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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

PRR Main Line Survey 2010 Part 12 (CORK to PAOLI)

We continue on our Eastbound trip over the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg and how its 1930's era signaling is gradually being upgraded to modern standards. In this section we will travel between HOLLAND interlocking near Lancaster, PA and PAOLI interlocking in Paoli, PA. The section between Harrisburg and Lancaster has been completely re-signaled, while the Main Line section has been left almost entirely intact. This middle section is actually in transition between old and new and I will show that in the pictures.

You can follow along on starting at page C-12 and of course on my master list of photos.

I will begin back with the photo I left off with taken at HOLLAND interlocking, which used to be the Conestoga section of CORK interlocking on the old Model 14 machine. The Conestoga section was where, until 1948, the 4-track line reduced to 2 tracks to travel over the stone arch bridge over the Conestoga Creek. In 1948 the PRR halved the number of tracks on the "passenger" main line as freight trains were shifted onto the Atglen and Susquehanna low grade line. A single trailing crossover remained until CORK was re-signaled at which point it was removed. Anyway, at the time this was taken this section of line was still running under Rule 251, single direction ABS, with single direction Cab Signals. A temporary auto mast was erected at Holland after the 6L CORK signal was removed. The signal maintainers are out on this weekend day trying to get the next section of Rule 562 operation cut in between here and what will soon be LEAMAN interlocking.

About 1500 feet east and around the bend we find another maintainer working at the cab signal cut point for HOLLAND interlocking on #4 track, previously for CORK on both tracks. As HOLLAND is only in service on #4 track I am unsure what purpose maintaining the cut point would serve on #1 track unless it has been removed w/ the old insulated joint bridged over in the relay box. I guess it could serve as an extra block for the waysideless CSS.

As was common practice under Rule 251, industrial sidings were built to join the main line with safer trailing point switches. In fact there was only a single facing point siding track along the entire 107 mile Harrisburg Line. Protection was provided via a simple time lock which would shunt the cab signal coded track circuit and then run a short 5 minute timer before the hand throw point/derail combination was allowed to be thrown. Rule 562 operation will mean bi-directional running and increased attention to any issues with these potentially facing turnouts, although they always had to be ready for wrong direction movements even under Rule 251. Note the turnout was replaced when the line was upgraded for 110mph operation with concrete times and a spring frog. 

The new defect detectors are of the Radio type (replacing the Servograph units in CORK tower) and, unlike previous Amtrak detectors, readout the milepost only, not the detector name (which in this case is Conestoga). Two detector's on Amtrak's Springfield Line still read out locations (Windsor and Berlin) as does one on the NEC near Boston (Hawk).

The 645 wayside distant to HOLLAND interlocking on track #4 is still bagged and waiting to go into service while a maintainer works in the relay hut.

The 635 automatic is the first classic PRR amber type automatic signal east of HOLLAND and is serving out its last few months in service. The use of the wide overhead gantry is a function of the 4-track RoW. It appears that this will remain an active block boundary / CSS code change point as evidenced by the new relay hut and maintainer.

The 615 automatic is next. Note these all have the Stop and Proceed marker lamps as well as the number plate.

The gates at the Irishtown grade crossing are beginning to rise as two rail enthusiasts scramble out to get their tripod repositioned. This is one of three remaining grade crossings on the line and the one seeing the fastest trains (90-100mph). The crossing is protected by AHBs and due to the significant Amish population in the area one is very likely to catch a horse drawn buggy waiting for a passing high speed electric train. The crossing is scheduled to be replaced with some sort of overpass due to $26 million of stimulus money. Unfortunately I see this as little better as a wasteful mark work project that will do little to increase safety at these low use crossings and will not only destroy a popular railfan location, but also impact horses that will have to work up and down steep overpass ramps.

For those of you who are fans of the British motoring show Top Gear, this crossing is located about 1.7 miles from the town of Intercourse, Pennsylvania which the presenters stopped at for the sole reason of a sight gag at the town's welcome flag. Really? You went miles out of you way for a stupid sex joke? That was the best idea you could come up with on your US East Coast road trip?

