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Trackside Signs

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Trackside Signs
Posted by Ian R. on Sunday, August 23, 2020 4:08 PM

How does one know which trackside signs (not signals) to use (for what purposes) and where they would go on a layout when many prototype signs consist only of a letter, number or a symbol of one kind or another and no wording?

My GN freight layout, c. 1945-1955, is a small 5' x 7' with a double reverse loop, five track crossings by road, a wayside siding and two freight depot sidings, so there would be a need for only a modicum of signage along its short route. 

I already have crossbucks where the roads cross the tracks.  What other non-operational signs would be appropriate and practical for the GN line in my era?  Color photos with interpretations (uses) would be most helpful.

Thanks!   

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Posted by oldline1 on Sunday, August 23, 2020 4:20 PM

Ian,

Best bet would be to contact the GN Historical Society for specific answers for your GN layout but generally railroads used similar, if not identical, signs for things.

There were signs for yard limits, approaching a station coul be just a single "S" and a crossing could be denoted as a single "W". The Southern Ry used a sign like a vertical paddle painted with stripes and a dot to show the long, long, short, long crossing signal. Others were "SS" for spring switch and numerous others. I'm sure google will answer in more detain but you really need to check the GNHS

http://www.gnrhs.org/

for accurate info.

oldline1

 

 

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Posted by Ian R. on Sunday, August 23, 2020 7:13 PM

oldline1

Ian,

Best bet would be to contact the GN Historical Society for specific answers for your GN layout but generally railroads used similar, if not identical, signs for things.

There were signs for yard limits, approaching a station coul be just a single "S" and a crossing could be denoted as a single "W". The Southern Ry used a sign like a vertical paddle painted with stripes and a dot to show the long, long, short, long crossing signal. Others were "SS" for spring switch and numerous others. I'm sure google will answer in more detain but you really need to check the GNHS

http://www.gnrhs.org/

for accurate info.

oldline1

[quote user="oldline1"]

Oldline1,

Thanks for the examples. 

I contacted a GNRHS officer last week.  His only reply was to join a Yahoo group forum, not exactly what I'm looking for. 

I may dig a little deeper on the site, however, but having thoroughly screened it for other information a couple of years ago, I doubt it has what I need.

 

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, August 23, 2020 9:02 PM

The style and/or colours of the signs will vary from one railroad to the next, but here are a few examples on my freelanced roads.

This is a sign alerting the operator in a plow, flanger, or spreader to obstacles ahead, indicating that, where applicable, the wing plow on the left should be retracted and the flanger lifted for two obstructions...

...as the bridge ahead has fire barrel platforms on the left side of the tracks, and guard rails between the running rails.

This sign is similar, but with wing plows retracted due to the tunnel ahead, and flanger blades lifted due to guard rails on a bridge just beyond the far end of the tunnel.  The two stripes on each indicate that there are two distinct obstructions of each...

This sign will appear after restrictions have been passed...

...the "C" indicating that the restrictions have been cleared

This is a speed limit sign, the RS indicating Resume Speed, while the upper figure applies to passenger trains, the lower one for freights...

This sign alerts the train crew of a restriction ahead, which will be shown in the rule book (I probably should have included a mile-post number on the post, too, or a reference number to the rule book).  Experienced crews will generally know what the restriction is anyways...

This is also a restriction sign, but one that's used on privately-owned industrial tracks, usually indicating clearance issues.  It will also be covered in the rule book.

...in this case, not only are there obvious issues with side clearance, but there are overhead clearance issues, too, so locomotives cannot enter.  The usual practice is to use idler cars when spotting or picking-up cars, especially if they're deep into the building.

This one is not prototypical, as it's only function is to indicate where there's an uncoupling magnet.  In this case the magnet is easily viewable, as it's installed between the rails....

