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Monday, December 11, 2017

A Great Early CTC Resource!

As the few remaining stretches of classic CTC signal gets ground under in favor of lifeless Darth Vaders and wireless links, sometimes I find myself at a loss for information when writing up trip reports or signaling articles.  Were the signals installed in the 50's?  The 60's?  Were they controlled from nearby towers?  Dispatching offices? How much has the territory and layout changed since it went in?  Getting access to the interlocking sheets from somewhere like Multimodalways is the gold standard, but their collection is largely incomplete, pretty much restricted to the Northeast united States.

Then I happened to take a second look at's archive of classic signaling photos and I noticed that not only did they have an extensive factory photo archive of classic US&S CTC consoles, but the photos had enough resolution to actually read the model boards and level labels.  Best of all, the photos cover railroads across North America, from the Reading system to the C&O to the CB&Q.  For example, in 2010 the CTC console in the former Reading Railroad TRENT tower looked like this:

As you can see, it's not very helpful.  However's factory photo reveals all the details including a date of 1954.  

The first generation CTC era of railroads was both visible and invisible.  Visible because the signals and relay-interlockings lasted well into the 21st century.  Invisible because the consoles were hidden away in towers and offices long since shipped out to the scrap yard. This archive of photos provides real insight into what was happening to North American signaling after the heyday of the single interlocking tower.  Personally I was quite surprise how early many of the installations were as my assumption had always been the 1960's instead of the 1940's or 50's.  This is probably due to the PRR being a notorious "late adopter" of CTC.

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