• Bethlehem Branch cab-signalling system

  • Discussion Related to the Reading Company 1833-1976 and it's predecessors Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road and then the Philadelphia and Reading Railway.
Discussion Related to the Reading Company 1833-1976 and it's predecessors Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road and then the Philadelphia and Reading Railway.

Moderator: Franklin Gowen

  by Franklin Gowen
Back before the latest re-vamp that wiped the forums clean, there were a few posts about the cab-signalling system which the RDG applied to the Bethlehem Branch. I am hoping to clear up a few points about it while my memory of the original posts is still relatively fresh.

Was this system intended for passenger service, with freights needing c.s.-equipped engines just to stay out of the psgr. trains' way?

Did this installation survive long enough such that all of the RDCs - even the later, second-hand units - had to include it?

How did the frequent use of foreign motive power on through psgr. trains (such as CNJ to Scranton) figure into this? Was there a small group of foreign engines with Beth. Br.-compatible cab signalling? Or did these engines operate under authority of a special waiver granted by the dispatcher or division superintendent?
  by Rick
The CNJ Alcos and Trainmasters that passed thru Lansdale in the 50's and 60's had cab signals similar to the RDG diesels. The RDG freight units also had them, as did the electric MU power units. Don't know for sure about the RDC's, but they most likely did.
Welcome back, All!
  by aem7
I beleive the only Rdg RDC's equipped with a CS system were the ones used on the Yorker and Wall Street(er) to Newark NJ. #'s 9161 thru 9166. This was a requirement for entering the PC (Amtrak) at Hunter Intelocking. All the other ones had the systems either shut off or removed.

  by Franklin Gowen

I agree - the Reading's RDCs used in "Crusader" and "Wall Street" service would have needed the former PRR cab signal system after the Aldene Plan was put into effect. Once the CNJ's Jersey City Terminal was closed, the RDG's trains had to use a bit of the Northeast Corridor to reach Newark. Thanks for reminding me that another railroad's cab signalling was involved after 1967.

However, the PRR/PC/Amtrak c.s. installation on the NEC was, to the best of my knowledge, *different* from that which the RDG used on its Bethlehem Branch. I suspect, but cannot yet prove, that the Beth. Br. c.s. installation may have still been in use even after the Aldene Plan reroute began. Admittedly, the RDG installation would truly have been on the last of its "nine lives" by then.

While it's neat to imagine the RDCs having both the RDG and PRR cab signalling hardware onboard, I've gotta say it sounds unlikely. That would be a real hairball to contemplate. I just wish I could hunt down a firm reference of when the Bethlehem Branch lost its c.s. system! :(
  by aem7
I recall seeing (in the mid 70's before scrapping) some of the old olive green MU cars with cab signal display at some of the control stands. They were not active and looked like they weren't used for years.

They had the same 5 display lenses: clear, approach medium, approach and restricting but were color coded instead of position lights.

I also recall the red aspect for "Restricting" also had a letter "P" imbedded in it. It stood for "Precaution". The CS systems used by the Reading RDC cars did not have any Train Stop / Automatic braking features incorporated into them. They were just a display unit with a whistle and acknowleding pedal.

I'll try to ask some Reading retirees about when the CS were removed from the Beth. Branch for you. Someone should know.
  by geep39
As far as I can determine, freight units did NOT have cab signal boxes. A number of passenger-equipped RD-3's had them, and the signal box was on the engineer's side just ahead of the cab. When the box was removed,
these units could be ID'd by the curved-in handrail at that location. Several FP-7's had cab signals, and possibly AS-16's and Train Masters. I'll get into some research and find out for sure
  by RDGAndrew
Maybe somebody can help me understand cab signaling - if an engineer receives a "stop" aspect, how is the stopping point determined? In other words, with a wayside signal, clearly you have to stop short of the signal. But with CS, it seems like it would be unclear how much distance to the stopping point was allowable.
  by aem7
The aspect the engineer receives in his cab is not a "stop" signal per say. It is commonly referred to as a "restricting in the cab". This requires the train to be operating at restricted speed (less than 20 mph prepared to stop short of .......) and completely stop the train before the signal.

