February 25, 2018

The Railroad Watchtowers as Remembered by June Dunlap

Delphos had crossing watchman towers on Bredeick, Jefferson and Franklin streets.  Each tower was responsible for getting the crossing gates down for three crossings.  The one on Bredeick Street was responsible for State, Bredeick and Cass streets.  The Jefferson Street one was responsible for Clay, Jefferson and Canal streets.  The Franklin one was responsible for Main, Franklin and Pierce streets.

The towers were 8 feet square.  They had a trap door in the floor that was pushed open by the watchman when he climbed up the ladder to get in.  Inside on the left of the trap door was a wooden coal box with a top on it.  The coal was pulled up in a bucket by a rope with an iron hook .  Each tower had a small pot-bellied stove for heat, a chair on rollers, a set of three pipes with levers on the top for each set of gates , and a long-handled pump. There was also a bell box on the wall above the pipes.

A watchman on each end of town would ring the center tower to warn of an approaching train.  The Jefferson Street watchman would ring the next tower.  The levers were pushed to the side and the watchman pumped until each crossing gate was down.  After the train passed the levers were pushed upright and released the air in the lines and the gates went up.

Babe Dillon was the watchman on Bredeick St, Lawrence Ladd, Jefferson St.; and Syl Mueller on Franklin.  These were the second shift men.  When the second shift got to work they filled lanterns that had red globes with kerosene and took them to each gate at each crossing.  Before leaving at 11:00 pm, they went to each crossing and unfolded a sign that said crossing watchman off duty in reflector letters.

These crossing towers were taken down when the automatic gates were put in place in 1946.

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