|Semaphore Signal 8491|
When on June 17, 1947 the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) ordered the railroads to install additional protection in the form of train stop, train control or cab signaling, on lines where any trains are operated at 80 m.p.h., the Santa Fe probably had the most to lose. No railroad had more flat-out 100 m.p.h. territories, and to comply with the order, which had a 5-year grace period, meant either a huge capital investment or reducing passenger speeds to a maximum of 79 m.p.h., which would have had a severe impact on their long-distance schedule. The AT&SF immediately requested a waiver from the rule, arguing that many of their lines where not heavily trafficked and they had an excellent safety record to that point. Despite the pleas, the ICC saw no special reason to grant an exception and turned the railroad down, forcing the AT&SF to install the additional equipment. Naturally, the railroad settled on the most inexpensive form, Automatic Train Stop (ATS), and only installed it on territory where speeds of 100 m.p.h. could be nearly achieved. The territory between Lamy and Hahn must have qualified, as the ATS shoe in the foreground indicates a railroad that can do more than 79 m.p.h., even though today this territory is limited by the BNSF to - you guessed it - 79 m.p.h.
Had the AT&SF known what the future held for long distance rail passenger, had they known what was in the minds of Boeing engineers, had they foreseen passage of the Interstate and Defense Highway act, and had they known that passenger revenue would fall through the floor in a mere 13 years, it is doubtful that management would have authorized such an expenditure. The cost and maintenance of this system now benefits only two trains a day (numbers 3 & 4), and they aren't even the Santa Fe's (BNSF's) trains. All things being equal, the BNSF would probably like to remove both the ATS and the passenger train. But the railroad, no matter how big, doesn't call the shots in these matters. Amtrak is a political animal and as long as number 3 and 4 remain, so will ATS, as the Federal Railway Administration (FRA), which now oversees railroad safety, frowns on the removal of existing safety apparatus.