The Mystery Signal : Whazzit For?


Identify this signal and win a crappy prize

Reader's note: This page appeared on Wx4 in 2003 as a contest. The cans of Bulgarian peas started to bulge, so we never awarded them as prizes.

In the Spring of 2005, the Mystery Signal was removed in preparation for lining Tunnel One with Gunite. Sic Transit Gloria

One night, Caltrain Work Train Engineer Howard Post-More-Milwaukee-Stuff Tolman pointed out this signal to Engineer Frank San-Bruno-Branch Caron, who forwarded this photo to Wx4 for inspection.

Frank says that it is located about 400-500 ft. from the north portal of Tunnel One (San Francisco), and was set up to display a white light for westbound (now northbound) movements on #1 track, formerly known as the Westbound Main Track. Jeez, it's pretty-well hidden in the dark - nobody on the Wx4 staff has ever noticed it.

So, what exactly was it used for? Please email your answer, or best guess to:

The first person with a definitive answer will get a crappy prize, or something, and full credit on this page

Have a really stupid answer (hopefully funny)? Send it in - we'll list it below , and the dumbest answer will also get a prize. See the Contest Prize Parade below for details.

Contest Updates, as of Sept. 19:

We have a winner? Well, maybe...It's the only decent answer that we've had so far.

Caltrain/SP Engineer Greg "Doom" Welker, a stalwart contributor to Wx4, forwarded the following answer from retired SP Engineer Junior Nordgren:

"There were two lights in tunnel #4, one midway and a second one, not to be passed at over 25 mph so you could stop short of the signal at the east end of tunnel #4 on the east bound main.

I'm a little vague on the light in tunnel #1. A yellow signal between tunnels #1& #2 got you down for the next signal at the mouth of tunnel #1 at the west end, so the light was for postion use so you could tell when you were nearing the end of the tunnel for movement into Mission Bay and by the double signal at the west end of tunnel #1 on the westbound main."

Some suggestions immediately classified as "Also Ran":
  • "It's the track department's big screen TV projector." Ron, Bayonne, N.J. The track department? We're talking porno here, aren't we Ron. - staff
  • "I think that it's the eyepiece for a periscope so that the engineer could see if the tower operator at Potrero was waving a yellow light." Bill, Chula Vista, CA. Sadly, this is more plausible than most of the serious suggestions that Wx4 has received to date. - staff
  • "an SP Spy-Cam". George, Roseville, CA. George, even if your address wasn't an indicator, we'd still have you pegged as ex-SP. - staff
  • "It could be a night light for bats." Steve, Las Vegas, Nevada. Steve flunked high school biology. - staff
  • "or, it's the Bat Signal Light for Batman!" Steve again, Las Vegas. You should have done your homework, instead of watching stupid TV shows, Steve. - staff
  • "The light alerted the engineer that a prostitute was 'actively engaged' with a customer at the north end of Tunnel One." Wx4 staff submission. - We may have a winner! - staff
  • "It's a seizmograph with a readout window to tell employees if it's safe to read the readout window." Armond, Tacoma, WA. There's a certain sick railroad logic to this answer. Armond, we thought that Tacoma had been burned as a health menace. No? - staff

Lately-added dumb responses:

  • "It's the light at the end of the tunnel. It's only displayed for employees eligible to retire. (Is it starting to glow yet, Ed?)" "Manual D" Klitzing, Caltrain Engineer. Dan, if you want to gain a seniority number so badly, perhaps you could speed-up my retirement by subsidizing #2 daughter's college education? Thanks, and God bless! - E.O.
  • "I think I remember someone saying that it is to tell the crew "hey you idiot, you're going into the east leg of the wye so slow down." Although, I do like the porno projector idea." Sean Morgan, Caltrain engineer. Sean, Sean, Sean, Sean...Your're not going to win any contests by complementing the opposition, what? Further, we really can't classify your "I think I remember someone" answer as authoritative. We judge that your greatest likelihood of winning a contest lies with the California Lotto. - staff

Contest Prize Parade

Wx4 is busting its $12 monthly budget on this one. We figure that contest entrants want something unusual to vie for; that losing yet another contest for yet another Mercedes gets a bit repetitious.

  • First Prize:
    The winner gets his/her choice of any one of these cans of high-quality Bulgarian peas. Yep, these are the Real McCoy from Bulgaria, which we understand is pretty darned famous for peas, by the way. Actually, these may be olives. We're not sure.
  • Third Prizes:
    These awards go to the people who come up with the stupidest entries. This was supposed to be second prize, but so far, the submissions in this category have been so pathetic that they really don't rate 'second' status. Third place winners will receive a legal size envelope stuffed to the gills with Bulgarian peas that came from a jar that we broke while shooting the above photo.

Fine print:

  • First prize winner. The Bulgarian postal service doesn't pay its employees very much, thus to avoid starvation, they often eat the mail. This won't do, so the winner will be required to fly to Bulgaria on his/her own dime to pick up the prize. Don't forget to obtain a receipt for the peas, so that Wx4 can reimburse you.
  • Third prize winners. Be sure to forward a legal size SSAE to Wx4 so that we can send you the goods. Before receiving the prize, please check your mailbox for the presence of any live electrical wires - pea goo is an excellent conductor of electricity. Bonus! Wx4 will include a complementary piece of cheesecloth to strain out any stray grass fragments remaining from the aforementioned accident.