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Sunday, November 27, 2016

See Hamilton!

No, I'm not talking about the hit Broadway musical about the guy on the $10 bill (although you should see that as well), I'm talking about the B&O CPL refuge of Hamilton, OH, north of Cincinnati, what currently sees both CSX and NS traffic.  Recent photographic evidence indicates that it is not under threat of re-signaling.  Surprisingly, Hamilton has managed to resist nearby re-signaling efforts in the Cincinatti area going back nearly 15 years, but it looks like it's time has run out.   If anyone within the sound of my voice is operating in the Hamilton area, please get out and document these CPLs.  They deserve not to be forgotten.

Some new masts are already standing.
The orange cable of death is in evidence at the Wye track where Amtrak's Cardinal diverges 6 times a week, often under cover of darkness.
This modern style CPL Cantileveris already a rare bird, but a 5-orbital CPL is doubly so!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

More R&N Updates

Thanks to one of my Northeastern Pennsylvania contributors, I have another batch of Reading and Northern signaling updates for everyone. This is probably the only place in North America where classic signaling, such as searchlights, is being installed.

First up,  HAUCKS Interlocking now in service and fully operational.  In addition, one of the signals sports a Reading style, lower head lozenge signal for call-on indications.

Distant Approach  Signals #107S and #108S are now fully operational as well providing crews with advanced HAUCKS indications heading south from both the Hazelton & Nesquehoning Branches.  108S seen below, is located on the Nesquehoning Branch near MP 108 close to the Route 1021 Overpass above Hometown, Pa.

The former 105S distant signal to East Mahanoy Jct  at Bernhard Rd. Grade Crossing has now been removed from service as it has been made redundant by HAUCKS.

New lower signal heads added to the Southbound home signals  at East Mahanoy Jct Interlocking in order to display Restricting indications for the new CTC project.

In preparation for the new Tamaqua Interlocking an entirely new dual staggered head distant signal has been added adjacent to the 99N Mahanoy Jct distant signal at the Tuscarora  Park Road (Route 1015) Grade Crossing which is north of Tamaqua.  99N had originally been installed as a bi-directional mast, but it appears the R&N is going with classic style right hand placement.

According to R&N News, the new Tamaqua Interlocking is planned to be cut into service by early 2017.  Cabling ground work and installation of the physical plant are planned to be completed by the end of 2016.   A new RDG “MYRTLE” plant in South Tamaqua may then follow to create a full 2 mile controlled passing siding.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Amtrak 2016 Autumn Express Trip Report

A couple weeks ago I rode Amtrak's  2016 Autumn Express which ran in a loop from New York to Harrisburg and back via the Lehigh Valley - Reading Valley Route on the outbound leg and the PRR Main Line on the return.  I was interested in the state of classic signaling on the route, and despite ongoing re-signaling projects I was actually pleasantry surprised.

Departing Amtrak's NEC at HUNTER, the NJT portion of the Conrail Lehigh Line retains its early 2000's Conrail style signaling.  Between CP-ALDENE and CP-PORT READING JCT the signaling is 2010 vintage from the double tracking project.  There appears to be some additional work at CP-PORT READING JCT to allow for parallel movements as there are currently THREE facing point crossovers between the two main Lehigh Line tracks.

In NS territory there are are 4 additional miles of double track to the new CP-SULLY.  A lone Conrail last stands at MP 45 as NS signals re-appear for the new passing siding between CP-51 and CP-53.  Conrail signaling resumes at CP-62 and continues through to CP-PHILLIPSBURG.  On this stretch are two surviving Lehigh Valley large target searchlights at MP 71 and MP 74!

CP-PHILLIPSBURG was re-signaled around 2010, but CP-EASTON is still Conrail, with the westbound signals mounted on a classic Lehigh Valley RR gantryleaver. Unfortunately, between there and CP-BURN the LVRR route is being completely re-signaled.  This includes the 261 section between CP-EASTON and CP-RICHARDS that encompasses a small target searchlight at MP A78.  A new crossover to replace CP-RICHARDS is going in at MP 81 just shy of another set of surviving LVRR searchlights at Mp 83.  At MP 87 there is another LVRR gantry mounted ABS searchlight, just shy of the ~2000 vintage CP-87.  CP-BETHLEHEM has been completely re-signaled as previously reported.

