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apollosmith

Poles? And other noob questions.

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I just got a proper GPS and am just getting into geocaching. This is my first post here. I'm in Northern Utah and the foot of snow on the ground limits a lot of what I can do until spring, but I have found quite a few benchmarks in my area that have not been logged. I like a challenge and would like to be the FTF on some of these and would like to verify several others that haven't been found in many years.

 

Many benchmarks in my immediate area are along an old railway that is used once per week. I'm a bit confused by some of the terminology. For example, one datasheet reads, "MARK SET IN CONCRETE BASE OF SEMAPHORE NO. 55.5. 7 POLES AND 30 FEET SOUTH OF EAST-WEST DIRT ROAD."

 

From the other descriptions, I believe "SEMAPHORE" refers to some sort of switching sign or other visual designator. Is this correct?

 

Others in the very near vicinity reference MILEPOLE 55.5. I assume by "pole" in this sense that it is a mile marker, right? So there is probably a sign or signal at this milepost?

 

However, the distance of "7 POLES" above doesn't make a lot of sense. It clearly is not 7 miles. It is some measure of distance greater than 30 feet, but probably less than several hundred feet. I found some surveying terminology that said it is the same as a rod - 16.5 feet, but this doesn't seem right in this context. I assume it refers to the distance between the old telephone poles that ran parallel to the tracks, but none of these remain in place along this track. Many of the descriptions in this area use this distance and not knowing it is going to make things difficult.

 

So how long is a "pole"?

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I assume by "pole" in this sense that it is a mile marker

 

No, likely referring to telegraph poles and they always followed rail lines. Since it was common back then they never thought they needed to explain further.

 

From Wikipedia

One of the earliest forms of fixed railway signal is the semaphore. These signals display their different indications to train drivers by changing the angle of inclination of a pivoted 'arm'. Semaphore signals were patented in the early 1840s by Joseph James Stevens, and soon became the most widely-used form of mechanical signal. Designs have altered over the intervening years, and colour light signals have replaced semaphore signals in some countries, but in others they remain in use.

 

300px-Lower_Signal_1.jpg

Edited by Z15

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Apollosmith--

 

Hi.

 

Generally, the troubles we have with RR marks around Boston are (1) finding out where, along the tracks, the mark is set (usually its distance to the side of the track is given) and (2) penetrating the ballast rock (or piled up brush) that has accumulated at trackside over the years.

 

Here you may be in luck, since the mark is in the semaphore base. This base may be a simple concrete pad, or, more likely, a flat-topped pyradimal base a foot or more in height that sticks up. These are rarely buried.

 

I suspect you find the referenced road and then count 7 telepgraph poles plus 30 ft. from it to find the semaphore base.

 

It often helps to give us the PID (like "XY9999") of your mark so we can help you more easily.

 

Good luck,

-Paul

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Here you may be in luck, since the mark is in the semaphore base.

 

Or not. In Google Maps, I can tell that the rail had a diversion track for an old factory or something at this location, but the sidetrack is no longer there, thus no need for the semaphore (which also does not appear to be present in Google Earth). It will be interesting to see if it and the marker is still there.

 

I suspect you find the referenced road and then count 7 telepgraph poles plus 30 ft. from it to find the semaphore base.

 

The problem is that the poles are no longer there. If I knew a standard distance at which they typically 'planted' them, then I'd have something to go off of.

 

This is in reference to http://www.geocaching.com/mark/details.aspx?PID=MR0489 and http://www.geocaching.com/mark/details.aspx?PID=MR0488 From the detail given, it appears that the Google Maps marker is probably very close.

 

Another question. I understand that RESET markers (e.g., MR0489) were placed to be able to reposition the actual marker if it were lost or moved. If so, how come the descriptions never indicate the direct relationship between the two. I'd expect "89 degrees and 42 feet" or some other description of relationship. Or is this enscribed directly on the RESET only?

 

Thank you so much for your help!

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apollosmith,

 

Railroads can be very productive hunting grounds - with caution; their trespass laws are more stringent - do a search in this forum for a good discussion on that subject.

 

To get to your questions:

 

Most RR structures are identified by their mileage from some terminus and usually so marked with a sign or paint or even formed into the concrete. In addition there will be the mile posts that the structures should correlate with. These distances are sometimes recalculated with changes in alignment, but out here in the west they are generally the historic mileages.

