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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Harrisburg Line Trip Report

Over the weekend of November 8-9 Amtrak ran its fall Foliage Train on a round trip over the NS Harrisburg Line from Philadelphia to Harrisburg and I was able to use the trip as an opportunity to check up on the state of signaling on the line.  For those of you who don't know the majority of the Harrisburg Line comprises the former Reading Railroad Main Line to Reading and then the Lebanon Valley branch to Harrisburg.  Although it has seen a fair bit of re-signaling over the years, it still retains a good deal of its original Conrail signaling.

Leaving Philly the 1990's era Conrail signals at CP-PARK, CP-BELMONT, CP-RIVER and CP-FALLS are all still in place, but the Reading brackets next to I-76 have been replaced and CP-ROCK has been re-signaled along with some of the ABS signals between there CP-NORRIS

No straight route on Track 2 at CP-NORRIS indicates Rule 251 Country
There were still quite a few Conrail style small-target searchlight signals between CP-ROCK and CP-PHOENIX, but nearly all of the ones between there and CP-BIRD have been converted into single direction NS style Darth Vaders.  Of course this really isn't news as these signals were installed starting in 2006!

Surviving Harrisburg Line small target Searchlight.

 One major issue with Rule 251 operation emerged when needing to run under a Form D from CP-TITUS to CP-PHOENIX our train was forced to run at Restricted speed for 4 miles because the reverse direction signal only supported Stop and Restricting and with no exit signal we had to travel through the very long CP-PHOENIX and then the block beyond it under a Restricting indication.

New signals, old indications.
CP-BIRD has of course long been re-signaled and BIRD tower demolished, however Conrail style US&S NR color lights are still in place between CP-BIRD and CP-TITUS.  CP-TITUS, which in Reading days was a flat 2x2 diverging 251 junction still retains much of its original configuration and I believe its original signal logic and pole lines.  One special treat is the movable point diamond, a real rarity in North American flat junctions which prefer crossings that can double as crossovers.  On the other hand, the Reading Belt Line's CP-CRUMU has been completely re-signaled.

The Reading downtown WYE retains all its Conrail updated Reading signaling including CP-CENTER.  Also the line between there and CP-WYOMISSING JCT is still operated under Rule 251.

The Harrisburg Line between Reading and Harrisburg was one of NS's first major re-signaling projects right after the Conrail merger and involved replacement of the Rule 251 system with full CTC and crossovers due to the 50+ trains a day that the line sees.  This uses the short-lived NS standard of non-Darth traffic light signals and the special "crankable" signal masts where the heads could be lowered via cable for maintenance.  That practice did not catch on and has since been abandoned.  The old CP-TARA retains its original Conrail signals, with everything else being NS Vintage.  At Harrisburg the Reading vintage CAPITOL tower remains standing. 

There is a bit of news at the Rockville Bridge wye in that aside from the new Darth Vader mast for the yard lead exit at CP-ROCKVILLE, the pneumatic switches at CP-WYE have recently been converted to electric, I suspect along with CP-HIP across the river.

CP-WYE, 2006
Finally I did have some time to do some recon on the Buffalo Line.  Photos showing that CP-SOUTH FERRY had had its signals replaced alarmed me, however I discovered that CP-NORTH FERRY retained its PRR PLs and both end of the MILLER siding not only retained their PL's but had also seen some refurbishment akin to the surviving Port Road signals.  Even CP-SOUTH FERRY retained its original 1950's CTC relay hut and potentially its signaling logic.


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