Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ditch Lights - circa 1957

Port Townsend, today. Ditch Lights were pioneered by the Canadian National Railways in 1955 or 1957. Today we see them in sleek lamp housings, along with other attention grabbing luminaries.
Ditch lights were NOT a factory option. They were added on in those divisions that had serious safety problems with rock slides, wash outs, and blind curves. They first appeared in Prince Rupert in 1957.

They were bolted on the hand rails of Geeps and SW1200RS's, and bolted to brackets mounted on cab units. And they were adjusted very scientifically - shining on the Engine House doors!

They were adjusted to cross beams 50 to 100 feet in front of the locomotive, giving the crew the effect of "seeing around a curve."

In those days, they were not about warning pedestrians or motorists. They were all about crew safety.

Pacific Great Eastern's RDC cars had them bolted on top of the cab!

I do not recall seeing them on Canadian Pacific engines at that time. None of my photographs taken in that era show any type of ditch lights on CPR locomotives.

And only those of you alive and well in 1957 can tell me what US roads were doing.

Obviously they became standard equipment and various light arrangements and flashing patterns have evolved.

3 Comments - Click here:

SDP45 said...

Those ditch lights seem a lot classier than the stuff running now.

Keep up the good work!


Eric said...

Interesting how a reader will pick up on a blog post and it goes "viral" like some Youtube videos. Obviously this type of information and photos are of interest to many others. Like the safety cab, a Canadian prototype born of necessity.

Robert in Port Townsend said...

As Eric points out, born of necessity. There were (are) sections of the Prince Rupert Extension that had permanent slow orders due to likely encounters with rock slides. The Coast Range mountains are old rock, and it was constantly stressed with rain and freezing. And the roadbed is squeezed between the steep rock slopes and the Skeena River. Even with the permanent slow orders, derailments still occurred, because the slides were often hidden in fog!

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