Cantilever 2492 -- The Final Night (Part I)
The world was in turmoil as the sun rose on 8 October 1940. Nazi Germany occupied the European Continent. London was receiving a nightly pounding from the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain. The Imperial Japanese Army was marching in China and the South Seas. The Soviet Union, though signing a secret non-aggression pact with Hitler, was nevertheless mobilizing for a war against the Axis. Only on the American Continent were the people at peace.
Here at home President F.D.R. was making an unprecedented run for a third term. During the campaign both he and his Republican challenger, Wendell Willkie, pledged to keep the US out of the conflicts. The biggest questions on most peoples mind was whether the recent up-tick in the economy would be sustainable, or would it suffer another bruising setback as it had in 1938.
As for the Santa Fe, they had much to feel good about on 8 October 1940. Car loadings showed strong and steady improvement since 1938. A beautiful Diesel-powered streamliner was racing back and forth between Chicago and LA, setting records and attracting considerable attention from the media and public. And though the railroad was 100% steam on all through freight, an order from Electro-Motive Corporation (EMC) for a new and radical freight locomotive called the FT would be on the property in less than 3 months. So confidant that the AT&SF had finally weathered the crisis, President Engel and the Board of Directors were now committed to resume capital spending on projects that had been suspended during the depression. And so finally the railroad closed the last single-track gap between Joseph City and DT Junction, a distance of 23.5 miles. With the completion of this double track, the Santa Fe could boast of having double track all the way from Belen, New Mexico to San Bernardino, California.
On the morning of 8 October 1940, an army of signal construction forces assembled along the railroad from Joseph City to DT Junction. Brand new and recently erected cantilever and signal bridges manufactured by Illinois Steel of Chicago were ready to go. Sitting on top of each were factory-fresh H-2 searchlight heads from US&S, their faces covered by burlap bags. As the construction gang took their places next to each signal, the foreman cut the power in on the line wires -- 550ACV for primary power, 10VDC line relays, 10VAC for the lamps, and 2VDC for the track. Off came the burlap bags and on came the lights. By nightfall, with all system tests completed, the railroad was operating under rule D-251 from Joseph City to DT Jct.
Thus would mark the beginning for signal 2492, as one freight train after another, powered almost exclusively by 3800 class 2-10-2s, marched under the bridge, towing all sorts of merchandise - from livestock, to perishables, to aircraft parts, to washing machines, to paper, and so on. When the war finally came to the nation and to the Santa Fe, so too did the people. Never has there been such a migration of people to the west as was during the War, and all courtesy of the Armed Forces. Troop train, after troop train, after troop train, some 20 a day during the peak, (and that's not counting the regularly schedule passenger trains, where some ran as high as 7 sections) carrying service men and women to the Pacific Front. The railroad was bursting at the seams. By 1945 the Santa Fe had seen its freight traffic increase 10-fold over December of 1941. According to those lucky enough to witness these events, you could expect a train every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day. The place was absolutely saturated. And through it all signal 2492 never did go dark, save for a rare bulb outage.