Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad
On Harps and Stubs
A distinguishing characteristic of DSP&P era photos is the
ubiquity of the so-called "harp" style switch stands and the
stub switches they controlled. Harps were also used by the D&RG
and many other standard and narrow gauge railways before the
turn of 20th century.
HARP SWITCH STANDS
The DSP&P used two different styles; the early versions had the
railway's initials "DSP&PR"cast into the housing. After the Union
Pacific take-over in 1885, they started to use a somewhat
different style with the letters "18 UP Ry 83" cast into the
housing. Some very early harps may have been fabricated instead
These switch stands were used on both 2- and 3-way stub
switches. The target on the lever arm leaned away from the direction of
the turnout, or stood vertically for the straight through run on
The target was painted red or yellow, and some illustrations
show them as circles painted red on a white background. The
overall height of the harp was about 3 feet and overall length
of the lever arm was about 6 feet.
Photo of a DSP&P harp style switchstand on a stub turnout at
Jefferson water tank, probably circa 1880's.
Extract from Phillip Ronfor's "Night Train"
(left), showing the DSP&P
harp switch stand.
One-sixth scale model (center) has 3 slots on the top edge of the harp to position
the lever arm, which is locked in place with a key placed in
the slot. The UP version (right) has 3 holes instead of
to lock the lever arm, giving rise to 3 bumps on the top
edge of the harp. The model was produced in the 1970's (author's
collection). The height of the model's harp is 6" and the
lever arm is 16" from the pivot to the tip of the target.
Use "Save Picture As" to capture this hi-res image.
Richard Kindig's drawing of the UP style harp switch stand
is somewhat different than the UP version shown earlier.
This one shows a wider harp profile with lots of curlycues
in the casting. The lever arm on this plan is about 6 feet tall.
only large scale harp switch stand on the market that I know
of is Ozark Miniatures #107 switch stand. I haven't used any
yet but they might dress up my (non-stub) LGB switches. Here
is the photo from their website, enhanced a bit for clarity.
Ferrell's sketch from the index page of book "C&Sng".
and Three-Way Stub
Stub switches were common on many railways of the 1800's and
the DSP&P was no exception. Some stub switches survived well into the
mid-1900's on industrial spurs in various parts of North
A two-way stub switch
(left) and a three-way stub switch (right) in the Como yard. The lead tracks
are shifted sideways to line up with the desired route using
a switch stand (rotary or harp-style). The term often used
was "bending the rails" although the rail was never actually
bent, just shifted at one end and pivoting at the fixed end.
These switches needed a lot of housekeeping under winter
Stub switcges in Como yard with the 6-stall stone roundhouse
in the background.
Examples of some 3-way
stub switches showing location of frogs and guard rails.
Layout of ties on a typical 3-way stub switch.
A slice of DSP&P rail from Alpine Tunnel, 3-3/8 inches tall,
3-5/8 inches wide at the base. The width of the base and the
height of the rail in the late 1880's era were equal, so
this slice of rail shows moderate wear. According to ACME
tables, it came form rail that weighed 45 pounds per yard.