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Nostalgia & History > Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!


Date: 03/02/15 20:54
Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!
Author: drumwrencher

Another of my father's photos. This one's captioned "High switch stand near 26Th & Wood St's., Oakland, Calif. For engine men to see, coming around curve with fence & machinery in the way. The only one I know of."

That last sentence is certainly an understatement...

Dad didn't date this one, but judging by the trucks in the pic, plus other photos it was in with, I'd say mid - 40's, maybe.

Any info would be most appreciated.

Thanks!

Walter
Sanfranciscotrains.org




Date: 03/02/15 21:49
Re: Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!
Author: Evan_Werkema

Interesting! The "normal" stand to the left is the one that, in modern times anyway, was used to access the spur to Pyro Minerals.

http://goo.gl/maps/pX4YS

The large round sign in the distance to the right lasted until a few years ago - see photo below.

The stand below the tall lamp looks like it's relatively far away from the rails, and I wonder if it wasn't attached to an actual switch, but was serving more along the lines of a signal for an at-grade rail crossing akin to the manually operated tilting-targets they have back east at otherwise unsignaled, low density, low-speed crossings. I think I can just make out the rails in Wood St. in the foreground, which used to serve a number of industries up and down the street. The Wood St. track was crossed by the 26th St. wye, which led to more industries but which Santa Fe also used to turn passenger trains once upon a time (late 30's at least, and possibly later). There may well have been a need to establish clearly who had the right-of-way here to avoid a switch job running into the side of a Golden Gate being turned - whoever got there first lined the "signal" for their move, and anyone else who came up in the meantime had to wait. A gate or smashboard would have served the same purpose, but those tend to be problematic when the diamond is in the middle of a public street.

Can you read what's on the side of the crossbuck? The side facing to the right down Wood St. looks like it has the familiar "Look Out For The Cars" admonition to motorists, but the side facing us looks like it says "(something) SP AT&SF (something)"




Date: 03/03/15 03:54
Re: Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!
Author: TonyJ

There's a prototype for everything!



Date: 03/03/15 05:37
Re: Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!
Author: drumwrencher

I opened the pic in a photo viewer, and turned it 90 deg. left. It *looks* like the upright on the crossbuck says "LOOK LEFT FOR" and I think the last word is "TRAINS". It looks a lot more like "LEFT" than "OUT", and "TRAINS" more than "CARS". The SP-ATSF part says "JOINT SP-ATSF...", and there's a third word after ATSF, which *might* be "TRACK". The leg of the high stand crosses pretty much right over the last word.

Thanks, Evan. Great additional photos.

Walter


Evan_Werkema Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Interesting! The "normal" stand to the left is the
> one that, in modern times anyway, was used to
> access the spur to Pyro Minerals.
>
> http://goo.gl/maps/pX4YS
>
> The large round sign in the distance to the right
> lasted until a few years ago - see photo below.
>
> The stand below the tall lamp looks like it's
> relatively far away from the rails, and I wonder
> if it wasn't attached to an actual switch, but was
> serving more along the lines of a signal for an
> at-grade rail crossing akin to the manually
> operated tilting-targets they have back east at
> otherwise unsignaled, low density, low-speed
> crossings. I think I can just make out the rails
> in Wood St. in the foreground, which used to serve
> a number of industries up and down the street. The
> Wood St. track was crossed by the 26th St. wye,
> which led to more industries but which Santa Fe
> also used to turn passenger trains once upon a
> time (late 30's at least, and possibly later).
> There may well have been a need to establish
> clearly who had the right-of-way here to avoid a
> switch job running into the side of a Golden Gate
> being turned - whoever got there first lined the
> "signal" for their move, and anyone else who came
> up in the meantime had to wait. A gate or
> smashboard would have served the same purpose, but
> those tend to be problematic when the diamond is
> in the middle of a public street.
>
> Can you read what's on the side of the crossbuck?
> The side facing to the right down Wood St. looks
> like it has the familiar "Look Out For The Cars"
> admonition to motorists, but the side facing us
> looks like it says "(something) SP AT&SF
> (something)"



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/03/15 05:47 by drumwrencher.



