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Waiting for the Light: 1943

Waiting for the Light: 1943

March 1943. "Kiowa (vicinity), Kansas. Train waiting for a block signal along the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad." Photo by Jack Delano. View full size.


On Shorpy:
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ATSF 4097

According to information available to me, ATSF 4097 was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1926, construction number 59398.

For those not familiar with railroad terminology, I have written out the following information in long form. I recognize many of these details will be of more significance to locomotive historians who would be satisfied with the usual technical shorthand.

Principle dimensions:
cylinders: 27 diameter, 32 stroke, in inches
driving wheel diameter: 63 inches
working pressure: 200 pounds per square inch
calculated tractive effort: 63,000 pounds*
weight on drive wheels: 260,200 pounds
total locomotive weight: 342,000 pounds
tender capacity: 5,000 gallons oil; 15,000 gallons water
tender weight, fully loaded: 298,600 pounds
total wheelbase, engine and tender: 79 feet, 1.875 inches
total length over coupler pulling faces: 89 feet, 9 inches

Like all locomotives in the '4000' Class, it was built with a Schmidt superheater, Walschaert valve gear, Elesco feedwater heater (except 4007) and Delta trailing truck.

It was built as an oil-burner.

It was sold for scrap to Commercial Metals Co. on 27 January 1956.

GENERAL NOTES: Dimensions given are typical for the 1926 Baldwin-built locomotives (4086-4100) and do not necessarily apply to any specific locomotive at a specific time. It would be surprising if any locomotive matched the dimensions exactly even when new. In particular, recorded weights could vary significantly between rolling the same locomotive off and then back onto a scale. Weight on drive wheels varied with spring tension (in the suspension system) and changed with wear or simply shop setting.

*-The dimension seemingly of most interest to railfans is also the least relevant -- that of calculated tractive effort (CTE, usually shortened to tractive effort=TE). As the name implies, it is a theoretical calculation of the maximum amount of force available to be applied at the driving wheels. It is, at best, vaguely accurate for comparison purposes between locomotive classes over a given profile. Although some railroads reported CTE down to the last pound, any calculation more precise than the nearest thousand pounds was pure fiction. In fact, the ONLY way of determining what a locomotive can haul is by controlled road tests using a dynamometer car.

Those already interested in the ATSF will no doubt already know my sources, primarily S. R. Wood and E. D. Worley. I can provide more detail if wanted.

More photos & clues

Here are several other helpful photos from this set. The opposite side view shows more of the track layout and another has the engine detail.

Piyer, I'd say you're right on target in the BING photo! The LOC photos DO show the yard on the wye side of the main. Presumably as train lengths increased, the sidings couldn't be lengthened on the town side of the tracks, so the whole shebang was flip-flopped. Topo maps show remnants of a road in that location going from the present adjacent farmhouse across the tracks to the former airstrip, and a curved track bridging the wye ends (that scar still visible).

That is definitely a crossing with another railroad. Look at the height of the telephone poles on both sides. In 1943, highways didn't get such vertical clearances, plus, there are tie ends barely visible "behind" the far signal. There are also 2 vertical "somethings" just to the right of the cantilever mast (one near each track).

In the cab window view, the far switch points are definitely reversed toward the wye (and apparently the cantilever is reflecting that route). That much just makes sense. (all this more visible in the massive LOC TIFF images)

Mystery solved?


I know nothing about trains, but I do know the train community is *very* specific about making sure train colours are correct especially in black and white photos. Anyone got a colour reference for the train?

Locomotive: Class 4000 Mikado

(2-8-2), one of a group of 101 (4000 to 4100) built by Baldwin between 1921 and 1926 (Maybe there's another photo from Mr Delano from this set that shows the specific number?) and scrapped between 1950 and 1954. This is based on the "40" that I can see on the sand dome.

[Here you go. - tterrace]

Flat Pair Signals

The masts of both of the signals have number plates, indicating they are Permissive Signals rather than Absloute Signals, and thus are block signals rather than part of an interlocking system. Unlike most other roads, on the Santa Fe square end signal blades were used on block signals.

The question then remains as to why the signal to the left would be showing a clear block when we know there's a train, as we are on it.

