Frisco searchlight signals coming down

Discussion in 'General' started by April, Dec 23, 2013.

  1. April

    April Member

    I was out last week trying to scare up some trains to photograph but wasn't having much luck. I was following the Cherokee Sub and decided to check out the signals at Wyandotte, (Oklahoma) just in case something was close. Anyway, the BNSF signal department is in the process of replacing the old searchlight signals for the siding there.

    Question. Are there many of the searthlights from the Frisco era still in service?


  2. Bruce Adams

    Bruce Adams Member

    Sorry, I don't have an answer to your question... but isn't it interesting how much taller the new signal masts are?
  3. DanHyde

    DanHyde Member

    What I would like to know, if any of the old signals might be for sale? I LOVE any Frisco equipment!!
  4. William Jackson

    William Jackson Bill Jackson Supporter

    I have seen a lot of that stuff go into the scrap tub. I used to have a semaphore, but I got rid of it over the years. I still have a couple of Motorcar indicator lights that I plan to use.
    The Searchlight target was replaced by what rail workers call a "Snow Hood" It is more directional, and a little harder to confuse with other lighting on the railroad.
    During the great ground blizzard of 1986, the Orin line was shut down for 3 days, because the signals was covered with snow. Crews sat on engines for several days and was flown out with Helicopters for at least two days. I helped to open the line with the Jordan Ditcher. It was quite a deal, I famously rolled a Caboose off the track (that was Derailed) south of Reno, Wy.
    The Snow Hoods have, basically become the standard. They are very good in heavy rain and blowing snow.
    William Jackson
    You can still get lucky, by finding where rail lines sell their scrap signal equipment. Little difficult though.
    William Jackson
  5. These old signals are disappearing fast. Earlier this year they replaced the old Mopac era signals near my new place in Alma,AR. They replaced them with the new "snow hood" types. All the UP crews I have talked to call them "Vader Hoods", as in Darth Vader. One of the old signals is still sitting next to the track(deactivated though). Wonder if BNSF will donate some of the old signals to local railroad museums.
  6. r c h

    r c h Ft Worth - Tulsa Engineer

    There are still several on the Creek Subdivision, especially south of Henrietta. The absolute signals at Wetumka and Ada are searchlights, if I remember correctly.
  7. William Jackson

    William Jackson Bill Jackson Supporter

    I am sure I have heard the Vader Hood name before. The best use in areas where there is not as much snow, is they do not make as good a target. By far the most damage comes from some one shooting them out with a rifle.
  8. friscobob

    friscobob Staff Member Staff Member Supporter

    Unless they've been replaced recently, there are some in the Sherman (TX) area.
  9. gbmott

    gbmott Member

    While there is a general movement towards the hooded three-light signals, a major reason replacement is being done on specific lines now is that searchlight signals are not compatible with Positive Train Control (PTC).

  10. tim_1522

    tim_1522 Member

    Interesting that you post this. I have recently self undertaken a project of trying to shoot as many of the Frisco style searchlights that are close to me for fear that they are likely not long for this world. Your post seems to illustrate that I was more right than I knew.

    Since I'm in the St. Louis area, that's the old Rolla-Lebanon Subdivision, now the BNSF Cuba Sub and the old St. Louis Subdivision, now the BNSF River Sub. I have not had the chance to check out the BNSF River Sub, but I have been on the BNSF Cuba Sub a few times and I'll try to summarize what I know as of today, starting at Lindenwood and working west. I am not always the most "versed" in precise railroad-ese, so some of it might be a little bit off, but I think I will convey the general. Additions, corrections, etc. are welcome and I will clarify anything that is confusing as best I can.

