Tag Archives: upper quadrant

Upper Quadrant Semaphore on the old Erie Railroad.

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In the 1980s, I made hundreds of images of upper quadrant three-position semaphores along the old Erie Railroad in New York State, a line then part of the Conrail system.

A Union Switch & Signal upper quadrant semaphore blade, exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt lens.
A Union Switch & Signal upper quadrant semaphore blade, exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt lens.

I focused on this semaphore near Tioga Center, New York in August 1988. This is part of a sequence that portrayed the signal in its three position and this image is of the ‘approach aspect’.

Learn more about American semaphore practice in my book, Classic Railroad Signals published by Voyageur Press.

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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?