Railway Preservation News

Signal Companies of old
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Author:  kevin kohls [ Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Signal Companies of old

As a signal collector for over forty years I have sought out the rare and obscure signal companies of old. Two that come to mind are : The Hall Switch and Signal Company (Banjo signals and inventor of the Searchlight signal) and GE (yes, the light bulb company that is still with us). Hall went out of business in 1925 and was bought out by US&S; and GE sold out or quit it's Signal Line in the late teens.
Here is what I wish to know: Some RR's like the B&O and CGW had GE semaphore signals. Does one still exist ? I have never seen one.
Hall Switch and Signal Co. also built semaphore signals, but also made Tower Indicators and Motor Car Indicators; I have yet to see one of their Motor Car Indicators in the flesh.
Has anyone else ????

Thanks in advance !

Kevin K

Author:  Les Beckman [ Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Signal Companies of old

Kevin -

We have a motor car indicator at our museum, but I have to admit I don't know who made it. I'll check it out the next time I am there. I wonder how many of these things still survive?


Author:  kevin kohls [ Tue Dec 04, 2012 1:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Signal Companies of old

That Indicator if I remember is from the ERIE RR and was mounted onto a stand with a Key Box. It was made by US&S and was actually used as a Semaphore Switch Indicator in CTC territory. You would put a switch key in the box opening and turn it, a signal was sent to the Dispatcher, and if the route was clear and lined up for your train to enter the Main a CLEAR position would be given. Those were pretty rare on the old ERIE.
A few RR's that had the Hall Switch and Signal CO. Indicators were the LS&MS, CCC&St.L, LV.

Thanks all ; keep digging !

Kevin K.

Author:  greenwichlirr [ Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Signal Companies of old

There are still plenty of Hall remnants up here along the D&H Champlain division to be seen, although there is obviously much less than there used to be. We're mostly talking 1 and two-tier relay cases which originally hosted semaphore masts but were later cut down and given SA mechs.

Another long lost company is Brach. I have this odd little lighting sequencer made by Brach which runs on a motor and seems to be something of a "chasing" sequence mechanisim. very cool, very old, and fully functional, although I have yet to figure out where in the field it would have been used for. There doesn;t seem to be much literature on the comapny anywhere that I have found, so it remains a mystery.

Author:  kevin kohls [ Wed Dec 05, 2012 1:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Signal Companies of old

Thanks for the information about Hall Signals on the old D&H. I can tell you what that Brach device is that you have :

It was made for the Boston & Maine's DW style Wig Wag signals that were built by US&S. Your guess as to it's function is correct; it fired off a series of CHASE LIGHTS that were mounted in sets of twelve, six on one side and six on the other. What is really interesting is that some of the CHASE LIGHTS were made by Brach, and some by Dressel !
Check out the B&M style DW wig wag at Conway Scenic RR.

Kevin K

Author:  greenwichlirr [ Wed Dec 05, 2012 7:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Signal Companies of old

I always imagined that the lights at North Conway on the old wigwag were indeed the type of lights that this thing would have lit, but those lights seem to be connected to some kind of contacts on the banner itself, as the lights are in unison to the motion of the swinging banner.

Were there different wiring styles with the different light manufacturers?

Author:  greenwichlirr [ Wed Sep 07, 2016 6:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Signal Companies of old

Bringing this back to life after a few years as I finally got around awhile ago to take pics of the sequencer unit that I had originally mentioned. I ended up finding what I believe is the patent for the full original installation and I figured that others here would find it of interest.

The patent:


10847356_10206302195012509_2429067980987790985_o.jpg [ 261.37 KiB | Viewed 1925 times ]
10269118_10206302190892406_3339889812713143829_o.jpg [ 284.38 KiB | Viewed 1925 times ]
1556364_10206302196012534_8164594257806749483_o.jpg [ 209.04 KiB | Viewed 1925 times ]

Author:  JTKovach [ Wed Sep 07, 2016 9:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Signal Companies of old

“The Switch” and Pneumatic Signal

I’m not sure GE sold out to another company, per se. Here’s what I know - kindly correct me as needed.

George Westinghouse was the man behind Union Switch; although an associate, C H Jackson, apparently did most the work. Westinghouse recognized electric power could control air pump and reservoir if placed near a switch or signal, providing many advantages to strong arm levels.

Westinghouse and an associate were elected directors of Robinson’s The Union Electric Signal Company in February 1891 – Dr. Robinson invented / tested the track circle in 1872 on the Philadelphia and Erie RR outside Kinzua, PA. Westinghouse purchased 10,000 of the company’s 18,000+ shares of stock and moved operation from Boston to Pittsburgh.

Patents and stock associated with the Union Electric Signal Company and the Interlocking Switch & Signal Company – another early company based in Harrisburg PA - were merged to form The Union Switch and Signal Company in May, 1891. The company was chartered on November 11, 1892. The letters T U S & S were casted into company products until 1906, when fire destroyed the foundry. Okay, ‘nough history.

So, if you see “T U S & S” on a relay case door along your R-O-W or in the yard, you have a decent piece of history.

But you’re right … early equipment is like dinosaur teeth and recognizing the connections is even more work.

Last year I found two semaphore lamps at local auction, one back stamped US&S Co with lens marked T U S & S – Kopp. Got my attention – that and Kopp glass was right down the track from the Switch. The other lamp was back stamped Pneumatic Signal Co, which I didn’t know about. Thankfully, I won both. 

It turns out, Pneumatic Signal (Rochester), Taylor Signal (Buffalo), and Standard Railroad Signal (Arlington, NJ) merged to form General Railway Signal in 1904, making that lamp at least 112 years old.

It’s a neat area to work, study, and preserve – thanks for starting the conversation.

Jim K

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