Light a Lamp for the Old Woman

by Dan Myers

How will you commemorate the 50th anniversary of the demise of our favorite railroad?

My commemoration started on Christmas about 45 years ago when my father gave me two O&W color light signals manufactured by the Union Switch and Signal Company of Swissvale, Pennsylvania.

    Pop had worked for the O&W during high school in the late twenties and never lost his interest in the railroad.  As the Chief of Staff of Middletown’s Horton Hospital he took care of many of the former railroad’s employees and stayed in touch with them.  He collected all sorts of things and one day in the early sixties discovered the “R-2” color light signals in Sergeant’s junk yard on Cottage Street...

    We painted up one of the signals and ordered a box of the special 10 Volt GE light bulbs so that the signal could be properly displayed.  Over the years I dickered with Erie-Lackawanna and Conrail employees to acquire more O& W signal components so that I could re-assemble Signal 78, the signal that stood across Wickham Avenue from the AV station.

    I’ve held onto the parts through a number of moves and this year made the commitment to get the signal together by the time the 50th anniversary rolled around.  Together with my trusty Farmall H and lots of Rust-Oleum™ we completed Signal 78 before the weather turned bad late last fall.

What’s next?

    I’ve acquired the train order signal from the Wickham Avenue station from the station’s owner and will be restoring this extremely unusual US&SCo. Automatic semaphore.  Sadly, the signal has been looted in recent months losing both red & white blades, one spectacle plate, the lamp and its internal mechanisms.

Hopefully with your help and the help of the authorities the parts will be returned so that this unique and important signal can operate again.

    The station’s owner is hopeful that this gem of a structure can live again and he told me that he would like his clock back!!  If you know the whereabouts of the clock or any of the signal parts please feel free to contact me ( so that they may be quietly returned with amnesty from the authorities.  We’d all like to see the signal, the clock and the station restored to their former glory.

Photo 1.  I’ve spent years assembling Signal 78 which originally stood across from the Middletown station on Wickham Avenue.

Photo 2. Dan’s father’s 1927 application for a summer job in the O&W shops.  Dr. Myers spent one summer shoveling sand in the sand house for thirty-five cents per hour.  His second summer was spent in the blacksmith’s shop.  This original application was actually found in a local antique shop.

Photo 2A.  Signal 78 stood across from Middletown’s Wickham Av. station.  Here streamstyled engine 405 passes the station with a westbound freight.  Careful inspection of the signal shows the mile number “78”.

Photo 3.  Assembly of the signal took a lot of Rust-Oleum, elbow grease and some help from a WWII  vintage Farmall H tractor.

Photo 4.  Signal 78 stood proudly in October of 2006.  All that was left to do was the wiring.

Photo 5.  Union Switch and Signal’s “R-2”color light signals were available with downward facing optics.  The signal’s main lens faces forward so that it can be seen from a distance.  A round, central prism was available to focus a beam downward or, by rotation, at an angle so that the engineman could pull directly up to the signal and still see the signal’s aspect.

Photo 6.  O&W NW-2 #116 visited AV in October of 1988.  At that time the station’s semaphore and clock were proud reminders of the station’s importance.  These important symbols have been stolen or vandalized in the past two years.

Photo 7.  The station’s unique Union Switch and Signal “Style B” train order signal as it stands in March of 2007.

Photo 8.  Union Switch and Signal’s “Style B” semaphore mechanism.  Two of these complex mechanisms have been stolen from the AV train order signal in the last few months.

Photo 9.  The hole where the giant clock so proudly stood.  Hopefully the clock will find its way home and the station’s owner will find an adaptive reuse for this Bradford Lee Gilbert architectural gem.