Close examination of a zoomed image shows that the points of the switch adjacent to that signal are aligned for the siding. The signal is showing that the route for which the turnout is lined, that is, the siding, is clear.

The signal in front of our engine also shows clear because we can proceed through the spring switch.

This was a signal system in wide use on sidings on the ATSF, which they called Flat Pair Signals.

I capitulate

Piyer, I think you are right. I asked a good engineer friend of mine who basically said the same thing.

{Jim said} There are railroad diamonds that have no protection whatsoever; no interlocking signals, no manual gates, no stop signs. After viewing some aerial maps I've changed my mind and think that it is an unprotected railroad diamond crossing which no longer exists.

My guess of the track layout, judging from the placement of the signals, is that the mainline comes from the distance and continues on the farthest-to-the-left track visible in front of the steamer. The facing semaphore signal is to the left of center of the steamer's track and beyond the points of the closest switch and governs, I think, the facing movements on the far left track.

In the Bing aerial photo I've marked **PIYER, his attachment was EXACTLY the same place you linked!** what I think is the Santa Fe mainline (and the diverging branch at the wye) in blue, the yard or auxiliary track that the steamer is on in green and the middle track, which might be the Kiowa Siding, in yellow. I'm just assuming that the railroad crossing at the diamond, which I've marked in red, is another railroad and not just another Santa Fe line because of the overall track layout in the area.

And yes Dbell, I agree, that is one of the reasons I keep coming back here, the level of expertise and civility of the folks that comment here makes this just awesome.

Why I love Shorpy!

It's wonderful, the level of engagement we get, as folks chime in with these great details; always fascinating!

I'm just surprised no one has (yet!) counted rivets and kinks in lube lines and told us which locomotive this is.

Final puzzle piece

From my timetable collection, I dug up Missouri Pacific system timetable #18 - October 25, 1981. According to this, the Hardtner branch crossed the Santa Fe a total of 7 times between Hardtner Jct. (Wichita, KS) and Kiowa in route to Hardtner. These crossings were protected by (n to s): a gate, a gate, a manual interlocking, a stop sign, a stop sign, a gate, and a manual interlocking. The last one presumably being the crossing we are looking at here.

An answer???

Looking at BING, which is nice enough to include abandoned rail lines, I see that the MP line crossed the Santa Fe further south than I had original thought.

Flipping that map ( so that south is up and north is down, I think we are pointed in the same direction as the locomotive. Much has, obviously, changed over the years, but it would now seem that the interlocking signals aren't for the crossing but for the south leg of the Santa Fe's wye / branchline junction. If you allow that the yard might have originally been on the opposite side of the mainline so as to serve both main and branch lines, then this can fit with the image here.

As for the lack of signals at the grade crossing...

The line from Kiowa to Hardtner is / was (abd. 2002) the Kiowa, Hardtner & Pacific Railway from birth to abandonment, and merely operated by the MP. It is conceivable that the KH&P was dark territory and that trains had to stop clear of the crossing and get permission to cross from the Santa Fe dispatcher - a cheaper option than a manned interlocking, the expense of which, as the second railroad on the scene, would have typically fallen on them.

Another thought

It would seem likely that for one reason or another, the semaphore system was not in service at the moment this picture was taken. Is it possible the ATSF was in the process of installing the signal hardware, but had not yet put the system into service? Up until about 10 years ago the old Monon line (now abandoned) between New Albany, Indiana and Bedford, Indiana was controlled by semaphore indication. At some point shortly afterward the signal system was taken out of service and an order to that effect was issued. Train crews were instructed by the order to disregard the semaphores and be governed by DTC. I believe there are pictures on the web of what appear to be CP and INRD trains running “stop” semaphore indications in that territory. Regarding the Shorpy image, my guess is the train was running with timetable and train orders, waiting for an opposing train to clear the main at the far switch.

