LIRR Signal History

Patchogue Signal History
LIRR Signal Photos                                 

Signals just south of Skillman Ave. at the Montauk Cutoff turnout view N. toward City Storage Bldg.

Train Order (T.O.) Signals

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Standard T.O. Signal Aspects annulled via General Order #31  09/19/1939 Archive: Art Huneke

This was the format for a block office to advise a train crew during day or night hours of operation that the operator had a train order for them to pick up. 

The yellow designated a Form 19 order which was caught on the fly and the red designated a Form 31 order, meaning the train had to stop and the Conductor and Engineer had to sign the bottom showing receipt of said order.

What's interesting is that the LIRR stopped using Form 31 orders around 1926 yet the official order to annul their use and their respective signalling appears to have not been done until 1939!  Info:  Courtesy of Dave Keller

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Central Islip Station c.1885 Train Order Signal (T.O.) Archive: Dave Keller  

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Central Islip Station - Agent Frank Kelly c.1910 Train Order Signal has been removed, but the T.O. box is not yet installed. Archive: Dave Keller

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Form 31 09/06/1909 
Archive: Art Huneke
It must've been some Labor D
ay weekend out east back in 1909 as this Form 31 train order indicates.  Four locomotives are going to be pulling FOUR sections of train #23 west to handle all the crowds.  As the Form 31 train order had to be signed for by both engineer and conductor, you'll notice that there are two sets of signatures on this specific order . . . .conductor Phillips and engineer Murray of the 1st section of train #23 and conductor Ohn and engineer Sylvester Doxsey of the 2nd section of train #23.  Both were countersigned by block operator Schmidt.  No idea why the C and E of the other two sections did not sign, but they will definitely have to sign once they arrive at "PG" ( Patchogue block office as "PD" tower [1912] was not yet constructed). Info: Dave Keller

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Block Operator Norman Mason Central Islip Station c.1928 The stenciled date on the top portion of the window frame of the ticket bay shows that the depot was last painted in November, 1925 as painters would stencil the last date of painting; the same on bridges. Archive/Info:  Dave Keller  

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The banner or order boards were hung in this box during daytime hours and the lanterns for night operations or foggy, stormy conditions.

 

Semaphore Signals
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Bedford Junction 06/14/1879 The Long Island Rail Road's first interlocking plant and tower were installed on Atlantic Avenue just west of Franklin Avenue. Rather than having the home signal's aspects indicate the position of switches after being displayed for trains, there were separate semaphore switch signals and color home signals. Archive: Art Huneke LIRR Book of Rules (special Time Table) Atlantic Division 15-G 06/20/1880 Archive: Art Huneke
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Mineola Station Cutoff to Hempstead Branch c.1890 Archive/Info: Dave Keller

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East Moriches semaphore view SW 1959 Photo: Art Huneke

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Emery map East Moriches MP67-68 5/1958 semaphore location: Archive: Dave Keller

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Tower #45: 2 c.1905 Brick tower in service 1890, south of mainline east end of wooden station platform; E of Mineola Blvd. Renamed "MT" 1907 Archive/Info: Dave Keller

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Semaphore no.154 last 
automatic signal PARK Tower 
Photo: Art Huneke

 

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PD Tower 03/18/1930 (James V. Osborne - Dave Keller)

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PARK Tower at Floral Park semaphore -PL Signals view SW 10/12/51 (Faxon-Keller)

H16-44_1501_semaphore_east-of-Smithtown_summer-1962_MP48.5_viewE_Huneke_gone-9-18-63.jpg (199579 bytes)LIRR H16-44 #1501 westbound train east of Smithtown. One of the last semaphore signals standing Summer 1962 Archive: Art Huneke

Signals were located between MP 48-49, just west of the 25A bridge.  The semaphore signal was a DS & SI*, located on the north side of the tracks and new in 1937.  The shorter DSWI**, south of the tracks, was new in 1950.  According to an Emery note penciled in at a later date, the semaphore signal was removed on 9/18/63.  *Distant Switch and Signal Indicator. **DSWI is Distant Switch Indicator

Distant switch indicators (DSWI) let the engineer know that there's a switch approaching and whether it's set with him or against him, so he can prepare to stop if need be.

Distant signal indicators (DSI) let the engineer know that there's a signal ahead.

Distant switch and signal indicators (DS & SI) would let the engineer know that there's both a signal approaching and a switch.

In this case, the smaller, eastbound DSI is advising that the switch to the passing siding at 
St. James is approaching. The eastbound DS & SI semaphore signal is advising that the switch to the passing siding at Smithtown is approaching as well as the "ST" block signals at the station. Info: Dave Keller

Position Light Signals 
The Pennsylvania Railroad started experimenting with a radically new signal design in 1915.  This signal consisted of rows of yellow lights, in an attempt to simulate the position nature of semaphore signals. The decision to find a new signal followed the start of electrification in 1913, once they found it was difficult to see semaphores thru the catenary wires.
First use of position light signals in lieu of semaphore signals on a LIRR branch was at automatic block signal R143 on track 2 east of Hammel, Rockaway Beach branch. G.O. #109-11. Eff:5/15/29 in ETT #109, Eff: 10/17/28 Info: Dave Keller

 

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PD Tower 5/1943 Fred Weber photo.
 Dave Keller archive

 

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PD Tower c. late 1970's as Train Order Signal added after renovation 1971. 
Photo: Chris Allen
Rule 290 RESTRICTED signal indication means to proceed at Restricted Speed prepared to stop short of train, obstruction or switch not properly lined and looking out for broken rail, not exceeding 15 MPH.

