Monday, May 8, 2017

Searchlight Signals

Southern Pacific used Union Switch and Signal H-2 searchlight signals in most of the system when they were using Automatic Block Signals.  On the Coast Line most of the semaphore signals were replaced by searchlights in the late 1940's.  These signals lasted until the Union Pacific merger in 1996 when some were replaced by tri-lights.  Some survived in some of the more remote areas but almost all are gone.  One issue is that they have moving parts that need to be maintained.  The newer digital signals have no moving parts and are thought to be more reliable.

I do not have any signals on my layout yet, but when I do they will be searchlights.  I do have a working searchlight but it is full sized.

I did not have a pole for it.  The prototypes were often attached to the old semaphore poles.  These were about 5 1/2 inches in diameter.  I had a basketball pole that I was not using but it is about 3 1/2 inches in diameter, so I had to do some special accommodation.  I took the challenge with a drawing and the support arm to a local welder.  He came up with a welded steel cap that fit over the top of the basketball poll.  The cap had tabs on it to hold the support arm while it was tightened.  It also had concentric rings inside so that it stayed relatively vertical on the pole when the weight of the signal on the support arm was applied to the cap.

bottom of pole cap showing concentric inside and support tabs

Side view of pole cap
Before actually installing the signal, the pole was cleaned, sanded and repainted with a Rustoleum primer and then an aluminum outer coat.  Other parts were also touched up including the disk that fits around the signal.
Painted former basketball pole
I also buried some PVC pipe going from near the garage to near the pole and installed some electrical wire to carry the less-than-12 volt current to the signal.
Aluminum painted PVC at base of pole

Aluminum painted PVC at Garage end

Having all the parts ready to go, I gathered a few ladders and invited the local model railroad club over to assist in mounting the signal.  About 6 or 7 members showed up to assist.  We did this at the end of October after 7:30 in the evening so I had a light or two on outside but we also a strong beam flashlight that one of them directed on the work being done.  One took photos while work progressed. Two assisted me in mounting the different parts including the oldest member of the group present - 78 years old.

The pole adaptor had already been put in place so the first to go up was the long support arm.  It weighs about 40 pounds.
Long Support arm on the ground  Note:bearing surface for signal housing.

Lifting support arm up the ladders.  Note adaptor cap on top of pole

Support arm in place on pole

Next we muscled the housing up and placed it on the arm,  The housing assembly weighs about 100 pounds so it was a struggle to lift it up the nine feet to the support arm and get it in place.   This was especially difficult as it was done from ladders.  Makes you wish you had a boom truck like the railroads to hoist the parts in place.
Muscling the housing up the 9 feet to the top of the pole
Trying to align the pin and the housing onto the bearing surface

The housing finally in place, the bolts are being secured

Next the target disk was hoisted and installed.
Lifting the target in place

Securing the target disk

Bottom view showing securing the target disk

Attaching the hood

Now that it looked like a searchlight signal we installed the mechanism.  The mechanism has all the moving parts and electrical connections and is enclosed in a glass case.  It is designed to be removable by signal maintainers and repaired in the shop and just installed.  I had already tested the mechanism so it was in working order.
Attaching the electrical wires
Back of housing showing mechanism in place and connected.
Close up of Mechanism label and maintenance sheet

The electrical power was attached and we tried the signal.  It was on but hard to see as the signal was adjusted to be parallel to the ground so it shone in a beam 9 feet above the ground.
Just barely make out the red signal as it shines over our heads

Eventually, I adjusted the signal so it shines down right at our front door.  Here are some photos from the front door in the daylight.

The signal is countrolled by a DPDT toggle switch inside the garage.

Inside the housing was a maintenance card for the signal.  Hopefully, the signal will continue to function fine so I will not have to do maintenance.
Weathered (mold and rust) maintenance card

Here is hoping you always have Green Signals!

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