Engine Location

Ok.. I'm going to go out on a limb and try to figure where this was taken. According to the shadows it appears we are travelling to the west. On the left side, marked by the row of telephone poles is Route 2 which runs between Attica, Ks and Kiowa, Ks. Very far ahead on the right hand side is, what looks like, a grain elevator. I think that is the grain elevator at Hazleton, Ks. The roads I cannot identify exactly because I can't determine distance by a photograph. There is a railroad cross marking immediately to the right. It doesn't look well travelled so, I will guess, it leads into a field. They still have those today. The next major road just beyond the signals could be Minco Road or Tri-City Road which is closer to Hazleton. I don't know of any other grain elevators between Attica and Kiowa. So, I think we are somewhere within a mile or two east of Hazleton, KS.


For all the info regarding how signals worked and how to understand the sources. A very intricate business indeed.

Aspect not lit

I agree...Dave, we need a zoomed in view of the switch points in the background.

Also, I also will echo that the arms of the semaphores are in the clear position, however, I would have expected, even in bright daylight at this angle, to be seeing the clear light through the semaphore lens. It appears to be dark or just a little light (probably from the background) getting through it. With the bulb on the other side it should be brighter than it is.

edit: After tterrace's generous post of the zoomed photo, can we throw a monkey wrench into the comments and possibly say that the level crossing in the distance may not be a diamond but a vehicle crossing? I ask this as us railroaders would expect to see a signal protecting the other side of the crossing. Yeah, I don't see any crossing warning signs on either side of the main to warn vehicle traffic, nor any telegraph/phone lines paralleling the line, but I also don't see any bulky diamond hardware sticking out of the side of the mains rails as I do with the guard rail and switch point areas. This makes me believe this is a road crossing.

Also noticed that the locomotive probably is sitting on the main as there is a spring frog on the left main rail with the spring mechanics on both sides of the left rail and a visible flange gap on rail the locomotive is on.

[This is as big as it gets. - tterrace]


Phare Pleigh makes good observations. There are more questions in my mind, though:
1. The far signal, on the pole, is on this side of the crossing - that is, it is beyond the crossing, and so does not govern moves over the crossing.
2. There is only one track at the far signal, so only one route should be possible. However, both signals are showing clear, which would mean conflicting (opposing) routes - which should not be possible.
3. The near switch is in front of the cantilever signal, so it is "outside" the interlocking; the signal does not govern moves over this switch. The second switch is "inside" the interlocking, and is protected by the signals. I would have expected to see another signal governing moves from this track, quite possibly a dwarf; I can't see one in the picture.
4. The far switch *should* be set for the other track, but again I can't see the position in this photo.

An interesting picture. And the train is probably waiting for a clear signal, since the signal on the cantilever is clear for a different train (I think).


It is a "Clear" Signal but you will notice:

1. It is on a cantilever station rather than on a pole similar to the signal a little farther down the track. That would imply that the signal is governing one of the tracks diverging off to the left. If it were for the track on which the locomotive stands it would likely also be on the pole. (Yes, I understand ATSF did use cantilever signals right next to the track they are governing).

2. The aforementioned pole signal is also showing a clear indication. Unless the signal system is malfunctioning it could not display this aspect to the track on which the locomotive is standing (not to mention the track that has the clear signal on the cantilever).

3. The answer seems to be that the locomotive is on an auxiliary track and that the signals govern the two tracks diverging to the left. The cantilever signal probably also governs the crossing at grade a short distance ahead.

Grade Crossing Ahead

There's not much to go on in this photo for figuring out the exact location, but just beyond the second signal there appears to be a hard line crossing the tracks from left to right. That might be the now-abandoned Missouri Pacific branchline to Hardtner, KS. Assuming that Rt. 2 follows the old MP right of way (it has some very railroad-like broad curves to it), then this photo was taken near the intersection of Main Street and Railroad Avenue in Kiowa.

As for the signals. The square ends on both signals visible would indicate that they are interlocking signals (which fits with that being the MP crossing up ahead) and not a manual block (round end) or automatic block (pointed end) signal. The other two posters (at this writing) are correct, the signals are set to clear. So, the description given is just writer's license.


Yes, that signal is displaying "proceed".

I believe

it's the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe RailWAY.

Time to go

This retired railroader says proceed thru the block at prescribed speed.


I'm no expert on reading signal aspects, but I believe it's displaying a "proceed."

Arm up?

Isn't the signal up, which would signal clear? Help me here, please?

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