By Justin Franz
LAS VEGAS, N.M. — If you want to see one of the last stretches of working semaphore signals in the United States, now is the time.
More than two dozen former Santa Fe semaphore blades are expected to be replaced in northern New Mexico in the coming weeks on BNSF Railway’s Glorieta Subdivision and the State of New Mexico’s Albuquerque Subdivision.
In recent weeks, new infrastructure has been installed along the right-of-way and the new signals could be put in service in October or November. Over the years, the former Santa Fe semaphores have been replaced as they failed. Just last year, a pair of three-position, upper quadrant signals near Springer, N.M., came down after mechanical issues developed with one of them. But this fall could see a mass extinction of the century-old Union Switch & Signal blades on the Glorieta and Albuquerque Subs.
If all the semaphores are replaced, only the ones north of Las Vegas (railroad east), on the Raton Subdivision, will remain. Presently, only two trains a day run on the Raton Sub: Amtrak’s westbound and eastbound Southwest Chief.
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief splits a pair of semaphores at Springer, N.M., in July 2021. This pair was taken down a few months after this photo was taken. Photo by Justin Franz.