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I can also report that the pneumatic point machines have been replaced by electric M23's at CP-HUNT and on the former N&W H-Line, the last bunch of PLs on the northern segment have also fallen.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


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 :-\

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Some NS News

I had a couple of NS signal alerts I wanted to share.  The first is that apparently the cut over on the Ohio portions of the Nickle Plate Line is fast approaching so go get your photos while you can.


I also heard that new signals are now up at CP-CANAL and CP-JU on the Reading Line, east of Allentown Yard.  On my previous trip back in May, both of those interlocking were as up yet untouched.


Finally over on the PRR Main Line I was documenting the old signals at CP-BANKS and I noticed some interesting with the new signals and how it might fit in with the Rule 562 operation.  Currently, all eastbound signals at CP-BANKS can display Approach Medium because it is back to back with CP-ROCKVILLE on track 2.  (The signals on Track 1 and the siding can display Approach Medium as per the Conrail practice of allowing trains to diverge over those indications if the previous signal gave proper warning of the first diverge.  Basically a poor man's Medium Approach Medium.)


The new eastbound NS signals set out for CP-BANKS are not set up for Medium Approach Medium on tracks 2 or the siding, nor is Approach Medium available for track 1.  I suspect that NS is using the new cab signal only operation to restore the additional block and improve capacity at modest cost.  In fact I have seen a number of new relay huts away from current signal locations or grade crossings so NS could be trying to actually get something out of the new signaling system apart from lower costs.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Call to the Signal Bungalow

So a number a years ago I was planning to get some signal photos along the former Conrail Buffalo Line and while searching for information on CP-NORTH MILLER, I noticed something strange about the results.


It appears that, for some bizarre reason, the telephone in the signal house at CP-NORTH MILLER had gotten itself listed in a phone book at some point and now it was plastered all over various cyber-leech clickbait websites.  Normally I might not have given this a second thought, but for another poignant experience I had way back in 2006.


On another Buffalo Line trip, while taking photos at CP-LINDEN out of the blue an old style bell phone began to ring inside the spacious 1950's vintage PRR CTC-style relay house.  I had a chuckle thinking who would be calling an interlocking in the middle of nowhere, but when I saw the phone listing for CP-NORTH MILLER 8 years later, I just HAD to try it.


The PRR was never very enthusiastic about CTC, content to rest on its laurels of multi-track main lines, manned block stations and the manual block system.  However it did green light a few projects and the Main Line between Rockville to Buffalo, was one such example.  Installed in 1957, the Buffalo Line CTC was definitely a creature of the PRR with lavish signal huts, a reliable power supply (so no approach lighting) and apparently, a PTSN station in each walk-in signal shanty.


So back in 2014 I drove up from Rockville to Millersburg, all excited about capturing a cool intersection of the rail and telephone network communities of interest and...nothing happened.  I tried the number and the phone didn't ring.  Ah well, should have known it wouldn't have worked.

Fast forward to 2017 and I was back up again, chasing signals on the Buffalo Line and I just couldn't help myself to pull over and see if I could give the call another go.  At this point I'll cut to the video.



Man, what ever happened to that wonderful rich 1950's ringer sound?  Absolutely wonderful!  I'm going to go out on a limb and say I'd bet it was a wall mounted Western Electric model 554.  I don't see the PRR sticking a desk set in such a cramped location, nor do I see Conrail or NS ever having upgraded the line for DTMF service ;-)  Of course a Western Electric rotary phone is probably even more reliable than the US&S glass case relays powering the interlocking logic. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A British Style Tower In Illinois

In Europe, mechanical signaling is still quite common.  Paired with the manual block system, all or nearly all-mechanical interlocking towers control thousands of miles of main line track.  However in North America, the all-mechanical tower, that is with semaphore signals controlled directly by levers and pipeline, is virtually unheard of .  Yes examples can be found at drawbridges and diamond crossings on low density track, but the difference is quite stark.  Part of the reason is the general incompatibility of automatic block and mechanical signals.  Manual block was much less popular in North American than in Europe.  The other reason had to do with a number of ICC regulations that required signals to be interlocked with train detection (read track circuits) and that signals be electrically interlocked with point detectors.

You can imagine my surprise when I discovered Neilson Jct in Neilson, IL to have a set of fully mechanical signals controlling a manual block style junction with non-Restricted speed movements.  Now RR Signal Pics does a great job providing basic details about Neilson, but I just wanted to not only call attention to that page, but also to a set of videos that have been on Youtube since 2011, but due to poor use of keywords, does not appear on most interlocking tower or signaling related searches.



For a single switch between two secondary tracks, Neilson has a surprising number of levers.  First, just like in British practice, each former C&EI distant has its own lever.  Second, each of the southbound signals are connected to derails which also come with a facing point lock.  Finally, the 12 lever operated a mechanical timer that I assume provides approach locking in the absence of track circuits.



The northbound home signal handled the route route selection issue by having two semaphore heads, each controlled by a different lever and indicating one of the two routes.  Of course the straight route semaphore was for the C&EI and the lower diverging route semaphore for the BN.




Aside from the British style of operation, what really puzzles me is how such a tower survived up through 1989.  Checking Google Earth it appears the single junction switch was replaced by a hand operated type and that the line is un-signaled.



Basically just watch the 7 videos and read up on the RR Signal Pix page. I'm just trying to call attention to an historical oddity that is in need of some help with discoverability :-)





Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Curtain Closes on IRT Signaling (Take 2)

One of my earliest posts for this blog back in 2011, covered the closing of the NYC Subway's E. 180th St interlocking tower.  This was the last instance of an electro-mechanical single interlocking tower on the IRT division and also what I thought at the time was the last bastion of old IRT signaling as well.  You see, in addition to it's on interlocking plant, E. 180th St tower also had CTC control of the (5) Dyre Ave line.  It seemed logical that closing the tower would be followed by a re-signaling of the Dyre.


Well it turns out I was wrong and the old IRT signaling on the Dyre persisted for another 6 years!  Unfortunately, I was just informed that the NYCTA would finally be concluding it's closure of the E. 180th extended enterprise by cutting in a new, bog standard IND style system on the Drye on or after Labour Day 2017.


If you want a full explanation of IRT and IND/BMT signaling, you can find it here, but the short explanation is that the IND/BMT system uses the upper head for block occupancy and the lower head for route.  So a G/Y signal would be Diverging Clear and Y/G would be Approach Straight.  The IRT used a more railroad style system with each head representing a different route.  R/G would be diverging clear, etc.  Basically something that would be familiar to almost any real world railroader.  The NYC Subway marked old IRT signals with a red number plate and outside of the Dyre they were last seen on the (2) and (4) lines in the Bronx up through the turn of the Millennium.


While I guess it was a good thing that these signals survived 6 more years that I had assumed, I'll definitely regret not taking the time to go up and see them beyond my last visit in 2009.