Railroad museum to dedicate 'Gallows Signal'

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., May. 17, 2011
The 'Gallows Signal' receives some finishing touches at the museum opening on May 7. Photos by Melanie Savage.
The 'Gallows Signal' receives some finishing touches at the museum opening on May 7. Photos by Melanie Savage.

The Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum, dedicated to bringing railroad history to Eastern Connecticut, is ready to unveil a replica of the unique “Gallows Signal” which regulated rail traffic at the Bridge Street crossing in Willimantic. Originally built around 1850, this signal controlled railroad traffic where the New Haven Railroad crossed the Central Vermont Railroad. The two-armed signal was in use until the 1950s.

“The lines crossed at grade just west of Bridge Street, where the entrance to the museum is currently located,” said museum spokesperson Adrian Atkins. “An employee known as the crossing tender would set the signals and also manually stop vehicular traffic on Bridge Street.” The crossing tender worked out of a small building on the northwest side of Bridge Street.

The 26-foot-tall replica has been built as close as possible to the original design, just inside the main gate of the museum. Numerous volunteers have worked throughout the summer to get the new exhibit ready.

The construction of the signal was made possible through a donation by Doris Johnson from Manchester. Her late husband, Frank, was an avid railroad fan.

“This is a very special part of railroad history in Eastern Connecticut,” said Atkins.

The museum would love to hear from anyone who remembers the original signal, or who might have related photos. The dedication of the new signal is scheduled for Saturday, May 21, at noon. Visit the website cteastrrmuseum.org for more information.

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