Page 1 of 1

MONON Blades (the end is near)

Posted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 10:49 pm
by GP30M4216
As reported on the message boards at ... pic=2281.0, new signals have begun to be placed along the former Monon mainline at Romney, Indiana, site of one of the last two stands in the country of active semaphores. Romney is located on the "North End" of the Monon semaphore stretch, slightly north of Crawfordsville. The North End is between Lafayette and Salem, IN. This section is part of CSXT's Monon Subdivision today and is also traveled by Amtrak's Cardinal and Hoosier State. In 2001, where were 34 active blades remaining. Today 12 remain: 5 are in Crawfordsville city limits, the other 7 are between Linden and S. Raub. These blades are GRS Co. Style 2A upper quadrant (top-of-mast mechanism) semaphores.

From a post by CSX_CO, who sometimes posts here (dated July 14, 2008):
Just wanted to post that there are a trio of SafeTRANS signal bungalows sitting at AMES awaiting installation on the Monon. Bungalows are for 130 (S Raub), 133 (Romney), and 135. That will eliminate the semaphroes from Linden to S. Raub. Cabling has been installed at AMES or replacement signals, and other signal cables have been popping up.

I haven't heard if the project will be this summer or fall, or they will wait until next year. If you are contemplating a trip, you probably should go through with it.

AMTRAK is shootable NB in the morning this time of year. J726 shouldn't be more than a couple of hours behind. Q642 runs at varying times, and *could* be behind AMTRAK.

For SB's camp out in Lafayette along the NS, and when you hear a train on CSX going south, you will have no problem beating them to the semaphores. Listen on 30-30 if the crew gets an EC-1 at Linden or not. If told to wait, you could shoot them again in Crawfordsville.

Practice Safe CSX
Here are a few photos courtesy of

Remarks: A southbound CSX freight train (Q643) passes a pair of very endangered Monon semaphores just south of Romney, IN.

J726 heads back to Indianapolis light-power, passing one of the soon-to-be replaced sets of semaphore signals north of Linden.

There is also a stand of additional semaphores on the "South End," of the old Monon/former CSX Monon Sub, which today is operated by the Indiana Railroad. As far as I know, these are not in too much "danger" at the present time.

Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 10:05 am
by GP30M4216
Lot's o' chatter about this from also - Here's the link. Some of these northern ones may be gone by Mid-December! ... ?2,1792259

Here's the schedule of trains currently plying the busier "North End."
Date: October 22, 2008 06:18
Re: Semaphore Signals
Author: CSX_CO

North end trains as follows:

Q642 - Scheduled at 0200 out of Avon, often runs late because of lack of power or train isn't ready. Also can be delayed because of yard congestion. They try to get it out ahead of AMTRAK, and it clears at Lafayette for them to pass. Tough to get in daylight this time of year. If its too close to AMTRAK time, they hold it at Avon. Then it might be shootable behind AMTRAK.

P051/P317 - Runs under the Cardinal symbol on days it runs. Runs as P317 to CSX when its the Hoosier State (AMTRAK symbol is 851). Call 1-800 USA-RAIL to find out if train is running on time into Crawfordsville or Lafayette. Julie will take train "851" even on days its really the Cardinal. Days it runs as the Hoosier state only, it leaves downtown Indy at 0630 on the dot. Shootable in the summer, still might be shootable until the time change.

J726 - On duty 0630 every morning at Avon. Arrival on the Monon depends on congestion at Avon, how AMTRAK is doing, and if the Z460 is out there.

Z460 - NS's 'turn' to Crawfordsville and back to drop off NUCOR cars at Ames. Goes down in the middle of the night, then back north either behind Q642 or
AMTRAK if the NS is running behind. Mostly night time work though can be shot in daylight during the summer.

J771 - SB Local to Bainbridge. J770 is the counterpart and I believe they finally have it set up where they aren't trying to 'turn back' both locals. One crew goes down and works SB industries, the other crew goes on duty at 0001 to work it back NB after a taxi ride to the train. They try and have the train follow J726 south so it can make a run for Avon. Shootable on the blades if they get on their cars and go (no guarantee THAT will happen). First industry they have to worry about is at Romney, so you can beat them and catch them if needed. Be forewarned, they work the Ethanol Plant at Linden, so you CAN beat them to Crawfordsville to shoot on the blades there, but don't expect them to get there in any form of a hurry. Best bet is to hang loose around Linden and wait for them to start going south. If it gets too late, you can then give up the chase, or head back to Lafayette.

J726 - Going south you can shoot it at Romney. Crew calls for an EC-1 on the Crawfordsville Branch around Linden. The IC has a base in Crawfordsville, so listen in on Channel 30. If they can't get any real estate (J775 is the Crawfordsville based local on the P&E side) they normally hold outside of town under I-74. Once they get their EC-1, they come down into town. So, if you hear them NOT get an EC-1, it could be worthwhile to go to Crawfordsville to get those blades once the railroad clears up. Also, if you really get on your horse, you *might* be able to beat them to Main St. Crawfordsville.

