Wartime arms production is an amazing feat combining patriotism, teamwork, resource management and industrial engineering to mass produce functional art. The 10 minute Union Switch and Signal manufacturing video posted below is an awesome look back at a time when Americans joined together to fight evil on all fronts. Simpler times? Not so much – food rationing, a two-front World War and the real threat of Nazi world domination have a way of altering your Hollywood perception of that era.
Still, the simple and calm process to take a raw metal forging and create one of the most iconic weapons of all time is mesmerizing. Enjoy the video.
US&S first patented the Model 15A Highway crossing bell on February 20, 1917. The bell has been commonly referred to as the “Teardrop” bell by railroaders and signal fans alike because of its unique shape and thus the name has stuck. This bell has appeared on advertising literature for railroad signals as far back as the 1920s as far abroad as Chile and Italy on early wig wag crossings and flashers. There have been subtle variations in the Teardrop bell over the years ranging from different sized electric coils, inclusion of the patent date on the rain hood, as well as a very early version with a less characteristic rain hood that simply read “UNION, patent pending.” This is the most commonly seen variation of the Teardrop. This bell is treasured by many for its slow low pitched ring at an irregular cadence. The production of this bell was discontinued sometime by the 1960s, but WABCO carried replacement castings and service manuals into the 1970s.
Union Switch and Signal was one of the five contractors (including Colt, Remington-Rand, Ithaca Gun Company, and Singer Sewing Machine) to make M1911A1 pistols during World War II. The production blocks assigned to them in 1943 were between SN’s 1,041,405 to 1096404. Colt duplicated 4,171 pistols in the 1088726-1092896 SN range. Since only 55,000 1911A1’s were produced by US&S, they are highly collectible. The reason for the low production numbers is US&S was the last company awarded a government contract and as requirements were reduced in early 1943, the last contract awarded became the first to be cancelled. As a general rule, US&S produced high quality pistols. With the government-owned machine tooling already in place at US&S, they were offered a subcontract arrangement to produce M1 Carbine components. Only Singer produced fewer 1911A1’s at 500 total production.
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