Railroad Signalling (Review)

Railroad Signalling (Review)

his book came to me through sad circumstances. One of our train club members passed away a while ago and his widow asked if we’d like his train books. What I didn’t know is that there would be two eight-foot shelves packed with books. It took three trips in a loaded Jetta to get them to the club (and yes, club members, I’ll pay for them).

Anyway, the guy I was lugging loads with pointed this one out to me – Railroad Signalling by Brian Solomon. Now, I’ve gotten model railroad books about signalling that were kinda meh – all about how to wire them and nothing about the actual use and history of railroad signals. So I took it home and between Ark Royal books dove in.

Fantastic book. Pretty much it proceeds through the entire history of railroading and the use of signalling and control systems that make running mail trains through the night possible. He details systems used on either sides of the Atlantic, comparing processes and procedures and why they came about (for instance, advancements to English systems come from safety concerns. For Americans, control systems are advanced to reduce railroad staffs and let one man do the work of hundreds). A favorite point was why did signals have decorative spikes on the tops of their masts? To keep birds from alighting on them and crapping into the mechanical works.

The book contains all sorts of interesting colorful photos, some of them quite arty and striking. The thing is, by the time you read this effort, you’ll never look at a railroad track (and certainly not lineside signals (while they last, alas)) the same way again.

I’ll add that this book came at a great time for me – I’m putting together a clinic on dispatching for a railroad convention in the next few months and this book gave me all sorts of insights I can add to my speech and look quite clever.

Railroad Signalling – if you are a railroad, true -sized or model, you owe it to yourself to find a copy and purchase it for your shelf!