Date: 03/03/15 06:28
Re: Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!
Author: wabash2800

The Wabash had some very tall switch stands like that on the Fourth District (and presumably others) up until the 1930s it appears. Apparently, the idea was that the switch stand lamps and markers could be seen from a further distance. There are a couple of pictures in my "Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District" book.

Victor A. Baird
http://www.erstwhilepublications.com



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/03/15 06:29 by wabash2800.



Date: 03/03/15 11:27
Re: Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!
Author: eminence_grise

Canadian Pacific had tall wooden switch stands in areas of heavy snow. The throw lever was at the usual level, but the lamp and target were atop a six or seven foot wooden mast. There were metal footholds bolted to the mast so that the lampman could access the lamp. These were gone by the 1920's.



Date: 03/03/15 14:11
Re: Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!
Author: chakk

Since the track seems in the photo to curve around the parking lot for the trucks, I'm guessing the tall stand was to allow railroad crew to see the switch setting from a further distance back, when the view of the low-level stand might well be blocked by the parked trucks.



Date: 03/03/15 15:55
Re: Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!
Author: wabash2800

Based on photos of such switch stands on other railroads, I'm sure it predated trucks.



Date: 03/03/15 17:38
Re: Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!
Author: Evan_Werkema

chakk Wrote:

> Since the track seems in the photo to curve around
> the parking lot for the trucks, I'm guessing the
> tall stand was to allow railroad crew to see the
> switch setting from a further distance back, when
> the view of the low-level stand might well be
> blocked by the parked trucks.

There are several reasons I'm reluctant to accept the explanation that the stand with a high target is actually connected to a switch. There are two stands in that photo, so why would only one have a high lamp/target? For that matter, there was a great deal of industrial trackage curving around obstructions with switches in inconvenient places in Oakland and the Bay Area in general, places where a high lamp/target might have been useful. One obvious example would be the throat switch of the wye about 100 feet away the corner, yet drumwrencher's father says this is "the only one I know of." That suggests that the stand is there for a reason other than just allowing a crew to ascertain one switch's alignment from a distance. Also, that oval sign behind the tall stand looks an awful lot like a railroad STOP sign. If it is, seeing a switch target from a distance becomes irrelevant if the crew is required to stop short of the switch anyway.

The single-headblock stand with the low target to the left, which I agree probably is there to control a switch, is quite possibly the same hardware that is still at that spot today for the switch into Pyro Minerals:

http://goo.gl/maps/ywqrg

Look at the layout in the streetview scene - if that high stand was for another switch, its points would be almost coincident with the points of the existing switch. That's not out of the question, but the track coming off of it would have to go to the right of the existing Pyro lead, and there is no room between the existing lead and the building, which a 1946 aerial photo on historicaerials.com shows has been there since at least 1946.

Some other points: the stand under the high target/lamp is a double-headblock stand that would be sitting parallel to the tracks on two long ties if it was being used as a switch stand. In a double-headblock stand, the cranks for the connecting rod pass completely underneath the stand as it is thrown, so it has to be mounted parallel (on a single-headblock stand, the crank moves back and forth beside the stand, so it can be mounted perpendicular). In the photo, it's pretty clear that the high-target stand is oriented perpendicular to the tracks, which makes it unlikely that it is actually controlling a switch.

The map below is a portion of a 1942 map that detailed the trackage and trackage rights of the Oakland Terminal Railway when Santa Fe and WP bought out Key System's freight franchise (courtesy the Western Railway Museum Archives). The red arrow points to the spot where drumwrencher's father was standing and approximately the direction he was looking when he took the photo. This map evidently predated the construction of the building and spur that Pyro Minerals now uses, which would be in the block immediately below the arrow, but note how the joint ATSF/SP rails of the 26th St. wye cross the Santa Fe-only tracks on Wood St. It makes sense that there would be some form of "protection" for such a crossing, which if nothing else supports the theory that the oval sign behind the tall target/lamp is a STOP sign for moves coming west off of 26th. The only other place on the map where tracks cross at grade is at the bottom of the map, where Santa Fe's 20th St. lead crossed the Key System A and B lines on Poplar. There was interlocking protection here as well, even after the Key System ceased operations. When the OTRY rebuilt the Poplar line as single-track, drawings indicate they planned to install a "semi-automatic interlocking" (pushbutton and signals) to protect the crossing.

