Monday, April 28, 2008

Whistle posts and the other kind

In a comment to last Wednesday's post, Yury asked what a wayside post with an R means. Posts marked W are whistle posts, cuing the engine driver to signal as he nears a crossing. I'm asking about the R posts on a couple of railfan sites, with no results yet. Anybody here have a theory?

The whistle post shown below is one of two on the outbound side of the trail less than half a mile from the Bedford end at South Road. The R post is on the outbound side as the trail parallels Valley Road in Lexington, about one-third of a mile from the bridge over I-95 / Mass 128. [Update: The post is exactly 2000 feet from the bridge, as nearly as I can measure with the Gmaps Pedometer. That round number makes me think they're related.]

Whistle post in Bedford, approaching South Road

R post near Valley Road in Lexington

Today: 13 miles. This year: 154.3 miles.


Trail Skater said...

Discussions of R posts are at Mike's Railroad Crossing Forum and at Mike's has a photo where the R sign is sheet metal on a narrow post, probably much newer than the concrete example along the Minuteman Trail.

Yury Kats said...

Gee, if even rail fans have no idea... :)

How can you be sure to have measured _exactly_ 2000ft using gmaps-pedometer anyway? Although I agree, the round number does sound appealing!

Yury Kats said...

I think I found it!
Searching for "speed restriction" as suggested in one of the forums you quoted, I came across this Wikipedia article

There it says that "R" stands for "resume speed" at the end of restricted speed zone.

Looks like no relation to I95 bridge after all. :)

Trail Skater said...

Thanks for the research! Without any idea what R stood for, I was at a loss what to Google next. Alas for certainty, the thread on includes a response identifying this as a Ring post, where the driver was to ring the bell rather than blow the whistle.

Re measuring 2000 feet, I did say "as nearly as I can measure". Gmaps Pedometer said .38 mile, which is 2006 feet. The error in locating and marking positions on map, especially along the tree-shaded trail, is certainly more than 10 feet.

Yury Kats said...

Hm, ring post also sounds plausible...
Found a reference here:
(but not many other refs)

Yury Kats said...

OK, I found more evidence that it is indeed a Ring-post.

I was running on a Reformatory Branch Trail today, which is one of two trails that start at the end of the Minuteman (the other being the Narrow Gauge Trail). On that trail I saw both posts -- a W and an R.

The Guide to the trail mentions both:
see #7 -- whistle post (and it even explains the purpose of the yellow arm at 45 degrees).
see #17 -- ring post.

Cuvtixo said...

This reminds me of some steel/iron? signs I see on the path in East Arlington (bit of path after Lake Street, before Thorndike field) that are facing outward, as if at crossings on former paths/roads? Most of them seem to have the paint washed away and are totally rusted. They are square, but I guess they said "railway crossing" I wish somebody would restore them!! :)

Trail Skater said...

I haven't been on the East Arlington part of the trail lately, but my memory is that there's an old platform thereabouts where the trains used to stop. Is that where these signs are?

Cuvtixo said...

Just beyond that. I believe the station was on the west side of Lake Street. At least, that's where a nice little mounted historical overview of the railroad and Spy Pond greenhouses etc, etc, is posted. You may not get a chance to go past Spy Pond in winter, but if you do, you might notice that in years past there was substantially more ice on the pond every winter. Enough to keep an ice export business running! Another portant of global warming?