Built during the roaring 20's, LAKE ST exhibited all the opulence of the era with a tile roof, copper gutters and all brick construction. During the Amtrak era is was actually upgraded with modern picture windows and ample exterior lighting. LAKE ST was closed in 2005 after 80 years of service and then demolished in 2013 due to an overbuild project to cover the tracks with either condos or a park. Until then it was a fixture of the north side railfan scene, viewable from the adjacent Lake Street bridge and easy to work into all sorts of photo angles. This may seem like the typical story of a classic big city tower, but LAKE ST was something special and one tip off is the windows.
|Like many Chicago area towers, LAKE ST was equipped with an emergency exit.|
What main people failed to realize was that the north side interlocking controlled by LAKE ST was left completely untouched and moreover, control of the south side plant was moved to a large NX panel in LAKE ST tower. Thus LAKE ST wasn't just a tower, but was the control facility for the entire Chicago Union Station complex. Thus, nice new lighting and big picture windows.
In 2005 time finally caught up with LAKE ST as a $45 million, 2-year project to re-signal the north end finally came to fruition. This saw the replacement of the PRR PL dwarfs with LED searchlights, the implementation of a new CANAL ST interlocking to replace what had been a number of hand throw crossovers north of LAKE ST interlocking proper and the consolidation of all Chicago signaling control into the CUS office complex. This included the closure of Amtrak's 21ST interlocking at the southern gateway to the CUS complex as well. The interior photos I have of LAKE ST were taken just before and then a few years after its closure.
Here we see a post closure photo the 95-lever US&S Model 14 interlocking machine originally installed in 1925. The large number of white painted spare" levers is due to the rolling closure where successive parts of the interlocking plans were cut into the new vital logic. At the time of its closure the LAKE ST Model 14 was down to 9 signal levers, 4 switch levers and one traffic lever.
The model board shows the layout as it originally was with 11 station tracks that fanned out from a three track main line. 9 of the tracks are stub end with 2 additional through station tracks and 1 bypass track. Station tracks are given odd numbers as even numbered tracks are on the south side of the station. The model board is 4-colored in accordance with Milwaukee Road practice and uses green lamps for track occupancy. Displayed signals are not shown on the model board. Alterations have been made with a combination of black tape and hand painted lines. On the through tracks a number of signals that are controlled from the NX panel are indicated with the N/S suffix opposed to L/R. A quick count indicates 7 doubleslip switches, 11 single turnouts and 5 crossovers.
In this opposite view of the model board we can see the entrance to the interlocking at the grade crossing with Canal St. Most of LAKE ST interlocking is located underground a block or two north of the tower itself. The tower only had direct sight of a few hand throw crossovers near Canal St and the outer crossovers between Lake St and Randolph St. One of the reasons for the rolling cutover was because the interlocking was not only resignaled, but also reconfigured. Compare the model board above with a facing point ladder track, stub end track 5 and a non-circuited track passing close to the tower to the current layout below.
Here we see a parallel trailing point ladders, one of which employs a doubleslip, the other a scissors crossover between the two center tracks. The non-circuited track has been removed leaving the single station bypass track.For a more complete view of the current interlocking layout please refer to this computerized model board of the Chicago Union Station area.
Back inside the tower we see an odd blank patch on the interlocking machine where lever spaces 1 through 32 had been removed. This does not appear to have been part of the re-signaling effort given the age and condition of the metal. Looking at the model board I suspect there was some spare capacity at the lower end of the machine in addition to some of the northern part of the plant being made redundant through hand operated switches. Without lever positions on the frame I am unsure how the 16L, 18L, 20L, 24R, 26R and 28R holdout signals at Canal street were controlled.
The other covering the terminal throat proper. Ah, nothing says "US&S" like the US&S logo.
And the relay cabin supporting it.
On the north side the old US&S A-5 pneumatic switch machines were replaced with these low-profile M3 family machines. I believe this particular version has some sort of electronic point detection instead of electro-mechanical.
The new standard signal are these not all together bad LED searchlights. Shame these haven't caught on elsewhere.
As a city of skyscrapers, LAKE ST tower was visible from many Chicago landmarks including the Sears Tower and nearby Holiday Inn.
The demolition of LAKE ST tower was a real loss. Concentration of railway control facilities in office buildings does come with cost savings, but also risks when it comes to various situations that require evacuation. Computer terminals can function from anywhere. I feel more comfortable when block operators and train directors are given a window.