The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway was the principal western connection of the New York Central System, extending from Buffalo to Chicago. The Lake Shore and the Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana were the construction companies of the line, which was under construction about 1850, and reached Chicago about 1854. They later merged to form the LS&MS. The line began with flat-bar track on piles, with 6-ft gauge, anticipating a connection with the Erie, but by the time of completion had been relaid with standard gauge ballasted H-rail. There was active competition with parallel roads, such as the Michigan Central. The New York Central managed to control all such lines from Cleveland to Chicago, including the later Nickel Plate.
Elkhart, Indiana is 15 miles east of South Bend, and was the junction between the "Old Road" through southern Michigan via Adrian to Toledo, and the newer direct "Air Line" through Indiana and Ohio to Toledo. Both these lines were double track at the junction east of the passenger station, but the Old Road soon became single. The Western Division to Chicago was double track. Lenawee Junction was on the Old Road, where lines diverged to the north toward Jackson, eastward to Monroe, while the Old Road continued on to Toledo.
William Gravit, the Master Carpenter of the LS&MS, designed a "bootjack" signal, which came into use about 1881. An example is shown in the figure. It was operated by a lever with a large pulley attached to it that pulled on a rod connected to a chain around the pulley. Where the transmission went over pulleys, chains were used. By its weight, the signal went naturally to the position labelled "all blocked". The arm was in one piece, and rotated about a horizontal axis. It could assume eight positions, but only six were used, and sometimes only the four shown. The two aspects with one side vertical above the axis were not used. The supposed resemblance of the arm to a boot jack gave the signal its name. N and S refer to north and south; we are looking east at the signal.
At Elkhart, one four-position signal was located south of the track just east of the passenger station. This is the signal illustrated, and its indications are given. The arm was painted red, and the lights were red or white, given by lenses in front of the lamps. For this signal, the left-hand light concerned the Old Road, while the right-hand light governed the Air Line. A second signal showing six aspects was in the angle between the tracks, and governed trains approaching from all directions. Again, when the arm formed a "V", the indication was All Blocked. This signal also showed green lights in addition to red and white, but still just two lights side by side. There was also a single-arm semaphore 2300 ft west of the station, at the entry to the yard.
There were two signals at Lenawee Junction. One was a bootjack signal on the Monroe branch just west of the passenger station. It showed six aspects, and a single light in each direction, which was white, red or green. These aspects are shown at the left. The other was a "crossing target" at the junction to the north of the track, taking three positions. Horizontal indicated Main Line Clear, vertical Jackson Branch Clear, and at 45°, Monroe Branch Clear. It governed trains approaching from either direction, showing how the switches were set. Its arm was red, and it carried red lamps at each end.
The "crossing target" at Lenawee Junction is illustrated at the right. It is a very typical crossing target, but one with three aspects, and shows that these signals could be used for more than crossings. These balanced semaphores were called crossing targets in the region where they were frequently used, Ohio and Indiana. They were invented on the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago, probably in the 1860's, to protect the many level crossings in that flat land. Usually, they have only two aspects, one of which lets the trains of one road pass, the other the trains of the other road. Normally, these aspects are horizontal and inclined, and were equally well seen from both lines, both by day and by night. It was impossible to give clear to both roads at the same time with a signal like this. They survived longer than any other early signal, even into the 21st century. Oil lamps had to be frequently cleaned and filled, so an arrangment of ropes was devised to lower and raise the lamps without having to climb the mast. The lamps maintained their positions when the arm was moved. Electric lamps require very little maintenance, and are now invariably used.
The Bootjack Signals of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Ry. (Engineering News, 4 August 1898, pp. 66-67.
Composed by J. B. Calvert
Created 2 August 2004
Last revised 4 August 2004