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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Queens Boulevard Towers, Still Hanging On

Just a quick status update from the Queens Boulevard Line in NYC.  As I previously reported, the NYCTA was closing towers along the line as part of a general move away from manual interlocking operation on the IND division.  At that time Roosevelt Ave tower has closed with Continental Ave and Union Turnpike close behind. 

Gone without a trace
 Well as of Veterans Day there has been some good news and bad news.  The bad news is that not only have Roosevelt and Continental both closed, but both classic interlocking machines, a GRS Model 5 and US&S Model 14, have both been removed and the spaced converted into employee hangouts.  The good news is that Union Turnpike is still in operation along with the small tower at Northern Boulevard on the local branch of the line.  That small tower operates a single trailing point crossover with a 12-lever GRS Model 5 machine.

In related news, color light dwarf signals continued to appear in the JAY interlocking complex on the LIRR, one even being at the end of a platform.  As mentioned previously they are bare stacks of Safetran clam shells instead of something sensible like an LED searchlight.


DUNTON interlocking is so far unaffected and both VAN and BROOK interlockings are also not exhibiting any changes.   The temporary pedestal automatic signals are still in place at Woodside and I recommend anyone in the area try to get out and photograph them before the new color light signal bridge is activated for the East Side Access project.  One upcoming opportunity will be for this year's Holiday Nostalgia Train, which will be providing runs between 2nd Ave and 95th St on the Second Avenue Subway instead of to Queens Plaza.  I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

DOCK Tower Closes (1937-2017)

Well it looks like the Duke Nukem Forever of re-signaling projects has finally run its course.  While The venerable DOCK tower may have been celebrating its 80's birthday this year, the project to replace it was well into it's second decade.  DOCK was built along with the equally magnificent Newark Penn Station and sat just to the east where it could oversee the operation of three movable bridges over the Passiac River. An impressive structure it sat three levels about the track with the ground floor housing control equipment for the bridges' power supply.


 The last of the main line NEC towers, DOCK had previously run as a trio with UNION to the west and HUDSON to the east all the way into the early 21st century.  Even after HUDSON closed in 2003, the team of DOCK and UNION had remote control of every interlocking between them with trains being "paper" dispatched from the Section B dispatcher in NYC.  Ironically the height of DOCK's power came in the mid 2000's when it was given control over LANE, HAYNES, HUNTER and CLIFF interlockings to the west and REA interlocking to the east.  In fact the tower was staffed by no fewer than 5 people during the peak periods, a Train Director, three levermen and a telegrapher. Together they worked a series of modern unit level panels on either side of a large 155 level US&S Model 14 interlocking machine.


Because of DOCK's importance and traffic density, the re-signaling programme had to proceed very carefully.  Slowly colorized signals replaced the PRR amber ones, electric points replaced the pneumatic ones.  DOCK's extended territory was transferred to the Section B dispatcher and finally on Armistice Day 2017, the whole operation was shut down. 


While I doubt the tower will be demolished, I am not sure of what exactly it's function will be.  C&S hangout or will the bridge tenders still show up from time to time to raise and lower the three lift bridges? 


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Site Update / Service Disruption

So I wanted to do a quick post about the state of the blog.  You may have noticed that a lot of the links and photos (at least more than usual) are broken.  This is because over the last 12 months I first lost my backup web hosting due to Chinese web crawlers and then lost my main web hosting due to a thermal event.  Fortunately I had had long since adopted a policy of using Google Photos to host the images presented directly on the pages, but some of my early essays relied entirely on the private server (along with all direct links).

Not a complete dumpster fire, yet...
So while my private web hosting is likely to be out of commission through Christmas or possibly January,  I am using the opportunity to go back through and convert all the major photo essays into using Google Photos.   I'm pretty much starting at 2011 and working back with the PRR Main Line Survey and METRA Tower Survey getting first priority.  I am also using this to fix any other problems with the pages like factual errors or omissions (for example on the Main Line Survey I completely forgot CP-UN).  I am NOT updating the pages to reflect current reality, they will remain creatures of their time.

