Railway Museum Gets New Exhibits
The San Angelo District of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will permanently loan two historic items from the South Orient Railroad to the Railway Museum of San Angelo for its collection.
The first item, a “Speeder Car”, is a motorized maintenance vehicle that was used by track inspectors and work crews to move along the rail to work sites from the 1950s to the 1970s. Although it was slow, it was called a “speeder” because it was faster than a human-powered vehicle. The speeder cars became obselete in the 1990s when “hi-rail” trucks- a pickup with flanged wheels that can be driven on the rail as well as the highway- replaced them. Speeder cars have now become highly collectable. This vintage speeder is a Fairmont MT-19A model and was used on the South Orient line.
The second, a “Wigwag”, is a railroad grade crossing signal once common across America, and used on the South Orient until 2001. It got its name from the pendulum-like motion it used to signal the approach of a train. They were placed on the side of the road and often had crossbucks fastened on top of the motorbox. The wigwag used electromagnets to pull on an iron armature. A steel disc, slightly less than two feet in diameter, served as the pendulum and had a red light in its center which illuminated and with each swing of the target made a mechanical gong sound. The wigwag became outdated in the 1990s with the advent of the Automatic Crossing Guard. This wigwag was stationed along the South Orient Railroad.
The wigwag and the speeder car will be available for the public to see this Saturday when the Railway Museum hosts its Santa Rita Oil and Hobo Days starting at 10:00 a.m. They will become a part of the museum’s permanent collection.