 

Most mileage calls in the DATASHEET will not have a physical marker. The crew running the levels would just estimate their location between the mile posts. Between Monida Pass and Dillon, Montana, along what was originally the Oregon Short Line, there are tall telegraph style wooden posts that have bands around them that indicate the quarter mile points.

 

Telegraph poles were about forty to the mile (somebody here told me that) but many of them have been removed - in the Bozeman area within the last year. Look for sawed off butts or depressions.

 

The old style semaphores are just about all gone but many of the bases where used to mount the new signal lights or just left in place. Sometimes a mark set in the base cannot be seen because of the new equipment - explain that in your log notes.

 

Many marks on structures will be covered up by additional ballast or capped by the timber or concrete retaining walls placed to hold that extra ballast. Once in awhile an access of some sort was provided, so you still have to look.

 

Short distance calls will usually be along the track, then a right angle from the track - but not always. Directional calls frequently refer to the general run of the track, so '50 feet north' may actually be on an ENE bearing. It is a good idea to do a quick check on all four quadrants before you start probing. Where there are definite drainage patterns, I wish that they had used river right, river left, upstream, downstream terminology.

 

Several other recent threads here discuss some of these same subjects.

 

Happy hunting, kayakbird

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Another question. I understand that RESET markers (e.g., MR0489) were placed to be able to reposition the actual marker if it were lost or moved. If so, how come the descriptions never indicate the direct relationship between the two. I'd expect "89 degrees and 42 feet" or some other description of relationship. Or is this enscribed directly on the RESET only?

 

RESETs are generally set if there is no hope of using the original, either because it is gone or because it is encumbered by something. What you're saying relates to REFERENCE marks, not RESET marks. REFERENCE marks are to help re-locate (find) stations (almost always horizontal control stations) or sometimes to re-establish them (at a lower order of stated accuracy, by requirement). So, the accurate distance and bearing from a RESET to the originial station is generally of no real interest to surveyors.

Edited by Black Dog Trackers

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RESETs are generally set if there is no hope of using the original, either because it is gone or because it is encumbered by something. What you're saying relates to REFERENCE marks, not RESET marks.

 

Ah. I see. Thanks for the clarification. So for the two benchmarks in question (http://www.geocaching.com/mark/details.aspx?PID=MR0489 and http://www.geocaching.com/mark/details.aspx?PID=MR0488), it's very likely that MR0488 (the non-RESET one) is probably not there any more. With the only description being in 1937 (vs. 1967 for the RESET), this all makes a lot more sense.

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The existence of RESET means the original was believed to be in danger of destruction, and an elevation reference in the area was important enough to someone that they did the work.

 

It does not mean the original was necessarily destroyed. Although most of them were, we occasionally see one that survived.

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Try using 125 feet as the distance between telegraph poles. It's not exact, but it will get you in the ballpark.

 

EZ1224 was described as being at the third pole west from a creek. Since the pole would have been up the bank from the creek bed, I measured from the end of a guard rail. I went 375 feet using my distance wheel, and recovered a mark nobody had seen for several decades.

 

-Paul-

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A couple of items came to mind when I read the descriptions and looked at the mark on Google Earth.

Foxtrot_Xray's great Benchmark Hunter Tools shows the mark on the topographic map overlay as being fairly close to the coordinates.

I agree that the signal base is probably removed. I would think it coulhttp://forums.Groundspeak.com/GC/index.php?act=post&do=reply_post&f=10&t=238103d be seen on GE, and if it was still there it should be pretty easy to see, although if it was set low it might be ballast covered. The siding mentioned in both descriptions is an odd one. I don't think it served an industry as there is no evidence of anything at that location on the topo map--maybe an agricultural siding? Or possibly an old passing siding, although it would have been a short one at 1200'. That length would have been ok in the early days of the Oregon Short Line Railroad, but not too useful later. The existence of a signal at the end of the siding tells me that it was a passing siding (where one train would wait for another to pass) and not an industrial one however. An industrial siding would have a hand operated switch and no signal.

 

You probably won't find milepole 55.5 (I never saw one called this, I have always seen "milepost"). I have seen references to "fractional" mileposts such as this but have never seen one. The only ones left are actual MILE posts, at every mile.

