Canadian National Caboose passing Monson Semaphore.

This old upper quadrant semaphore was located in Monson, Massachusetts about a mile from the Palmer diamond. It served as a fixed distant to the absolute signal protecting the crossing and was always in the diagonal position indicating ‘approach’.

I made this image on July 20, 1986 of a northward Central Vermont freight (probably job 562).

Purists may note that Canadian National referred to its cabooses as ‘Vans’. More relevant was that by this date, cabooses were becoming unusual in New England. Conrail began caboose-less operation on through freights a few years earlier.

Exposed on July 20, 1986 using a Rolleiflex Model T with ‘Super slide’ insert to make for a roughly 645-size black & white negative.
Exposed on July 20, 1986 using a Rolleiflex Model T with ‘Super slide’ insert to make for a roughly 645-size black & white negative.

Even rarer in New England were semaphores. Yet this one survived until very recently, when Central Vermont successor New England Central finally replaced it with a color-light. See earlier post: Monson Semaphore Challenge.

A minor point regarding this composition; I’d released the shutter a moment too soon, and so the left-hand back of the caboose visually intersects with the semaphore ladder. This annoys me. Sometimes I like a bit of visual tension in an image, but in this case it doesn’t work.


Not that I can go back and try it again, as much as I’d like to!


Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

2 comments on “Canadian National Caboose passing Monson Semaphore.

  1. Yes, there was a semaphore near the old wire mill, on the curve on the Three Rivers side of the bridge over Route 20. I have a photo of that one somewhere, but it was much harder to get to and not as photogenic. Also I believe it was removed many years ago when the yard limits were extended. Today there is a fixed distant color light on the tangent immediately south of Three Rivers.
    Brian Solomon

  2. Ethan Haslett on said:

    Much enjoyed. As a CV fan, my CV knowledge is scant south of Palmer and I had no idea there was (formerly) a semaphore there. I’ve driven into Palmer from Amherst many, many times via Liberty Street and Three Rivers in the late 90s and am curious if the signal north of the Palmer diamond is/was also a semaphore? Never ran across it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>