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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Farewell Ridgely Tower

I regret to report the demolition of Ridgely Tower in Springfield, IL on August 8th, 2011.  Ridgely was the last interlocking tower in North America to have a set of points operated mechanically from a lever frame via a pipeline and also the last instance of a mechanical facing point lock.  Ridgely was located on the old Chicago and Alton, currently owned by Union Pacific, and until recently also supported a bevy of CPL signals, an artifact of the line's brief B&O ownership. 

Ridgely Tower was about 100 years old and contained a General Railway Signal supplied lever frame, which was preserved mostly intact.  I am hoping that its vintage model board was saved along with it. Despite having a 30 lever frame, by the end of its life the tower was only controlling one set of points (#22) and 7 signals.  The reason the tower lasted so long has to do with the slowly simmering 110mph high speed corridor being built between Chicago and St. Louis.  Union Pacific simply had no reason to replace a tower that would eventually be replaced at government expense.  Unfortunately the towers wooden structure and generally dilapidated condition prevented preservation beyond the lever frame.  In a bit of good news however the tower and its history was covered by both the print and local television news media.

The railfan community was also on hand for its demolition to send the old girl off.

A large group of photos of the tower can be found here, some containing views of the pipeline and CPL signals.  Of course I'll be thankful of my photo of Ridgely taken on a trip to Saint Louis back in 2005 with the levers in the window and the operator out on the stairway waving us a good trip.

Farewell Ridgely, ~1910-2011.

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