    1) There is a pair of block signals at the West end of Yard Limits where double track ABS with right hand running (westbound signal on Main #1, eastbound signal on Main #2) starts, just west of the bridge over Shrewsbury Ave in Shrewsbury. The Westbound signal has a number plate of 7.3 on it and both signals have been replaced with newer "three light" style signals, although not "Darth Vadars"
    2) There is another pair of block signals where the tracks are right next to I-44 (near highway MP 281.4) in Webster Groves that I have seen from the highway that appear to be single head Searchlight style and from looking at satellite this seems to be confirmed. It appears there is a pedestrian walkway over both the tracks and the highway just east of them that could be a suitable location to shoot an Eastbound. Have not been able to investigate.
    3) Another pair of blocks signals, immediately west of the Holmes Ave crossing in Kirkwood. This is where "Fairlawn" used to be, but the diamonds with the old MP line are long gone. The Westbound signal has an 11.7 number plate on it, but I've never bothered to walk around to the other side and investigate the Eastbound signal. These are both the newer 3-light style with a single head.
    4) The last pair of block signals on the double track are visible from an overpass for Forest Ave in Kirkwood. The Westbound signal has a 13.7 number plate while the Eastbound signal is not visible without a lot of walking, and likely trespassing. These are both single head Searchlight style signals. I have shot this location of a Westbound going away towards the Westbound signals.
    5) At "East Valley Park", the double track ends and CTC begins. Westbound there are 2 single head Searchlight style signals guarding then end of the double and a twin head Searchlight style for Eastbound movements. I have shot this location pretty extensively.
    6) It appears there are very small signals for "West Valley Park" (where the lead for the old Chrysler plant in Fenton came off, it appears there are very small signals as space between Meramec River bridge and the junction is very small and I have not been able to see evidence of any Searchlight style signals at this location, although it's hard to access as well.
    7) Between "West Valley Park" and the siding in Eureka, there are likely one more block signals, but I have not been able to locate any or identify what type(s) they are. This is behind the Tyson Research facility and 2 county parks, so access is far from unfettered, but I'll probably keep digging.
    8) Both ends of the siding Eureka remain 100% Searchlight style signals with twin heads governing movements going "into" the siding/main and a pair of single heads governing movements "out" of the siding/main. The East end is buried behind a State Park, though access *may* be available hiking in. The west end is very easy, being located at the Central Ave crossing in Eureka proper. I have shot the West end of Eureka quite a bit. Plus, if one gets bored waiting for trains on the old Frisco, you can creatively include the Eastbound signal in shots of trains passing on the old MoPac.
    9) Between Eureka and the siding in Pacific, there appears to only be a set of block signals (one in each direction), more or less in Allentown. I don't know what the exact milepost is, but it is very near the detector at MP 29.5 and these are the newer 3-light style and worse yet, they are approach lit, rendering them useless for railfanning.
    10) The siding at Pacific is the new 3-light style signals on both ends. The east end is at the Dozier road crossing just off Business 44/ Historic US 66 near the correctional facility. The west end is in Pacific proper and also now sports the fairly new, fully signaled interchange track to the UP Jefferson City Sub (Ex-MoPac). All of these signals also appear to be approach lit as well. BOR-RING!
    11) Between Pacific and the siding at Rook there appears to be one set of block signals(one in each direction) along highway O east of where the tracks cross the highway in the town of Robertsville. I caught a look at these while going after a train, so I haven't seen much but I could tell that they were newer 3-light style, but little else beyond that. Also, there may be more between Pacific and Rook.
    12) Rook siding is gold right now! Both ends are fully searchlight style and the siding signals are also cool "shorty" type signals on a mast about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of a "normal" mast. Also, this stretch has a nice row of older wire line poles on the north side of the track. I've shot both ends as well as a curve in the middle of the siding but I still REALLY want to head back!

    I haven't really done much digging West of Rook and I've kind of set it as the "western edge" of my targeted coverage area for this line. Hey! Gas is expensive... But, perhaps once I've gotten everything I possibly can out to Rook, I'll expand a bit further West. Also, I'd like to get over the the River Line to see if there's anything to be found over there.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 3, 2014
    FriscoCharlie likes this.
  11. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member Supporter

    tim_1522 noted: "There is another pair of block signals where the tracks are right next to I-44 (near highway MP 281.4) in Webster Groves that I have seen from the highway that appear to be single head Searchlight style and from looking at satellite this seems to be confirmed. It appears there is a pedestrian walkway over both the tracks and the highway just east of them that could be a suitable location to shoot an Eastbound. Have not been able to investigate."

    This is Selma Avenue, former site of the South Webster Station. Access from Big Bend is to turn south on Selma. There is a place of business by the tracks with a parking lot, though I would not press my luck by stopping there a long time. Ride a bike there! You can always portage the bike up over the overpass. Access on the south side is East Jackson to Selma (Edgar to East Jackson, or Glendale to Selma).
  12. tim_1522

    tim_1522 Member

    Was out on the Rolla-Lebanon Subdivision again today and did a bit more investigation, getting as far out as St. Clair. Updates/additions:

