The Auxilliary track.
With the Z and the yard engine both out of our way we have moved past the crossover and the three street crossing of downtown Billings. We are about to enter the Eastward Auxilliary Track account of the main lines bridges being out ahead at the pile driver. The pile driver has rotated from the previous pictures to pick up another I-beam piling to drive. Note the red tag on the switch stand near the handle. That tells any crewman who forgets and tries to throw this switch that it is out of service and spiked in the diverging position onto the auxilliary tracks and is to be left that way. The Billings coal empty sits on the westward auxilliary track. On the left is the Billings passenger depot which is to see the Rocky Mountaineer passenger train this weekend.
Here we are passing the work area with the engine bell ringing and the whistle blowing. You can see that both main line bridges are out. This is a somewhat telephoto shot and the gap is longer than it appears to be in this photo. There is a wide two lane street, sidewalks, and embankment slopes in the gap. The bridges on the two auxilliary tracks were replaced last month.
At the east end of the auxilliary track we are about to return to the Eastward Main Track. The yellow signal is for our track. The mainline switch here used to be a spring switch. This signal plus the one for the eastward main on the overhead signal bridge remain red until a train occupies a clearing section approaching either signal. If no other train is on the other clearing section the respective signal will clear. The Northern Pacific set it up this way so freights could by-pass passenger trains sitting on the main at the depot. Since the spring switch was replaced with a hand throw switch 20 years ago the signal ahead of me will no longer clear automatically when you occupy the clearing section. But when you hand line the switch then the signal will clear. Since the switch is currently spiked in the diverging position this signal is once again working as intended, clearing automatically when you hit the clearing section.
Until 2000 there used to be a hand throw crossover between the mains located between the two auxilliary switches. That allowed a westbound train on the westward main to crossover to the eastward main then enter the westward auxilliary track. That was the way we used to bring in the Billings coal train, the last car of which can be seen on our left. Without that crossover we now have to run against the current on the Eastward Main from CTC East Billings to here.
The dwarf signal I wrote of earlier was located between the mains just a few feet beyond the switch I am about to use to get onto the main. It protected these switches from westbound movements running against the current of traffic on the Eastward Main. The old NP set up with the crossover and the dwarf signal really was an efficient installation. It allowed WB and EB trains to simultaniously enter/exit their respective auxilliary tracks from/to their respective mains. The current capabilities are greatly reduced.
While Pulling out of the Eastward Auxilliary track I looked back from the cab window and took this picture.
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