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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Amtrak PERRY Area Changes


There are some changes afoot in the Perryville area on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.  To start, about a month ago I received this rare bit of good news about changes to GRACE interlocking, which featured Amtrak's brief operational test of Conrail style tri-light signals.


Well turns out the experiment is over and Amtrak is replacing them with colorized position lights.  So thumbs up emoji!

Unfortunately, Amtrak isn't stopping there.  It turns out they are also replacing the main line dwarf and pedestal signals at PERRY interlocking with CzPL masts.  I have to assume this is motivated by the 562 project that was reported to be going in between PRINCE and RAGAN as the new mast have 'C' boards, however unless Amtrak is looking to expand track capacity with extra ABS blocks, the "Clear to Next Interlocking" indications are completely unnecessary as the  NEC between OAK and PRINCE is comprised entirely of back-to-back interlockings!  Did someone retire because you folks used to do this the right way with Rule 261 or Interlocking Rules replacing 562 in instances of back-to-back interlockings.


Maybe someone thought that a 'C' lamp couldn't be attached to a pedestal or dwarf signal, but Conrail had no problem fitting 'C' lamps to PL dwarfs at CP-MA on the Morrisville Line.


Since the new signals are being spliced in, not going up in parallel, the typical "testing in parallel to save money" does not apply.  No position lights are always nice, but IMHO these full sized masts just look ungainly.  In electrified territory the signals should be up on gantries or it just looks half assed.  WWPRRD!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Axis Invades Baltimore

Some of you may have heard that the Baltimore Metro was installing a new CBTC signaling system in conjunction with its new order of 78 Breda (now owned by Hitachi) railcars.  This might be surprising as such systems tend to only be economically viable when extremely high throughput over 20tph is required.  Baltimore's 6tph service is more than adequately serviced by a traditional block system, but I figured that once again some non-technical administrator was fooled by a signal vendor.  However this weekend I learned that the situation is far worse.  Not only has the Maryland MTA guppied up for CBTC, but they have also opted to adopt a German style axle counter system for backup train detection without any track circuits, even within interlockings.



The Baltimore metro was constructed back in 1983 with a fairly typical audio frequency cab signal system with 6 speed codes.  Apparently they have not very little investment in renewing the system and 30 years later most of the impedance bonds are end of life and getting unreliable so they see an axle counter system as a way to cut costs.  Breda is under the same umbrella as Ansaldo STS, the Italian signaling company that bought US&S and now both operate under Hitachi. This enabled Hitachi to offer both the cars and signal system as a $400 million package deal, and Baltimore found it hard to say no.



Unfortunately use of a German style signal system without positive train detection may result in problems when the German railway culture is not important.  The Baltimore Metro will be blind to broken rails, floods and random vehicles rolling onto the main line.  Track workers will no longer be able to clip in a track circuit shunt to protect themselves.  In Germany the government spends freely on rail maintenance and employees tend to obey orders without question.  In the lower cost United States, it is only a matter of time before this budget system proves deadly.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

CP-ROCHESTER - Back from the Dead?

So is CP-ROCHESTER back from the dead or is it just a zombie that NS will eventually shoot in the head.  For a little context, CP-ROCHESTER in Rochester, PA was a junction of three former Conrail "Lines", the Fort Wayne Line, the Cleveland Line and the Youngstown Line.  A 4-track partial crossover, CP-ROCHESTER took the 4 track Fort Wayne line in from the east and spit a 2 track Fort Wayne line sandwitching a 2 track Youngstown Line, all while the Cleveland Line branched out to the side.   CP-ROCHESTER had always been a bit of a pain because it was not a 4-track complete crossover with only a complete facing ladder and two disjoint facing crossovers. 


CP-ROCHESTER is as much a mix of signals as it is a mix of lines.  When the old tower was closed in the 1990's, Conrail worked to re-use as much hardware as it could.  The westbound PRR signal bridge with two high PL signals was retained, however 261 operation on all 4 track necessitated the old reverse direction pot signals be upgraded to Conrail special 4-lamp dwarfs (GGYR).  Eastbound trains a new tubular Conrail cantilever and dwarfs and Cleveland line trains got a couple ratty looking color light masts.


Years ago NS single tracked the Youngstown Line and constructed a new CP-BRIGHT about two miles west of CP-ROCHESTER where the two main tracks could go to one.   The interlocking was just a single turnout and located solely on the Youngstown Line, however this gave some people ideas and about 9 months ago CP-BRIGHT was expanded into a 4-track full crossover and the new split point between the Fort Wayne and Youngstown lines.  The intention was to then remove CP-ROCHESTER except for the Cleveland Line turnouts, however this plan was postponed as dispatchers have found it exceedingly useful to store Conway Yard bound trains in the new pocket tracks created by the back-to-back interlockings.  It also allows for all sorts of paralel movements.

Needless to say, CP-ROCHESTER and its Conrail/PRR heritage is still extremely endangered.  I'd advise anyone in the area to get out and document it ASAP.

Fun Fact:  I had always wondered why Conrail had installed GRS point machines at CP-ROCHESTER and CP-WEST CONWAY instead of their usual US&S M3 fare.  However then I saw that each of the towers there had used GRS Model 2 interlocking machines, a real rarity for the Pensy.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

DOLTON JCT Tower Closed and Demolished (1897-2017)

Well the inevitable finally happened.  The last all-big-lever interlocking tower in North America was not only taken out of service, but razed to the ground.  DOLTON JCT and its 172-lever S&F machine was built by the PRR in 1897 (and possibly rebuilt in 1944). The squat wooden structure was built to accommodate an Improved Saxby and Farmer pattern frame with a giant horizontal locking bed.


 A typical Chicagoland flat junction with more diamonds than turnouts, DOLTON JCT controlled the east end of the large B&OCT / IHB yard complexes.  In 1942 the tower had 136 active levers, decreasing to 100 in 1944 and the number has only gotten smaller and smaller since then.  when I Was able to visit in 2014, new owner IHB had started the process of chipping away the territory into new, independent sub-interlockings.


Apparently, the interlocking was cut over to the IHB dispatcher on February 27th, 2017 and then the tower itself was finally knocked down on Friday, August 4th in order to make way for a track realignment project.  Hopefully, like the IHB CALUMET tower that was closed in early 2016, local preservation groups were given the opportunity to save artifacts and what was in all likelihood, the largest mechanical lever frame still in existence in the western hemisphere.


 For full coverage of the last years of Dolton Junction tower and its ultimate demise, including a bevy of interior photos, check out the Industrial Scenery blog.

http://industrialscenery.blogspot.com/2015/05/dolton-junction.html

Also, as I mentioned before, John Roma has a number of additional interior photos posted at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonroma/se ... 973032939/