Some of the best weather we have in the Pacific Northwest happens in September. The sun starts down after 7pm but with the warm days the temperatures are still comfortable enough to be outside after sunset. Early September usually remains dry so the skies are clear and the bugs are few. All this adds up to some great September nights outside!
Amtrak Cascades train 509 has a clear indication on the cantilever signal at Vader, WA on
a beautiful September evening. 509 was the last of 14 trains passing this spot in a 4 hour period on September 12th 2013.
Thursday last week I visited Vader, WA with the idea that the cantilever signals there won’t be there much longer. The nationwide PTC mandate has BNSF replacing signals and upgrading the signal system at quick pace. While work to stand up replacements hasn’t begun in Vader I’m certain the plans are in place and it will just be a matter of time before it does.
From 4pm to 8:20pm 14 trains passed! Daytime maintenance held the train traffic up a bit so the early evening time turned quite busy. At one point the UP local was switching Napavine while 3 northbound trains stacked up from Vader to Napavine South. Soundbound trains kept rolling but only so the dispatcher could clear a path for Amtrak Cascades trains 508 and 509 could meet more conveniently.
It was a good night to be hanging out with friends and enjoying the activity.
A few weeks ago I chose to use my Sunday railfan day to visit Ridgefield South. My main goal for the visit was to make another photograph of a train and the cantilever signals which protect the Ridgefield South crossovers. With PTC on its way these signals won’t be around forever. So far there are no signs of replacements being installed but you know it will happen. For now things are status quo there.
Bigger changes are afoot. Ridgefield wants to install an overpass and eliminate the two crossings in town. In addition a new bridge would be built across Lake River to access the S Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. The second step would eliminate the “Wildlife Crossing” just north of the crossovers and potentially cut off all public access to this location. That is surely years away, but as we all know time can get away from us sometimes.
Northbound Vancouver-Everett Manifest train passes underneath the cantilever signals protecting the crossovers at Ridgefield South on BNSF’s Seattle Subdivision.
It’s close to gone. See it while you can. The endangered cantilever protecting the north (cough…east) switch at Swain will soon be gone. Look closely underneath the cantilever and behind the Superliner and you can see the replacement waiting for its chance to go to work. Once this happens the face of downtown Junction City will be forever changed.
More of the Southern Pacific is about to disappear. Almost 15 years after the merger with Union Pacific I suppose that should be expected. Right now Union Pacific is in the midst of a project to upgrade the signal system on the Brooklyn sub which will doom the classic searchlight signals so prevalent there now. I’m sure if you ask UP management they will say this project is long overdue as many of their competitors replaced their searchlights long ago. But as is typical with many of the former SP lines there were other upgrades required to get the railroad reliable before signal improvements.
As with many railfans I’m into nostalgia so of course I’ll be sad to see these sentinels leave. These signals have a classic look with the ladder angled away from the signal at the base. They just scream SP. Appearance wise these signals will be sorely missed. Of course I do realize the advantage of the tri-color replacements and how they, in the long run, will save the UP operational dollars and keep the railroad safe. As a business person those facts can’t be ignored. Efficiency and safety though have created an endangered species.