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The end of the searchlight era on the CNO&TP, Tunnel 26

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  • jonnyseeandoh
    I too am not sad to see our rusted up faulty non working signals replaced. Something upon which I depend for my life needs to work.

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  • AJLB
    I'm not a railfan, I'm a railroader and good riddance I say. We have only got 3 left on the Seattle sub and they will be gone very soon. These signals would give you a hard approach from a clear and going down Napavine with Coal or Grain it was a shitty deal

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  • TMills
    Wonderful Info


    I'm relatively new to railfanning and to the rathole district in particular. I've been surfing the web for a while now trying to find info about the area, especially from Science Hill KY down to Robbins TN. I've come across many of your posts and photos and am impressed with your work. I'm most interested in learning the names of all the control points and intermediate signals in that area. I've found some fairly detailed info here and there that seems to have the control points in it (including a NS Central Division Track Chart from 2009). It shows the location of all the intermediate signals but no names for them. I was wondering if you had that info at your fingertips or could point me to a link. Also, my railfanning equipment is limited to a handheld scanner (uniden bcd396xt). I bought a tuned antenna for it (160 MHz) and that has improved my reception some. I can hear the south end dispatcher most of the time, but I can only hear trains themselves within three to four miles most of the time. I was hoping that a tuned antenna would give me more performance than that. Any recommendations (that use my existing scanner)? Thanks in advance for any info you can provide, and again... I've learned much already by just reading your various posts and also really appreciate your photography.


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  • FlatSpot
    Those are certainly cool. Symbols of a bygone era. Without doubt they are classic symbols of safety from an era pre PTC. Unfortunately, few if any can keep those signal masts in their backyard, so the best bet we have besides these pictures, is scale models on museum quality RR layouts. This may end up being my next scale model challenge. Thanks for sharing !

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  • The end of the searchlight era on the CNO&TP, Tunnel 26

    Its still somewhat hard to believe that the time of the Searchlight signals on the mighty CNO&TP is over, but sadly it is. As I have talked about (probably incessantly) for the last Three years from the prep work to the torch, the end of an era is here...there will be no more reprieves, no more last shots....a week from today 60 years of history will be gone, replaced by the same shiny aluminum and plastic that you can see on any RR in the country.

    Did it need to be done.....Yes. The old installations have been maintained the best that they could, and have safely guided trains right to the end, but time has not been kind to them. Parts to fix them are not made anymore, and rusted metal and aged wiring are a concern. The new equipment will be safer to work on for the maintainers, and parts will be easy to come by, but the unique character and look of those old GRS model SC signals will be missed.

    The signal crews have moved quickly since the project started, and today (11/02/14) The only SC's still in service on the CNO&TP are the CP's at Rice and Erlanger, Ky (scheduled to be removed on Monday 11/03) Deliplane, KY (which will remain in service a few more months until upgrades between there and Rogers Gap are made) and then down in Tennessee the signals at Camp Austin, North Oakdale, Tunnel 25 and Tunnel 26 are scheduled to be removed from service on 11/09 and 11/10 2014.......yes, in less than a week they will be all gone, except for One.

    This feature will cover the signals at Tunnel 26, just South of Oakdale, TN. This location is remote, and extremely hard to gain access to (and the only CP on the entire CNO&TP that I had never photographed before). On Sunday, October 26th, Carmon and myself joined a couple of friends to spend the afternoon documenting this location before the signals were gone forever.

    The control points at Tunnel 25 and 26 are unique in the fact they protect what is in effect a long (think over a mile) CP between double track on each side, and a single track section through the twin tunnels. Going South, The signals at Tunnel 25 (Oakdale) are absolute, and Tunnel 26 is a intermediate (trains know what track they will take at 26 by the indication they get at 25) and the same thing in reverse Northbound, with 26 being the absolute and 25 being the intermediate)

    I felt lucky to be able to spend a little time down in the hole along the banks of the Emory River and get a few more of those "last" shots before it was gone. We had gorgeous weather, plenty of trains, and it was simply hard to think that the scene would soon change forever. During this trip we had been lucky enough to shoot an Alco in freight service, Southern Steam in the Ga hills, and then ended on this rather somber note I have said it before, and I will say it again...Progress is inevitable, and progress sucks.

    You can find the entire set in full size at this link if you care to look >>>> 3rd District of the CNO&TP 2014 Photo Gallery by E.M. & Carmon Bell at

    Friday 10/24/14

    A Southbound grain train eases around the big curve at Oakdale, TN. On the left you can see the South yard lead which has been cut to allow a shift in the mainline here, and to the right the new upright for the signal bridge that will replace the seachlights. The new signals will be a little North of the current location, as will be the turnout to single track.

    Northbound 224 pops out of Tunnel 25 and under the old signal bridge at Oakdale.

    Sunday 10/26/14

    The Northbound signals at tunnel 26, just South Oakdale, TN

    A Northbound manifest comes under the signals at T26. As you can see, this is only an intermediate for Southbound trains.

    197 comes South under the signals at T26

    Southbound 50G with a EMD leader at T26..