Ditch Lights


KK5QQ
 

Trains Magazine's email newsletter had brief blurb about ditch lights, raising some dumb questions in my mind:

1) Did they at one time flash alternately all the time at night?
2) if so in the past, was this practice discontinued because engine crews complained that the effect was mesmerizing?
3) But do they still flash alternately only when approaching a grade crossing?  (Could be automated, along with sounding the horn, now that GPS or PTC always knows just where the train is and where the grade crossings are.)
4) If so, is this at ALL crossings or only those in quiet zones?
5) Are they on in daylight? (I'll next time I see a train underway.)
6) What if it's very foggy — day or night? (May be needed even more to help alert that a train is approaching, but just as in automobiles can impede the seeing from the cab.)
7) I do remember Mars Lights.  Still in use anywhere?  Same question about mesmerizing to train crews.

And not especially related but while I'm thinking about it: Do scheduled trains sometimes run with 2nd sections, and if so are green flags/lights and the "Long-Short-Short" whistle signal still used?

Irv Smith


Mike Murray
 

I think NS is the only railroad that had flashing ditch lights and only on a few units.


On Tue, Oct 4, 2022, 9:58 AM KK5QQ via groups.io <Kk5qq=aol.com@groups.io> wrote:
Trains Magazine's email newsletter had brief blurb about ditch lights, raising some dumb questions in my mind:

1) Did they at one time flash alternately all the time at night?
2) if so in the past, was this practice discontinued because engine crews complained that the effect was mesmerizing?
3) But do they still flash alternately only when approaching a grade crossing?  (Could be automated, along with sounding the horn, now that GPS or PTC always knows just where the train is and where the grade crossings are.)
4) If so, is this at ALL crossings or only those in quiet zones?
5) Are they on in daylight? (I'll next time I see a train underway.)
6) What if it's very foggy — day or night? (May be needed even more to help alert that a train is approaching, but just as in automobiles can impede the seeing from the cab.)
7) I do remember Mars Lights.  Still in use anywhere?  Same question about mesmerizing to train crews.

And not especially related but while I'm thinking about it: Do scheduled trains sometimes run with 2nd sections, and if so are green flags/lights and the "Long-Short-Short" whistle signal still used?

Irv Smith


chris tolley
 

The last order of SP Dash 9s had flashing ditch lights. UP never replaced the module so now UP has units with flashing lights. Just saw one on a rock train a few weeks ago. CSX always had them to my knowledge. BN didn't have flashing ditch lights, per se, but did have strobe lights in the ditch light positions similar to the strobes found on the top of Amtrak F40s. 

Chris Tolley
Houston, TX

From: RS-TALON@groups.io <RS-TALON@groups.io> on behalf of Mike Murray <mikemurray6044@...>
Sent: Tuesday, October 4, 2022 4:44 PM
To: Kk5qq@... <Kk5qq@...>
Cc: 1 Railspot <RS-TALON@groups.io>
Subject: Re: [Railspot] Ditch Lights
 
I think NS is the only railroad that had flashing ditch lights and only on a few units.

On Tue, Oct 4, 2022, 9:58 AM KK5QQ via groups.io <Kk5qq=aol.com@groups.io> wrote:

Trains Magazine's email newsletter had brief blurb about ditch lights, raising some dumb questions in my mind:

1) Did they at one time flash alternately all the time at night?
2) if so in the past, was this practice discontinued because engine crews complained that the effect was mesmerizing?
3) But do they still flash alternately only when approaching a grade crossing?  (Could be automated, along with sounding the horn, now that GPS or PTC always knows just where the train is and where the grade crossings are.)
4) If so, is this at ALL crossings or only those in quiet zones?
5) Are they on in daylight? (I'll next time I see a train underway.)
6) What if it's very foggy — day or night? (May be needed even more to help alert that a train is approaching, but just as in automobiles can impede the seeing from the cab.)
7) I do remember Mars Lights.  Still in use anywhere?  Same question about mesmerizing to train crews.

And not especially related but while I'm thinking about it: Do scheduled trains sometimes run with 2nd sections, and if so are green flags/lights and the "Long-Short-Short" whistle signal still used?

Irv Smith


Jerry Storrs
 

If I remember correctly at least to start the BN SD70MACs had alternating ditch lites but old age comes into play.

SPFan

On Tue, Oct 4, 2022, 12:46 PM chris tolley <hct9679@...> wrote:
The last order of SP Dash 9s had flashing ditch lights. UP never replaced the module so now UP has units with flashing lights. Just saw one on a rock train a few weeks ago. CSX always had them to my knowledge. BN didn't have flashing ditch lights, per se, but did have strobe lights in the ditch light positions similar to the strobes found on the top of Amtrak F40s. 

Chris Tolley
Houston, TX

From: RS-TALON@groups.io <RS-TALON@groups.io> on behalf of Mike Murray <mikemurray6044@...>
Sent: Tuesday, October 4, 2022 4:44 PM
To: Kk5qq@... <Kk5qq@...>
Cc: 1 Railspot <RS-TALON@groups.io>
Subject: Re: [Railspot] Ditch Lights
 
I think NS is the only railroad that had flashing ditch lights and only on a few units.

On Tue, Oct 4, 2022, 9:58 AM KK5QQ via groups.io <Kk5qq=aol.com@groups.io> wrote:
Trains Magazine's email newsletter had brief blurb about ditch lights, raising some dumb questions in my mind:

1) Did they at one time flash alternately all the time at night?
2) if so in the past, was this practice discontinued because engine crews complained that the effect was mesmerizing?
3) But do they still flash alternately only when approaching a grade crossing?  (Could be automated, along with sounding the horn, now that GPS or PTC always knows just where the train is and where the grade crossings are.)
4) If so, is this at ALL crossings or only those in quiet zones?
5) Are they on in daylight? (I'll next time I see a train underway.)
6) What if it's very foggy — day or night? (May be needed even more to help alert that a train is approaching, but just as in automobiles can impede the seeing from the cab.)
7) I do remember Mars Lights.  Still in use anywhere?  Same question about mesmerizing to train crews.

