Vermont Roads - US 5 - Barnet RR

Backyard railroad in Barnet (on US 5)

Doug Kerr was driving along US 5 when, out of the passenger seat, I spied an embossed railroad sign with button copy underneath down a driveway. As I hopped out to take that photograph, I then spied a second sign somewhat further down the driveway, similar but with a streeet sign tacked on. As strange as this was, I was just scratching the surface...

You saw there was a rail car parked there; well, it was parked on tracks, and they ran by a station, and not only did that station have a couple of old signals, but it also had another embossed street sign and an ancient push-pull car. Clearly, this is the work of a zealous collector. I was getting ready to go back, when I spied yet another sign even further along. The plot thickens...

Another ancient rail car, and more varieties of old signs. I have no idea where this guy got the concrete post, but he has clearly been at this a long time in order to track down a cats-eye railroad sign assembly. Then I looked farther, used my last 5 minutes of phone battery, and frantically called for backup. You see, no one should approach the following alone, it's far too dangerous:

There are maybe three of these types of railroad crossing signs left in the country in the wild and no more than a handful to be found in museums, the rarest of the rare. Those of you who predate me may recognize the "wigwag" signal from early railroad crossings. Instead of alternating flashing lights and warning gates, the most the crossings had was a flashing light on a STOP sign or an embossed "+", which started swinging with bells a'ringing (sorry, waxed poetic) when triggered by an approaching train. The action of the train on the tracks was sufficient to power the sign for as long as the train passed; once the train was gone and mechanical energy was spent, the light and bells would power down and the sign would gradually stop swinging. It's far too dangerous to trust modern drivers to stop, look, and listen without multiple sets of flashing lights and gates.

At this point, we were both trespassing deep on private property, and there were still goodies all over, so we soldiered on toward the barn where the enthusiast and his small crew of friends were busily and happily at work. He has a large collection of railroad switches in his railyard along with another ancient reclamation project; I assume the vinyl seat will disappear at some point.

The rest of the signs below are at various points in the barn. My advice to you is just to watch along the side of the road when driving US 5 north of downtown Barnet, I believe the NB side, until you see an oddly placed railroad crossing sign and a station in an area with no town. As long as you're not out to make trouble, at worst you'll just walk around and marvel, and at best you may get a guided tour!

If there's any doubting the authenticity of the station signs, check out the engraved inscription. All of these now-defunct stations were on the same rail line heading up the east coast of Vermont; Stanstead Junction is in Québec for that matter, back when the border crossing was no more than a hat tip.

Out onto US 5 south of St. Johnsbury
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