Scouts-L Mail Archive for February of 1999: Re: 'Q' & train whistles
Re: 'Q' & train whistles
Mon, 22 Feb 1999 13:37:26 -0500
My father worked for the Boston & Maine Railroad for 34 years so let me try to
In the early days of railroading, one of the essentials to be developed was a
universal signalling system (much like the universal time system we now know
as time zones). Steam trains had powerful whistles, but over great distances,
little more than whether a blast was a short one or a long one was distinguishable.
Those early railroaders developed a common set of whistle blast signals based
not on Morse code or any other system, but mostly by chance, with a few
parameters such as: the effect of the sound had to be a factor, no two
signals should be so alike as to cause confusion, and the distance over which
the signal had to travel should be taken into consideration.
Here are a few common signals they came up with.
- two short blasts, train will proceed if stopped, train will stop if moving
- three short blasts, train will move in reverse (from a stop)
- four short blasts, call for signals from signalman or signal tower (how
should I move?)
- long, long, short, long blasts, train crossing warning (a long signal which
could be started far before the crossing, timed so the last blast occurs when
the engine enters the crossing)
- steady blast or rapid short blasts, warning signal that train is coming and
something may be in the way ("panicky" sound)
There were others, but most have been rendered obsolete by other communication
methods and electronic signalling. As railroad companies shared tracks across
the continent, the signals had to be fairly universal, but there were still
small isolated railroads that used different codes.
Bob Everson wrote:
> This is a Morse Code related question (to me anyway)....
Troop Committee Secretary, Northborough Troop 101
Brotherhood, Chippanyonk Lodge #59, OA
Knox Trail Council #244, BSA