Old Valley of the Rogue lines are for rail signals

I was driving along the highway near Valley of the Rogue State Park recently looking at the railroad tracks. I noticed that there are still telephone poles near the tracks with drooping lines. I was wondering if the lines we see around the valley still work, and were they once used as telegraph lines?

— Jerry O., Medford

You must be a railroad buff, Jerry. We've never given those lines a second thought here at Since You Asked headquarters. But now that you mention it, those lines do conjure up images of telegraph lines we used to see in Western movies.

Remember how you'd always see some no-account scoundrel cutting the telegraph lines?

We checked in with John Bullion, assistant general manager of Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad in Roseburg.

"Basically, those are our old signal lines," he said. "I think they began as the old telegraph lines."

And, as it turns out, those no-account scoundrels are still a problem.

Most of the lines that controlled signals have been phased out because of vandalism.

"We couldn't keep up with the thieves stealing that stuff," Bullion said.

Some lines still work, but the copper has been replaced with a cheaper metal, he said.

Trains use similar types of signals that are familiar to most motorists, with red indicating "stop" and green indicating "go."

So, Jerry, thanks for that little trip down memory lane, and keep an eye out for no-account scoundrels.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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