    1) The block signals immediately West of the West end of Eureka bear number plates - 29.4 on the EB, 29.5 on the WB
    2) Working West from Rook. the Frisco crosses the Meramec River for the 4th and final time. This bridge is visible from the crossing with Moselle Road in the town of Moselle proper - or what's left of it, I guess...kind of a ghost town...a little depressing!! Maybe slap a long zoom on for a straight on shot of a WB exiting the bridge. More "traditional" shots of this bridge don't appear to be possible.
    3) Just west of the main span over the Meramec, the tracks cross some kind of side stream/tributary on a really nice looking trestle which is accessible by going down the road towards Choteau Claim Access (State Park, I's green on the map)
    4) There is a set of Block signals (46.8 EB/46.9 WB) which can be found pretty easily by following Moselle Road west out of town along the tracks. These are both single head newer 3-light style signals and are approach lit. The WB signal unsurprisingly also features a "G" placard.
    5) As the tracks continue west, they work up the fairly famous Iron Hill towards St. Clair. Along the way, there are a few really nice places to shoot WBs with some cuts and likely good sound. Near the top of the crest, the tracks cross Sandy Meadows Road where it T's with Iron Hill Road. There is another set of Block signals immediately west of the crossing. Both are newer 3-light style signals, approach lit, single head on the EB signal which carries number plate 50.2 and twin head on the WB signal which carries number plate 50.3. The signals are BOR-RING, but look to the east from this crossing and there's a nice cut.
    6) Both ends of the siding at St. Clair are still featuring Searchlight style signals -- very similar to the siding in Eureka. There are currently a long cut of flat cars in this siding which I can remember seeing for quite a while now (my daughter is Freshman at Rolla, so I've made a few trips up and down 44) and appear to be the same cars that are on currently on the Google satellite image, so who knows how long they've been in there...
    a) East end of St. Clair - West bound signal for can be seen from the crossing at Main St. in the "Business District" area of St. Clair and decent possibilities to shoot an EB, perhaps via some of the parking in rear of one of the local businesses that butt up against the ROW. The EB signals are best shot from the Highway 30 overpass and a late afternoon Westbound would be the best option for that. There *MAY* be some options by parking in the St. Clare parking lot and shooting across their athletic fields, but trespassing caveats apply in spades!
    b) West end of St. Clair - From the Highway 30 exit off of I-44, take the South Outer Road west along the tracks -- can't miss it! "Modern" BNSF equipment has already reared it's ugly head with one of their shiny metal equipment buildings appearing next (immediately to the west) to the iconic white Frisco-era building that was common throughout the system -- making me wonder if replacement here might already be in the works. There's a decent curve immediately west of the switch, which could add to the creative possibilities for shooting here. I shot a WB there today, but the results were somewhat uninspiring. The layer of clouds that rolled in before the train showed up didn't help.

    I know this contained a bit more than just signal information, but I mostly wanted to do a mind dump of what I saw today. Something that I'm noticing as a pretty recurring theme is that Block Signals between sidings have (so far that I've seen) all been replaced on the CTC section of this line (West of Valley Park) while the majority of the signals for the ends of the sidings are still Searchlight Style signals, with Pacific being a notable exception.

    WindsorSpring, thanks for the directional help, I had mapped out how to get there via Selma Ave, I just hadn't done it yet...actually, in a bit of a red-faced moment, I was out after a morning EB about a week ago and I went to the wrong pedestrian bridge (I went to the one about a mile west, that connects Glendale Rd on the North with Outer Rd on the South)...imagine my surprise when I got up there to find NO signals at all! :)

    I did *not* know that Selma was the former site of the station. Something else to dig into!
    FriscoCharlie likes this.
  13. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member Supporter

    tim_1522, you went to Glendale Ave, site of the Glendale Station, "back in the day." Search this site for stations alphabetically and there is a wealth of information, though little at this time of the TOTC commuter stops.
  14. train61

    train61 Member

    There down over here in Adamsville, AL. They are lying on the ground, by the shead near the siding. That's close to Adamsville's fire station. Wonder who I can talk to, would like to have one at my house.........If the wife would even let me......
  15. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    Just returned a few days ago from Christmas with our son & family in Olathe, KS. I noticed the new signals that are going in on the former Frisco lines look to be the same as what the ex-Santa Fe line through Olathe uses. I guess we really are part of the BNSF now!

    Noticed some strings of shiny new (crude oil?) tank cars going west through Olathe.

  16. tim_1522

    tim_1522 Member

    Was out on Sunday, taking my daughter back to school at Rolla.

    -Both ends of Stanton
    -Both ends of Coffeyton
    -Both ends of Cuba
    -Both ends of Dillon

    All still had Searchlights. Meanwhile, the East End of Rosati had a Vadar and I couldn't get back to the West End.
  17. BN8002

    BN8002 Did someone say B-Unit?

    keep an eye on eBay. A SP or UP searchlight just sold the other day. Otherwise it's basically a matter of running into one by accident
  18. tim_1522

    tim_1522 Member

    Been a while since I've had time to be out, but here's the latest observations on the Cuba Sub:

    -East and West Rook have been replaced with Vadars
    -East Coffeyton has been replaced with Vadars, but West Coffeyton remains Searchlights for now

    No other changes that I have seen.
  19. paul slavens

    paul slavens Member

    just west of Cherokee Yard in Tulsa, there are still the old Frisco style searchlight signals. Don't know how much longer they will be in service.
  20. paul slavens

    paul slavens Member

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