 

All you can really do is look for remnants of what is in the description. You should be able to see about where the siding branched off, but not exactly where the switch stand was. There might be a bit of evidence of the motor car set-off but I doubt it. For reference sake, here is a photo of a motor car, and here is all I could find for a "setout"--an N Scale model. As you can see the model shows one made of all wood, so if the one near your mark is similar there would likely be no remaining evidence.

 

If I was searching for it I would look for any evidence of items in the description, then probably measure from the rail and sweep with a metal detector at that distance.

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Thank you all for taking the time. You've given me much to think about. mloser - I fully agree with your assessment. In looking closer at Google Earth, I can see reflections from telephone poles, so the pole references may be more helpful than I thought. Now I just need to get out there and look. The problem is that there's 8" of snow on the ground, so it will probably be spring before I get to some of these more difficult marks. I'm starting with some easier ones along the same line - ones set in bridges, switches, and culverts, then when the weather turns nice, I'll work up to some of these more questionable ones.

 

Thanks again!

 

One last question (I think) on something I couldn't find in the available resources - in checking the newest NGS database, I see that there are updates by 'geocachers' verifying status and condition of some benchmarks. How does one go about submitting updates to the NGS? Or do they simply pull them from geocaching.com?

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appollosmith,

 

Just read the current DATASHEET for you MR0489 and noticed one tidbit that I don't think has been mentioned - often the marking on the structure will be lacking the decimal point and the calls likely follow suit; so move it the required number of places to make it fit the geography.

 

MR0489'MILEPOLE 55.50, 17.7 FEET EAST OF THE EAST RAIL, 38 FEET SOUTH OF

MR0489'SWITCH STAND NO. 555, 25 1/2 FEET NORTHEAST OF THE CENTER OF A MOTOR

 

I'm betting that somewhere along the OSL grade you will find quarter mile poles.

 

Read all that you can find about doing NGS recoveries, and I'm sure that you will get some great advice here. MEL

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I have never seen any mileposts other than full mile ones, but things may be different out there. All the old Reading Railroad datasheets reference "fractional milepost..." but I haven't seen any in my searches, and I have walked many miles of old Reading Company tracks (now Norfolk Southern).

 

apollosmith--you have better eyes than I do! I don't see any telegraph pole reflections, but I hope they are there. It could make the search much easier.

 

I understand your excitement for hunting despite the snow. I started in January and dug snow off marks for the first few months. And I did it without a metal detector, something I would NOT recommend!

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apollosmith--you have better eyes than I do! I don't see any telegraph pole reflections, but I hope they are there. It could make the search much easier.

 

Doh! I meant telephone pole SHADOWS. They are clearly visible in Google Earth when fully zoomed in. Assuming these are original (not likely) or perhaps spaced the same, then yes, they could be very helpful. At a minimum, they give me some measure of distance - I hope they follow the entire line, though I don't recall seeing them before. There are 50 or so markers along this line within 15 miles of my home - most of which have not been verified since the 60's. It will give me lots to do. And some very cool sounding ones on dams and bridges.

 

I know that quarter and other inter-mile markers are much more common out here in Utah and Idaho than in other places - particularly on parallel telegraph poles. So I might be in luck. If only spring would hurry along. I'll try to sneak out to this particular site and dig around a bit over the Christmas break. I'll certainly report back on what, if anything, I find.

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A pole is an old surveying term for distance and is equal to a rod, or 16.5 feet.

Could this be the distance the surveyor was trying to say?

 

From The Free Dictionary:

a. A linear measure equal to 5.5 yards or 16.5 feet (5.03 meters). Also called pole.

 

~ Mitch ~

 

Edit: My observation is probably waaay off base here, but hey, it's a thought.

Edited by Difficult Run

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Some examples of quarter poles:

 

QY0205''AT MELROSE, 8 1/2 FEET EAST OF MILEPOLE 360 1/2,

 

PZ0032''THE MAIN TRACK, 75 FEET SOUTHEAST OF MILEPOLE 273,

 

Landscape photos show the stripes. MEL

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And then BANG it hits me-- mile POLE, not mile POST. The telephone poles are used as mile markers there (after I looked at kayakbird's picture of QY0205). I sure hope the poles are still there. I have had very limited luck with telegraph poles here in the east, and zero success with "fractional mileposts", but maybe the ways of Utah are different.

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It all depends on context. Any land surveying reference to poles, particularly older references, would mean the 16.5 foot rod, a quarter chain. But when a C&GS crew was working along a railroad it means telegraph poles.