...but most of the other ones on the layout are buried beneath the ties.  This is a fairly subtle way to mark their location.  I also use them in my unsceniced staging yards, and where there are multiple tracks, each with an uncoupling magnet between the rails, and in-line with one another, the post will have multiple stripes indication that there are multiple tracks with magnets at the same point.

Wayne

 

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Posted by dknelson on Monday, August 24, 2020 11:15 AM

I am a little disappointed in the response of the GN historical society. I suspect they have resources in their archives that do answer these questions to some extent.  Having said that I know the CNW Historical Society's archives have been hampered by stay at home and other restrictive orders (or just precautions that are self imposed) during the pandemic and perhaps that prevened the GN folks from being more helpful.

 For example employee rulebooks should show examples of some trackside signs and what they mean.  The track maintenance and Bridge and Building departments likely also had books and manuals showing their standards for trackside signs.  

A few things from my Consolidated Code of Operating Rules (1980 so BN era not GN)

Speed control signs, Yellow and at an upward angle.  If two numbers, higher is for passenger trains.  BUT the Code says that on former Great Northern track Rule 240W has two upward angle signs in white with black letters

Upper one is P - 79, lower if F - 50.  Passenger and freight obviously but it also says the F speed limit is for passenger trains hauling freight equipment.  If there are not two signs and it just says F, such as F -25, that is the speed limit for all trains.  Angled sign with yellow and black stripes (which are straight up and down) is a restricting sign so the lower speed is now effective, and it is placed two miles from the sign showing the reduced speed.   When speed can be resumed, the point of resumption is where the sign showing a higher speed is placed BUT the entire train must be beyond that sign. 

So there is a little GN info for you.  

Other signs I can think of.   Most railroads had a little V shaped sign for where a flanger should be lifted such as at a grade crossing.  Other railroads had other symbols or signs for that.  The CGW had odd little starburst type signs.

Yard limits signs, a larger V shape on most roads but there are many variations for that.

Sidings usually had a capacity sign, either in number of cars or in feet.  The signs showing number of cars dated from an era when they assumed 40' cars and it was up to the crew to adjust for 50 and 60 foot cars in the consist.  I think there were also signs during the passing siding showing half way or quarter way marks.  I have seen that on the UP.

Whistle posts.  Some were metal squares with a big W but on some it was a W cast into concrete.

Signal masts often had certain signs posted on them that were meaningful to the interpretation of the signal.  Sometimes it mattered whether the signal mast had a number plate for example. I seem to recall signals on grades had signs which permitted a train to continue past a restrictive signal.  I also think signals which in a sense were advance signals, such as a signal at a crossing or junction with another railroad would have had a prior advance signal so speed could begin to be reduced with the ability to stop depending on the signal seen at the actual crossing.  

Spring switches and derails had indications.  Often an S or a D in a circle or the word Derail on a vertical sign.   

Dave Nelson 

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Posted by Ian R. on Monday, August 24, 2020 12:47 PM

Wayne,

Thanks for the helpful photo examples and brief explanations.  Did you make these signs or buy them ready-made?  What are some sources for the latter?

 

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Posted by Ian R. on Monday, August 24, 2020 12:56 PM

dknelson

I am a little disappointed in the response of the GN historical society. I suspect they have resources in their archives that do answer these questions to some extent.  Having said that I know the CNW Historical Society's archives have been hampered by stay at home and other restrictive orders (or just precautions that are self imposed) during the pandemic and perhaps that prevened the GN folks from being more helpful.

 For example employee rulebooks should show examples of some trackside signs and what they mean.  The track maintenance and Bridge and Building departments likely also had books and manuals showing their standards for trackside signs.  

A few things from my Consolidated Code of Operating Rules (1980 so BN era not GN)

Speed control signs, Yellow and at an upward angle.  If two numbers, higher is for passenger trains.  BUT the Code says that on former Great Northern track Rule 240W has two upward angle signs in white with black letters

Upper one is P - 79, lower if F - 50.  Passenger and freight obviously but it also says the F speed limit is for passenger trains hauling freight equipment.  If there are not two signs and it just says F, such as F -25, that is the speed limit for all trains.  Angled sign with yellow and black stripes (which are straight up and down) is a restricting sign so the lower speed is now effective, and it is placed two miles from the sign showing the reduced speed.   When speed can be resumed, the point of resumption is where the sign showing a higher speed is placed BUT the entire train must be beyond that sign. 

