Switch and Signal

Nature is slowly enveloping the various components of this switch and signal apparatus on the eastern approach of the Grays Ferry Swing Bridge. Portions of the electro-mechanical device alerted the bridge tender that a train was present and the bridge could not be moved. Conversely if the bridge was open, trackmen could throw this switch and bar trains from moving across the bridge.The now-defunct Bethlehem Steel did brisk business in railroad “safety” switches in the early part of the 20th century. US Switch and Signal was (and is) also a major producer of railroad gates and signals.

On the surface of these components are raised company names, trademarks and operating instuctions (“depress here to apply padlock”) — creating a strange island of legibility amid the underbrush. While we understand or can conjecture the function of some parts, with others we lack the lived experience to gather meaning. And so this old century’s bit of modernity is being swallowed up both physically and conceptually.

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