And not especially related but while I'm thinking about it: Do scheduled trains sometimes run with 2nd sections, and if so are green flags/lights and the "Long-Short-Short" whistle signal still used?

Irv Smith


chris tolley
 

The BN units I was referring to were the whiteface and zebra striped GP50s. I believe a few SD40-2s were outfitted with them, too. I grew up and lived a half mile from the BRI so I've gotten to watch the power and color changes over the years. 

Chris Tolley
Houston, TX

From: Jerry Storrs <txspfan712@...>
Sent: Tuesday, October 4, 2022 5:51 PM
To: chris tolley <hct9679@...>
Cc: Railspot Railspot <RS-TALON@groups.io>
Subject: Re: [Railspot] Ditch Lights
 
If I remember correctly at least to start the BN SD70MACs had alternating ditch lites but old age comes into play.

SPFan

On Tue, Oct 4, 2022, 12:46 PM chris tolley <hct9679@...> wrote:

The last order of SP Dash 9s had flashing ditch lights. UP never replaced the module so now UP has units with flashing lights. Just saw one on a rock train a few weeks ago. CSX always had them to my knowledge. BN didn't have flashing ditch lights, per se, but did have strobe lights in the ditch light positions similar to the strobes found on the top of Amtrak F40s. 

Chris Tolley
Houston, TX

From: RS-TALON@groups.io <RS-TALON@groups.io> on behalf of Mike Murray <mikemurray6044@...>
Sent: Tuesday, October 4, 2022 4:44 PM
To: Kk5qq@... <Kk5qq@...>
Cc: 1 Railspot <RS-TALON@groups.io>
Subject: Re: [Railspot] Ditch Lights
 
I think NS is the only railroad that had flashing ditch lights and only on a few units.

On Tue, Oct 4, 2022, 9:58 AM KK5QQ via groups.io <Kk5qq=aol.com@groups.io> wrote:
Trains Magazine's email newsletter had brief blurb about ditch lights, raising some dumb questions in my mind:

1) Did they at one time flash alternately all the time at night?
2) if so in the past, was this practice discontinued because engine crews complained that the effect was mesmerizing?
3) But do they still flash alternately only when approaching a grade crossing?  (Could be automated, along with sounding the horn, now that GPS or PTC always knows just where the train is and where the grade crossings are.)
4) If so, is this at ALL crossings or only those in quiet zones?
5) Are they on in daylight? (I'll next time I see a train underway.)
6) What if it's very foggy — day or night? (May be needed even more to help alert that a train is approaching, but just as in automobiles can impede the seeing from the cab.)
7) I do remember Mars Lights.  Still in use anywhere?  Same question about mesmerizing to train crews.

And not especially related but while I'm thinking about it: Do scheduled trains sometimes run with 2nd sections, and if so are green flags/lights and the "Long-Short-Short" whistle signal still used?

Irv Smith


survivingworldsteam
 

Mars lights have not been used in a long time.  Since they used a mechanical device to rotate the light around, it was high maintenance, and fell out of favor.

I remember staying at my grandparents house next to the tracks in the 1970s.  I would sit on the front stoop, and every now and then, I would stand on the tracks and look in both directions.  When I saw a rhythmic flash on the horizon, I knew it was the mars light of an approaching train; and would sit on the stoop and wait for it to pass.

-James Hefner 


Doug Andreasen
 

Some of the early BN SD70MACs did have alternating ditchlights.   There are at least a few YouTube videos that show this phenomenon.    From what I have derived, it wasn't some fixed number series.  I used to have a list of "known flashers" so I can try to dig that up if anyone is interested.

And  yes BN also experimented (late 80s) with xenon strobes similar to ditchlights.  I have read it was Tiger GP50's, some LMX, some SD40-2's.   My research says they were expensive to operate and maintain/replace, and also they didn't meet the FRA lumens requirements for ditchlights.   So not only were they not adopted, they were theoretically replaced before the FRA mandate for ditchlights. (1997?  And yes, I believe I have seen at least one exception to that, so no need to call me out on that.)

To the questions...I would just be throwing educated guesses.  I think (a) on always, and (b) flash only at crossings. (if they flash at all)


tom kline
 

If you want to re-live that experience, take a trip to the Chicago suburbs and find a nice place to sit and watch the commuter rush along any one of METRA’s lines.  All of their locomotives and cab cars are outfitted with Pyle Gyralights (an oscillating headlight with a circular pattern instead of the figure-8 pattern of the Mars and often confused as a Mars light).  It’s a great show on foggy or rainy nights.

 

Tom Kline

Houston   

 

 

 

From: RS-TALON@groups.io [mailto:RS-TALON@groups.io] On Behalf Of survivingworldsteam via groups.io
Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2022 10:02 AM
To: rs-talon@groups.io
Subject: Re: [Railspot] Ditch Lights

 

Mars lights have not been used in a long time.  Since they used a mechanical device to rotate the light around, it was high maintenance, and fell out of favor.

I remember staying at my grandparents house next to the tracks in the 1970s.  I would sit on the front stoop, and every now and then, I would stand on the tracks and look in both directions.  When I saw a rhythmic flash on the horizon, I knew it was the mars light of an approaching train; and would sit on the stoop and wait for it to pass.

-James Hefner