Say it in paint

White River Junction, Vermont - New England Central - July 2014

White River Junction, Vermont – New England Central – July 2014

I took the above photo at White River Junction, Vermont, last week. In the classic Mears style, that fence and my shadow really aren’t helping my story.

I thought the orange paint on the rail joints was an interesting detail. Since not every rail joint is painted, something about these particular joints must make them special? I’m assuming that these joints mark the end of each siding, the point where you can safely park a train without fouling the other track. On past layouts I’ve used a “special” barrel, figure, or other detail to mark this same point on a layout. A little orange paint on my track to serve this same purpose would be a simple way to incorporate a prototypical detail to serve an equally practical purpose on the layout.

St. Johnsbury, Vermont - Washington County Railroad - July 2014

St. Johnsbury, Vermont – Washington County Railroad – July 2014

The greatest thing about a great assumption is the realization that it might not be correct. A couple of days later I was in St. Johnsbury, Vermont and saw similarly coloured rail joints. At first I was delighted to see them, then I noticed that while the first set seemed logical in their placement, the Washington County folks seemed to paint most of the joints. Perhaps in this second case it just makes finding the joint bars easier?



  1. WRJ: classic railfanning location per TRAINS and other industry magazines. Painted joints? Likely some sort of indication to the S&C Signals folks. If it is something operating crews need to know i.e. End CTC or something, there should be a sign they can see from cab height.

    Recently, with my great-nephew in tow, I had to try to explain a similar pink-sprayed joint at Kingston’s VIA station. It was complete with a three-foot long piece of marking tape. Hmmm.

    You’re right though, an interesting detail of note. How is the northeast kingdom railfanning going?


    1. Great points about cab height signage. I guess the plot thickens. I’m not likely to loose too much sleep over this one but it’s a detail I’m sure curious about.

      I think I know exactly what the pink paint and tape detail is though having seen the same thing in Moncton. I think it’s to mark the gauge at that point. Not sure if it marks that this is where it was checked or a place where it requires attention.

  2. You’re absolutely right about the first set of paint marks. They indicate the ‘fouling point’ for prototypers. Certainly a great operating aid to add to a layout.

    Don’t be concerned about the meaning of the second set of marks. It could be a problem joint for section crews.

    Often before a major tie program commences, the roadmaster and his assistant roadmaster’s will walk their line using spray cans to mark any ties they deem in need of replacement.

    A neat scenic detail would be to paint a few small pieces of scrap rail rust colour, then using a microbrush put any number of straight lines vertically across the rail (1-4 lines). 1 mark indicates the rail has a flaw in it, but can be used again, and by the time it has 4 marks, it’s scrap. These are all CP practices, but it’s still worth mentioning.

    Enjoy reading your blog.


    1. Thanks for the comment. I really appreciate the insight.

      Are certain colours of paint reserved for certain comments? When I read your comment about the ratings for flawed rail I wondered if similar markings are sprayed on the bad ties?

      These would all be great details to include on a model railway. Such simple details to add yet so often overlooked.

      Thanks again. I really appreciate it.

  3. Good points.

    Here’s another example – the last time fibre-optic crews came down the Kingston Sub, they spray-painted the mileage (and GPS?) location information on the nearest rail. That would be pretty miniscule in scale, though.

    Yet another. The north track at Kingston has a spray of crankcase oil (jeez, I hope it’s not crude oil from a tank car) sprayed all over the insides of the rail and many ties. Fifty miles west at Belleville, it’s on the south track, which makes me think it was from a VIA locomotive!


    1. I’ve seen those chalk marks too. I think the pink taped rail I photographed in Moncton had similar markings. I think the notation is similar to how we mark a surveyors drawing.

      I wonder about that oil. Flange greasing?

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