Max speed on the Monon is 40 mph. Minimum speed on Indiana Roads is like 65, or so it seems. Don't speed through Linden and watch out south of town until the 231 overpass as a State Trooper calls that stretch of road 'home'. Anyway, 40 mph train speed, and 65 on the road, you can do the math. Also, its a steep downhill into Crawfordsville, with 25 mph from Main St. to Ames, and 10 mph around the connection which is on a STEEP uphill grade after that steep downhill. Good place to get a knuckle there in the cut by Main St. As long as Main St. isn't at absolute stop, most trains get through town without a problem. Have to stop quickly, then try to get going again can be tricky.

Which incidentally is where I've gotten my only knuckle. Had a "stop" at Main St and had to get talked by it. 16000 ton G train from the BNSF for Beech Grove, with 12000 HP from the BNSF. Wet rail too. Engines slipped, grabbed, and got a knuckle behind the 2nd car. I still have the knuckle pin that was broken in at least two pieces. Used the 'slow speed' function to get it going again and around the connection without getting another knuckle or doubling the hill. Next time I'll use the slow speed function the whole time allowed me to max out my amps, without slipping. Engines slipped when they got above 500 amps, and I was going between throttle positions 4 and 5 trying to keep them from slipping. 4 was too little, 5 was too much. Slow Speed Control allowed me to 'dial' in the speed so I wouldn't slip and stall.

Back to the trains...

Q643 - Usually on duty at 1600 after the 'dust' clears in Lafayette. Has to put the train together, air test, and go south. This time of year, probably not on the blades in daylight, as its getting dark at 7:00 pm now. Be worse when the time change occurs. If they get too late, they hold at Lafayette for the SB AMTRAK.

P050/P318 - Into Lafayette at roughly 2200. Definately not shootable on the blades in daylight. Most blades are too dark to do any kind of night shots or train blur. Having been to Romney and Linden at night, it is DARK out there.

Grain trains will be running hot and heavy this time of year on the Monon. No rhyme or reason to them, but most of them go south at Ames to Greencastle and onto the St. Louis Line for Terre Haute and points south. Might also get light power moves south to/from Bainbridge where there is a large elevator on the remnant of the B&O east of the Monon.

They *try* and stick to a schedule of northbounds in the night until noon, then southbounds until midnight. Monon can handle trains (DTC blocks with signals), as long as they are going with 'the flow'. Go against the grain, and its just asking for trouble. Also, it should be noted that often times the trains will get their blocks via phone at the yard office. So don't be surprised if you don't hear the train ask the RA for blocks south.

Summary of AAR frequencies:
84 - Road Channel on the Monon
32 - RA Dispatcher SOUTH of Lafayette
14 - RA Dispatcher Lafayette and points NORTH. (crews in the yard will tone up RA on 14, so have that one in there)
22 - NS Lafayette District Road Channel - CSX Trains tone up NS for signal at Lafayette Jct when coming into town and leaving.
30 - IC Dispatcher Channel for Crawfordsville Secondary

Practice Safe CSX
Sounds like there are more blades on the "South End," but far fewer trains:
The South End has more blades but traffic is extremely thin -- just a CSX local and the INRD Louisville job that goes down one day, back the next for three trips per week.
One related piece of advice: the semaphores governing opposing traffic start "dropping" well in advance of an oncoming train. The best place to be to "check" a train's progress is Romney, because the semaphore at one end of the former siding drops before the other -- the one closer to the oncoming train goes first. For a southbound, the signal at North Romney goes to red, and South Romney to yellow, a LONG time before the train actually gets there. The South Romney signal only goes to red when the train is very close.
Hope this is helpful to some.

Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 10:06 am
by mikerm19
Is there ANY way I can get my paws on one?

Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 12:17 pm
by Beal99
my fav shot of them I took in 2007


Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 12:19 pm
by mikerm19
This a nice shot.


Posted: Fri Nov 14, 2008 3:03 pm
mikerm19 wrote:Is there ANY way I can get my paws on one?
When they took out the ones between AMES and Greencastle, they were bagged, tagged, and put in trailers that day. The ones not already spoken for by railroad officals went to auction where the blades fetched a pretty penny (look for $500 to $1000 for a blade alone) and the motors and masts went for much less ($300 for a motor and housing). Probably need $2000 to get a complete one if you included transportation costs.

Also, the South End has been suffering from extensive code line thefts and last I knew the signals were out of service over a portion of that railroad between Bedford and Louisville. That may have changed. Track is still owned by CSX, but INRD runs one way a day over it. I hear CSX is looking to sell if INRD is willing to buy. I don't recall the schedule off hand, but I *think* its down to Louisville Monday, back Tuesday, down Thursday, back Friday. CSX local runs one way each day. I"m probably wrong on the INRD schedule.

Practice Safe CSX

Re: MONON Blades (the end is near)

Posted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 5:00 pm
by TrainWatcher
*Sounding like Cartman* Thats frickin sweeeet!