Thank you for your patience.  I'm sure many long time viewers can remember similar outages in the past. We got through those and I'll get through this one.  Still, I could use another backup host so if anyone has  the ability to give me a free account on a webserver somewhere please send me a message ;-)

Also, if someone needs any particular page fixed sooner, again message me and I'll move it to the front of the line.  Thanks for all your support over the years, I really appreciate it!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Toronto Scott Street GRS 5B Machine Video

A local Toronto newspaper posted a neat tour of SCOTT ST interlocking tower and its 1930's vintage GRS 5B Machine.  The 5B's were the last iteration of the GRS nee-Taylor "pistol grip" style interlocking machines and was typically used in only the largest layouts due to its extra beeft lever-slides and, as you can see from the video title card, the ability to enter the machine itself for maintenance.



The three towers of the Toronto Union Station complex, JOHN ST, SCOTT ST and CHERRY ST, are part of the too big to fail club along with TOWER A-2 and CNW LAKE ST.  However for the last decade or so even these largest, busiest towers have been falling due to the general allergy of employing human workers.  The video itself mentions that SCOTT ST is scheduled to close in 2019.


Fortunately I was able to get some photos of it back in 2002.  Unlike a lot of surviving towers, like METRA 16TH ST, the Toronto GRS plants have been kept in very good condition and you can see from the video that the interior doesn't look especially antiquated. Who knows, maybe they will get turned into some sort of living tourist attraction like HARRIS.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

HAMILTON Closes and Other Bad News

I just learned from a contributor that the famed B&O CPLs at HAMILTON interlocking in Hamilton, OH were cut over this past weekend.  One can also assume that surrounding CPLs have also been replaced.  Unlike the Broadway show there will be no touring production.


In other bad news, replacement signals have gone up at CP-ROCKVILLE and CP-HARRIS, which so far has seemed immune from NS's PRR Main Line signaling blitz.  The "new" PRR PLs at Rockville will be an especially hard loss.  The signaling dates from the late 1980's.


I can also report that the pneumatic point machines have been replaced by electric M23's at CP-HUNT and on the former N&W H-Line, the last bunch of PLs on the northern segment have also fallen.


Finally, the new signals at CP-ALLEN have cut over, replacing former Reading searchlights.  Status of the eastern Reading Line Rule 251 ABS is unknown at this point.

Wrong railing no more.  West on former E/B tk 2.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

METRA Cab Ride Videos Courtesy METRA

The METRA commuter rail network has been seeing a lot of re-signaling as of late, but there is still a lot of interesting stuff out there like searchlight signals, CNW signal bridges, ATS shoes, Rule 251 operation and a few open and closed interlocking towers.  Thanks to METRA's use of gallery cars there are quite a few railfan window videos from METRA trains floating about on YouTube, however earlier this year a new source came on the scene, METRA itself.



Taking a cue from Chicago's CTA, METRA has embarked on a project of creating HD head end videos of all its major commuter routes, both inbound and outbound. While they aren't the most exciting (no effort was made to video express runs) they do capture the current state of the signaling hardware as well as live signal behavior (as opposed to everything just displaying Stop).



The videos are going up every few weeks.  I am looking forward to the UP West and UP North lines as both of those have a lot of surviving CNW features as well as ABS operation. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

PRR LAMOKIN Tower Demolished

I am sad to report that one of the least visible (and least structurally sound) towers on the NEC was just swept into the landfill of history.  LAMOKIN was located at the junction of the old PRR Chester Creek Branch between the presend day BALDWIN and HOOK interlockings.  LAMOKIN was closed in 1972 when the lightly used Chester Creek Branch was done in by Hurricane Agnes.  Since then it has sat, decaying, along side the NEC,hidden from the north by the equally historic Lloyd St Bridge.


The tower, built as near as I can tell around 1900, is similar to PAOLI, BRYN MAWR and CLY with a brick base and a wooden operating floor.  The slate roof had completely deteriorated and it was only a matter of time until the tower burned down or collapsed.  When it was open the tower controlled a trailing point ladder that allowed access to the Chester Creek branch to and from the north.  The machine was an electro-pneumatic type and you can see the remains of the air plant in the above photo.


As I rarely had a reason to be in the area I never got a good set of photos of the tower and although I passed by on Amtrak many times a year, it was always out of sight and out of mind.  Just poignant reminder to always get photos of interesting things while you can.

LAMOKIN in 2002, still showing its PC Green and a bit more roof.
Ultimately it appears that the demise of the tower was prompted by the demolition of the adjacent Lloyd St bridge as it was simply prudent to demolish both at the same time.  All that remains is a patch of crushed grey stone.  Oddly enough, the tower has its own Wikipedia page.  Looks like I'll have to update it :-\