Tuesday, 25 August 2020


The practice on the Kettle Valley Railway regarding Station Mileboards will be treated here and a few suggestions as to their fabrication in miniature.   Our first photograph is of a typical Mileboard on the Kettle Valley; this one for Rhone on the Carmi subdivision.  Dave Love would have taken this in the 1970's before abandonment and track removal in 1979.  The track looks a bit shiny so this photo may even predate the last trains in 1973.

As might be expected, a Mileboard sign was erected about one mile distant from a station that was listed on the Employee Timetable whether that station had a physical building or not.  Theoretically the distance was one mile from the centreline of the station or from the centre of the passing siding.  The purpose of the Mileboard was to advise the engine crew of the distance to the station which seems to have been more than one actual mile of 5280 feet.

This is our conclusion after an analysis of Grade Profiles in our files of CPR documents.  In the following portion of the Grade Profile of the Coquihalla Subdivision, the reader can see that the west Mileboard sign was located at about Mileage 19.2 whereas, Coquihalla station was located at Mileage 18.0.  Hence, the distance from the Mileboard to the station is actually closer to 1.2 miles.  The vertical lines on the drawing are spaced 1000 feet apart in the original scale of 400 feet to the horizontal inch.  The original vertical scale is 20 feet to the inch so as to more explicitly illustrate the grade and sundry right-of-way details.  The circled number 127 which is crossed out represents the mileage from Penticton set up in 1916.  The new mileages starting at Brookmere were adopted in April of 1940.

There were two other reasons for the Mileboard.  A very important purpose was that the Mileboard served as the Yard Limit sign according to what was told to the author by two KV men at the annual Brookmere camp-out some years ago.  Even though the CPR had a standard yard limit sign, there is but one "living" example of it to be found in the Midway museum.  Other than that there is little photographic evidence to contradict their statements.  At this time we are not persuaded either way on the use or non-use of the Yard limit sign.  But we digress...

Where there were yard limits for a station on the CPR, third class, fourth class and extra freights would slow to restricted speed because there could be another train within the yard limits.  This was not the case for the KV station of  RHONE because the Timetable did not indicate that there were yard limits as seen in this excerpt from the Timetable of April, 1949.  Rhone simply had a passing track of 35 car capacity.  No other operational symbols to note.

Unlike RHONE, the next station to the west, WESTBRIDGE, did have yard limits, the letter "Z" appearing on either side of the station name.  No doubt, the yard limits were designed to allow for wayfreight switching of the local industries which were mostly shippers of forest products.  According to Smuin, WESTBRIDGE had a station building and an agent to handle the local business.  Even though an agent was assigned here, the station did not rate a call sign and thus no train order board.  The agent would still be in communication with the dispatcher by telephone and and be able to offer telegraphic service to the local community.  The Timetable also shows that a water tank (W) was situated there.

Further down the list, is the station at BEAVERDELL at mile 42.3.  This station had an Agent for the local customers who were mostly in the lumber business and the Highland Bell concentrator whose loading ramp is off to the right.  We dealt with Beaverdell in a previous post here: http://kettlevalleymodelrailway.blogspot.com/2014/05/beaverdell-and-highland-bell.html  

The tiny building also served as a Train Order station as indicated by the call sign "BD" in the Timetable as well as by the Train Order Board in front.  The photograph was taken by David Davies in 1966 whose vast collection was acquired by the University of Northern BC.  It is well worth a visit.  https://search.nbca.unbc.ca/index.php/david-davies-railway-collection

 Note on the left side of the Beaverdell entry on the Timetable, the letter "D".  This establishes that the Operator was on duty only during the "DAY", i e, normal business hours.  The fact that BEAVERDELL was a Train Order station has meaning and relevance to the Station Mileboard - even in model operations.   RULE 14 (m) specifies that a long blast of the whistle must be sounded "one mile from train order offices..."; consequently, an engineman would sound the signal at the station mileboard.  This signal would alert the agent to the approaching train (should he perchance be "resting his eyes") and he would turn out to "PK" the train as it passed his station.

Regarding the specifications of the Mileboards we reproduce here the reproduction by Just IMAGINE Printing of the CPR standard drawing for the Station Mile Board.  It is far more legible than the original in our files.  Thank you Just Imagine Printing.


