“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Avery in Shoshone County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)

Signs, Wires & Whistles

Signs, Wires & Whistles Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bernard Fisher, July 22, 2011
1. Signs, Wires & Whistles Marker
Grief could come to a big, fast train suddenly. Railroaders needed to see and hear warnings and orders clearly and quickly.

The engineer and crew watched for standard signals over each section of track and kept their eyes and ears open for signs of trouble.

Signals could be signs, flags, lights, flares, bells or whistles, telegraph orders, or radio-phone calls.

The Milwaukee Road set up the first extensive use of color-light signals in the United States over its electrified lines.

The rapid-fire ‘dit-dit-dot” of a sparking telegraph signaled orders and warnings up and down the line for years. Dispatchers kept in constant touch with telegraph operators at stations located along the tracks.

By the early twenties the instant voice communication of telephones, and later, radios assured even greater safety and better traffic control.

One foolproof safety method used by the Milwaukee Road through tunnels in the early years was the “staff block system”. The principle was simple: the engineer had to possess a
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unique steel staff for his train to travel over a certain section or block of tracks.

The staff was released to the crew at East Portal and surrendered at Roland, or the other way around. No two trains could be in the tunnel at the same time.

Whistle Talk

That lonesome whistle blowing is actually trying to tell you something! Next time you hear an engineer blowing a train whistle, listen and see if he is saying:

- means: Short Blast
+ means: Long Blast

- Apply brakes. Stop.
++ Release brakes. Proceed.
+--- Flagman go back and protect rear of train.
---+ Protect front of train.
-- Answer to any signal not otherwise provided for.
--- When standing, to back up. When running, to stop at next passenger station.
++-+ Approaching highway crossing at grade.
+++ Approaching stations, junctions and railroad crossings.
++- Approaching waiting trains.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars.
Location. 47° 20.498′ N, 115° 36.951′ W. Marker is near Avery, Idaho, in Shoshone County. Marker can be reached from Loop Creek Road (Federal Road 326) 4 miles west of Cliff Creek Road (Federal Road 506). Located along
Signs, Wires & Whistles Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bernard Fisher, July 22, 2011
2. Signs, Wires & Whistles Marker
the Route of the Hiawatha Trail. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Avery ID 83802, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Milwaukee Road Muscle (approx. ¼ mile away); Electrified (approx. ¼ mile away); This Place Had a Name? (approx. 0.4 miles away); Mountains of Copper? (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Traveler (approx. 0.4 miles away); Johnson’s Big Cut (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Mighty Quills (approx. 0.6 miles away); Olympian Luxury (approx. 0.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Avery.
Also see . . .  Route of the Hiawatha Rail Trail. (Submitted on August 5, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on August 5, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 650 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on August 5, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.

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Feb. 21, 2024