RAILROAD SIGNALS of the U.S.

 

RAILROAD LANTERNS

Hand Lanterns
Station Lanterns
PRR Block Limit Signal
Train (Engine and Caboose) Lanterns
Switch Lanterns
Misc Lanterns

 

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RAILROAD SIGNALS HOME


For a really good page on railroad lanterns, check out this page by Jeff Polston: http://www.jeffpolston.com/lantern.htm

A place to buy lenses from: http://www.oillampman.com/RRlenses.html#8-3/8%20GLASS


Hand Lanterns


             

         
Lanterns and parts for sale at the Gaithersburg MD Train Show 11/5/2006

Also seen at the show.... A Virginian Rwy lamp for $2500, and a Northern Central lamp for $650.... who buys these things?


Station Lanterns


   


PRR Block Limit Signal


       
The above signal was seen at the Gaithersburg train show for many years, didn't see it this year (2013), so maybe the fellow finally sold it.  It is slightly different than the one below, sent to me by ADB.  What follows below is a discussion about the signals.  I hate to pull the "when I was a kid" routine, but when I was a kid back in the late 60's-early 70's, if I had just known all the stuff I do now, I would have been burning up the tires on my old 1970 VW Bug getting pictures of all of this stuff while it was still in service.... especially in 1972 when my best friend and I went to Chicago for EMD's 50th anniversary - all those semaphores!! :-(  MANY Thanks again to ADB for the pictures and information!!!

     

It is a PRR Block Limit Signal.  They are unique to the PRR. Came into use about 1920, when the PRR put in telephone lines along a lot of the branches and closed many of the smaller Train Order Offices/Block Stations, and established at such places an "Unattended Block Station" indicated by the presence of these Block Limit Signals.  The Rule Book required that the yellow be displayed next to the track governed.

Under the PRR scheme of operation, non-signaled main tracks were operated by Time Table/Train order authority, with a Manual Block System superimposed thereon. In order to operate, a train needed both an authority (timetable schedule, or a run extra train order,) and "the block."  These Block Limit Signals divided the railroad up into blocks.  If a train running on such a branch had no indication of the condition of the condition of block on the other side of the BLS, the Conductor or Engineman went to the wayside telephone and called the operator in the tower controlling the BLS, and obtained the condition of the block ahead (occupied, permissive, or clear.)  The rule required that the operator could give one block verbally, but if a permission was given to pass a BLS further down the track, that had to go in writing.  So each phone box was supplied with pads of "K Cards" on which to record permissions to pass additional Block Limit Signals.  At some later time, the illuminated Block Limit Signal lamps were replaced with a piece of sheet metal painted red on one side, and yellow on the other.  This likely happened in Penn Central days when (a) the old signal lamps were rusting out and (b) there was a need to economize on materials and the manpower necessary to maintain things like this.

Your friend has a nice one. Most of them still surviving are badly rusted.  Mine came from Hanover, Pa, on the York, Hanover & Frederick Branch.  I had to have a tinsmith go over mine, to fix up the rust problems.

Your friend's BLS has the wrong glass on the yellow, but he shouldn't be worried about that.  The Standard Plans call for use of a "roundel," not a "lens," on the front of the "wings."  But I'm sure that as glass became broken, maintainers put in anything they could find, whether it was a roundel or a lens.  (Note: Roundels are uniform in thickness, even through they may be convex - they are not designed to do refracting of the light rays.  Lenses, on the other hand, have either prisms or stepping [concentric Fresnel rings] to refract the light rays.)  The optical system of the BLS lamps called for two clear "planocovex lenses" INSIDE the lamp and pointed toward the wings, and roundels on the outside of the wings.  There were also two mirrors set at a 45 degree angle, to light the roundels in the "wings."  Without the mirrors, there will be no light displayed on the "wings."

In the photos of my BLS, below, you will be able to see the "lens" on the main cylindrical body of the lamp, and the "roundel" on the wing.  The first picture below will show you what the roundel on the "wing" did to the appearance of the light in the "wing" side... it made it appear to be deeply set back into the signal, almost as if it were in a tunnel.

I was very fortunate to obtain my Block Limit Signal. In 1999, an old retired railroad supervisor call me up and asked me if I wanted to make him an offer on all the old railroad junk which had accumulated in his basement over the years, and this lamp was in with all the other badly rusted junk.  (Actually, the old junk was unceremoniously piled in his former coal bin!) He had taken the lamp down from the wooden post it was mounted on at Hanover, after Hurricane Agnes shut down the line in 1972.


Train (Engine and Caboose) Lanterns


 

    Does a steam engine headlamp qualify as a lantern?


Switch Lanterns


 

 


Misc Lanterns


  A bridge lantern off the Pierre and Marquette (according to the seller)

     


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New: 11/9/2006
Last Modified: 22-Nov-2013