 

The spacing was standardized along any given railroad line and the most common standard was 40 to the mile or 132 feet apart. But if the company bought stronger or weaker poles or took terrain into account, they could have adopted a standard of 36, 44, or other value to a mile.

 

In many (most?) cases the C&GS crews counted actual poles, so it was not a distance measure per se but rather the identification of a particular pole as a landmark. Thus if something required an additional pole, such as the measured spacing falling in a road crossing or at the station, the distance by count would not match N times 132 feet.

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Hi all. My $.01 on it all, and some repeated railroad stuff:

 

Fractional miles are often referred to in railroading, and saying something is at mile 55.5 (or 22.1, 19.4, you get the idea) is simply meaning that you'd be .5 miles past mile marker #55. (Or .1 past mile #22, etc etc.) Signals and bridges are often given numbers relating to their distance - Signal 55.5 would be expected to be half-way between 55 and 56. Obvious. :D However, if there were two signals at that location - and there probably was, one could be 55,5 and another 55.6, even though they stood opposite of each other. (Easier to keep track of them that way.)

 

For a 'milepole', I would bet that 99% of the time they mean 'milepost'. However, out west I've seen telegraph poles with bands (or other indications) on them denoting quarter-mile segments. (For example, on the line west out of Cheyenne, Wy, a quarter-mile from a mile-marker, a telegraph pole will have one white band on it. Half-mile, a telegraph pole will have two white bands. 3/4 of a mile, three bands. And on the mile marker, 4 white bands.) In cases like this, even nowadays, we refer to them as 'mile 4.25'. etc. Granted, I don't know what they were called way back when.

 

And like Bill said, I doubt they meant the 'pole' unit of distance, rather how many telegraph poles. The 132-feet works well out west. However, here in the east, do not count on it. (Due to terrain levels, vegetation, grades, and other factors.)

 

Looking at Google Earth, the coordinates put it exactly one pole too-far south, it appears, and according to the USGS map there used to be a siding there (not a spur), named "Cottle" by the railroad. Looking at the ground in Google Earth, you can see the old bed for it, even. (Keep in mind that the switch was more than likely just past the two sandy-looking spots. I would put money down that the sandy spots just south of the siding is where the semaphore stood.)

 

As far as semaphores are concerned, I am willing to put money down that the base has been removed, and you won't find it. (There IS a chance it's there, having been dug-up and tossed to the side, actually.)

 

The reset is probably still there, ho it may be covered by grass now.

Now, being the railroad guy here, be careful. That line is still used, and I've seen and heard of too many accidents to tell you to go find it.

 

On a side note, I love the reference to the 'Motor Car Set-Off'. Motor Cars are rarely used anymore by railroads, and most owners are now private, going on runs when they can. Yes, I used to own one. I should look into getting another. Hmm..

 

[Edit: Tried to clean up my seemingly-random thought-process. I wasn't too successful.]

Edited by foxtrot_xray

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Another thought - look for the extra long 'switch ties' that may have been left in place when all the siding iron was removed. MEL

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You probably won't find milepole 55.5 (I never saw one called this, I have always seen "milepost"). I have seen references to "fractional" mileposts such as this but have never seen one. The only ones left are actual MILE posts, at every mile.

 

 

Here is a fractional milepost used on the old GM&O (now CSX) along Rte 66. they have 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4.

 

4208300333_1ab1e63f85_b.jpg

 

Brendan

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FOUND IT!!!

 

Well, at least MR0489. I have several questions below about MR0488 and a few other things.

 

First of all, thank you all for the insight and ideas. Your recommendations were spot on and it was an easy find. We also nabbed MR0483, MR0485, and MR0484 - three very interesting and distinctly different marks on this, our very first benchmark hunting trip. None had previous logs. Pics posted of all three.

 

Any thoughts as to why MR0484 has been defaced?

9e22e520-144b-46e5-a837-2c447c276ae7.jpg

It does not look like vandalism, but instead like it was defaced intentionally so as to be rendered unusable. There was a relatively fresh 'X' painted on the bridge it was located in and the bridge was in poor repair, so perhaps it was defaced in preparation for a future bridge replacement?

 

MR0489 was found as described, even though many of the items described in the datasheet are gone.

90e7dd42-10f2-4585-afaf-9507002b4f05.jpg

 

As you can see here, the old motor car set-off is gone, but it's bed is still in place.

