Well about me, I am Zachary Gillihan and currently live in Union Mo and work at Ranken Technical College. I am in my mid twenties and have been collecting railroad signals since 2004 when a friend Pat Scott sold me a Union Switch and Signal Company type H-2 searchlight. Since then I have been collecting any signal related item. I would say that I have been destined to be a signal collector since a early age. My “pawpaw” Seiter was a inventor and a electrical engineer, he was a great grandfather! He would build me LED stoplights from wood blocks and would make me cool electronic toys or buy me Christmas lights to play with. He had a shop that I would work/play in and were I learned most of the electronics that I know today. His shop had large cabinets and within the cabinets were shelves of organizers full of resistors, transformers, capacitors, and so much more. I remember taking resistors out and playing with them and then I would never know where they came from and he would get mad because he would go into the bin of 34K resistors and there might be a few 9.4K or 10K resistors in there. My parents were also both into electronics; they met at South Tech here in St. Louis in a electronics class……. My parents also supported me with my hobby of electronics as a kid. My mom worked at a place in Earth City and would bring me large boxes of electronic parts. The stuff was from a place that makes the bar codes on cans and the dot lettering on the bottom of soda cans, they also made bar code readers and printers. My dad worked at McDonald Douglas and worked on the electronics and wiring of planes. When he was laid off in 93’ he started working at a alarm company and that’s where I learned wiring homes and basic alarm systems. He has since went back to what is now Boeing and still works with the wiring of the planes. So that is the electronic part of my early childhood! (Photo Left: My "pawpaw" Seiter helps me get candy from his "candy store." June 1992)
My uncle on the other hand would take me to see trains and buy me small train sets. I remember spending time at the BNSF Lindenwood Yard in St. Louis Mo. Other times he would take me to the Museum of Transportation here in St. Louis. I also had a bus driver in elementary school whose husband was an engineer for Amtrak. Her name was Mary and she drove bus number 95 for Mehlville School District. She took me down to see him at the Union Station terminal before. My other grandfather Wayne Chlanda bought me a massive train set one year for Christmas, it was a O gauge train set. I was too young to take any good care of it and don’t have much of it today. So let’s do the math here Electronics + stoplights + trains = Railroad Signals. High school I transferred to Gateway Tech in the City of St. Louis where they had a great electronics program I did a lot at Gateway…. I was also in the Jr. ROTC program and during my time at Gateway got more into electronics and mechanical drafting. While at Gateway I started hanging out with several Sachs Electric employees who were installing an entirely new network. I hung out with them a lot! I learned how to run more cabling and how to terminate the cables. I got most of the old patch panels and such from them. I also worked in the Audio Visual department and helped print student ID’s. While I was at Gateway I met Jake Horn who has since been a great friend, he is not much of a signal collector but has a GRS SA dwarf from the L&N line in Illinois and a GRS P switch indicator from somewhere in Indiana. He has helped me with all of my signals; either in transporting them or helping fix them. (Photo Right: Me standing next to a old stoplight at the Museum of Transportation.)
One day during the summer I went to apply at a firework stand in Arnold Mo. On my way to the firework stand I noticed that the stoplights on Route 21 were all off which meant the power was off. A little further I got to a road block where a truck had ran into a 34KV power line and broke the pole. I stopped and talked to the lineman and then decided to stay and watch. I was there so long that when I went to the store I got the linemen drinks and when one of them went to White Castles they got me food. I was there some 8 hours. I made friends with them and took home some insulators. Later someone hit a pole in my subdivision and I got insulators from that also. So I started collecting insulators and I still do to this day, nothing like I used to though. During my insulator collecting I was forwarded to someone in St. Louis who also collected insulators and went to see him one day. Pat Scott who then lived in North St. Louis became a good friend and helped me with my hobby. He had bought a bunch of signals from a scrap contractor. I offered to sell me a Union Switch and Signal Company style H-2 searchlight mechanism. I bought it and had to make payments but he threw in the housing. That was the first railroad signal I owned. Technically we can blame Pat and my family for my now ever growing signal collection! After buying that signal I started looking around and would find parts or broken signals along tracks and bring them home. Then I started buying them from EBay and other collectors. (Photo left: Me standing next to my Insulator collection summer 2003.)
