locked The End of Automatic Train Stop on the Southeren

George Eichelberger

This weekend’s SRHA archives work session was particularly well attended and productive. There are enough projects in progress that people simply arrive and pick up where they left off on their last visit.

We continue to go through the Southern Railway Presidents’ files looking for potential TIES articles and subjects that may be of interest to SRHA members. Box 634, Files 11,423 and 11,424 discuss “CTC”.

A recurring question from modelers is “when did the Southern remove Automatic Train Stop (ATS) hardware from its locomotives?” I recount what was told to me by Mr. John Smith of the Southern and NS C&S Departments years ago….essentially, the Southern offered to replace all of its semaphore type signals with color light signals IF they would be allowed to stop using ATS. (Described as an “automatic intermittent train-stop system”. “Intermittent" because the system relied on induction coils adjacent to signals that would apply train brakes if an equipped locomotive passed a restrictive signal. A problem being that when ATS applied train brakes, it had already violated its track authority by passing the signal.)

As John told the story, the letter accepting the arrangement from the FRA arrived on a Friday afternoon. D.W. Brosnan was so concerned they would change their mind, he ordered that ALL ATS equipment on the Southern Railway be removed BEFORE Monday morning. With a massive effort, that was the end of ATS on the Southern. Certainly a good story and a sleepless weekend for the C&S and mechanical Dept forces.

A memo explaining the arrangement to SR President Claytor dated April 15, 1970 describes how complex the “deal” was. It involved single tracking the Washington-Atlanta main line, installing mirrors inside diesel cabs so engineers could see signals when running long hood forward, replacing semaphores with color light types and maintaining various accounting records. (The FRA letter that resulted in the weekend effort, with an exact date has not been located.)


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