WWT Shows CLICK TO: Join and Support Internet Horology Club 185™ IHC185™ Forums

• Check Out Our... •
• TWO Book Offer! •
New Topic
Reply to Post
The Railroad Signalman "Click" to Login or Register 
Railway Historian
IHC Life Member
Site Moderator
Picture of Larry Buchan
On another board somebody asked a question in about a watch fob he had it was marked BRS and he thought it was A Switchman's fob here is the reply I posted.

Your BRS fob does not represent Switchmen but don't feel bad about it. It stands for Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen a North American union that was organized in 1901, it represents railroaders who install, repair, and maintain all of the trackside signals and automatic highway crossings that you see when you drive along your freeways in California. The technology used in railroad signals is the predecessor of our modern traffic light systems we see in all our towns and cities. It is still as valid if not more so today is when it was invented, so let's hear it for that unsung hero "The Railroad Signalman"

Posts: 3370 | Location: Okotoks Alberta Canada | Registered: November 22, 2002
Past Administrator
IHC Life Member
Picture of Jim Wallace
(Author unknown)

I'm a Railroad Signalman
I used to wish when I way a boy, I was
a Railroad Signalman,
I hoped some day that people would say
`There goes that Railroad Signalman!'
On his little car a-rollin' down the
track, He's never been to Heaven, but
he's been to Hell and back!
Come judgement Day, Saint Peter will say
`Come in, you Railroad Signalman!'

Whether it's hot or whether it's cold,
You gotta get right out and go,
Take all your tools, obey all the rules;
You gotta get there fast, but slow,
If you meet a train and get knocked off
the line, You should have looked in
both directions at the same time;
Learn how to pray; insurance will pay,
If you are a Railroad Signalman!

A link to the BRS websiteBRS

A great Signalman story Story

A good Joke:
Being a Railroad Signalman

Tom is applying for a job as a signalman for the local railroad and is told to meet the inspector at the signal box.
The inspector decides to give Tom a pop quiz, asking: "What would you do if you realized that two trains were heading towards each other on the same track?"
Tom says: "I would switch one train to another track."
"What if the lever broke?" asks the inspector.
"Then I'd run down to the tracks and use the manual lever down there," answers Tom.
"What if that had been struck by lightning?" challenges the inspector.
"Then," Tom continued, "I'd run back up here and use the phone to call the next signal box."
"What if the phone was busy?"
"In that case," Tom argued, "I'd run to the street level and use the public phone near the station."
"What if that had been vandalized?"
"Oh well," said Tom, "in that case I would run into town and get my Uncle Leo."
This puzzled the inspector, so he asked, "Why would you do that?"

"Because he's never seen a train crash."

[This message was edited by Jim Wallace on December 05, 2002 at 14:07.]
Posts: 141 | Location: Near Anchorage, Alaska USA | Registered: November 19, 2002
<Doug Sinclair>
Buchaneer, and All,

Larry mentioned our mutual freind Jim Baumann in one of his recent posts re: steam trains in modern times. Jim has worn a 16-size Illinois Bunn Special over all of his years of railroading. I had the good fortune of photographing the watch and having Jim tell me the story of how he acquired it. In addition, he showed me a copy of a poem written by the original owner of this watch, one Charles S. Wood. Charles Wood was an engineer with the Union Pacific Railroad until his retirement during the Great Depression. I'll spare you all the details as the story is a touch long. Suffice to say that Charles Wood's watch is the one Jim wears and loves. To the poem. It was written after Wood's retirement from locomotive engineer with the UP, and while he was serving as a UP crossing guard in a Chicago suburb, on a subsistence salary.

The Crossing Flagman

Just setting here-and watching
That is all that I can do
But I have known the labor
And the joy of rushing through
The towns on my divison
On both passenger and freight
But now since I've been penshioned
I must tend the crossing gate

Just setting here-and watching
By these rails I love so dear
A pair of shining ribbons
I've followed many a year
Gives me a certain pleasure
But its hard to sit and wait
And though I still feel active
I must tend the crossing gate

Just setting here-and watching
For the trains I used to pull
Dreaming of the long ago
Of my youth when life was full
And memory brings me faces
Overtaken by my fate
Who, for the sight of engines
Too-worked the crossing gate

Just setting here-and watching
Waiting for the final day
When friends will come and take me
To my rest beneath the clay
I am an old time runner
Never brought a train in late
Now long as I am able
I must tend the crossing gate

Those who wish to read the whole story, it can be found in the August 2001 BULLETIN, whole # 333, volume 43, pages 498 & 499.

