Signals on the NEC

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Signals on the NEC

Postby theseaandalifesaver » Sun Dec 31, 2017 11:50 pm

Quick question and sorry if it'd been discussed already.

I was just in NYC/NJ and noticed that the signals on the NEC in that area are much different than the ones in Boston. What's the deal with this? Are engineers trained to know the different signals? Wouldn't it be easier to have the same type of signals through the entire line?
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby Alcochaser » Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:01 am

Comes from the fact that Amtrak got different portions of the NEC from different railroads.

The Boston end came from the New Haven. Thus when they redid the signals, they used Colorlight signals.
The New York to Washington and Harrisburg sections all came from the PRR. So they used converted PRR position signals.

That said, some jackwagon decided to test color light signals at Havre de Grace MD. I don't think it worked out as Amtrak has not continued the dumb move and had gone back to using the Colorized position lights. But they haven't bothered to go back and put the position based signals in.

Timetable wise, Amtrak could intermix the two types willy nilly as both are in the NORAC signal aspect lists.

The Metro North portion of the NEC in Connecticut lacks waysides except for low information (go/no-go) home signals.

Everything of course has Cab Signals and Amtrak is moving towards using the cab signals to eliminate some or all of the automatic blocks signals. Metro North has of course done this a while ago.

The oddball of course is Washington Union Station, which uses B&O aspects. Which were added into the Norac signal list. Penn Station has it's own space saving signals with special aspects too.
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby theseaandalifesaver » Mon Jan 01, 2018 10:09 am

Why were they never upgraded to be the same throughout the entire line? Having different signals on the NEC sounds like it can be a nightmare. Are most of the physical signals the same from the pre-amtrak days?
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby amtrakhogger » Mon Jan 01, 2018 10:53 am

IIRC,The signals at Grace were put in to evaluate LED signal lamps. They were replaced with
color position light signals last year.
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby lstone19 » Mon Jan 01, 2018 11:14 am

theseaandalifesaver wrote:Why were they never upgraded to be the same throughout the entire line? Having different signals on the NEC sounds like it can be a nightmare. Are most of the physical signals the same from the pre-amtrak days?


They weren't upgraded to be the same as that costs money and many are the same physical signals from before Amtrak acquired the Corridor. And they aren't all that different (B&O style signals excepted), particularly now that most position light signals have had color added. A head on a position signal is the equivalent of a single light on a color (only) signal. So the vertical two greens on a color position signal or the three vertical lunar on an uncolorized position signal is the same as a green on a color signal. Even before they were colored, there was an easy correspondence - vertical lights were the same as green, diagonal (high on the right) the same as yellow, and horizontal the same as red. Diagonal (low on the right) means Restricting and is equivalent to lunar or a bottom yellow with everything above it red. While after a short time, any railroader learns signals well enough so that you look at the aspect and your brain immediately knows what signal and indication it is (as I was once taught, Aspect = Appearance and Indication = Instruction, an easy to remember mnemonic so you can remember what Aspect and Indication mean), a railroader who can translate positions to colors can read almost any position signal (e.g. seeing three horizontal lunar over three vertical lunar translates that to red over green which is Medium Clear) (the only signal I can find that fails that translation is horizontal over diagonal (up on right) which is Slow Approach but if you think of it as Red over Yellow, that's Restricting which is more restrictive so the translation fails "safe").

One last thing: the positions of position signals match the position of blades on semaphore signals. Despite the appearance differences, there is more in common than different.
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby STrRedWolf » Mon Jan 01, 2018 12:35 pm

Is there a colored position signal ref anywhere? I'm in a bit of a time crunch here so I can't look just yet, and I bet some folks have a good vetted site already.

I also wonder if there's something "better"... I'm assuming position and color combined is best.
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby CRail » Mon Jan 01, 2018 12:49 pm

lstone19 wrote:...the only signal I can find that fails that translation is horizontal over diagonal (up on right) which is Slow Approach but if you think of it as Red over Yellow, that's Restricting which is more restrictive so the translation fails "safe".

Position lights only have 2 heads so "Slow Approach" (Red over Red over Flashing Yellow) would not otherwise be possible. Since the two headed color-light equivalent of Restricting (Red over Yellow) is freed from that aspect by having another way to display it, it can be used for that aspect. To upgrade from Slow to Medium Approach, the diagonal flashes. (All flashing aspects have less restrictive indications than solid ones, theory being if the flasher mechanism breaks, the indication always becomes more restrictive.) Because this wording comes off confusing even to me, and because I'm a geek that likes visuals, see below:
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby TomNelligan » Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:28 pm

One other note regarding the different signals in former New Haven versus Pennsylvania territory: all Amtrak trains change crews at Penn Station, thus a given engineer would normally be working only on one side or the other. And as Mr. lstone19 notes above, crews become familiar with the signals in the territory in which they work.
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby lstone19 » Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:46 pm

STrRedWolf wrote:Is there a colored position signal ref anywhere? I'm in a bit of a time crunch here so I can't look just yet, and I bet some folks have a good vetted site already.

I also wonder if there's something "better"... I'm assuming position and color combined is best.