So there is a little GN info for you.  

Other signs I can think of.   Most railroads had a little V shaped sign for where a flanger should be lifted such as at a grade crossing.  Other railroads had other symbols or signs for that.  The CGW had odd little starburst type signs.

Yard limits signs, a larger V shape on most roads but there are many variations for that.

Sidings usually had a capacity sign, either in number of cars or in feet.  The signs showing number of cars dated from an era when they assumed 40' cars and it was up to the crew to adjust for 50 and 60 foot cars in the consist.  I think there were also signs during the passing siding showing half way or quarter way marks.  I have seen that on the UP.

Whistle posts.  Some were metal squares with a big W but on some it was a W cast into concrete.

Signal masts often had certain signs posted on them that were meaningful to the interpretation of the signal.  Sometimes it mattered whether the signal mast had a number plate for example. I seem to recall signals on grades had signs which permitted a train to continue past a restrictive signal.  I also think signals which in a sense were advance signals, such as a signal at a crossing or junction with another railroad would have had a prior advance signal so speed could begin to be reduced with the ability to stop depending on the signal seen at the actual crossing.  

Spring switches and derails had indications.  Often an S or a D in a circle or the word Derail on a vertical sign.   

Dave Nelson 

 

 
Dave,
 
Thanks for the interesting information and explanations.  A few folks - including a retired engineer I know - recommended two books for the detail I'm seeking: "Rights of Trains" and "Consolidated Code of Operating Rules", neither of which I've since learned from sellers and others contains the graphics, etc. I'm after.
 
You may be interested to see what Louis sent in reply on the Railroad Line forum:  

http://railroad-line.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=53130

This is precisely the kind of graphic and text detail I need.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, August 24, 2020 2:50 PM

Ian R.
...Did you make these signs or buy them ready-made? What are some sources for the latter?

All of mine are homemade, Ian, using sheet styrene for the sign portion and strip styrene for the posts.  After painting them, I use dry transfers for any lettering or striping.

The link you provided was quite helpful, too, so I saved the picture charts from it for future reference.

Tichy Train Group

does offer a number of ready-to-use signs, for both railroad and highway/street use.

Wayne

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, August 24, 2020 2:51 PM

In my experience it's rare for a railroad historical society to be set up to immediately reply to someone's e-mail question. A few answer questions in their quarterly publications. Remember these are all volunteers, and someone who is good at running a website or editing a publication may not be an expert on the railroad's history.

All the answers would be in a GN employee timetable / rulebook - from that specific era if possible, but I suspect the signs stayed the same for decades.

Stix
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Posted by Ian R. on Monday, August 24, 2020 3:37 PM

doctorwayne

 Ian R.

...Did you make these signs or buy them ready-made? What are some sources for the latter?

All of mine are homemade, Ian, using sheet styrene for the sign portion and strip styrene for the posts.  After painting them, I use dry transfers for any lettering or striping.

The link you provided was quite helpful, too, so I saved the picture charts from it for future reference.

Tichy Train Group

does offer a number of ready-to-use signs, for both railroad and highway/street use.

Wayne

 

 
Thanks, Wayne.  Since I'll need very few signs, I'll make them myself once I've decided which will be practical on my layout.
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Posted by jeffhergert on Monday, August 24, 2020 8:50 PM

The beginning of the years your modeling may be before the GN adopted the Consolidated Code and still had their own rule book.  I have one from the early 1940s, but it's temporarily in storage for a move.

A GN employee timetable from the era might have roadway signs depicted in the special instructions.  Many railroads in later years did that, but I'm not sure about the 1940s or GN specifically.