Here are our field notes for the Jessica Mile Board which has been preserved at the Hope Museum.   The measurements mostly correspond with the official drawing.  Other field measurements confirm that the boards were about 64" long even if the name was a mere 4 letters.  It was mounted on a post 6" square or sometimes a 6" or 7" round post.  One more specification; the sign would be located 10 feet away from the nearest rail and on the engineman's side of the right-of-way.


 Here is screen shot of the JESSICA Mileboard in service in 1957.   The film by Dave Wilke of happy memory, was taken during the fan trip up the Coquihalla and was posted on YouTube by his son,  Mike Dunham-Wilkie.  It is available here: http://youtu.be/RiONq7ktj80  and here:


Thank you Mike for your generosity in publishing your late father's films.  More Coquihalla films and videos are linked in the YouTube site.

Notably, the lettering of the official drawing differs from the field sketch and the photos.  This discrepancy is due to the elimination of the wording "One Mile" from the sign as time went on.  Presumably these two words were considered redundant.  Photos of Mileboards from the teens and twenties show the lettering on the drawing but Mileboards in photos from later years usually contain only the station name such as this screenshot of the west Mileboard for COQUIHALLA from the same movie.  Originally, the board color was a light silver but later on this specification was eliminated and the boards were painted a basic white.  It almost seems that there are traces of the original silver showing through the white paint in this example.  Also note how the lettering is more compressed for the longer name.

We first fabricated some HO scale Mileboards in wood and card-stock which were quite presentable.  The board itself was printed on card-stock using the Arial Narrow font at 8 point. The arc describing the top of the Board was inserted using "shapes" and bending the arc until close enough to the eye.  The sign was cut out and glued to a scale 6" square wood post painted white. The creosote black bottom was simulated with Grimy Black paint.

These models lasted a few years but were often snagged and bent out of shape or broken.  We resolved to one day make new ones that were more robust.  That day arrived a few months ago and brass was the chosen material.  Here they are: Top row are brass; Bottom row are the wood and card-stock versions.

Unfortunately, the progress shots of these did not turn out well so here is a finished Mileboard contained in the jig to illustrate how the boards were secured for soldering.  In this case grooves were cut into a piece of plywood but a similar jig could be fabricated with wood strips instead of grooves.

Finally, here is a shot of an eastbound extra passing the west Mileboard for Coquihalla Station on a Kettle Valley Model Railway.  The engineman would at this time sound a long blast on his whistle to advise the Coquihalla Operator of his approach.

This is a most interesting detail to add to the right-of-way on our model railroads.  On our layout, we place it about a "smile" from the station. 

Whistleposts and Flanger signs are in progress.  So, more to come next month.

Coquihalla Man

Monday, 13 July 2020


Recently, Tony Thompson published two articles on modeling Crossbucks, one of them appearing on his excellent blog, modeling the SP (July 11, 2020): http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/ The other expanded article appears in the July 2020 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist, in the Running Extra segment of the magazine: https://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/   Both provide interesting historical and technical information about this important detail for period modelers.  However, his article covers the crossbucks prevalent in the United States, specifically the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Canadian Crossbucks were a little different.
This KV post is a supplement to those articles by Mr. Thompson for Canadian modelers, providing the prototype specifications and a suggestion on modeling the Canadian version of Crossbucks which are formally denoted as "Track Signs".  Here is part of the specific page 32 from the CPR Standard Plans Book which has been in circulation for some time.  Someone edited all the pages of this book, producing a very fair copy, much improved over hard copies that are available for purchase at railroad shows throughout the country.  This fair copy can be accessed through the Canadian Pacific Historical Society at https://www.cptracks.ca/main.asp

  Photos of these crossbucks are hard to come by for some reason, your writer having pored over every book in his collection.  Photos of trains at road crossings do show crossbucks but usually edgewise and not frontal view.  Here is the one full frontal image from one of our books, showing a very old example with a modern additional speed limit plaque and a red-painted post.  The red paint is unusual and not to be emulated in period modeling. 

 A firm by the name of Just Imagine Printing redrew the crossbuck image to show clearly the dimensions given in the plan.  We take the liberty of reproducing the redrawn image and thank them on behalf of modelers.  Under magnification the original drawing can be deciphered but here is their much clearer version.

