.   Gordon Davis

From a blog on the Erie-Lackawanna list dated March 2008

I remember being at Suffern on a Saturday in the late 1980's/early 1990's when they were rearranging one of the tracks just east of SF Tower (I think this was when one/two tracks was being removed from service out of the original 4) and there were a couple of w/b semaphore dwarfs there just east of the tower - After photographing them, I remember asking the foreman about getting one, but he said they were "destined for a new home" (I'm assuming in some foreman's basement...).  I've never seen them anywhere else outside of Chicago of some other roads, and to my knowledge, no where else on the Erie...  Rich Behrendt

The DL&W, being a highly developed, innovative and progressive railroad, used lower quadrant semaphore signals, unlike that other railroad the Erie.  The lower quadrant signals were only two position, with red and green lenses.  The third hole was typically blanked out or had another red lens placed in it.   The signal is an absolute signal, indicated by the square ends of the blades.  Pointed or fishtail ends would indicate a permissive signal.  In this particular location, perhaps the second large signal on the mast is to give a more specific aspect regarding the Pennsy diamond.  But of course, that is mere speculation on my part.  The dwarf semaphore signal is very interesting.  I think that the purpose of this might be, as someone else on the list speculated, a telephone train order signal.  When the signal displays stop, as in the photo, the train must stop and the conductor call in to the dispatcher to copy new orders.  Very interesting.  Anyone on the list know if that was, in fact, the application here?  Anyone know of any other locations on the DL&W where this dwarf signal was placed with a T-box for such a purpose?  I know that dwarf semaphores were used within terminals, but I've never seen it out on the road like that.  Tom Schmieder

I didn't have much time to look at this before, but I agree that the circle is a telephone symbol.  The crossbar of the "T" is pretty thin, and therefore faint.  But, these are lower quadrant signals, interesting in itself. But even more, the (presumably) green lens in the upper signal's spectacle is . . . missing?  Clear?  And in the lower signal's spectacle,> two are blanked? So it would only be able to display red/stop?   Plus the dwarf. Interesting signal.  SGL

To all DL&W Signal Specialists:  Attached is a photo of a DL&W signal on the Buffalo City Line. Henry yesterday helped me ID this location.  In the distance is DM Tower, where the Pennsy crosses the DL&W at grade.  We are looking west on the DL&W.  The bridge is the LV's line to their downtown depot on Main St in Buffalo.  I believe the photo is from the early/mid 50's.  The photographer is unknown, although I believe it is a Dick Ganger photo.  My questions are:  What does the dwarf semaphore blade at the bottom represent? What is the function of the round meter (clock?) on the signal?
Ron Dukarm......  A guess from out in left field - A telephone train order signal? The phone in the box with the circled "T"?  Joe K.>

And this is the signal they ware talking about (gotta love the internet, pictures like this really make you miss the old days :-) (credit for posting the picture goes to Ron):
The picture is still on the internet at: http://lists.railfan.net/erielackphoto.cgi?erielack-03-02-08/lv_signal_buffalo.jpg  Great picture, BTW!

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Last Updated: 12/15/2016