Jeff 

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Posted by Ian R. on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 12:50 PM

jeffhergert

The beginning of the years your modeling may be before the GN adopted the Consolidated Code and still had their own rule book.  I have one from the early 1940s, but it's temporarily in storage for a move.

A GN employee timetable from the era might have roadway signs depicted in the special instructions.  Many railroads in later years did that, but I'm not sure about the 1940s or GN specifically.

Jeff 

 

 
Jeff,
 
Interesting.  Where can I obtain a GN rule book and employee timetable?
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Posted by dehusman on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 1:25 PM

Some sources, Google or Bing, search for -

Railroad whistle post images

Railroad milepost images

railroad station sign images 

Look if your favorite historical society has Maintenance of Ways Standards or plan books for sale:

For example the MoPac Historical Society has MofW plan books for sale:

http://mopac.org/store/mphs-publications-calendars

Or snoop around your favorite real railroad's site.  For example looking for "industrial track standards" on the UPRR site leads to this page:

https://www.up.com/emp/engineering/apps/archives/standards/public/index.cfm

The caveat is that the newer the source the less likely its applicable to 1895.  Many things in 2020 didn't even exist in 1895 or weren't even considered.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by Lazers on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 3:55 PM

Hi Ian,

I have a copy of Model Railroader Books "Trackwork and Lineside Detail for your Model Railroad", which has a good amount of info + photos that you might find useful. None specific GN, but there are dimensioned drawings from other R/R's plus generic examples.

The book is out of print and I bought a used copy from a Dealer. Hope this helps, Paul

"It's the South Shore Line, Jim - but not as we know it".

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Posted by Ian R. on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 4:17 PM

Lazers

Hi Ian,

I have a copy of Model Railroader Books "Trackwork and Lineside Detail for your Model Railroad", which has a good amount of info + photos that you might find useful. None specific GN, but there are dimensioned drawings from other R/R's plus generic examples.

The book is out of print and I bought a used copy from a Dealer. Hope this helps, Paul

 

 
Paul,
 
And with me own copy right on the bookshelf in front of me own eyes, I didn't even think to look at it!  I'll have to re-read those few chapters now. 
 
Thanks for the tip.  Big Smile
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Posted by Ian R. on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 4:24 PM

dehusman

Some sources, Google or Bing, search for -

Railroad whistle post images

Railroad milepost images

railroad station sign images 

Look if your favorite historical society has Maintenance of Ways Standards or plan books for sale:

For example the MoPac Historical Society has MofW plan books for sale:

http://mopac.org/store/mphs-publications-calendars

Or snoop around your favorite real railroad's site.  For example looking for "industrial track standards" on the UPRR site leads to this page:

https://www.up.com/emp/engineering/apps/archives/standards/public/index.cfm

The caveat is that the newer the source the less likely its applicable to 1895.  Many things in 2020 didn't even exist in 1895 or weren't even considered.

 

 
Dave,
 
Thanks for the good leads.  Big Smile
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Posted by fwright on Wednesday, August 26, 2020 1:54 PM

Ian R

Thanks for the examples. 

I contacted a GNRHS officer last week.  His only reply was to join a Yahoo group forum, not exactly what I'm looking for. 

I may dig a little deeper on the site, however, but having thoroughly screened it for other information a couple of years ago, I doubt it has what I need. 

The Yahoo Groups suggestion isn't as good as it used to be.  Most of the model railroading related Yahoo Groups moved to groups.io because of Yahoo's policys and attempts to collect serious money for hosting the Groups.  The groups.io search also works a lot better than Yahoo's ever did.

Fred W

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Posted by chutton01 on Friday, August 28, 2020 12:43 PM

A bounce to this thread on trackside signs, as I have a question about prototype usage on the "Clear Point" sign.
OK, getting this out of the way, I know what it means (the point on a track beyond which rolling stock will not foul an adjacent track), and I can find several companies actively selling these signs to the railroad industry, but...I am having trouble finding prototype images of these signs in-situ trackside. Probaly bad google-fu on my part.