The crossing is also popular due to the presence of automatic signal 591 which really helped add to the PRR mood in photographs. Fortunately at lease some form of signaling will survive here as this will be the new distant signal for the new LEAMAN interlocking. Trains diverging at LEAMAN will get an Approach Slow (/ over / ) instead of the more common Approach Limited or Approach Medium. Note the rail enthusiast has set up his tripod to capture my train as it departs the area. Also note the 591 auto is displaying Stop and Proceed due to the passage of the westbound Pennsylvanian a few seconds earlier.

Temporary Block Station LEAMAN at Leaman Place, PA was typical of the TBS's that used to dot the landscape of North American rail lines in rural areas. As interlockings were very expensive to build and maintain back in the first half of the 20th century most ABS lines would rely on TBSs to handle wrong direction operation. Block operators would head out and work the phone or more code lines to transcribe train orders from the dispatcher than "hoop" them up to passing trains. Most TBS's including E-Town and Florin west of Lancaster were simple sets of hand operated crossovers with time locks and a small shack for the temporary operator. LEAMAN was somewhat unique because it was actually equipped with signals and a small panel interlocking machine. However the points were hand operated and the signals were in the standard direction of traffic only.

The pace of the re-signaling has been glacial. The new relay cabins had been in place at LEAMAN since at least 2007 when the switches were replaced with the 110mph track rehabilitation project. The original eastbound 2R mast signal was replaced by a pair of new colourized position lights sometime in 2009, although the reverse direction mast remained bagged waiting for the new interlocking to be cut in. To this day the 'C' boards used for Clear to Next Interlocking are still not in service and in this picture only the "2R" mast even has some of the 'C' board components installed.

The next westbound signals at LEAMAN are similar to the eastbound signals except the former 4R gantry pointed amber PL has been bagged over and replaced by a new colourized mast PL. To save money on a capability that didn't see much use the hand operated switched at LEAMAN were upgraded in place back in 2007 leaving them as #10 turnouts good for 15mph. In 2011 with the resignaling there again was no desire to upgrade them to 30 or 45mph and so LEAMAN was to remain a slow speed crossover. As such the new signals can only display a / on their lower head for Slow Approach (--- over / ). After trains negotiate the crossover the cab signal will flip back to a full speed indication from Restricting. 

LEAMAN interlocking was cut in later that summer with Rule 562 extended from HOLLAND to that point. However as of the time of this writing the line remains Rule 251 east of LEAMAN. We continue to the 545 automatic which will eventually be the new distant to LEAMAN on both tracks. Note that this gantry retains an unused signal cage on the gantry for when the line was 4 tracks.

The 521 automatic is located in the midst of a pair of sharp 50mph curves just west of the high point between Philly and Harrisburg at Gap, PA. The elevation through the "gap" is 485 feet.

The 493 auto is equipped with a (G) plate which relieved heavy freight trains of the need to Stop at a Stop and Proceed automatic to prevent the trains from stalling out on steel grades.

At MP 47 the Atglen and Susquehanna low grade right of way joins the main line. Abandoned since the 1980's the right of way is still used by Amtrak for two 138Kv circuits of 25Hz railway power from the generators at the Safe Harbour dam.

The 465 automatic stands at what is today the western interlocking limits of the re-constituted PARK interlocking. Originally to be called ATGLEN, the new interlocking which replaced the old 4-track crossover at PARK and its classic power frame eventually wound up with the name of its predecessor. Note that with the A&S on the left this is a 6 track RoW.

The new crossovers at New PARK. These had actually been installed with the track renewal project back in 2008 and were activated in December of 2010. The crossovers are good for 45mph operation.

