Signal 2251

Conduit and cantilever are backlit by the moon. Since the pole line is on the north, and the cantilever is on the south, somehow 2251's vital line wires need to cross the tracks. This is how it's done. Starting from the pole line, the leads are tapped from the crossarm and come together in a cable. The aerial cable is then dropped to the supporting mast next to the right-of-way, as shown in the photo. Like all cable drops, a drip loop at the end prevents rain water from draining into the mast, and a "policeman's" cap seals the top of the pole. The cable finally terminates at the pole box, where standard terminals mark each line wire. The purpose of breaking the cable in two at the pole box not only helps the signalman isolate a failure in the line, but also limits the replacement to either the underground cable (expensive and difficult to replace) or the drop cable. Before the advent of polyurethane covered cables, most underground was laid in a wood conduit, sealed with tar and pitch, and finally buried. The ICC required all underground cabling to be tested for continuity every two years. The practice was known as meggering, and the signal department usually assigned a two-man gang to test the district. In the event of a failure, the gang replaced the cable. When it came to stringing wires, hanging cross-arms, and running cable drops to a signal, each railroad had a common standard that was strictly adhered to. Signalmen took a great source of pride in that the job was done to perfection. In conversation with an old-head signalmen, he related a story of one of his first job with the Signal Department was to hang 10-pin crossarms on a CTC project. After securing the arm to the pole with a lag bolt, he applied the square washer and then tightened the nut. He did this 33 feet in the air with only a belt and foot grafs to hold him to the pole. After about five poles the lead foreman inspected his work. Up to that point, he thought he had done a descent job, everything tight and secure, with proper spacing. But then he heard the foreman screaming to the top of his lungs. It was a poor job, and he was even considering removing him from the gang. The problem: he didn't have the square washers perfectly set in a diamond shape, and was told to redo the job. I asked him if the foreman was anal, since the position of the washer made no difference in support of the cross-arm. Maybe, he replied, but they were all like that. You had to follow the common standard plans. I've heard this same story from other signalman as well. In one of the great ironies, I eventually got the impression that the single greatest achievement and source of pride in a signalman was not the signal he installed or maintained, but the pole lines. .