Rock Island Signal

Friday, September 25

On September 14 a message appeared on the email list of the Rock Island Technical Society (, referring to a Rock Island block signal for sale on Craig's List.  I saw the message the next day and took a look at the ad.  The signal was of a unique style used by Rock Island on the "Short Line", and taken out of service by the Union Pacific.  There is a preserved one in Melcher that I photographed last winter.  There was also a somewhat over-sized HO model of this "type G" tri-light signal produced by Olympia in Japan some years ago.

I emailed the seller and said I was interested and would pay the asking price.  I got a reply saying that there was a deal in progress with someone out of state.  I raised my offer a bit, but didn't hear anything back for about a week.  Then, an email arrived asking if I were still interested.  I said I was, and we arranged for me to come to an acreage near Cambridge on Friday afternoon to pick it up.

The seller had the signal loaded into the bucket of a tractor-scoop outfit and was able to raise it to the level of the Jeep's floor.  This was a good thing, because in "real life" the signal head was much larger and heavier than one might think.  I backed up and we were able to wrestle the signal into the car for a trip to its new home.

On Saturday, my son Aaron and nephew Alex Dyer came out to the ranch and helped unload the signal onto the garage floor.  Over the remainder of the weekend I've been disassembling it.  Things inside seem to be in pretty good condition, and the inner, colored lenses are in great shape.  The outer, clear lenses have some cracks, so I may look for replacements for them.

The bulbs used in the signal are interesting.  They use a "bayonet-style" base, but the bulb base is in two parts, a smooth side base attached to the bulb and a ring with lugs, soldered to the bulb base.  I assume this arrangement allowed precise positioning of the bulb's filament at the focal point of the lens, perhaps followed by the soldered connection.  I found a source of the bulbs on the Internet, but I need to buy them in quantities of 120 bulbs.  My son suggested I get 39 more signals, but I tested the bulbs on a power pack, and all three seem to be in working condition.  They are rated 10 volts, 18 watts.

Oh, and I did see a train in Pleasantville on Saturday.  A DMOWQM was switching and I caught them in the rain at the State Street crossing around 8:30.  There were four units, BNSF 8270, BNSF 5324, NS 9703, and BNSF 527.  My picture-taking prompted radio conversation about "candid camera" and who was going to be, "famous", or perhaps, "infamous".  527 is leading in the other direction this morning (Monday), I heard them roll up their warrant at MP 56 a few minutes ago, and the Creston desk dispatcher is currently giving the track over to maintenance personnel.

That's It!