My suspicion remains that the tall target/lamp and its associated stand was a fully manual equivalent of a "semi-automatic interlocking," requiring crews to stop and set the signal for their movement before proceeding. Now if only I can find some documentation to backup all that speculation...




Date: 03/03/15 18:25
Re: Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!
Author: wabash2800

Well, I suppose it could have been used in such an application, but all the ones I have seen were on side tracks on the mainline of a railroad.


"My suspicion remains that the tall target/lamp and its associated stand was a fully manual equivalent of a "semi-automatic interlocking," requiring crews to stop and set the signal for their movement before proceeding. Now if only I can find some documentation to backup all that speculation..."



Date: 03/03/15 20:47
Re: Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!
Author: drumwrencher

Evan -

Thanks for all the investigating.

I expanded my scan of the original pic, and it is literally made from a switch stand, which I am sure is why dad called it such. On close examination, it's only connected to a pipe or pole, with a lamp mounted atop. It is not connected to any trackage. I see no direct linkage between the actual "switch stand", and the "lamp stand", for want of a better name, either. The third "leg" of the tripod is a ladder, surely used to service the lamp. I have no doubt there were rules governing the use of this switch, followed closely by positioning the lamp in the necessary position. Especially with it being joint trackage. Maybe these rules were recorded in a Western Division employee timetable, or perhaps an ATSF employee timetable of the era?

When I have some time, maybe later in the week, I'll see if I can find more info. I hope you can continue to look into it as well. It would be very interesting to find out exactly why this unusual-for-the-bay-area device was once used.

I wish dad had explained it more thoroughly!

Thanks again!

Walter



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/03/15 20:48 by drumwrencher.



Date: 03/03/15 22:48
Re: Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!
Author: Evan_Werkema

wabash2800 Wrote:

> Well, I suppose it could have been used in such an
> application, but all the ones I have seen were on
> side tracks on the mainline of a railroad.

The SP main line is behind the red arrow pointing to the stand's location on my map, and any moves off the main that used the trackage past the stand would have had to traverse the ladder track of Wood St. Yard first. The West Oakland industrial trackage was also at the tag end of Santa Fe's branch down from Richmond, so the stand in the picture wasn't on or just off of either road's main line. No train was going to come bearing down on the intersection of 26th and Wood at 60-per and need to be able to see a switch target from a mile away.



Date: 10/24/16 01:08
Re: Now, THAT'S a Switch Stand!
Author: BaltoJoey

Evan_Werkema Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Interesting! The "normal" stand to the left is the
> one that, in modern times anyway, was used to
> access the spur to Pyro Minerals.
>
> http://goo.gl/maps/pX4YS
>
> The large round sign in the distance to the right
> lasted until a few years ago - see photo below.
>
> The stand below the tall lamp looks like it's
> relatively far away from the rails, and I wonder
> if it wasn't attached to an actual switch, but was
> serving more along the lines of a signal for an
> at-grade rail crossing akin to the manually
> operated tilting-targets they have back east at
> otherwise unsignaled, low density, low-speed
> crossings. I think I can just make out the rails
> in Wood St. in the foreground, which used to serve
> a number of industries up and down the street. The
> Wood St. track was crossed by the 26th St. wye,
> which led to more industries but which Santa Fe
> also used to turn passenger trains once upon a
> time (late 30's at least, and possibly later).
> There may well have been a need to establish
> clearly who had the right-of-way here to avoid a
> switch job running into the side of a Golden Gate
> being turned - whoever got there first lined the
> "signal" for their move, and anyone else who came
> up in the meantime had to wait. A gate or
> smashboard would have served the same purpose, but
> those tend to be problematic when the diamond is
> in the middle of a public street.
>
> Can you read what's on the side of the crossbuck?
> The side facing to the right down Wood St. looks
> like it has the familiar "Look Out For The Cars"
> admonition to motorists, but the side facing us
> looks like it says "(something) SP AT&SF
> (something)"

Evan, looking at a 1975 topo map shows that 26th St. is actually the apex of a wye.
The South side of the wye had to cross the spur leading into Pyro. Before it connected
with the North side of the wye. You can see this by looking at the tracks in the street.
I agree that the tall signal was to control traffic on the wye and the rails that went down
Wood St.
 



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