The Rule 251 Reading Line was untouched between CP-ALBURTIS and CP-BURN, however as was also reported, re-signaling is ongoing between CP-ALBURTIS and CP-BELT with a new set of crossover at CP-LYONS.  This will impact the Conrail signals at CP-BLANDON and the Reading signals at CP-LAUREL and CP-WEST LAUREL.

No changes were apparent on the 261 portion of the NS Harrisburg Line except for a project to reduce the length of CP-BURKE, which should impact the surviving Conrail signals there. At the turnaround point, the removed PRR PL signal was replaced by a blue doll marker on the gantry at CP-ROCKVILLE.

The new STATE interlocking was in service, although departing crossover speeds still felt a bit slow.  The new westbound Amtrak PL cantilever signals can display Approach, Approach Slow, Slow Approach and Restricting.  At CORK I saw how the ACSES PTC system enforced a positive stop on the locomotives during a shove move 14 cars after the rear of the train knocked down the displayed signal.  The engineer then had to go through the time consuming Stop release procedure.  Between there and Philly, Rule 251 is still in effect east of the new PARK interlocking.  Due to track work in BRYN MAWR interlocking we were given a rare eastbound trip down Main Line track 3 between PAOLI and OVERBROOK before heading through the old NY-Pittsburgh Subway.  It appears that the automatic signals on the Subway have been removed.  You can view a video of the Track 3 east and Subway trip here.

As I've said before, these Amtrak fall specials are a great way to check up on normally inaccessible freight railroad signaling.  I was also able to fully document the route from the rear of the train so look out for those photos in the future on my other blog.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Election Night Coverage!

Ha, fooled you!  I didn't say exactly what I was going to cover on this night before the election and as you may not have guessed (for once), it's going to be railroad signaling.  Thanks to all the tower closures I haven't had time to wedge in one of these news segments over the last bundle of weeks, but have no fear, that's what browser tabs are for. 

First a bit of rare good news up on Amtrak's Springfield Line double track project.  The old H-5 searchlights were removed over a decade ago, so there's no much downside to this 4-track signal bridge of modular target signals that is going up near Berlin, CT, complete with Rule 562 'C' boards.

Meanwhile, over in N&W territory, the slimy tendrils of NS's resignaling project is slowly wrapping their way around the iconic Bluefield area.  It's a shame the collapse of coal hasn't preserved the old N&W region in amber as happened on similar main lines around the lower midwest.

 It's not even the N&W signals that are going.  These modern era NS/N&W signals are also on the way out. Note the new 'Y' lamp on the bottom head as NS uses the importunity to include a Restricting capability, omitted from the previous CTC scheme.

Moving on the Southern part of Norfolk Southern, the new signals are in service on the main line at Salisbury, but old new ones are still standing...for now.

Moving on to CSX, any readers in Georgia should hop on over to the A&WP/WofA Sub to document this adorable little elephant ear mast near LaGrange before its gone forever.

Well that's it.  Apart from the tower closings this was a pretty slow news least signaling wise.

Monday, October 31, 2016

BO Tower (1888-2016)

Right as scheduled, BO Tower in Kalamazoo, MI, finally closed after a strange zombie period brought about by contractual obligation.  As far as I can tell, the former Michigan Central (New York Central) tower was built in 1888(!) and for about 125 years retained its original mechanical lever frame in service.

The tower survived as long as it did for a number of reasons.  
  • First, the plant contained two diamond crossings of the MC Main Line as well as wyes and crossovers.  Railroads typically saved these types of interlocking for last. 
  • Second, the Conrail Michigan Line was one of those stepchildren that saw more passenger traffic than freight.  In fact Amtrak bought the MC route west of Kalamazoo to Porter, IN outright creating a stub line that Conrail was disinclined to invest in.  
  • Third, Amtrak didn't bother to take over dispatching duties of its own line until 2005, with a Conrail operator at Drawbridge Tower in Michigan Tower being paid to run CTC machine.  Operators at BO and Drawbridge gave Amtrak more personal service than having to get a hold of an overworked Conrail dispatcher.  
  • Fourth, NS went and effectivly leased the annoying Michigan Line to Amtrak in the aftermath of the financial crisis with MIDoT on hand with stimulus funding to upgrade the entire route for 110mph operation.  The agreement required NS to dispatch the line until 2016 when Amtrak would take over.  This means that while BO was re-signaled in the 2014-2015 time frame, the tower remained open with local control because of the lease agreement.

