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Monday, December 4, 2017

Fall 2017 Reading and Northern Update

So I just got another e-mail from Bill Tarantino in the year since his last update, the R&N has extended its CTC south from Tamaqua towards the shoppe complex at Port Clinton. This segment was placed into service on 09/13/2017.   It consists of 2 new interlockings and 4 sets of twin mast paired directional ABS in between.  Rule 261/CTC now in effect from MP 78.8 (CP CLINT) to MP 105.3 (CP HAUCKS).  All CTC is currently from Port Clinton.  However, operations are expected to be transferred to the new North Reading Tower next year.  I guess that means we'll have a brand new interlocking tower to add to the active list :-)

The new interlockings south of Tamaqua are CP-EQUILATERAL (MP 95.2) and CP CLINT (MP 78.2).  CP-EQUILATERAL is the end of the Tamaqua siding at the site of the old Reading MYRTLE interlocking and CP-CLINT is the entrance to the Rule261 track north of the non-signaled yard complex.

 Bill wrote about the new interlockings:
However, much to my continued puzzlement, the northbound home signal at CP EQUILATERAL like the southbound CP TAMAQUA home signal is a triple head 9 light wired unit capable of displaying all NORAC aspects.  Can’t understand the need for these triples deployment per requirements for right now.   Tamaqua end is somewhat understandable  with a single slow speed 15 mph switch into either the yard or dark territory branch for R/R/G or R/R/Y aspect but why the real need for the middle head then when R/Y would do?   Similarly, Equilateral end is a medium speed Y switch for dual main routing only so why the need for a 3 light lower head.  R/G/R or R/R/Y should suffice. Currently, doesn’t make sense.  Also, at Equilateral, the southbound home signal adjacent to the now passing track is a dual head mast signal and old main track 1 gets the dwarf application.  This arrangement suggests track 2 will soon be employed as the new southbound main at some point but there is no new interlocking at either MBS MIDDLE YARD or MBS LOWER YARD to automatically get trains from the single main track 1 onto track 2 as a routine passing siding application.  I just can’t imagine this will continue to be a manual operation with ongoing track upgrade work and those additional heads.  The only scenario that makes sense for these deployments is an additional new interlocking for MIDDLE YARD or LOWER YARD.  Then, Tamaqua and Equilateral can display various appropriate approach aspects using all 3 heads like Y/R/G.   We shall see.

 It will be interesting to see how the Port Clinton complex just to the south gets treated and signaled.   Andy Muller had those old black multi track truss signal bridges put in place bounding the old RDG Port Clinton Interlocking when they were building out he complex.  But, more complex trackage has since been added.  Just the single diversionary route switch between the Tamaqua and Pottsville Branches is currently powered and controlled from within the PC Tower Office.   But, is not governed by any signaling to date.  Also, wondering if they employ the same treatment shortly before MP 77 where MBS KERNS begins the northbound double track into Port Clinton YL. So, this will all be interesting to follow as well.

Steam friendly right hand mounted paired mast ABS locations along the Little Schuylkill Branch are at MP 91.5, MP 87.7, MP  84.4, MP 81.1.   All are single head type tri-lights with the exception of the south and north bound approach distant signals to CLINT and EQUILATERAL.   These are dual head type G’s for approach aspects.    Also, of interesting note, the ABS at 91.5 are solar powered due to the remote isolated location and lack of a readily available power supply.   

Unfortunately many of the new signal heads are off the modular SafeTrain type, instead of classic US&S TR's or GRS G's or even newer singe housing tri-lights.  However this appears to be an availability issue as this off-brand tri-light was spotted at MP 87.7 and the signals at CP-CLINT are indeed of the classic type.

More importantly a Reading style sideways 2-lamp signal head was placed at MP 84.4.

Apparently some of the ABS signals are displaying an un-Reading *Y* for Advance Approach instead of Y/Y, but I'm not going to complain. I suspect that as the passenger service to North Reading ramps up, the signaling will eventually make its way down in that direction.

Thanks again to Bill for all these great updates.  I'm sure I'll make it out there myself one of these days.  However unlike most signaling emergencies, this one is only going to get better, instead of worse :-)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Lower Port Road Re-Signaling

Starting in 2009, NS began to re-signal the western (northern) Port Road.  This started with the former COLA tower CTC area and proceeded south to CP-MIDWAY and then north to Enola Yard with Rule 562 going in to replace the ABS 251 between SHOCKS and STELL.  However for some reason instead of applying the same treatment to the line segment between CP-MIDWAY and the Amtrak junction at PERRY, they actually refurbished the existing PRR signals, giving them a fresh coat of paint and replacing the pole lines and power supplies. 

Well it appears that the reprieve is over as new signals have been spotted at CP-TOME in Port Deposit as well as the former MINNICK interlocking, not reduced to an automatic signal location.  Regulatory filing had indicated that NS was going to convert the entire Port Road to Rule 562, but it appears that the Minnick automatic will be retained to give trains approaching Amtrak territory at PERRY if they have a signal pulled up or if they should coast along at a walking pace.

I should also note that CP-TOME, CP-QUARRY, the former CP-MINNICK and Amtrak PERRY interlockings were all back to back, so in theory Rule 261 could be run from from CP-TOME eastward without needing any additional expense.  I guess we'll see what happens.

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.