Friday, April 14, 2006

Southern Pacific Railroad headlights

From: "Steve Mccann" smccann1@woh.rr.com

Why did the Southern Pacific Railroad have two sets of headlights plus a red light in both front and rear of most all diesel-electric loco's. What was the reason and why were they removed in the early 1990's?

—Steve

4 Comments:

Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: Thomas Irion

The SP had two stationary lamps for redundancy. They also had two oscillating headlights of equal wattage that moved in a flat figure 8 pattern to get the sleepy motorists' attention. Some oscillating headlights were in a circular instead of figure 8 pattern. The red light also oscillated. It was connected to the air brake system so that if the emergency brakes were applied, the red light came on as a warning to opposing trains. The opposing train was required to stop. This was intended to prevent the opposing train from striking the pile-up of the possible derailment in the train having the red light on.

These lights were removed after the Santa Fe and SP attempted to merge in the mid-1980's. The Santa Fe guys who began to infiltrate the SP contended that the oscillating lights showed no statistical improvement over the solid state yellow rotating beacons the Santa Fe used, and they were less expensive to maintain. In my years as an engineman on the SP, I never thought the AT&SF's yellow lights were worth two cents as accident preventive devices.

—Tom Irion

[from the R&LHS Newsgroup.]

4/17/2006 8:54 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: Dick Izen

The second headlight was a "Mars" (brand?) light, an oscillating headlight that went from side to side in a figure 8 pattern. Its purpose was to draw attention to the locomotive (e.g.make it more visible to drivers of autos and trucks) and thereby reduce grade crossing accidents.

There is some dispute about wether or not it helped as California drivers managed to ignore lights, whistles, bells and reflective paint jobs with increasing frequency (but there were more cars on the road so perhaps the rate of accidents decreased even as the total increased).

Like all such devices they required maintenance and the SP was cash strapped by the 90s.

—Dick Izen

[from the R&LHS Newsgroup.]

4/17/2006 8:54 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: Steve Ewald

In a nutshell the white oscillating headlights serve the same purpose as today's ditch lights. Here in California, most of the EMD F59 locomotives and the older cab cars of the state-owned Capitol Corridor/San Joaquin equipment have red strobe lights which serve the same purpose as the old red oscillating lights – the F59's have one just inboard of the fireman's side ditch light and the cab cars have a roof-mounted strobe at the cab end of the car. Incidentally, inboard of the engineer-side ditch light on the engine is a plain red marker light for use when the train is operating cab car forward. The last batch of Amtrak California F59's have another marker in place of the red strobe, but they have two white strobes on the roof. But I digress ...

It is my understanding that SP used at least two brands of oscillating lights--the Mars Light and the Gyralight(?) come to mind. I've also heard that they had some sort of agreement whereby a locomotive had to be taken out of service for repair if any moving parts were inoperable, including the oscillating lights. This would seem to have been a good incentive to remove them once they'd found a suitable replacement for them.

Interestingly, there are or have been a number of roads out here in California that have used the oscillating headlights – in addition to the mandated ditch lights – in the very recent past. The Central California Traction Company (Stockton to Lodi and the Port of Stockton) still uses them; the Caltrain commute service between San Francisco and San Jose/Gilroy still has them on some of their EMD F40's, although they now seem to have been set to just face forward with no oscillation. That's two sets of headlights, in addition to the ditch lights – no one can claim they didn't see the train coming!

—Steve Ewald

[from the R&LHS Newsgroup.]

4/18/2006 6:47 AM  
Blogger James Allen said...

This might work. I haven't figured out how to start a new a new topic, maybe someone will find this and give help.
I recently spoke with a man who knows a great deal about the old Southern Pacific Railroad. I told him how between 1960 to 1964, our family made trips from Oakland to Seattle by passenger train. I thought that S.P. went all the way to Seattle, he said no. I have since read that Northern Pacific picked up the Pullmans in Portland and continued up to Seattle.
Alright, that works.
There is a memory that haunts me. I remember checking out the locomotives while in the station, always! I was nearly left on the Seattle platform once, but a sharp eyed conductor grabbed my arm as the train left the station.
In the early days of my travel, S.P would put together nice packages of F-7 A-B-B units. Soon after, they couldn't care less about any matching combinations.
Here is another stumper: I remember the engines always painted with the "Bloody Nose" pattern. Except once, I stared at an all black F-7 A with only a long, thin red body of a spider under the top headlight with the 8 thin red legs wrapping around the nose. It looked like a Black Widow spider, but not the usual S.P. black widow paint scheme.
Has anyone ever seen that engine? I knew the difference between Northern and Southern Pacific colors, I remember it being S.P.
Anyway, I am new guy Jimmer 56

5/01/2014 6:10 PM  

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