One claim of the Pennsylvania's reason for position light signals is they thought the lunar white lights had better visibility in fog.

One advantage of position and color position signals is redundancy. Since the lights 180 degrees apart around the round face of such a signal are on or off in tandem, one light can be out with the signal aspect still being able to be determined. Particularly with non-colored position signals, it may have required approaching it slowly before the engineer could determine for certain what it was displaying but having determined that, could proceed normally. Most railroad rule books have a rule that a signal imperfectly displayed must be treated as displaying its most restrictive aspect with an exception for signals where the aspect can still be determined despite the imperfection (besides position signals, semaphores are another signal type where you can still determine the signal with the light out).
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby east point » Mon Jan 01, 2018 10:55 pm

Do not know if this applied to PRR but some old heads at the N&W claimed N&W used three yellow position lights because some enginemen were partially color blind. As the last of color blinds retired on a district N&W would convert that district to colorized position lights eliminating the center light. now if that was true ? ? ?

One other item . If all lights around the signal were lit that means a phase break. Is that still true there ? How is a phase break denoted on the MNRR and the Amtrak New Haven - BOS section ?
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby lstone19 » Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:21 am

east point wrote:Do not know if this applied to PRR but some old heads at the N&W claimed N&W used three yellow position lights because some enginemen were partially color blind. As the last of color blinds retired on a district N&W would convert that district to colorized position lights eliminating the center light. now if that was true ? ? ?


Never heard that when I worked for N&W and I doubt it true. As I understood it, N&W used position signals because of PRR ownership and the conversion to color position came later since management then though it made more sense.

One other item . If all lights around the signal were lit that means a phase break. Is that still true there ? How is a phase break denoted on the MNRR and the Amtrak New Haven - BOS section ?


I believe the phase break signal meant the phases weren't synced on opposite sides of the break so the break was dead and so the train needed to coast and not pull power. For the PRR, which generated its own 25Hz power, things were usually all in sync so phase breaks were live and trains could normally be powered through them.

But on the MN New Haven line as well as north of New Haven, it's all commercially purchased 60Hz power and different sections come from different generating stations. So phase breaks are always dead and trains always coast through them so permanent signs are all that is needed to mark them (of course phase break only has meaning on AC sections).
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby 8th Notch » Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:48 am

east point wrote:One other item . If all lights around the signal were lit that means a phase break. Is that still true there ? How is a phase break denoted on the MNRR and the Amtrak New Haven - BOS section ?


Metro North marks phase breaks with PB signs and 2 of them on the New Haven Line use the lit signals that I call snowflakes. Amtrak marks dead sections with 2 sets of signs, one yellow sign with white DS on it which is the warning and a black sign with white DS on it for the actual limits of the dead section.
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Jan 02, 2018 4:29 pm

TomNelligan wrote:One other note regarding the different signals in former New Haven versus Pennsylvania territory: all Amtrak trains change crews at Penn Station, thus a given engineer would normally be working only on one side or the other. And as Mr. lstone19 notes above, crews become familiar with the signals in the territory in which they work.


Metro North territory also doesn't have intermediate waysides like the rest of the NEC, as the cab signals are fully adequate for that. Only interlockings, powered switches, phase breaks, etc. of greater importance have wayside indicators backing up the in-cab display.

Not sure why AMTK insists on having wayside intermediate signals, and rebuilt NHV-BOS with them, when pretty much every other cab signaled line has done without them for decades. Is there some non-obvious crew training reason they do that when nobody else does, or are they just paranoid enough to want everything backed up in triplicate?
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby STrRedWolf » Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:44 pm

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Not sure why AMTK insists on having wayside intermediate signals, and rebuilt NHV-BOS with them, when pretty much every other cab signaled line has done without them for decades. Is there some non-obvious crew training reason they do that when nobody else does, or are they just paranoid enough to want everything backed up in triplicate?


You want to bet that Amtrak has it engineered so that if the cab signals died, and the overhead's died as well, that the wayside signals would still work?

Although, having all three die at the same time has happened. A few years ago, the signal system completely died in a flash thunder storm around Baltimore. It hit so hard that signals were dead between GROVE all the way to CHARLES. Trains were forced to run at 15 MPH, and stop at each (unpowered/black) signal to call up and get permission to the next signal (block signaling). Needless to say, my commute tripled from Baltimore to Odenton on the MARC!
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Re: Signals on the NEC

Postby east point » Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:09 pm

STrRedWolf wrote:[

Although, having all three die at the same time has happened. A few years ago, the signal system completely died in a flash thunder storm around Baltimore. !


That situation is slowly being resolved. As Amtrak gets funding it is installing commercial 60 hZ power back up on the PRR side. What happened was PRR built its signal system off a 4400 25 hZ signal power. It was supplied from the 25 hZ transmission lines thru step down transformers.
On the New Haven - BOS side the signal system is powered from the 25 kV 60 hZ power lines paralleling the tracks. But at each location there is also a commercial power drop to the signal bungalows including the few grade crossings.
Before the 25 kV system was in place all signals were powered from commercial sources. For a while Amtrak dropped the commercial power connections but soon had it reconnected. The commercial power drops do not cost much as they come under the 100 watt rate.
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