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Replicating the train order system in Don Station

Click on each image for a closer look!

One of the features of Don Station that we have wanted to replicate for a while now is the “train order signal system” that was used to control train movements beyond the station in either direction. The photos above show the signals in use at Don Station. The black and white photo from the Toronto City Archives is from 1910. The colour photos above are provided by John Mellow, one of our TRHA Board members, who also managed Don Station many years ago. They clearly show the two aspect system in operation. Click here to see John at work in Don Station years ago.

John offers the following explanation as to how the train order signal system operated:

“When the blade is upright and the aspect displays green, this indication tells the train it may proceed without restrictions and there are no train orders for the train. When the blade is in the horizontal position and the aspect is displaying red, this indication tells the train it must stop as there is a restriction for the movement for that train and it must pick up train orders and be governed accordingly before proceeding. At stations that had the ability to display a three aspect signal, red, yellow and green, the yellow indication advised the train that there were restrictions for that train, but not at this station. The train was still required to pick up orders and could therefore proceed without stopping. This really helped when running up hill with a heavy train (as in the Don valley), but more importantly gave the train a better chance to stay on time, which was really important when meeting other trains.

At stations with only a two aspect blade, the yellow indication was supplemented by use of a yellow flag by day, and a yellow flag and lantern at night. This is what we did at Don station when required. I have attached a night shot showing this and a daytime shot without this.”

Below we see a replica train order system which John has constructed to begin rebuilding the train order signals used at Don Station. The blade and holder mounted on the train order signal is one that came from the Walmsley collection. The lantern portion is from the TRHA collection. John borrowed metal hardware from a friend who has his own train order signal and we had these parts duplicated (cast). When it is finally assembled on the roof with bell cranks and proper steel rods, it will operate in the same manner as the original did for about seventy years by pulling on handles to align the blade in the appropriate position to display the correct signal.

For more information on railway signalling systems, Wikipedia is always a good place to start. Click here to read more about the history of railway signals.

Notice that we have only been able to build and install one of the two train order aspect signals which was used in Don Station. We continue to search for a second one. If you have any information on where we might find a second two aspect train order signal, please contact us.

Posting by Russ Milland; Photos by John Mellow

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