• Rail Signals

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by kevikens
I am not sure exactly where to post this but since I live and railfan mostly in NJ I'll post it here. I am uterly mystified by the different rail signaling systems used today. I grew up on the PRR's position signals but most of the railroads use something else based on color and position, what is called aspect, I think. I obviouly understand the meanings of individual colors but when I see several poles with several lights of different colors on at the same time I am confused as to what all this indicates. I recently purchased a Brian Solomon book on signaling which confused me more. Can one of you rail workers, or railfans, explain lucidly what the sytems used here in the Northeast mean and, if you cannot do that, can you recommend an easily understood book. I've tried to get something from the internet but again this leaves more confused than ever. Thanks
  by amtrakhogger
It would be hard to explain every detail but here it in a nutshell. Railroad signals like highway traffic signals use "greeen to go,
yellow to slow down, and red to stop." But that is where the similarity ends. Railroad signals, primarily in the Northeast are speed signals. By that I mean for every aspect/indication is associated with a speed. That
is why you see all sorts of funny combinations like yellow over green
or green over red etc. One example is red over green is "medium clear"
which is simply proceed at medium speed (30mph) through an interlocking
and associated turnouts.
Out west, the major freight carriers use signals a little differently.
They have speed signals but they also have "diverting" signals.
Diverting signals basically tell you that you will divert from one track
to the next. NORAC rules (used primarily in the Northeast) have no
"diverting" signals rather any signals that indicate a diverging route
are published in the timetable special instructions.

  by kevikens
Thanks. It's all those funny combinations that I can't figure out. I think of red and green being opposites and can't figure out how they are combined and what that means. Also thanks for the difference in Eastern and Western railroading. I travel out west in the summer and have noticed that the signals appear to be used differently. Do you know of any publications that could explain those difference in such a way that a layman, not a conductor or engineer, could make sense of the Northeastern system ? Thanks again.

  by concordgirl
peorge wrote:http://pages.prodigy.net/bote_rail/SignalAspects.html

hope this helps :wink:
Very cool, thanks for posting that URL :)