The stopping point is entirely determined by the engineer. This side of the signal belongs to him, the other side does not. As long as he stops before it, he has complied with the signal indication and the rule.

If the engineer disregards the "restricting in the cab" and keeps his speed above 20 mph, the speed control feature will automatically apply the brakes within several seconds.
  by aem7
According to a retired signal maintianer friend of mine, the Bethlehem Branch cab signals were deactivated around 1967 about the same time Wind/Wayne towers were opened to control the Reading Lines north of 16th St. Jct.
  by Franklin Gowen

Thanks very much for clarifying the date. You've been a big help!

  by JimBoylan
In the late 1970s, the lunch counter RDCs and some old MU cars had the 4 lens "Reading" color light displays in the cabs (the 2nd lens from the top was half yellow and half green). I think Jersey Central RDCs had this display. The new about 1963 Passenger Service Improvement Corp. RDCs. had 5 postion "PRR" displays. I don't know about the 2nd hand RDCs from LV in 1961 and AT&SF, etc. in 1976.
I don't know for sure what kind of apparatus was in the equipment boxes. While roads like RF&P, C&NW, NYC, B&A had their own "odd-ball" cab signal systems, and some Amtrak Diesels had 3 systems on them, many roads seemed to buy out of the Union Switch & Signal catalog. I don't know for sure that PRR, RDG, CNJ, LV, P-RSL and ACRR (Atlantic City RR) had the same compatable system, but here are my reasons for thinking so:
Among other places, the PRR had cab signals between Philadelphia and New York. The P-RSL had them between Atlantic City and both Camden and Frankford Jct. (via the Delaware River Railroad & Bridge Co.). I think the ACRR had them between either Camden or Winslow Jct. and Atlantic City. (LV motor cars had cab signals when they used PRR's Exchange Place, N.J. terminal.)
CNJ engines pulled the "Blue Comet" over P-RSL and ACRR East of Winslow Jct. Reading steam engines ran on the PRR and the P-RSL between Philadelphia and Camden or Winslow Jct. They also ran on the P-RSL and ACRR between Camden and points East. Did CNJ engines sometimes run beyond Bethlehem onto the RDG?
Special instructions in employee's timetables list exceptions when non-equiped moves may be made in cab signal territory. I can't find exceptions for the above moves in RDG emp tts for Apr. 1934, 1953, 1957, 1963, or 1965; or in P-RSL emp tts for Apr. 1946, 1963, and 1965. Of course, train orders could have been issued for an unusual move at reduced speed.
Was the end of RDG cab signals about 1967 after the start of the Aldene Plan? If so, it would have made life interesting for RDG RDCs.

  by Rick
It was not unusual to see CNJ Alco's or Trainmasters pulling RDG passenger trains between Philly and Bethlehem in the 60's.

  by JimBoylan
CNJ employee timetable 4-25-65 lists cab signals Elizabeth Ave. & Woodbridge Jct., "MR" and Atlantic Highlands, "RG" and Lakehurst. This implies that RDG runs to Jersey City didn't run in CNJ cab signal territory, but that the "Blue Comet", which used P-RSL's PRR style cab signals Winslow Jct. to Atlantic City, did run in CNJ cab signal territory. Before 1934, they ran in the RDG's Atlantic City RR cab signal territory.
Some time after the 1958 Newark Bay Drawbridge crash, a mechanical (subway style) automatic train stop was applied to CNJ passenger equipment, to be used at this bridge (and Passaic Draw). Did RDG equipment get this installed? There is no special instruction in this edition exempting them.

  by aem7
The cab signals in use by the RDG RDC cars went active as you entered the connecting track at NK tower to Hunter and were operational all the way to Harrison yard (PC NEC) where the RDC's were stored during the day. They were simply only cab signals without any Train Stop or ATC features. I operated that equipment frequently to Newark while working on the Extra Board at Reading Terminal.

  by JimBoylan
Can anyone remember what happened before the Aldene Plan, when RDG trains ran to Jersey City?