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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

British Power Signal Box Video Tours

On a British signaling forum I frequent, a signaler known as Ian Ives uploaded a number of VHS video tours he made of some London area British Power Signal Boxes (also called Panel Signal Box or PSB) back in the 1990's.  For those of you who don't know, a PSB is roughly equivalent to the type of interlocking tower that was largely passed over in North America in the evolution from single interlocking towers to dispatch offices. They are basically what the NYC Subway calls Master Towers.

Popular in the UK between the 1960's and the 1980's, they replaced most of the electro-mechanical interlocking towers in busy urban areas as well as scores of pure mechanical towers.  PBS's contained large NX style model boards with light green tiles.  Their most high tech feature was automatic train description using small LED or CRT display boxes, which in the 1960's was quite a feat indeed.   While well documented pictorially, there are relatively few video records of how these panels were worked so check out these great resources.

If you like these, make sure you visit and/or subscribe to Ian's channel here.  If you would like an official tutorial on how these panels worked, you can find it here.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Last Stand at MEXICO

With the demise of the stretch of B&O CPL signaling between GREENS SPRING and PATERSON CREEK, MEXICO and WEST HUMP interlockings in the Cumberland Terminal became the last stand for B&O CPL's along the old B&O Main Line.  Well now's the time to run to the border and get your photos because CSX has finally started the task of re-signaling the signature interlocking of the Cumberland Terminal/Yard.

I would also expect the interlocking to be rationalized with the many internal dwarf signals either being eliminated or the MEXICO plant being split between 2 or more new logical interlockings.  If the re-signaling job at GREENE JCT is an indication it will probably be the former.   Anyway, there is a public bridge from which great photos can be taken so if you live anywhere near western Maryland take a road trip before its too late.  It's not only your last chance to see a classic B&O interlocking, but possibly your last chance to see CPL's period.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

RIP Toledo Towers

2015 had not been a good year for out of service interlocking towers on the former Toledo Terminal railroad with three having demolished in the last 12 months.  I'm sure for some of you this is old news, but I figured I should publicize the story just in case anyone out there was looking take a road trip.

All three of the demolitions have come at the hand of CSX, which tool control of the route after the Conrail breakup.  The former PRR WALBRIDGE tower was located north of the CSX Walbridge Yard, which is the northern end of the old C&O route to the Great Lakes.  The tower and it's Model 14 interlocking machine, were retired in 2005 and in its later years was a bit of a strange duck since the PRR route from Toledo to Mansfield had been ripped out decades earlier.  Despite the lack of a PRR route, position lights and pneumatic switch machines were in service until the end.

Next up was the late, great STANLEY tower which was located at the junction of the TTR and the north end of the former NY Central Stanley Yard.  STANLEY was as much NYC as WALBRIDGE was PRR with a big GRS Model 2 pistol grip interlocking machine.  The complicated junction governed access to the dead end Stanley Yard, another creation of Conrail era cuts. This tower only closed in 2008.

Latest to fall was BATES tower,  located at the junction of the TTR and the B&O Toledo Branch.  Like the other towers this was built and manned by the name brand railroad and the B&O heritage was evident in the style.

Just goes to show that it's always best to take your pictures sooner rather than later because you never know when someone might call in the bulldozers.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Post-Thanksgiving News

Tis the season for signaling (or re-signaling) news.  I first have something to report from a recent Chicago trip in that the large search-lit UNION AVE plant immediately adjacent to Union Station has been completely re-signaled, including the two "new" semaphore bridges on the curve into Union Station.  I was hopeful that the re-signaling effort I had seen last December would have dragged on like the Aurora/Eola effort, but no, they wrapped it up in under 12 months.

Also, new signals were going up at METRA's Blue Island Vermont Street complex.  Site of METRA's BLUE ISLAND tower, it is not clear if these are isolated replacements, or a plan to fully re-signal the interlocking and close the tower.

 No matter where the 80's Santa Fe searchlights may be, BNSF appears ready to hunt them down like these ones in Texas.

 Moving down south, somehow NS keeps finding more Southern Rwy signals to replace such as these near Thomasville.

 More signs of waste down in Southern territory with this freshly painted Southern mast signal already flagged for replacement at Villa Rica, GA.

 NS had long been replacing signals on the Chicago Line, but here at CP-379 if you look closely, a more modern bracket mast in the opposite direction appears to have been spared.  Keep an eye out on that one.

 This classic NY Central 4-track gantry in Elyria, OH will not be so lucky.

 I finally found an example of NS not throwing away old signal structures on a line in Tennessee.  If you look carefully you can see the modern style gantry is one of the first generation varieties.  It is also not a cantilever.

With the decline in coal traffic one even wonders why NS is investing in its former N&W region.  The mixed PL/CL cantilever is well represented in railfan photography.

We leave off with a little comic relief in the form of a pair of new Darth Vaders near Montreal that are mounted on what have to be some of the tallest signal masts I have ever seen.  I'm assuming there's a clearance issue, but I'm not sure what it would be.

Down in CSX land, somehow the C&O main line has still not been completely re-signaled, so that's a bit of a plus, but make sure you act soon as new signals are starting to go up on the last remaining sections. 

To finish with a bit of good news, the Heber Valley Railroad acquired a former DRG&W 3-track signal bridge from the UP re-signaling efforts in Utah.  The bridge included three GRS searchlight signals.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Another Icon Falls, Spite Free

I am sad to report that the famous 89 intermediate signal on the former Conrail Fort Wayne line between Pittsburgh and Leetsdale has been replaced by a combination of Darth Vader cantilever and mast.  However, instead of this being the result of a spiteful signal department, it is apparently made necessary because a Hergoz MoW crane tore down the origional PRR gantry.

Despite the neutral intentions, this is still a huge loss as the 89 signal was a 3-track PRR PL gantry with a total of 5 signals (track 3 is westbound only).  The signal was easily accessible from the adjacent Beaver St.

The even bigger loss come from the way that the blocks were arranged resulted the two eastbound signals displaying Approach Medium in their neutral state.  Very cool for photo ops and night shots.