I have seen operators throw street car switches manually. Is there a way a motorman could throw a switch remotely?
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Yep! This, in fact, led to a "phantom trolley" cruising unmanned around Woodland Car Barn one evening in Philadelphia back in the 50s...
The story begins with one of the old Nearside center exit streetcars being parked at the front of the barn with the rear doors open and the pole up. Normally, with the doors open, the air brakes would set by themselves, the motor would not run and the car would not move (as a safety measure). So, it was not unknown to park the car with the doors open and the controller in forward, first notch, for a fast departure in the morning.
This particular car had a door malfunction, and they closed by themselves. Naturally, the power came on, and the car started slowly trundling along by itself, out the door and onto the tracks outside.
This leads me to the answer to the OP question. In Philadelphia, the operator can switch to a diverging track by leaving the power on while going through the contact on the overhead wire. If you want to go straight, you cut power and coast through the contact.
So, with power on, the unmanned car spent several hours orbiting Woodland car barn, hitting the contacts and throwing the switches so the car didn't go perambulating off down one of the streets...
This caused no comment, as it was not unknown for a freshly repaired car to orbit the barn for an hour or two to make sure it was working properly. The lack of an operator was the only sign something wasn't quite right, and the neighborhood was deserted that late in the evening, so nobody took particular note.
Eventually. one of the arriving mechanics saw what was going on and pulled the pole, bringing the car safely to a halt.
Thanks Mitch! That is an interesting story about the Phantom Trolley. I understand now how a street car switch works remotely.