Train Indicators Boards at Hoboken Terminal

Discussion relating to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, the Erie, and the resulting 1960 merger creating the Erie Lackawanna. Visit the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society at http://www.erielackhs.org/.

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Train Indicators Boards at Hoboken Terminal

Postby RedbirdR33 » Tue Apr 19, 2011 3:10 pm

Greetings to those here. Some of you may know me from other boards. I am asking for your assistance in filling in some gaps in my knowledge of the Track Indicator boards which were in use at Hoboken Terminal from 1956 to 1976 (possibly a little longer).

I will print what I do know about these boards and please feel free to add to or correct what I have written.

The board were installed in 1956 in preparation of the consolidation of the passenger services of the Erie and Lackawanna Railroads into Hoboken Terminal. There were seventeen boards made and they were about eleven feet tall and three feet wide. They displayed the track number and the station stops to be made by the train on the track behind it. Each board had two sets of colored lights. There was a set of five single light bulbs arranged vertically and a second set of five double light arranged horizontally.
The bulb colors were yellow, blue, green, red and white. A single light was lit to indicate a Lackawanna route while a double light was lit to indicate an Erie train.

Erie Routes:

Two yellow lights: New York & New Jersey Railroad (Pascack Valley Line)

Two blue lights: Northern Branch

Two red lights: Greenwood Lake Division and Caldwell Branch

Two white lights: Main Line, Bergen County Line and Newark Branch

Lackawanna Routes:

Single red light: Boonton Line, Sussex Branch ?

Single green light: Gladstone Branch

In late 1963 the the ex-Erie Greenwood Lake Line was combined in part with the ex-Lackawanna Boonton Line. Thereafter trains of the Greenwood Lake-Boonton Line, Caldwell Branch and Sussex Branch were identified by a single white light and two red lights.

Two white lights were also used to identify through or long haul trains.

Also what colors were used for the Morristown Line and the Montclair Branch.

Thanks you in advance for any information.

Larry, RedbirdR33
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Re: Train Indicators Boards at Hoboken Terminal

Postby ExCon90 » Mon Apr 25, 2011 2:26 pm

I waited to see what other posts turned up, but it's been almost a week, so this is what I think I remember: Two colors were used for the Morris & Essex, I think blue and yellow--one color denoted stations east of Summit and the other those west of Summit. In rush hours an express with first stop Summit would show only the one color, while in the off-peak the board for a Dover local with through cars for Gladstone would show blue, yellow, and green. The best source, if you can find one, would be public timetables for that period; the color for that particular line was stated somewhere in the timetable.
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Re: Train Indicators Boards at Hoboken Terminal

Postby ExCon90 » Wed Apr 27, 2011 6:00 pm

I found some public timetables from that period, which show the following for the M&E:
1 yellow -- Summit and east
1 blue -- West of Summit to Dover
1 red -- Montclair
Prior to the route consolidation of 1962 or -3, 2 whites was Main Line, Bergen County, and Newark Branch; 1 white was Boonton Line; 2 reds was Greenwood Lake.
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Re: Train Indicators Boards at Hoboken Terminal

Postby RedbirdR33 » Mon May 02, 2011 8:37 pm

Mr ExCon 90: Thank you for your time and research. I do have a good size collection of ELRR timetables and the ex-Erie Timetables clearly list the colored lights on the front.

The Erie brought four suburban timetables into the merger.
Form 7 Main Line, Bergen County Line, Newark Branch; two white lights

Form 8 Greenwood Lake Division, Caldwell Branch; two red lights

Form 9 Northern Branch; two blue lights

Form 10 New Jersey & New York RR Company; two yellow lights.

The four above timetable where actually printed on paper colored to match the lights.

The Lackawanna had only one suburban timetable which was From 10A which included the Morristown Line, Gladstone Branch, Montclair Branch and the Boonton Line. Unfortunately it did not list the light colors but the small TDI schedules did.


It would seem that the colors for the Lackawanna routes:

Morristown Line : Hoboken to Summit ; Yellow

Morristown Line : West of Summit : Blue

Monclair Branch: Red

Gladstone Branch: Green

Boonton Line : White

I based the white for the Boonton Line on the fact that after the 1963 merger of the Boonton Line and the Greenwood Lake Railway the timetable advised passengers to look for one white and two red lights. Trains that continued to run on a purely Erie routing to say Wanaque or Great Notch were still identified by two red light.

Again thank you for your help. I waited to respond to your post until I had checked my facts.

Larry, RedbirdR33
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Re: Train Indicators Boards at Hoboken Terminal

Postby JimBoylan » Tue May 03, 2011 10:07 am

RedbirdR33 wrote:look for one white and two red lights
I think I remember those exact words on a timetable. Was anything 2 green lights, like long distance trains? Did trains West of Dover towards Washington or the Sussex Branch have a different indication from other West of Summit trains?
Thanks for investigating.
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Re: Train Indicators Boards at Hoboken Terminal

Postby RedbirdR33 » Wed May 04, 2011 3:28 pm

Jim: The single light color train identification system was in use by the Lackawanna prior to the consolidation with the Erie trains at Hoboken. The Lackawanna used a single colored light to identify a train route . When the Erie trains started to move to Hoboken the system was expanded using a double light system for Erie trains. I have been referencing my collection of EL time tables and various Morning Sun books on the EL.

In "Erie Lackawanna In Color , Volume 3: The West End" there is a picture of a TDI time table for the Denville and Dover Stations on page 72. The time table is dated August 1, 1963 and advises passengers to look for a single white (for Boonton Line) or blue (for Morristown Line) light at Hoboken Terminal. The Boonton Line proper ends at Denville although Boonton Line trains did operate west of that point over the Morristown Line. Boonton Line trains which did operate beyond Dover were identified by one white and two red lights. So I am guessing that trains to Washington and over the Sussex Branch would been identified by one white and two red lights.

I don't know if any trains were identified by two green lights.

Regarding the long distance trains my information is very limited. I have seen pictures of the track gates at Hoboken showing two white lights for both the "Lake Cites" and the "Phoebe Snow." This is interesting because both of these trains ran over the Lackawanna as far as Binghamton. Other then that I can't say. I believe that there is an EL historical group. They would probably have more information.

If I can be of any more help let me know.

Larry, RedbirdR33
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Re: Train Indicators Boards at Hoboken Terminal

Postby livesteamer » Wed May 11, 2011 1:24 pm

The colored lights sure made it easy for the commuters to cross over from the ferries or the PATH trains; only had to briefly look up for their track assignment. I know of no other stub end terminal that used colored lights to amrk train platform assignments.
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Re: Train Indicators Boards at Hoboken Terminal

Postby ExCon90 » Wed May 11, 2011 4:58 pm

At Reading Terminal in Philadelphia, there were backlit translucent destination boards mounted in a wedge-shaped frame above the track gates, using a different color for each line. Passengers didn't even have to be close enough to the gates to be able to read the boards. Apart from that, I can't think of anywhere else. (However, I've been trying to remember whether the Erie ever used colored lights at Jersey City before the move to Hoboken.)
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Re: Train Indicators Boards at Hoboken Terminal

Postby livesteamer » Wed May 11, 2011 5:50 pm

IIRC, neither North or South Stations in Boston used any kind of color light system. What about the Windy City with all their stub end terminals?
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Re: Train Indicators Boards at Hoboken Terminal

Postby RogerClare » Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:19 pm

The colored light system at Hoboken was in use in the early 1940s and probably much earlier.
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