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N&W color position light (CPL) signals

A Little Background

The Norfolk and Western adopted Pennsy Position Light signals when they got rid of their semaphores.  This was due to their partial ownership by the Pennsy.

The N&W started colorizing their Position Light signals in 1959.  They started colorizing the dwarfs in September of 1964, according to Eric on his website for N&W CPL signals: ... The scan below illustrates the changeover to color in the dwarfs.

Signal Variations

The basic N&W signal consists of an upper head with a full round background, and a single lower lamp below, as shown in the set directly below.  This set shows stop, approach, and clear.

The upper head can have one, two, or three positions.  Restrict is only shown on the lower head, that is why there are only three possible aspects on the upper head.

The lower head can be anything from a single lamp, used in conjunction with the upper head to display stop, to one with four aspects as shown to the right below.  Most lower heads, except for the single lamp, have a full background - the signal to the right (also in set 5) is the only signal I have seen without a background, and displays the same aspects as the one next to it...... it's been replaced by a colorlight. The picture on the left is a two aspect head, since the center lamp is used for the stop indication.


  One example of a "single aspect" lower head with a partial background, somewhere in the Columbus OH District.  Photo by Larry Evans.

   This photo illustrates a full N&W CPL head. 

Since the technical description for the N&W signals is the same as the Pennsy signals, you can refer to the Pennsy PL page for that.

This page will concentrate on pictures of the N&W CPL's.  They are slowly being replaced, just as the PL's and B&O CPL's are, so go out and get your pictures.  I will add a small map one of these days for locating the Roanoke signals.

Here are close-ups of a nicely restored PL-4 dwarf by Eric Davis:


Mounting the Signals

N&W CPL signals are mounted the same as any other signal, there are just more variations of them around, like the Pennsy PL signals.  This is a small sampling of what you'll find.


(L) An absolute signal, mast mounted on top of an equipment cabinet....  at Southern Ave in Chillicothe OH.  Photo by Eric Davis.
(M) A mast mounted high signal elsewhere in Ohio, photo by Larry Evans.
(R) A pair of bracket mounted signals in Chillicothe... notice the doll post and partial backgrounds!  Photo by Eric Davis.


(L)  A cantilever mounted signal in Roanoke VA.
(R)  One version of a signal bridge, also in Roanoke VA.

Rulebook Aspects


Rulebook scans courtesy John C Henderson
Map is of the Eastern Region, Virginia Division
From NS Timetable #3, Eastern Region, Virginia Division, effective Sunday, September 6, 1992

A one page reference sheet for the N&W signals, available here as a PDF.
Notice that the same CPL dwarf can not display both rule 288 and 290 unless it uses a number plate.

Located in downtown Roanoke is an especially nice display the Norfolk Southern and many others erected to dedicate the fact that the railroad made Roanoke the town it is today.  One of the displays is a signal display, showing both an original N&W all yellow signal head, and a colorized version.  The aspect can be changed by visitors using a switch mounted next to a plaque describing the signals.


The three main aspects shown in the original all yellow format.

The same aspects shown in the colorized version.  Too bad the bottom lamp isn't working for the STOP indication.

Roanoke VA

Roanoke is CPL heaven, but they are slowly being replaced.  Just in the four years since I was there last, I saw a couple of locations changed over to colorlights.  I know they are still plentiful, but before they all disappear, we should go out and get pictures of as many as we can.  I would like to thank my wife Dianne for her patience in getting these pictures in Roanoke, Glasgow, and Berryville on our way home from Atlanta.

This map keys the photos below to their location in the downtown Roanoke area.

   1     This pair of signal bridges is located along Campbell Ave NE, east of the interstate and the wye.

   2     Signal bridge along Campbell, a little west of the above location.


   3     Also along Campbell is this single signal.


   4     Located within the wye off Campbell is this bracket post with a set of signals.


   5     On the left of the picture on the left above at 4, is a colorlight signal that replaced this CPL signal.  Notice the lower head does not have a background, just as in some Pennsy PL signals.


   6     Along Shenandoah, is the Park Street Tower, and this set of signals is adjacent to it.  Notice one of the PL dwarfs has been replaced by a colorlight signal... this is often done when a wreck wipes out the older signals.  The four on the right are from 2004.


   7     This signal bridge (maybe we can call it a combination signal and cantilever bridge?) is viewed from Norfolk St, at Jefferson St.  How about that collection of wires coming out of the equipment cabinet!


   8     These signals used to be mounted on the ex 1st St SW overpass as seen in the other photos.  It was a great place for close-ups.



   9     Not readily seen from vantage points east of the dwarf, it can be clearly seen from this shot taken by Park Tower.  It's showing a slow clear.

   10     These signals are at the south end of the wye that sits off Campbell.  One of the three signal locations has had it's CPL signals replaced with a colorlight installation.  Looking thru the underpass you can see the colorlight signal along Campbell that fairly recently replaced a CPL, the bracket signals behind it are shown above at 4.  These pictures were taken from 3rd St SE... There is a tire place at 3rd and Campbell where you can park for a while to take pictures here.  I threw in the pix of the Dr Pepper sign for fun, you don't see it "advertised" like that much.




Berryville VA

Berryville is on the line running from Manassas VA to Front Royal VA, where it joins up with the line between Roanoke and Hagerstown MD.  The signal on the south, or west side where it is single track has already been replaced with a set of colorlights.


Bedford VA

Bedford is about 25 miles east of Roanoke.  This signal location is on the east side of town.  Bedford is also home to the Liberty Restaurant, a converted N&W station that last saw passengers the day Amtrak took over.  Notice the siding is to the left, hence, the left signal is lower.  Comparing this set to others, the offset is not as great.

Also located in town is the National D-Day Memorial, and I have to tell you, if you never go to see but one in your life, I highly recommend this one.  They did a most fantastic job!


Glasgow VA

Glasgow is off I81 at exit 175, and is about 30 miles north of Roanoke.  This is just one of the signals in town, as there is a wye here.  The tracks coming off the wye and heading east go through some very pretty country following the James River.  Also off the exit is the Natural Bridge.


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