Tag Archives: 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!

Limerick Junction: Photographing LED signals.

Yesterday, 13 October 2018, I exposed these views of an LED (light emitting diode) signal on Irish Rail at Limerick Junction.

Take a careful look at the yellow aspects in the respective images.

In the top photo, the yellow LEDs appear relatively dim (and much dimmer than they seemed in person). On the bottom photo these are brighter.

Exposed at 1/400th of a second.

1/60th of a second.

Many LEDs do not produce constant light output and flicker many times a second. Although you cannot see this with your naked eye and the light output appears constant, in fact the light is blinking. When you use a fast shutter speed the camera only captures a portion of the light emitted and so the signal lights seem too dim.

The key when photographing LED signals is to use a relatively low shutter speed. In this case 1/60thof second is much better than 1/400th.

Another tip when making effective LED signal photos is to make the most of subdued lighting which can make the signals seem brighter than the light around them.


Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Tracking the Light Extra: Unusual Semaphore in an Unexpected Place

Tracking the Light Posts EVERY day!

Every so often, I stumble upon something that flummoxes me.

On St. Patrick’s Day, I was enjoying the evening’s celebrations with some friends at The Full Shilling in Finglas (in north suburban Dublin).

This is a large shop (drinking establishment) with lots of décor characteristic of a Dublin Pub.

On the way to the loo, I looked up and was startled to find a three-position upper quadrant semaphore blade.


‘What’s this? And, what’s it doing here?’

As the author of two books on American signaling, I’m reasonably well versed in semaphore practice. (see: Classic Railroad Signaling; Railroad Signaling. Also see: Barnes & Noble.)

On the surface, it looks a like a standard pattern three-position upper-quadrant semaphore blade, commonly used by many American railways beginning about 1908.

The flat-end red blade with white stripe would have been typically used for an absolute signal that display a full stop in its most restrictive position.

There’s one critical difference with this semaphore blade; it’s a mirror of the signals typically used in the USA.

On most American railways, semaphore blades were oriented to the right, while in British practice (which includes Ireland) they are oriented to the left. (New Haven railroad was an exception).

I would guess that this signal is an adaptation of the American pattern for service in Britain or Ireland. But where did come from? And how did this anomalous signal blade find its way to Finglas, which is not even on a railway line.

At the moment, this stands as one of signaling’s great unsolved mysteries.

Do you know the story behind it?


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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