The dimensions are clear and note that the blades or arms are "let in" to the post by half their thickness.  The post and the blades were built of wood, the only metal being the bolts attaching the blades to the post.  The blades are 1 1/2" thick and 8" wide. 

The other specifications for the crossbucks are written in text on the Standard Plans page and we here present them so they are legible.  The first part states that the signs are authorized by the Board of Railway Commissioners whose order would apply to all railways of Canada.   Firstly, they shall be painted white with black letters.  The diagram shows the lettering to be vertical on a slanted blade, an italic and reverse italic so to speak.  This lettering style was eventually abandoned in favor of a standard upright lettering style square to the blades.  More on that later.  Of course, they read RAILWAY and not RAILROAD which was the preferred Canadian terminology.

As to height of the signs, the Board specified:

As to location, signs:

Here is a clean example of a CNR version of the traditional crossbuck sign.  Note that the lettering is only a partially "italic".  We suspect that the trend to square lettering occurred sometime in the 1950's as this example shows.  As was CNR's practice, the post is lettered with their "monogram".

Also note in this that the ends of the blades or arms are cut on the vertical (plumb cut) as in the plan.

Further development with time resulted in the blades being made of metal and the ends squared off at right angles instead of the plumb cut.  The post was still made of wood.  However, the blades were both mounted on the same side in contrast to the opposite faces of the post.

 Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article from 1986 showing even further design development

This sign was again superseded in modern times.

For modelers of the steam and early diesel eras, it is essential to acquire or build models in accordance with the early standard plans.  While a plastic version has been available from Tichy Train Group as part #8180, the blades are mounted on the same side of the post and the lettering is square to the blades.  They do have the correct plumb cut on the blades.  Our layout used these Tichy crossbucks for some time but eventually, we decided to build some in brass.  This was due to the crossbucks being close to the layout edge and susceptible to being broken by errant hand and arm movements - usually when cleaning track.

We decided that correct lettering was in order since we were going to the trouble of building in brass.  This would require custom decals.  While we were at it why not get decals made up for the other signs along the right of way?  So, many hours were spent going cross-eyed to compose a decal sheet in the correct sizes for crossbuck lettering, station signs, flanger signs, mileboard signs and many others.  Negotiating with Mr. Bill Brillinger was a pleasure and here is his address for those who are interested in his services.

William J .A. Brillinger
Precision Design Co.
email: billy@pdc.ca
web site: www.pdc.ca
Call/Text: (204) 324-4807

For the sign post we used solid square brass stock @ 0.076"  made by K&S Special Shapes.  We obtained this from our LHS, Central Hobbies inVancouver.  Central has no more stock but we had some from previous purchases intended for another project.   After emailing an enquiry to K&S their answer was that the square stock is no longer available.  Nor is the strip brass we used for the blades.  We offer here a photo of our brass pieces to enable the modeler to search out their LHS for such material which might be found in their K&S dislay stand.  The Special Shapes square stock seems to be numbered S-2X?  The Special Shapes strip for the blades is numbered  #815021 and identified as Flat Bars 1/64" x 3/31".

 An alternative to solid stock would be square tubing but the top would have to be filled with solder or putty or bondo.  Mr. Thompson used square tubing.  The blades could be cut from 0.015" sheet brass which is still made by K&S.  It is thin enough that the blades could be cut with shears or even a pair of sharp sciccors.  One more possibility is to use round stock for the post which was used by the prototype.  We did a couple of signs with round posts of 3/32" (0.094")  diameter brass rounds which show in the picture below on the left.  Also shown is the Tichy crossbuck on the lower right.

 In order to solder the blades to the post, a jig was made out of plywood and grooves cut into the board at the right angles and depths.  A similar jig coud be built up of pieces of wood of suitable thickness.  The angles were transferred directly from the drawings.  Here is the jig we made to assemble the brass pieces for the crossbucks.  Note that the blades were soldered together and then trimmed to length and angle afterward.   The flux pen used is shown at the top.

Of course these crossbucks could be made of styrene components and a jig would still be a help to fastening the blades in place properly and again trimmed to length after gluing.  the two vertical lines in  the jig to left and right of the post are the cut lines for the plumb cut of the blades.  A felt pen is used to transfer the line to the blades for the plumb cut.

This was a satisfying project to work with pleasing results.

Details on more signs to come.  It has been a while.
Coquihalla Man