A blog devoted to explaining the ins and outs of North American railroad signaling, past, present and future. This blog seeks to preserve through photo documentation the great diversity and technical ingenuity of 20th century signaling and interlocking hardware and technology. Related topics cover interlocking towers and railroad communications infrastructure.
Note, due to a web hosting failure some of the photos and links may be unavailable.
The scuttlebutt is that NS will be cutting over the new signaling and attendant Rule 562 operation on the Pittsburgh Line between Harrisburg and...somewhere. There are two 12 hour outages scheduled for September 9th and 10th, or so I have heard. However when I visited in person over Labour Day the new signal bridges at CP-BANKS and CP-HARRIS were still sitting trackside there I had seen them over a year ago.
Because the BANKS to HARRIS segment started being worked on after the CP-CANNON to CP-ANTIS segment, I suspect that the Middle Division is what will be cut over with the Harrisburg island to follow and the Altoona to Pittsburgh portion coming after that. No matter what is happening, get your photos in ASAP. Tune back because I have some feelers out and hope to have the exact information about what is being cut over in a few days.
It seems that I'm not the only person running into a hosting jam lately. For literally the last 20 years when I have needed information on one PRR era interlocking or tower I have dutifully gone to Google, typed in "Maps of the PRR" and been taken to broadway.pennsyrr.com, and been taken to a wonderful Web 1.0 gem that gave me my information with little fuss. The PRR part of the site had the aforementioned archive of interlocking sheets while else where on the file tree was a general signaling site with a good yet somewhat incomplete listing of signal rule sets and explanations of operating principles.
Unfortunately Mark's The Broad Way site was hosted on Keystone Crossing, a long running PRR history website that also hosted my interior photos of STATE tower in Harrisburg that I took in 2003. As the decades past the site owner Jerry Britton was overtaken by mounting costs and shrinking ad/donation revenue and I never noticed that he had announced the site's closing. While a stub of Keystone Crossing is still up (for now) most of Mark's page has completely vanished from the internet.
Fortunately, back in the day when broadband internet was yet to be a thing and websites were often highly unreliable, I was obsessive about saving everything to disc and I have long since backed up The Boad Way's interlocking charts as well as the html pages they were linked from. These have now been uploaded to Google Photos. Moreover, a lot of the site was archived here, including the HTML copy of the 1956 PRR rulebook. I am still trying to find out what happened to Mr. Mark D Bej and/or the full contents of his website. For all I know he may have passed away, but if he is still out there, and if I can get my own hosting back, I might be able to get his content back online. I am sorry I was unaware of KC's problems as I would have done everything I could to drum up donations and support. Meanwhile, some of KC's content has migrated to a PRR group on groups.io. Of course I am now going to have to go through my own posts to change all of the broken interlocking chart image links 😢
Yes, and before people get all nit picky yes NORAC is indeed adopting both new rules and a couple new aspects that go along with old rules. All of the new changes have in fact been used for many years by a number of member railroads as system special instructions and moreover they have also been seen in other railroad signaling systems. This is a nice example of a signal rules committee looking at the state of the art and deciding not to keep its head buried in the ground.
The new rules were made effective in the 11th edition of the NORAC Rule book released on Feburary 1, 2018. I've been a bit busy since the start of the year so I just hadn't noticed until now XD
We begin with Rule 281a, Cab Speed, which has been modified to include SEPTA's *G*/*G* dwarf indication which it has been using for about the last 10 years. Also included was a PRR pedestal indication probably because of some situation on Amtrak.
The next change plugs a major hole in several eastern signal aspect systems in that there is often no Approach indication available on dwarf signals. Y/R is Slow Approach, Y is restricting and for years NORAC had to make up with displaying Y/*R* Medium Approach for straight routes. However there was one obvious solution and after appearing on the Conrail SAA timetable as a special instruction for years, *Y*/R has been adopted as Approach. CSX please take notice.
A bit more consequential is the long overdue adoption of Medium Approach Slow. Unlike CSX which had reserved R/Y/G for M-A-S forcing R/Y/*G* for M-A-M, NORAC went with a nod to the PRR using R/Y/Y. This aspect had long been used in by the MBTA in the Boston area and possibly also on the former Boston and Maine territory. More recently it had been incorporated into Caltrains new speed signaling system in 2003. Note, NORAC Rule 283b does not include the "when first becomes visible" admonition, which I would suspect is something they are trying to get away from.
Finally in a weird nod to the Seaboard Coast Line, NORAC has adopted Limited Approach signal as Rule 286a. However, unlike the CSX Rulebook which is a bit ambiguous about when a train must slow to Medium Speed, NORAC Rule 286a states that Limited Speed applies only through the switches and turnouts, then Medium Speed applies. Like Rule 286 Medium Approach, trains must begin reduction to Limited Speed as soon as it becomes visible. I suspect this might be used to claw back a few seconds where trains had previously been stuck at Medium Speed due to a far-yet-visible Medium Approach indication.
All in all these are sensible moved by NORAC. The real question continues to be when CSX will finally adopt *Y* Advance Approach!!
Another two major losses in the world of North American power interlocking machines as the 1940 vintage towers 34TH ST and W 4TH ST, both on the NYC Subway 6th Avenue Line, will both be closed by the end of this week. Actually, 34TH ST tower already closed back in May, while W 4TH ST tower will be closed over the two week period centered on the weekend past. Both towers were equipped with GRS Model 5 pistol grip type machines and W 4TH is perhaps the most famous of them all for its "fishbowl" windows looking out onto the lower downtown platform for all the world to see.
While W 4TH ST and it's 54 lever frame controlled an impressive plant, linking the 8th and 6th Ave lines south of Midtown, it unfortunately did not put on much of a show unless trains were being diverted. The operators could sit back with the entire plant straight railed and signals fleeted, pausing only to harass those interested enough to even peer through the window.
34TH ST tower on the other hand had a 68 lever frame controlling perhaps the closest thing the NYCTA had to a complete railroad 4 track crossover, although it was embellished with a few unnecessary scissors crossovers. This tower was located a bit down front the end of the uptown platform, but due to the 34th St Station platforms being offset, it could be viewed from the side.
As we speak W 4TH is being slowly cut over, one track at a time with the process scheduled to be completed on the weekend of August 12th, 2018. Anyone in the NYC area should make a special trip to get some video and piss the unionized tower operators off one last time ;-)
Don't believe the hype. These old school machines will have lasted decades longer than what replaces them They are reliable and hack-proof as long as they see proper maintenance. Unfortunately that is something the NYCTA can't afford so they beg for capitol money for a flaky CTBC solution that costs billions and only increases capacity by 5-10%. So long, and farewell old friends.