Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Union in McHenry County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Early Railroad Signals

 
 
Early Railroad Signals Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., September 6, 2010
1. Early Railroad Signals Marker
Inscription.
In the earliest days of railroading, train movements were controlled by flagmen, station agents, or other workers alongside the tracks, using flag or lantern signals to stop or start trains as needed.

The first practical mechanical wayside signals, developed in the mid-1800's, used large colored balls manually moved up or down a tall pole with a rope. A ball at the top of the pole meant "clear to proceed" (even today, railroaders refer to a signal to proceed as a "highball," one of many railroad terms that entered general use).

Manually operated semaphore signals soon followed, using the position of a brightly-painted wooden blade to convey "stop," "slow," or "proceed" orders. Though an improvement, all manual signals remained prone to human error. The development of the electric track circuit in the early 1870's allowed signals to be controlled automatically, greatly reducing the chance for mistaken signals and the possibility of collisions.
 
Erected by Illinois Railway Museum.
 
Location. 42° 13.7′ N, 88° 31.63′ W. Marker is near Union, Illinois, in McHenry County. Touch for map. Marker is on the north wall of Barn 4, on the grounds of the Illinois Railway Museum. Marker is at or near this postal address: 7000 Olson Road, Union IL 60180, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers.
Early Railroad Signals Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., September 6, 2010
2. Early Railroad Signals Marker
Marker at far right top, just below the yellow and black semaphore signal arm.
At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Chicago Railways Company Date Stone (a few steps from this marker); Railroad Rails (a few steps from this marker); Railroad Standard Time (within shouting distance of this marker); Chicago and North Western 9933 (within shouting distance of this marker); Couplers (within shouting distance of this marker); Railroad Brakes / Westinghouse Automatic Air Brakes (within shouting distance of this marker); Simplex Type Automatic Coupler (within shouting distance of this marker); Soo/Milwaukee Road X-5001 (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Union.
 
Also see . . .
1. Railroad Signals of the U.S. (Submitted on December 24, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. A Primer on Railroad Signals. (Submitted on December 24, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Railroad Signals. (Submitted on December 24, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
Categories. CommunicationsIndustry & CommerceMan-Made FeaturesRailroads & Streetcars
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on December 24, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 931 times since then and 45 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on December 24, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Paid Advertisement