Tag Archives: railroad signal

Signal Sunset Sunburst—34 Years Ago!

On this day in 1985, I exposed this view at Palmer, Massachusetts using my father’s Rollei Model T.

I silhouetted the setting sun behind the northward home signal at Central Vermont’s diamond crossing with Conrail’s Boston Line.

This old search light was soon replaced with a modern color light. Last year that signal was again replaced by even more modern hardware.

120 Verichrome Pan exposed with a Rolle Model T with Zeiss Tessar. Processed in D76. Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985

Tracking the Light Looks Back!

Semaphores on the Santa Fe—Five Photos.

Between Albuquerque and Raton Pass (on the New Mexico-Colorado state line) I counted three bastions of Union Switch & Signal style-T2 upper quadrant semaphores on our journey over the former Santa Fe in Vista-Dome Silver Splendor.

I watched the blades drop from the vertical as we passed—a scene I’d not witnessed for many years.

The view of a semaphore dropping from ‘clear’ to ‘stop and proceed’ as seen from Vista Dome Silver Splendor on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

Lumix LX7 photo near Las Vegas, New Mexico.

East of Las Vegas, New Mexico. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

In 2018, these signals represent the last large collections of active semaphores on any North American mainline.

The Style T2 was detailed in my book Classic Railroad Signals in a sidebar titled ‘Sante Fe Semaphores Survive in New Mexico’ by John Ryan and the late John Gruber.

Classic Railroad Signals was published by Voyageur Press in 2015. It is available at:


Tracking the Light Posts Daily!


Medium Clear at Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Pan Am’s EDBF (East Deerfield to Bellows Falls) gets a medium clear aspect (30 mph indication) at Greenfield, Massachusetts to proceed northward on the Connecticut River line.

Medium clear is displayed on the signal at left with a red over green over red.

Modern LED cluster signals offer relatively bright aspects that can be easier to photograph in daylight than older styles of color light signals that use traditional incandescent lamps.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens, set to 135mm telephoto.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Clear Signals and Happy New Year from Tracking the Light!

My photo at Shirley offers the hope of safe journey in 2016, but also a reminder to photographers that 2016 will see the decommissioning  of many old signals such as these old General Railway Signal searchlights.

How many more days will these old signals serve as intended?
How many more days will these old signals serve as intended?

Tracking the Light has been Posting Daily since 2013!

Searchlight Signal; Brookfield, Wisconsin

Searchlight signal at Brookfield, Wisconsin exposed with a Nikon F3T with f1.8 105mm lens on Fuji Provia 100 film.
Searchlight signal displays ‘Approach’ at Brookfield, Wisconsin; exposed with a Nikon F3T with f1.8 105mm lens on Fuji Provia 100 film.

In 1996, I was living in Waukesha, Wisconsin and working for Pentrex Publishing as the Editor of Pacific RailNews. One evening shortly before sunset, a heavy fog settled in. Twilight is my preferred time to make signaling images because lower light in the sky allows for greater emphasis of signaling aspects. Fog is an added attraction, especially for searchlight signals. This style of signal head was developed by the Hall Switch & Signal Company in the 1920s. The searchlight uses a miniature semaphore in front of a focused beam of light that allows for a very low powered lamp to be sighted at a great distance. This effect is most evident when the focused light beam illuminates water droplets comprising heavy fog.

I made a series of images of this General Railway Signal Company searchlight along CP Rail’s Soo Line former Milwaukee Road main line at Brookfield, Wisconsin. A variation of this image was selected for the cover of my book Railroad Signaling, published by MBI/ Voyageur Press.

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