In 2006 TRRA started to install new signals next to the searchlights along the MacArthur Bridge in St. Louis. I was able to make contact with the person in charge of the replacement project and offered to buy all the scrap signals. We came to an agreement that I would buy all the good signals for scrap costs and all the broken signals I would get for free as long as I hauled them away. Well the day came when the signals fell and the crews just dropped the signals from the elevated bridge, I called my contact who took a different position in the company. I got forwarded to new person and told him about the agreement and he sold me the good signals and I took the broke ones. After that I started contacting more railroads and buying the scrap signals and now I fix them up. I transferred from Gateway Tech after three and a half years to Mehlville Senior High. I finished out my senior year there with all my old classmates and graduated in 2004. After graduation I moved with my family to Union Mo were I started working at Edgewood Contracting. At Edgewood I worked on anything from cutting grass to installing sewer lines and operating backhoes. I worked there for about 2 years and then enrolled at Ranken Technical College in the Computer Networking Program (CNT). At Ranken I excelled in the wiring and installation of the network. I graduated in the winter of 2006 from Ranken and with honors. Ranken a month later offered me a job in computer repair and I took it. In early 2007 when I was in talks with the CSX about a contract to scrap out miles of color position light signals (CPLs) I bought 2 acres of land. The land was intended to be where I stored and fixed all the signals I bought and collected and it is exactly that! I have currently 11 signals installed in the front yard, my side yard has signals all over that are to be restored and sold. (Photo right: Me standing next to a GRS Model 2A Semaphore on the Monon Line in Indiana 2008.)
Since I have been working at Ranken I have become the administrator over all the alarms, cabling, video cameras, phones, ID system, door access control, fire alarms, and the alarm system. I have been to training for Nortel Opt. 11 C Phone systems and DigitalSENTRY systems. I have taken night classes on programmable logic controllers or PLCs. I have several Allen Bradley SLC-500 PLCs installed on my property that control either the signals in the front yard or the General Railway Signal Co NX machine inside to the fire alarm system for the house. I am always looking to learn more and expand what I already know. That brings us to about now!!! During college I was required to take a HTML class and in that class we had to make a 5 page website. For my website I decided to make it about railroad signals. After the project was over I decided I might as well put it online and see how it does. I wanted a website that I could post pictures of the signals I have seen and if they have been replaced; then what they have been replaced with. I loved several other sites that have pictures of locations that you can visit and I wanted to post my own adventures. I also love history! I am a huge history nut, I love exploring and going on hunts. One thing I like about signals is every single one has a history to it. For example I bought two GRS type MD signals from a lady in Imperial Mo. When I picked them up I noticed a City of St. Louis property tag on them. I knew from buying signals from TRRA that the signals off the MacArthur Bridge had the same tags. Well the signals also had number plates on them, one was 59 and the other was 63. A friend sent me a PDF about Carrol Street Interlocking and it mentioned that the signals installed were GRS MD dwarfs and that they were 110VAC signals, the two signals I have were also 110VAC. Thanks to the track diagram in the TRRA book “Towers in St. Louis” I noticed that there was a signal 59 and 63 at Carrol Street Interlocking. I asked someone who helped in the book and they were able to provide pictures of the exact signals in service! Things like this make the hobby great, also people listed below make the hobby great. I have had a blast hunting and collecting signals! I only hope that when I go, people will be able to see my collection and be able to access my signal documents to help them learn about signals. Well I am sure you have learned more than you wanted to about me! I hope you enjoy this website and I also hope that it helps you in your collecting or learning about signals. I want to thank everyone for their help and support.