So what's next?  It was reported that the items inside the tower were removed for preservation in the Henry Ford Museum.  Unfortunately that implied that there might not be a plan to preserve the tower as is and wooden towers have a history of having to be demolished, even when preservation attempts are made (PD, MO, etc).  Still, BO tower was given a new roof about 10 years ago and it doesn't appear to be leaning so there could still be least until someone sets it on fire :-(

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Videos from Across the Pond

I just found a few interesting videos involving UK signalboxes.  The first two involve the Banbury North Signalbox , which was recently decommissioned, but then opened for public tours (a somewhat rare occurrence due to all the health and safety BS their railways are tied up in).  Unfortunately the signalbox, like many others, is slated for eventual demolition so little other purpose than it being there.  Britain's attitude towards its decommissioned signalboxes is downright baffling seeing as every foot of railway infrastructure is publicly owned and almost everything in the UK is covered by some sort of historic preservation law.  Network Rail also seems to be chronically pressed for cash and where they can find the funds for these demolitions is beyond me.

The first video shows the full tour that was given to the public and the second video shows the view from the locking room as the levers are manipulated.  Those of your from North America should keep in mind that mechanical British signalboxes such as this, typically work on the manual block system.  Some track circuits may be provided, but train movement is primarily by manual block using block instruments instead of voice or message communications.

The third video is from Harrow On The Hill signal cabin on the London Underground in 2002 and shows a Westinghouse Style N machine, which is basically a US&S Model 14 with the levers pivoted around 90 degrees so that they throw in the traditional "back and forth" orientation, instead of left and right.  Even the tri-positionality of some of the signal levers is retained.  The most fascinating thing about this video is the use of a pneumatic assist to move levers at the far end of the frame when certain route levers are pulled in the primary operating area.  It's basically a non-vital intra-tower remote control system that doesn't require additional relay logic, a serious expense in pre and post war Briton.  This technology was later extended to create the Style V frame where all the levers were moved primarily by remote control pneumatics.

BTW, if you are wondering why the model board is all lit it, is it because that was considered safety critical information and any bulb out had to mark the track circuit as "occupied".  Of course with the bulbs burning by default I am sure there would be plenty of bulb out opportunities.

Monday, October 17, 2016

STATE Tower Closes (1937-2016)

This weekend the world lost not only an interlocking tower, not only a PRR Main Line interlocking tower, but a PRR Main L interlocking tower still sporting its origional US&S Model 14 electro-pneumatic interlocking machine.  On a personal note, STATE was the first tower I was able to talk my want into (during a long layover on the old Three Rivers while express cars were being attached) and also the first classic interlocking machine I was able to operate. 

STATE was closed due to high speed rail stimulus funds or that transportation funding deal PA worked out a few years back or some combination of the two.  STATE was the last active tower west of THORN and at times had remote control over ROY and RHEEMS, until those two were transferred to the section C dispatcher attached to CTEC.  For those of you who are unaware, STATE's opposite, HARRIS, was preserved after its closure in 1990 and now serves as a museum.  unfortunately, since STATE is an office embedded inside the Harrisburg Station it is unlikely the same sort of thing would happen, however one never knows.

Middle floor, left of the bricked up windows.
In addition to the tower being closed, STATE interlocking was substantially rationalized.  Pneumatic point machines were converted to electric, parallel paths were removed, the engine pocket spur was eliminated, the double slip switch was shipped off to Albany and #8 track was turned into a stub.

Amtrak: We don't need no extra crossovers.
PRR: One more signal is never enough

In terms of what one might consider "upgrades", the almost entirely slow speed plant traded in some of its dwarfs for high Amtrak colorized PLs supporting Limited speed movements from the main platform, although any capacity gain was wasted by placing the only set of crossovers about a half mile away from the station end of the interlocking!   For those of you familiar with the Albany terminal rationalization project, you can tell Amtrak engaged the same set of consultants.

STATE re-signaling project- 10/2015
 This project has been metastasizing for a good 3-5 years now and a lot of what they were planing was evident when I visited last year for Halloween  I guess it was bound to happen at some point and I guess I should be thankful for the extra time we had to document the plant in the digital age and I guess the new gantry and cantilever mounted CzPLs will inspire railfans for decades to come, but with so few Model 14 machines (or any non-solid state interlocking machines) left in operation

STATE and ROY machines.
I have a lot of good photos both inside of the inside and outside of STATE to stay tuned for future articles covering them.  STATE may by gone, but it will not be forgotten.