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This rail junction is located on a steep, short, local railroad line from the "mainline" in Reno, NV to the community of Stead.

The track is new/maintained and there is no evidence of an old siding.

As a train travels uphill, the train engineers stop and fiddle with it (I can only assume they are switching the junction), allow the train to pass, and then fiddle with it again before proceeding uphill.

Once the train has passed, it is in the "siding" position (a train traveling towards the photographer would turn off the main rail line into the ditch).

So if the same train then travels downhill and forgets to switch the junction, it would end up in the ditch.

What is the purpose of this junction?

enter image description here

A

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I think it's a derail to prevent any loose rolling stock from careening down the hill.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derail

The big D on the sign is one clue :)

See appendix A-34 - https://www.bnsf.com/ship-with-bnsf/ways-of-shipping/pdf/indytrkstds.pdf

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runaway mitigation clip

The above video shows a runaway switch providing safety for trains out of control. This particular video presents an electronic solution, measuring the speed of the approaching train, moving the switch to the through position if all is well, defaulting to the side if the train is moving too quickly.

From other searches on the 'net, using "railroad runaway ramps," one can expect that the switch you see is a manually operated version, requiring a responsible human to stop and move the switch to the through position on the ascent and return it to the safety position after passing the switch.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the video. That's my backyard. $\endgroup$
    – Phil Sweet
    Jun 5 '20 at 22:39

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