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Thursday, August 29, 2013

WALTHAM Tower: 1928-2013

Well this one snuck past me.  WALTHAM tower, which was creeping toward closure with a general resignaling project on the MTBA Fitchburg Line, went up and closed on June 1, 2013.  I wasn't keeping track of the project too closely, but I figured there would be ample warning from new signal locations and relay boxes and neither were in evidence as of March 2013 so either the signaling crews got that stuff in in record time or they did a less destructive splice job.

Anyway, WALTHAM was one of a dwindling number of US&S Model 14 interlocking machines still in service.  While all types of classical electro-mechanical towers have been suffering from attrition, US&S plants have taken it on the chin over the last few years with UNION, JAY, HALL, DUNTON, ALTO, NS BRIDGE, WB, CORK, BUZZARDS BAY and HN all getting tossed into the bin.  WALTHAM only survived this long due to the freak happenstance of it being made part of a B&M CTC project back in the 1950's or 60's.  This made it a shining example of modernization when the rest of the New Englande rail scene was terribly antiquated.  For example most of the NEC was still being run under ABS rules with block stations up into the 1990's.  Inside WALTHAM was a rather modest US&S Model 14 for the local plant and a 3-panel GRS unit level CTC machine controlling the line from the terminal area through to South Acton.

The local WALTHAM interlocking consisted of "Conrail Crossover" (two tracks going to single then back to two), with a couple of industrial spurs branching off.  Both "ends" of the crossover were fully protected by searchlight signals.  Despite the CTC machine most of the line was still run under rule 251 with the CTC being of the remote control only kind.

The brick B&M towers are solidly built and the MTBA has been kind enough to honor it with a historic plaque and several human interest pieces in local media so it is unlikely that WALTHAM faces demolition, but there will now no longer be any place in the Boston area where a lucky kid can get invited up to see a piece of history.  I am unsure if this is the MTBA's last active interlocking station as the movable bridges on the Newburyport/Rockport Line used to control local switches and signals although that may have changed.

If you are interested in my 2010 visit to WALTHAM tower you can find the full set of photos here.

If you are interested in a full Railfan Guide to the WALTHAM area you can find one written by a Position Light Blog collaborator here.

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