Getting it While I Can

Interlocking towers once dotted the railroad landscape in large numbers.

But the vast majority of them have been closed and their functions of lining switches and signals transferred to a dispatcher’s desk hundreds if not thousands of miles away.

Railroads generally don’t like to let vacant building stand unused next to their rights of ways so scores of former interlocking towers have fallen victim to the wrecking ball or a front end loader.

Somehow the tower in Union City, Indiana, has survived. But it may be living on borrowed time.

At one time, Union City Tower guarded the crossing of the Pennsylvania Railroad (Pan Handle) route between Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, of the New York Central (Big Four) route between Cleveland and St. Louis.

The two railroads crossed at a sharp angle by Columbia Street. In fact the crossing was movable switch points rather than a set of diamonds for the double track mainlines of both railroads.

The tower closed in 1968 and changing traffic patterns led to the abandonment by Conrail of the former PRR line through Union City.

But the tower remained standing. CSX would like to knock it down, but is willing to allow Union City interests to have it provided that they move it at least 50 feet back from the tracks.

The cost to do that is $60,000 and the city doesn’t have that kind of money. There is a fund raising campaign underway but small towns struggle to raise that level of money.

The latest report is that the city hopes to talk CSX into allowing the tower to remain in its current location but be surrounded by a fence.

The railroads is willing for now to give the city more time to raise money to pay to move the tower and its uncertain how it will respond to the fence idea.

Union City has been told that the tower is off the demolition list, at least for now.

But just this past July IU Tower in downtown Indianapolis and railroads, like any other company, can be notorious for doing what they want with their property.

Nostalgia and history don’t contribute to revenues, increase stock prices or help pay dividends to stockholders.

During a recent outing to Union City I made sure to capture a train passing the tower.

The auto rack train is headed westbound on the Indianapolis Line. I hope that it is not the last image I made of this tower, but you never know.

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