992424d4-e177-4153-8d0a-0e08b1ced8e9.jpg

 

This picture was taken from South of the marker and is facing North.

MR0489-milepole.jpg

Note the 5547 post at a culvert - supposedly at mile 55.47. Also the 1/2 "milepole" - 55.5. The blue thing just right of the semaphore(?) is my daughter at the benchmark.

 

I didn't really look much for MR0488 because I didn't see what I considered a semaphore, but then when I got back and checked the pictures, I started wondering if the "X" marker noted in the photo is perhaps the semaphore or likely the location of the original semaphore. The datasheet for MR0488 sure seems to match this location. Perhaps I'll go back in the spring and see if maybe the marker is in the base of this pole or nearby.

 

And finally, another photo of a railroad milepole or milepost - note the 4 bands indicating the full mile mark and the mile designator. This was very near MR0484

Milepole2.jpg

 

Thanks again for all of your help with this find! We got 4 marks all within a mile or so of each other. I'm sure it's the first of many trips as you can see by the look on my daughter's, er, I mean "Chief Locator's" face:

84b339f6-95e1-4f3b-b2e4-54eecf61e544.jpg

Edited by apollosmith

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Note the 5547 post at a culvert - supposedly at mile 55.47. Also the 1/2 "milepole" - 55.5. The blue thing just right of the semaphore(?) is my daughter at the benchmark.

 

I didn't really look much for MR0488 because I didn't see what I considered a semaphore, but then when I got back and checked the pictures, I started wondering if the "X" marker noted in the photo is perhaps the semaphore or likely the location of the original semaphore. The datasheet for MR0488 sure seems to match this location. Perhaps I'll go back in the spring and see if maybe the marker is in the base of this pole or nearby.

Congrats! Good to see they still have the white-banded telegraph poles out there.

 

That 'X' is a whistle or switch post - most likely a whistle post considering the location and distance from the road crossing beyond your Benchmark Locator. (And 'X' as a designation for switches is mostly used by signalmen, not used out in the field.) Unfortunately, it is not a semaphore. The top of the cement base for those things would be at least 5x5 feet square, and the base would be larger. If it's uprooted, you would CERTAINLY see it. :rolleyes:

 

Interesting that the other was is scratched out. The bridge could be getting replaced - most railraods are alwyas making improvement.. but I would find it hard to believe that any railroad employee would do that. Not because they know what it is - just the opposite: They wouldn't care about it. Sad, but true. Noone at my railroad knew what they were until I took our GM on a simple hunt to find out. After I explained it to him, he told all the engineers, and they used to come to me all the time, asking if they saw one. :ph34r:

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Congratulations apollosmith and Chief Locator. What a way to start a new hobby out in your beautiful part of the world.

 

Great report with pictures and links - I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't taken the time to learn how to do that yet. Meaning that you will have to go to my geocache log to see photos of an abandoned, but in place, signal base on the west side of Livingston, Montana.

 

QX0150''MILEPOST 116 AT A BLOCK SIGNAL, IN THE TOP OF THE NORTHWEST CORNER OF

QX0150''THE CONCRETE FOUNDATION OF THE SIGNAL,

 

Your MR0488 maybe there under some extra ballast. MEL

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Great job on the finds! Noticed on one of the datasheets that you're located in CACHE county, that brought a smile to my face, as did your wonderful photos. I saw some snow like that yesterday but 30 miles is about as close as i want to get to it so I enjoyed it from afar.

 

Good learning in this thread on the railroad details; I haven't searched for many along railroads, so thanks to all for sharing the knowledge.

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apollosmith,

 

Congratulations on your finds! (With additional congratulations because you were able to make the finds in the snow). Nice pictures.

 

Below is a photo of a concrete semaphore base (left foreground in picture). Additional views of the same base can be found at the geocaching.com log for RD0324.

 

- - The TillaMurphs

 

5de62d77-3fe7-4dfe-ae90-481c597817fd.jpg

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And here's a semaphore base with the semaphore post still attached....

 

Semaphore-Post.jpg

 

-Paul

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And here's a semaphore base with the semaphore post still attached....

 

Semaphore-Post.jpg

 

-Paul

Here's one that was still in use in Indiana up until last year.

2008-11-26_13-47-48.jpg

 

Brendan

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