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Thursday, April 30, 2015

UD Tower, Fixture of Joliet, Closes

It looks like after a lull the pace of tower closures is really picking up.  This time the famous UD Tower in Joliet, IL has closed in anticipation of a reconstruction of the Joliet Union Station area.  I didn't catch much word of this except for a few photos showing the classic Rock Island signal bridges on their last day and then with the signals turned and out of service (although it did make the local Chicago news).

The 224 lever GRS Pistol Grip machine was one of the last of a vanishing breed and one of the largest still in service although many of the levers had been painted white out of service.  UD had long held on as a METRA outpost on two major freight lines where the local eye of an operator was valued for its flexibility.

In recent years the last remaining double slip had been chopped down into a single turnout.

Like many classic towers UD presented many operational challenges from the lack of support for full speed reverse direction movements and model boards that lacked any capacity to display track occupancy!

Hopefully the maliciously maintained interlocking machine and relay room will be preserved.  It would make a fine museum in a revitalized downtown Joliet.

For more information see my previous write-up on UD Tower with photos taken in 2005-2006.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

BO Tower Downgraded

I just learned that last September BO Tower in Kalamazoo, MI decommissioned it's 1915 vintage mechanical lever frame in conjunction with a re-signaling program associated with the previously discussed Wolverine corridor improvements financed by MI DoT. Similar to Ridgely Tower in Springfield, IL, the former New York (Michigan) Central Tower guarded a pair o 2x1 diamond crossings on a line that tended to see more passenger movements than freight.  Located at the end of the 100 or so mile long Amtrak owned segment, the tower salutorily neglected under both Conrail and NS.  When NS turned over the Michigan Line to a shortline railroad I had hoped that the cash-strapped operator would continue the previous policy of no improvements. Unfortunately a chunk of state and Federal funding chose to upset the cart.

This YouTube video will explain in further detail exactly what happened, but like CORK, the old interlocking machine was retired with the plant now worked from a bunch of modern panels.  The tower has remained in service due to the terms of an agreement with NS to provide dispatching services over the line until 2017, but after that date it is expected that the tower will be closed with duties turned over to Amtrak out of Chicago. Like the rest of the Michigan Line the new signals are of the full blown Darth Vader type with LED lamps.

Based on an analysis of the interlocking plant, the 1915 lever frame contained only active switch lever with lock for the wye connection, two crossing levers (colored brown) for each diamond crossing and on the order of 10 signal levers assuming each crossing line needs two.  The photos at the Michigan Railroad History site from around 1990's shows the third diamond crossing still in service.

Of course nobody should be surprised of this development, but once again it is a shame that the spiritual home of the Michigan Central has lost its MC vintage tower and small target searchlight signals.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Amtrak's K Tower Threatened

No, the tower isn't closing, but if a developer gets his way Washington DC's iconic K Tower and the entire terminal throat might be covered over and replaced by office towers.  Just like what was recently done in New York City with the Penn Station "hole", views like these will be a thing of the past.  The CPLs, pneumatic point machines, green overhead wire and 5 track signal bridges forever hidden and bathed in pale LED light.

Even worse, forget getting a breath of fresh air while your through train get's its power swapped out.  Everything will be under cover creating a smoky, Chicago style atmosphere with little to know lighting.

Sure urban development is important, but city after city has come to regret covering over its great train stations and creating smoky rabbit warrens.  Chicago, New York and Boston have all made this mistake.  Hopefully this is just another smoke and mirrors development project like oh so many before (remember the Jet's stadium that was planned to cover the West Side yard?)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lotsa News

With all the recent tower closings I have fallen way behind on more mundane forms of news.  Most of these are in the form of general re-signaling updates, but there may be a few surprises. 

We begin with some disastrous news from the Michigan Line.  This line had recently been effectivly leased to the State of Michigan in support of Amtrak's Wolverine service.  While the part of the line west of Kalamazoo has seen a good deal of new signaling in relation to the 110mph upgrade, the east part of the line had seen decades of non-investment.  Usually state control is a good thing as States don't like to spend money, but here we see a double blow with small target Michigan Central searchlights (on their home turf no less) being replaced not with round Amtrak signals, but budget Darth Vaders. :-(

More evidence of CSX re-signaling on the old L&N in Nashville.

 CSX has also been resignaling the former Conrail Indianapolis Line.  Here the 1990's Conrail NR's are falling to Darth Vaders where it crosses the IC main in Effingham. 

While the former N&W main line in West Virginia is still not seeing any wide-scale re-signaling, isolated signal locations are falling such as these double N&W CPL brackets near Ingleside.

The NS re-signaling project on the Southern Main Line has finally reached MIDLAND interlocking Gainesville, GA.  Good thing I got out there for photos last October.

Hard to tell what exactly is going on at this SCL control point in Georgia.  Could be the one dwarf signal is getting replaced by a mast.  Could be a full on re-signaling.  Smart money is on the latter.