Aside from throttling up a locomotive and hauling a train around the layout, I believe the next most desired action of an engineer is blow the whistle and ring the bell. Those of use who have hung out around road and rail crossings (crossing at grade) are familiar with the two long, one short and one long ( – – o – ) blast of the locomotive’s whistle as it approaches and makes the crossing.
Well, it hasn’t always been this way.
Since I’ll be modeling the B&SR in 1907, I was on the hunt for the signals of old. Some time ago I acquired a copy of the B&SR RR “Rules for Employees.” This document was duplicated by “The Baggage Car” of Arcade NY in 1972 from the original, housed in the archives of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Strasburg, PA. The Rules became effective on the line 23 June, 1913, after the Maine Central purchased the B&SR. The contents have all the flavor and nuances of big railroad rules, not the feeling of a small Maine 2 footer.
For reference, the 1913 MeC / B&SR whistle signaling at grade crossing was – – o o, which was similar to other railroads and may have been listed as Rule 13L or 14L in the books, depending upon the railroad and location in the U.S.. According to a 2010 trainorders.com discussion, it was pointed out that the AAR specified – – o o for Rule 14L in 1922, but it changed to – – o – between then and 1939, which were the two closest rulebook copies the contributor had available.
Last year, thanks to Google and its insatiable need to be the source for all the world’s information, I found a digitized copy of the Acts and Resolves of the Seventy-Second Legislature of the State of Maine, 1905. Buried within, under chapter 94, “Bells and Whistles on Steam Railroads,” it is stated that Section 70 of chapter 51 of the revised statues is amended to include:
…[E]very such corporation shall cause a steam whistle, and a bell of at least thirty-five pounds in weight to be placed on each locomotive used upon its railroad, and such whistles, or in cities and villages, such bell, shall be sounded as a warning at a distance of one hundred rods on standard gauge railroads and a distance of seventy-five rods on narrow gauge railroads from all crossings of such ways on the same level; and such bell shall be rung at a distance of eighty-five rods on standard gauge railroads and sixty rods on narrow gauge railroads, from such grade crossings, and be kept ringing until the engine has passed the same…
There is additional content on crossing markings and the means for local petitioning to add the sounding of whistles and bells at other crossings. Until such time as a B&SR document with whistle & bell signals from the period prior to the MeC purchase surfaces, I’ll be implementing the State of Maine’s law on bells and whistles on the future layout.