The reason I want to know about this sign is bass-ackwards as usual in my case - over the spring I was chopping into little pieces decades worth of sub-par/broken details from my scrapbox with an eye to detailing scrap-yard piles and gondola loads. Usable bits like windows, doors, chimneys, pumps, roof finales, etc. had previously been extracted and saved, and now it was time for a second pass sifting thru the remainder before sending it on to the mighty nippers. As the question implies, I came across among other items a nicely made sign on a post, about 1.25ft x 2ft, which I just painted up and then wondered where I could use it trackside. Searching around came up with cool diagrams and catalog illustrations of Clear(ence) point signs, but no prototype images so far.  So, sign detail first, then figure what to put on the sign...

So, who's got the "mad search skillz" as we used to say at the turn of the century. Thanks.

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Posted by dehusman on Friday, August 28, 2020 2:42 PM

chutton01
I am having trouble finding prototype images of these signs in-situ trackside.

And you will probably have trouble finding those signs.  In many cases the spur/siding has derails on it which are well away from the clearance point.

I have seen ties painted a color to mark clearance point, but can't remember seeing a sign for a clearance point in my years working for a real railroad.

"Close clearance" signs, warning of impaired side clearance fo someone riding on the side of a car or engine were common in industries.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by chutton01 on Friday, August 28, 2020 8:17 PM

dehusman
 And you will probably have trouble finding those signs.  In many cases the spur/siding has derails on it which are well away from the clearance point.

I have seen ties painted a color to mark clearance point, but can't remember seeing a sign for a clearance point in my years working for a real railroad.

"Close clearance" signs, warning of impaired side clearance fo someone riding on the side of a car or engine were common in industries.


Hmm, from the search results so far, you may be correct.

Info from companies like, for example, AccuForm (there are others) currently list such "Clear Point" signs for sale to the (NA) railroad industry (well, to anyone I guess who has $38.68 + tax), so that's why I figure there must be some out there.
Another item I found which is interesting (but doesn't help with my sign search) was this Track Clearence marker (example from Aldon), listed here
for $86.00 ($92.00 for orange), price includes track screw spikes. Although I have seen a number of articles on modeling (blue) flag holders over the years, these are different and I am not sure I have seen an article about modeling these markers (looks like you could stick flags or poles in them as well).

Dehusman, I knew about derails on many sidings, clearence posts, and even painted ties, although while searching for Clear Point signs I came across a NS design specification for private industrial track document with the following paragraph
NS Corp. of the Before Time
Clear points shall be shown on the plans and indicated in the field by the presence of a derail, clearance post or crosstie painted green.
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Posted by dehusman on Saturday, August 29, 2020 3:25 AM

chutton01
I came across a NS design specification for private industrial track document with the following paragraph

And they may be used on industrial trackage that is inside a plant, placed there by the industry, but not necessarily by the "railroad".  For example, looking at the UP standards for industrial track (available on line) there are plans for signage, but no plans for a "clear point" sign.  Not that they might not be used, but they aren't a "railroad" sign.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by dknelson on Saturday, September 5, 2020 9:12 PM

A tidbit of more info, there was an article about trackside signs in the November 1976 issue of MR.  Not prototype-railroad specific however.

Dave Nelson

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Posted by Ian R. on Sunday, September 6, 2020 11:30 AM

dknelson

A tidbit of more info, there was an article about trackside signs in the November 1976 issue of MR.  Not prototype-railroad specific however.

Dave Nelson

 

 
Good to know, Dave.  But that was well before I began modeling, and I don't need the expense of paying for the magazine's archives.  With such a small layout, what Louis provided may do well enough. 
 
An archivist from the GNRHS has also since replied.  He's now scanning a bunch of sign diagrams he proposes putting somewhere on the Internet, though the images I've seen contain text that is basically unreadable.

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