MILEPOSTS and WHISTLE POSTS
Guest post by Richard C. Carpenter.
When we drive along the interstate highway system, we measure our progress by mile markers, which are placed just off the right shoulder of the roadway. Interstate standards require that they be measured from zero at the state line and run to the next state line—west to east and south to north.
Railroads have long had their mile markers, too. They are called mile posts. These mile posts are the geographical measure of a railroad line. Their zero mile post locations and their end points often tell us something about the history of the line. Mile posts allow train crews to determine their exact location along otherwise nondescript stretches of geography.
They are also referenced when numbering bridges, and used to define the limits of speed restrictions.
Each railroad has its own style of mile post and its own way of numbering mile posts. Several railroads use their mile posts to measure every main and branch line from one zero location. For the Southern Pacific, mile post zero is San Francisco, 3rd and Townsend Streets. In the case of the Seaboard Air Line, zero is Richmond, Virginia. The Lehigh Valley (LV) mile posts start at the ferry slip on the New York side of the Hudson River, across from their Jersey City terminal station. On the LV posts, the mile number is cut in a metal diamond at the top of a thin pipe, then painted black.
Here are some specific examples, by railroad, of mile post styles and their start and end points.
The New York Central mile posts were stone or concrete, in the shape of a headstone. Some were unpainted, with a letter or letters for the origin point (ex.: “NY” for New York City) and the mileage cast in the concrete. Others were painted white with black letters and numbers. The original main line ran between New York City and Buffalo, New York, and were measured from zero at Grand Central Terminal in New York City to mile post 439 at Buffalo. The letters “NY” stood above the mileage numerals.
In 1914, the New York Central merged the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern into its system. The Lake Shore’s mile posts started at Buffalo and ended at mile post 540 at La Salle Street Station in Chicago. The letter “B” signified the zero point at the train’s Exchange Street Station in Buffalo. Originally, the mile post mileage west of Elyria, Ohio, was via the original LSMS line through Bellevue to Millbury, Ohio. West of Air Line Junction, in Toledo, the original milepost mileage ran through Sturgis, Michigan to Elkhart, Indiana.
This resulted in a total mile post mileage of 540 miles, as indicated above. These two segments were later referred to as the “Old Road,” to distinguish them from the Sandusky main line and the “Air Line” main line, both of which were built later. Sometime after 1946, the New York Central changed the mile post numbering west of Elyria Junction, Ohio via Sandusky and via the “Air Line” west of Toledo to be from Buffalo, so as to create a unified mile post series.
This resulted in a mile post mileage 18 miles shorter a than the original LSMS mile post mileage!
The Pennsylvania Railroad used a cast metal mile post, with a sloped top facing the track, and sides angled so the the cast number on each side would be visible from both directions. The bottom was slightly wider than the top. The mile post was painted white, with the mile numbers painted black. These mileposts were cast in the foundry of the PRR system shops in Altoona, PA
The original PRR main line started with the zero milepost at Broad Street Station, Philadelphia, and ran via Harrisburg and Altoona to mile post 353 at Pittsburgh. West of Pittsburgh, the mileposts ran from zero at Pittsburgh to mile post 467, south of Union Station, Chicago.
This latter line was originally the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago, which became part of the PRR in 1869.
A post by
Don Morgan: An image below is taken from a portion of the information
placard at the Ashland, Maryland parking lot. The mileages are indicating
train stations along various portions of the Northern Central Railroad.
A display set up in Stockton NJ, photo by Gerald Oliveto, found in Google Images.
This beautiful milepost used to be in Elkridge MD, at the split between the Old Main Line and the Washington Branch of the B&O, and was from the very early days of the railroad. It disappeared sometime around 2000 or so, and it's either in someone's back yard or hidden away at the B&O Railroad museum.
Photo Copyright Intersystem Concepts, Inc. Used with permission. See http://www.trainweb.org/oldmainline or more specifically: http://www.trainweb.org/oldmainline/was1.htm#mile_markers
In Bentley along the Northern Central Rwy train, another example of a typical Pennsy milepost.
NCR Trail – White Mileage Posts
I love trains, and I love signals. I am not an expert. My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page. This is something I have fun with while trying to help others. My webpages are an attempt at putting everything I can find of the subject in one convenient place. There are plenty of other good websites to help me in this effort, and they are listed in the links section on my indexa page, or as needed on individual pages. Please do not write to me about something that may be incorrect, and then hound the heck out of me if I do not respond to you in the manner you would like. I operate on the "Golden Rule Principle", and if you are not familiar with it, please acquaint yourself with how to treat people by reading Mathew 7:12 (among others, the principle exists in almost every religion). If you contact me (like some do, hi Paul) and try to make it a "non-fun" thing and start with the name calling, your name will go into my spambox list! :-)
Please Note: Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them. For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.
If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct. Once in a while, an error may creep in, especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names. Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these locations. I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words", and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the railfan over a simple text description of the area. Since the main focus of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them. Since most of us railheads don't have just trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other significant historical or geographical feature. While some may feel they shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the 1830's!!!
My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a
thousand words, especially for railfanning. Text descriptions only
get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented. Take
along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still
better if you get lost! I belong to AAA, which allows you to get
local maps for free when you visit the local branches. ADC puts
out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their
state maps do not have the railroads on them. If you can find em,
I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and
concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where
tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.
Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.
By the way, floobydust is a term I picked up 30-40 years ago from a National Semiconductor data book, and means miscellaneous and/or other stuff.
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Last Modified 02-Aug-2015