A signal's background helps provide contrast so that an engineman can discern the signal from other lights at speed and at a
distance. A position light is large and hence the backgrounds are big, heavy, and cost money.

For the most part, the bottom units/bottom heads (PRR term: bottom arm) of position light signals (also termed: lower head with a partial or cut-off background) were only viewed by trains traveling at slow speed, hence the signal indication could be easily discerned without a background. 

This is the case illustrated here in this PRR signal standard diagram: PRR Signal Standards S-400-E and as seen above.

Aspects 3 and 5 in the diagram ("Slow Approach" and "Restricting", respectively) would both be approached at a reduced speed indication on the previous signal.  However, aspects 6 and 8 ("Medium Clear" and "Approach Medium", respectively), would be approached at between 30 mph and track speed. Hence, Note 3 in the diagram requires the partial background (part number 4012) behind the vertical lights that would be displayed as part of this aspect. This is why the signals have the background for the vertical lights, but not the diagonals.

Over time, this morphed. A bunch of aspects were added to the fairly straightforward original system, among them flashing indications for limited speed, and the diagonal over diagonal "Approach Slow". The standards for backgrounds morphed along with these, and you'll see these encompassed in the later standards diagram at: PRR Signal Standards S-400-G 

This document shows the new "mostly full" lower background (part number 4013) that was introduced along the way as these new aspects came into play.

Once the PRR Paoli Line experiment of using a detached backing was abandoned the setup involved only the Approach Medium Speed (Rule 282) vertical getting a backing because the Approach Slow (Rule 284) and Restricting (Rule 290) positions on the lower head would only be approached at slow speeds, therefore the PRR decided that crews had ample time to sight the unbacked positions.  Full lower backings (unverified) came about after Medium Approach (Rule 283a) was adopted in 1956 resulting in higher speeds approaching a lit lower right hand diagonal "flashing" signal.

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Information on the backgrounds may come from an A.H. Rudd article in the July 1921 issue of Railway Signal Engineer.  There he indicates that a background was only applied to the vertical row of lights in the lower arm since those aspects are approached at speed (Approach Medium and Medium Clear, using their current names).  The diagonal and single marker slow speed aspects (Slow Approach, Restricting, and Stop and Proceed, using their current names) did not need a background since long range sighting was unnecessary.  The reduced size of the background and wind pressure area allowed the use of standard sized signal masts (weight and wind were issues with the early four-light position signals on masts).

With the introduction of Approach Slow in the late 1940's and Medium Approach in 1955 and 1956, there were lower arm aspects that would be approached at higher speeds.  I suspect this was the driving force behind full backgrounds for the lower arm.  I have no specific references, but it does seem that those full backgrounds seemed to become much more common starting in the later 1950's.  Info: Dave Morrison

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PD Tower 11/05/2000
Photo: Chris Allen
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PD Tower 4/29/2006
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PD Tower Signal  c. 8/2006
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Smashboard and eastbound Signal #006 view SE at Dutch Kills swing bridge 06/1981 Photo: S. Goldstein
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 LIRR shortest block? Ocean Ave, Patchogue view W 4/29/2006
Photo: Paul Strubeck
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Cover of the Long Island Railroader April 1953 monthly magazine showing a training class on signals for the engineers. Notice on the left you have a high and dwarf PL signal and on the right a pedestal signal. 
Brief PRR Position Light Signal History
1840ís The semaphore was patented by John James Stevens.
1871 - Pennsylvania RR absorbs the Camden & Amboy, and block signal installation was completed between Jersey City and Philadelphia.
1882 - The Pennsy installs its first electro-pneumatic lower quadrant semaphores. 
1884 - The Pennsy is the first to install an automatic block network utilizing electro-pneumatic lower quadrant semaphores between East Liberty and Wilkensburg PA - by the end of 1884, 65 were in service. 
1906 - The first of the three aspect upper quadrant semaphores was installed on the Pennsylvania RR between W Philadelphia and Elwyn PA. 
1906-1908 - Research by Corning into lenses and colors, and they came up with the current green-yellow-red, replacing white-green-red.
1913 - The Pennsylvania RR starts electrification.
1914 - Perfection of a concentrated-filament lamp to provide color light signals a satisfactory sighting distance.
1918 - The PRR simplifies the design of their PL signals, eliminating one of the four "heads" for each aspect.
1921 - Pennsy's PL's started taking the shape and configuration were are accustomed to today.