N&W AC Signal System, Bannon - Columbus, 1911

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue Jul 10 09:41:06 EDT 2018


Thanks for your research on this.  One point of interest is the coal 
fired steam boiler at Dorney to generate AC.

By 1919 records indicate there were two boilers at Dorney. Stationary 
boilers 27458 and 27459.  Both boilers were from retired F Class 
locomotives.  I have been unable to find the locomotive numbers in my 
research. At this time both boilers were used for the pump station.

This article indicates one stationary boiler was also used to generate 
AC power at Dorney in 1911.  It would be interesting to find the date 
they connected to commercial power and which boiler was used.  Perhaps 
they could use either boiler depending which one was on line at the time.

Jim Blackstock

On 7/9/2018 9:08 PM, NW Mailing List wrote:
> Attached article, from the 1912 Journal of the Railway Signal 
> Association, describes the N&W's new AC signal installation Bannon to 
> Columbus in 1911, using a coal-fired steam boiler at Dorney to drive 
> two generators.
> The important thing to realize about this installation is that it was 
> a VERY early installation of an AC signal system (AC track circuits, 
> AC semaphores.)  The first AC signal system in the nation was 
> installed just the year before (1910) on the Cumberland Valley RR 
> between Hagerstown and Harrisburg.
> Before the advent of AC signaling,  signaling was done with "primary 
> batteries," made up in glass jars, using Copper + Zinc + acid.  Each 
> such cell of battery gave slightly more than 1 volt DC.  A set of 
> these primary battery cells was needed for each track circuit and each 
> semaphore, and at each "cut section" in each track circuit.  
> Interlockings needed vast banks of batteries.  It was very expensive 
> to make and maintain these batteries, and they had to be renewed every 
> few months when the chemicals were spent.
> So AC signaling was a real revolution on the railroads.  The first 
> problem was, DC relays and DC semaphore signal motors would not work 
> with AC, and therefore all new equipment had to be invented to run on 
> AC.  The second problem was, there was no AC power commercially 
> available outside of cities, so the railroads built their own power 
> houses to generate AC power, and hung the transmission wires on their 
> pole lines.  (Most railroads transmitted their AC at 440 volts; the 
> PRR transmitted theirs at an incredible 6600 volts ! )
> Perhaps some day we can assemble enough articles on this subject to 
> gain a comprehensive idea of what the N&W was doing signal-wise in the 
> early years.  Most of the information is out there in the trade 
> journals - it just has to be dug out and collated.
> -- abram burnett
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