Author Topic: Stub Switches on the Monson  (Read 2028 times)

Roger Whitney

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Stub Switches on the Monson
« on: May 04, 2012, 06:58:38 PM »

   One of the unique features of the Monson was it’s stub switches and harp (sometimes called banjo) switch stands.  Maybe it wasn’t so much that the railroad was built with them, but that they never changed them for the split switch type.
   Linwood Moody stated,  “No split switches followed the ante-bellum stub switches with their so called banjo switch stands.”  “Ante-bellum” means before the civil war.  He also stated that at the slate plant  ”there were stub switches enough to have rebuilt the Georgia Railroad after Sherman’s nefarious orgy”.  I love those Moodyisms! In all the Monson books, there are numerous photos of these switches and stands.
   Lets take a closer look at these unique switches. 
        A stub switch is one that has both mainline rails approaching the ends of the rails of the diverging routes. A simple switch mechanism, consisting of a long lever is mounted on a cast iron bracket called a harp or banjo switch stand.  The lever is connected to the rails with a sturdy bar which aligns (bends) the movable rails with the rails of one of the diverging route(s).                                         This is fairly old railroad technology common in the Civil War era.  Why the Monson was built with this in mind must have been something to do with the stub switches being cheaper, a common theme for the whole life of the Monson.     
        Anyway, the rails leading up to a stub switch are not secured to the ties for a considerable distance. Rail alignment across the gap between the rails is sometimes braced to keep the gauge. Stub switches require literally bending the rails to align them with the diverging route. Hence the term “bending the iron” when referring to throwing a switch. Generally these switches cannot be used for high speed because of the danger of the rails not aligning just right.  Also in winter, a lot more snow has to be removed to make the switch functional.  Another problem is that in very hot weather, expansion of the steel in the rails can cause the movable rails to butt up against the stock rails, making switching impossible until the rails have cooled and contracted. I have never heard of this problem with the Maine two-footers because most stub switches were designed with enough gap to compensate for this.
          The WW&F Railway Museum has a three-way stub switch at the throat of the Sheepscot Yard.  Take a look at it sometime.  It works well in the yard, since trains move very slowly in that area.