I have discussed before the deal with the original PARK interlocking and how it used to constitute the junction between the Main Line and the A&S. When freight traffic left the former PRR route in the early 80s PARK and its 4 track crossovers were no longer needed, but Amtrak was content to allow the interlocking to atrophy instead of spend money to re-configure it. It was finally closed in December 2010, but I managed to take this eastbound video through its plant. Watch the reverse direction dwarf signals pop up to Restricting as the interlocking is "switched out" in automatic mode.

A westbound video taken in 2008 is viewable here:

Between PARK and CALN the old #2 freight track had been removed however again Amtrak does not want to spend any money on signal modifications so not only were the #2 track auto signals left in place, but were left lit!! Here is the 413 automatic and distant to old PARK.

A second such signal is the 319 auto equipped with (G) plates. #2 track was bi-directional and traffic direction was controlled from THORN tower. Throwing traffic at THORN would clear the signals at PARK in the appropriate direction with the reverse direction being an absolute Stop.

The missing #2 track resumed at the 16R signal at CALN interlocking.

CALN can be considered as the eastern end of a small passing siding off of #1 track between THORN and CALN. CALN is controlled from the THORN CTC machine and I discussed this area in depth during my tour of THORN tower.

Sometimes Amtrak trains will use this to jump around SEPTA local trains stuck at the Thorndale station platform.

The 19sw connects to the #5 running track which is not cleared for passenger movements. Due to a misroute it is no longer possible to display a signal into #5 Running and all trains must receive Rule 241 permission past a Stop.

Here we see the westbound home signal at CALN. Signals on #1 and #5 tracks are of the dwarf type. #2 track has a high signal for when the track used to continue on, but today trains would only receive the Restricting aspect into the reverse direction track #1. To the right we see the ghost signal for #6 track and an automatic signal that used to be part of CALN when it also included connections to #4 track.

Because I have already discussed in depth THORN interlocking I will simply post an Eastbound video through its limits and leave it at that.

DOWNS interlocking is still part of the THORN CTC territory and provided a means for trains on the center express tracks to move over to the local track in advance of the P&T low grade freight line junction at THORN. Today it is used by deadheading SEPTA locals using the back entrance to Frazer yard to reach the line terminus at Thorndale w/o fouling the main tracks. Here we see the rear of the eastbound signals. All 4 tracks were Rule 251 between here and THORN. Today track #3 has been removed and #2 is out of service.

The 69 and 73 switches at DOWNS.

When the 4th track was eliminated east of here the 71 switch was added to re-expand the main to 4 tracks between DOWNS and THORN.

The 273 auto at Exton is well known by railfans due to its proximity to the Exton station which provides an accessible photo opportunity from the large park and ride lot adjacent to a major highway. My own example of this shows the 274 autos and a full moon. The track #4 auto is at Stop and Proceed due to a passing SEPTA local consisting of three 1962 vintage Budd Silverliner IIs and a 1974 GE Silverliner IV.

GLEN interlocking is another one whose original purpose has long since faded. Originally a connection with a freight cutoff to Trenton today one of the two tracks serves as a freight link for the Harrisburg Line west of here and the other feeds into the bi-directional track #2 from the SEPTA layover yard. The light was getting really bad at this point, but you can still make out the 100L entrance signal to track 2 from the SEPTA yard.

Here is the 102L signal for freight trains entering onto the Harrisburg Line. This is how all freight customers between here and PARK are served.

FRAZER interlocking was installed in 1994 when the PCB contaminated shop and yard complex were moved from Paoli to this greenfield site 5 miles to the west. FRAZER is remote from a panel in THORN tower and was rather austere in its design lacking for instance a facing point crossover. The interlocking does have a signaled pocket track for SEPTA trains to hang out in while Amtrak trains pass by. FRAZER was probably the last interlocking installed by Amtrak that contained amber position light signals.

At this point we have reached PAOLI interlocking which will be covered in a special two part special. However we have also reached the end of the section so tune in next time as we travel the final 20 miles between Paoli and Philadelphia on the branded portion of the Main Line.

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