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Monday, October 31, 2016

BO Tower (1888-2016)

Right as scheduled, BO Tower in Kalamazoo, MI, finally closed after a strange zombie period brought about by contractual obligation.  As far as I can tell, the former Michigan Central (New York Central) tower was built in 1888(!) and for about 125 years retained its original mechanical lever frame in service.

The tower survived as long as it did for a number of reasons.  
  • First, the plant contained two diamond crossings of the MC Main Line as well as wyes and crossovers.  Railroads typically saved these types of interlocking for last. 
  • Second, the Conrail Michigan Line was one of those stepchildren that saw more passenger traffic than freight.  In fact Amtrak bought the MC route west of Kalamazoo to Porter, IN outright creating a stub line that Conrail was disinclined to invest in.  
  • Third, Amtrak didn't bother to take over dispatching duties of its own line until 2005, with a Conrail operator at Drawbridge Tower in Michigan Tower being paid to run CTC machine.  Operators at BO and Drawbridge gave Amtrak more personal service than having to get a hold of an overworked Conrail dispatcher.  
  • Fourth, NS went and effectivly leased the annoying Michigan Line to Amtrak in the aftermath of the financial crisis with MIDoT on hand with stimulus funding to upgrade the entire route for 110mph operation.  The agreement required NS to dispatch the line until 2016 when Amtrak would take over.  This means that while BO was re-signaled in the 2014-2015 time frame, the tower remained open with local control because of the lease agreement.

So what's next?  It was reported that the items inside the tower were removed for preservation in the Henry Ford Museum.  Unfortunately that implied that there might not be a plan to preserve the tower as is and wooden towers have a history of having to be demolished, even when preservation attempts are made (PD, MO, etc).  Still, BO tower was given a new roof about 10 years ago and it doesn't appear to be leaning so there could still be least until someone sets it on fire :-(

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