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Newfangled Signals on Southern Pacific

The circa1910 photo below of a signal maintainer performing his rounds topping off battery jars (we're guessing that the electrolyte is in the box on his velocipede, not in the tin container) at Fargo, CA on he San Joaquin Division stands on its own as fine photography, but those signals represented the major improvement over the way trains were protected a decade before. In the beginning, SP employed both Hall Disk Signals and semaphores, but crews took awhile to adjust to them. One issue was that the company could no longer afford to ignore color blindness. Other types of color signals had work-arounds, but now lives depended upon instant recognition of signal aspects / indications.

Thus in early 1897, SP conducted color blindness tests (above) on its entire Pacific Lines, and came out with its first rule book with pages on block and interlocking signals. The learning curve was steep - bare literacy was all that was required of many operating personel - and it took awhile for it all to sink in. As a consequence, incidents similar to the 1902 rear-ender covered in the San Francisco Call (right) were commonplace.

Wanted to borrow: a well worn copy of Pacific Lines 1897 Book of Rules to scan for sharing on Wx4 - pristine copies are too risky - E.O.

"Safety" indication on CM&StP Hall Disk Signal

SP 1903 rules governing Hall Signals

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