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150 years ago a New Hampshire native named Thomas Hall received U.S. Patent No. 89,308 for improved electrical signals to trains – basically, using new-fangled electricity to move large round signals known as a “banjo switch” to let train engineers know what was ahead. This put Hall, who was born in tiny Bartlett near Jackson in the White Mountains, in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Signaling to engineers is still a technical problem, it seems. The Boston Surface Railroad Company, which has vague-ish plans to bring passenger rail up to Nashua from Worcester, Mass., says it is working with companies to develop a different technical method to meet Positive Train Control requirements, which is sort of the train version of those automatic braking you find in advanced cruise-control in cars.

The company says it’s working on a pilot project that would provide the necessary information to engineers using different over-the-air systems than are standard. They say this would reduce the need to install circuits and connectors and other electronic-y stuff, cutting costs and speeding uptake. Here’s their press release, which is light on technical details.

I’d love to see passenger rail going south from Nashua so you could connect to rail heading to NYC and D.C. without having to go all the way into Boston on the T or commuter rail. I’m skeptical that it will ever make business sense, but I don’t know a whole lot about the industry so you shouldn’t give too much weight to my doubts.


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