Doug S.
IHC Member 163
Picture of Mark Cross
All this reminds me of the old 'Conductor's Lament'

It's not my job to run the train
The whistle I can't blow.

It's not my job to say how far
the train's allowed to go.

It's not my job to shoot off steam
or even clang the bell.

But let the dang thing jump the track,
and see who catches, uh, heck!


Regards. Mark Cross

NAWCC Member 157508
NAWCC-IHC Member 163
Posts: 3813 | Location: Estill Springs, Tennessee, USA | Registered: December 02, 2002
Thanks for the stories Larry, keep em coming I enjoy reading them.
Posts: 175 | Location: Claremore, Oklahoma USA | Registered: January 03, 2003
Picture of Donald E. Jones
You sir are correct! Signalmen, (we now call them signal maintainers on the Union Pacific) are indeed unsung heroes. They are called out at all times of the day and night, in all kinds of weather to track down and repair any number of signal problems. It actually seems that night time and bad weather is about the only time signal problems happen. Could be anything from a burned out bulb or broken crossing gate, to a broken rail or bond wire to locate in thousands of feet of track. Maybe a stuck relay, or any of a hundred other esoteric problems. They also have to be familiar with century old technology, some of which has been juryrigged for the last fifty years due to the lack of new parts, as well as the newest state of the art technology such as complex crossing gate systems, and hot box/defect detectors, or new track signal sustems. Some of them even work with microwave systems and GPS. Also, not only do they maintain these systems, they also install and set them up. As a locomotive engineer for the Union Pacific, I am privileged to watch many men practice their different crafts on a daily basis, and in my opinion, signal maintainers are the most intelligent, with one of the most difficult jobs.

P.S. They do make a lot of overtime!

D. E. Jones
Posts: 73 | Location: Sulphur Springs, Texas USA | Registered: June 29, 2006
Picture of Bill Carlson
Hi Don,
I hope your still with 185 and read this. Your one of few trainmen that I ever heard give Signal maintainers the credit that was due them. Everything you said was so true. Big Grin

Especially the night calls at any given time, no matter what the weather was, especially in Montana. The Hours of Service was a great thing for Signalmen when it was implemented in the "70s".

I retired with 41 years with the NP, BN, BNSF as a Signal Maintainer. The only thing I'm sorry about, is that the steam engines were gone when I started in 1960, but I was happy to have wore out a couple Hi-rail F-350s with all the nice radios and modern equipment, after having a Fairmont M-19AA for many years.

Thanks again.


Bill Carlson
Posts: 431 | Location: Billings, Montana USA | Registered: February 05, 2007
Picture of Bill Carlson
This is interesting for anyone interested in trains and especially for our friends in the North.
Sit back and enjoy some mountain railroading.

Bill Carlson
Posts: 431 | Location: Billings, Montana USA | Registered: February 05, 2007
Picture of Donald E. Jones
I retired last year from Union Pacific after 31 years, with 30 years in engine service. Being an engineer, in my opinion, I depended more on the signal men than any other working craft to give me a good trip. When the signal system is up and running right, you can really get over the road, but when it is not, man it can be terrible. I, like you also lament the demise of the steam locomotive, and dream about running them. once I considered trying to get into the UP steam program, but considered is all I did.

P.S. Having a Fairmont motorcar of your own would be pretty cool! A few years ago, I saw one in the scrap bin at SP Miller Yd. in Dallas, TX. The next day when I came to work it was gone! Although I didn't get it, I'm glad someone saved it.

D. E. Jones
Posts: 73 | Location: Sulphur Springs, Texas USA | Registered: June 29, 2006
  Powered by Social Strata  

©2002-2021 Internet Horology Club 185™ - Lindell V. Riddle President - All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Internet Horology Club 185™ is the "Family-Friendly" place for Watch and Clock Collectors