At one time the Boston & Maine was a poster child for the General Railway Signal Company.
These days some of the old GRS searchlight signals remain but they are rapidly disappearing.
Here’s a railroad photography tip: catch the old signals while you can, they are fading fast, and soon they will be gone.
I’ve issued this signal warning before, and I’ll do it again.
Over the last month, I exposed these photos along the old B&M in the vicinity of Ayer, Massachusetts. These railroad photos are intended as more of a record, than as active illustrations of the old signals.
May 24, 2015, fellow photographer Tim Doherty and I aimed to intercept Amtrak 57, the southward Vermonter at Bellows Falls. Vermont. (Is there another?).
It’d been a few years since I last visited this classic railroad junction. My first visits were back in the late 1960s early 1970s, when my family would come up to experience the old Steamtown.
I was impressed to find the old three-head searchlight signal still in operation by the station. These relics are disappearing fast. I feature the searchlight among other vintage signal hardware in my new book Classic Railroad Signals now available from Voyageur Press.
It was the evening of June 15, 2004, and I was out along the old Burlington C&I line at Chana, west of Rochelle, Illinois. The sunset was this amazing tapestry of color, like a Turner oil painting. I had a few minutes to make the most it.
The old General Railway Signal searchlight signal with its classic finial and the code lines beyond made for good silhouette subjects. I blasted through about a half a roll of film before the color faded. I’ve found you have to make the most of these cosmic moments when they happen.
Often there’ll be a great sunset, but I won’t be in a position to use the light for anything constructive, and so I’ll just have to gaze at it with regrets. Seeing a missed opportunity in a sunset; that’s one of the downsides of being a photographer.
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.