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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bonus PHOTOS: Amtrak HARRISON ST Tower

So a few weeks ago I talked about Amtrak LAKE ST tower at Chicago Union Station and how it served as the control center for almost the entire CUS complex (excluding 21ST ST).  Well before the large US&S NX panel was moved in, control of the South Side was handled at HARRISON ST tower.  The tower was located on a pedestal above the terminal fan adjacent to the mail and express terminal just before the Post Office overbuild began. While located near the station end of the interlocking, the big Model 14 machine controlled everything from Roosevelt Ave to the bumper blocks.  In the mid-1990's the old Lumber Street hand operated switching plant near the CBQ wye was interlocked with control being placed at HARRISON ST.

Hemmed in by buildings, the best view of HARRISON ST could be obtained from the Polk Street bridge as seen below.

In the mid-1990's the old post office building was replaced by the new Cardiss Collins Processing & Distribution Center located one block to the south.  Here we can see the new USPS center seen from Roosevelt Ave.  It's the thing that looks like a parking deck.  The old post office can be seen behind it.

If you look at the first image you night notice the lower the tower is located adjacent to the terminal ladder tracks, but here that part of the interlocking has been covered over by the new post office.

Oh well, towers get demolished all the time when something needs to be built over.  After all, that is the same fate that befell LAKE ST after it had closed.  But wait, the new post office was opened around 1995 and the tower was closed in 1999.  Those dates don't seem to add up.

Actually, what happened was that the  Cardiss Collins Processing & Distribution Center was built arround HARRISON ST interlocking tower.  In fact even though it is trying hard not to be seen, HARRISON ST was right where it always has been and I have some photos taken inside of it!

First up we see the original model board, as seen above in the black and white photo.  It is painted in the same style as the model board in LAKE ST.  As you can see both the terminal fan and the quad ladders north of Roosevelt are controlled from the interlocking machine. Tracks are numbered zero through...whatever, from west to east.

Which is a sister to the machine in LAKE ST tower.  Evidence from the 1999 interlocking cutover can still be seen as the colored levers were spray painted white as they were taken out of service.  The final active levers appear to have been spared this treatment.  The whole setup is reminiscent of what happened with Tower A in New York Penn Station after it was closed in 1994.  Note how all the lever status lamps have been cannibalized for their bulbs.

In this final pic we see the interlocking machine and model board together. At this end of the machine some care was taken not to paint over the lever numbers and we can see that the machine contained at least 114.  I have never found an interlocking diagram of either this or LAKE ST in their "tower" days so you'll have to go by what can be gathered from the model board. Note one of the 1927 vintage lamp diffusers laying on the interlocking machine.

It is interesting to think that just outside those white painted windows on all four sides are the exterrior walls of the new Post Office building.  Because of its location tucked all away above busy CUS tracks and below the Post Office I expect the zombie remains of HARRISON ST to linger on for years to come.  It's a shame the same think couldn't have been done with LAKE ST.


  1. Hi, really like the rail road photo, wondering if you took it and if I could use it on a project of mine? Thanks!

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