Pose your questions and make your observations about signalling practice in the real world of full-sized railways. This forum is now closed. Please use the rail-interlock.com forum instead.

Moderator: RedFred

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Post by RedFred »

As semaphore signals fade from the scene on modern railways, the modeller has less opportunity to observe in the real world the things they may wish to create in model form.

An error which occurs in models surprisingly often is that semaphores point the wrong way.

The general principle is that for a railway/country which by convention is left-hand running, the semaphores point to the left, that is, they are hinged to the post at their right end. For a railway/country using right-hand running, semaphores point to the right (hinged on the left).

Thus, the standard for Britain and Australia is that sempahores point left. For North America, they point right.

Of course, the direction is that observed from the "facing" side of the signal - typically the red or yellow side, not the black and white back of the arm.

A notable error exists in the first book of the "Thomas the Tank Engine" series ("The Three Railway Engines") where semaphores are shown pointing the wrong way.

As an interesting footnote, photos can lie! In my teen years back in the 60s, I took a black & white photo of a train arriving at Ipswich (Qld) station. In the photo was the back view of the splitting signal at the approach to the platform. Although the backs of the arms were quite clearly white with black stripes, they appeared in the photo as black with white stripes - no doubt a trick of the light reflecting from different surface textures. It appears that the semaphores are pointing the wrong way since one would expect red to render as dark grey or black in a B&W image.

Others may like to comment on the way semaphores point on different railways past and present.
Happy training,
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Semaphore Direction

Post by Statkowski »

As previously posted, semaphores generally point away from the track. For British/British Empire railways with left-hand running, this meant the blades faced to the left. For North American railroads with right-hand running, this meant the blades faced to the right.

In the U.S., the one exception to the preceding was the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, which operated from New York, New York to Boston, Massachusetts. They orginally started with right-facing blades (i.e., away from the track) on their Controlled Manual Block applications (similar to British practice), and retained the right-facing semaphores when they converted over to lower-quadrant, two-aspect Automatic Block signaling. However, when they later converted to upper-quadrant, three-aspect semaphores, these faced inward (left facing). They were the only major railroad in the U.S.A. with "backwards" facing semaphores.