Posts Tagged ‘interlocking towers’

Nova Tower 2 for Tuesday

August 3, 2021

Many if not most Northeast Ohio railroad photographers have in their collection somewhere an image of Nova Tower.

Located in its namesake town on the CSX New Castle Subdivision, Nova Tower continued to stand for many years after it was closed. It became a landmark for photographers for its decrepit condition, which included a noticeable lean.

How that tower managed to survive for so long is a mystery except to some supervisor at CSX who finally gave the approval to raze the structure in December 2013.

My hazy memory is that the railroad was amenable for a railroad museum saving if if the museum moved it off the site. That never happened although a tourist railroad operation in the West salvaged some components of Nova Tower to use in recreating an interlocking tower on its property.

Shown above are two views of the tower in its latter years. In the top image, an eastbound auto rack train passes by on June 21, 2010. At that time, Baltimore & Ohio color position light signals were still in use as were block signs. Both have since been removed.

The bottom image was made May 26, 2013, and also features an eastbound. The tower already was looking rough in 2010 and looked rougher three years later.

Note the railfan standing on the tower steps to get a photograph. Given the condition of the tower at that time, that is not something I would have done for fear the steps might collapse.

Top Photo by Robert Farkas

Moving Day in Union City

July 28, 2021

Years of planning and fundraising paid off in Union City, Indiana, on Tuesday when a moving company moved the town’s railroad interlocking tower about a block west to a park.

The brick tower, which closed in 1968, once controlled the crossing of the New York Central”s (Big Four) Cleveland-Indianapolis line with the Pennsylvania Railroad’s (Panhandle) Columbus-Logansport, Indiana, line.

Local interests raised more than $56,000 which was matched by a $50,000 grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Agency.

Union City, located on the Indiana-Ohio border, had faced a late March deadline to commit to moving the tower or else it would be razed by CSX.

The former Pennsy line through Union City is gone, but the former NYC line is today the Indianapolis Line of CSX.

Three city streets were closed so the tower could be move on dollies by Wolfe House & Building Movers.

The tower is slated to be restored with the lower level being used as a visitor center with restrooms, and the upper level returned to its appearance when the tower was still open.

It is located in the southwest corner of Artisan Crossing park and faces the CSX tracks in the same manner that it did before it was moved. The park is adjacent to the CSX Indianapolis Line and across the street from the restored former PRR passenger station.

In the top image, the tower is being wheeled west on Pearl Street. The bottom image shows the tower in its final resting place.

Union City Tower to Move July 27

June 10, 2021

The former railroad interlocking tower in Union City, Indiana, is scheduled to be moved to a new location on July 27.

The tower was saved after a lengthy fundraising drive. It will be moved one block west to a city park.

The city plans to have a festival on the moving day that will include food trucks and other activities.

Now located adjacent to the CSX Indianapolis Line, the tower once guarded the crossing of the former New York Central (Big Four) and Pennsylvania (Panhandle) railroads.

The former Pennsy route from Columbus to Logansport, Indiana, is abandoned through Union City.

Union City, located on the Indiana-Ohio border, still has its PRR passenger station, which has been restored and is now used as an arts center.

Staking Out MG Tower on the East Slope

August 20, 2020

The second day of my trip to the East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania was spent on the east slope of Norfolk Southern’s grade over the Allegheny Mountains.

Mid Grade tower, or MG for short, is located about halfway up the grade about two miles west of Horseshoe Curve.

It used to be an important place on this busy mainline and while still busy it has been negated by technology.

Sadly, the tower has fallen upon hard times and is scheduled to be demolished. Here are a few photographs from my visit.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

NS to Raze MG Tower Near Altoona

June 28, 2020

MG Tower as seen on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend 2013 during an excursion pulled by Nickel Plate Road 765 trip heading back toward Horseshoe Curve then Altoona for a lunch stop. (Photograph by Edward Ribinskas)

A historic former Pennsylvania Railroad interlocking tower near Altoona, Pennsylvania is set to be razed.

Norfolk Southern is seeking bids to demolish MG Tower two miles west of Horseshoe Curve.

“We have put the demolition out to bid and are awaiting responses,” NS spokesman Jeff DeGraff told the Altoona Mirror.

He said the demolition is for safety reasons because the structure is deteriorating. How soon the tower will be razed will depend on cost estimates the railroad receives.

The tower was built during World War II when the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia mainline boasted four racks.

Joe DeFrancesco, executive director of the Railroaders Memorial Museum of Altoona, said MG was not a viable candidate for preservation because it is far from a public road.

Moving the structure would be difficult and expensive, he said.

“You preserve what you can preserve,” DeFrancesco said. “Some things are beyond reach.”

Getting it While I Can

October 30, 2019

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.

Hallett Tower in Toledo Has Closed

September 7, 2019

The Ann Arbor crossed the Toledo Terminal at Hallett Tower on the north side of Toledo. This image was made in March 2013 and is looking north on the Ann Arbor.

Hallett Tower in Toledo closed on Friday, its dispatching duties having been shifted to a Watco Companies office in Pittsburg, Kansas.

Hallett, which once controlled the crossing of the “back side” of the former Toledo Terminal (now CSX) and Ann Arbor Railroad was the last interlocking tower still open in Toledo.

Until its closing, operators at Hallett had dispatched the AA from Osmer (north of Ann Arbor, Michigan) to Toledo.

That territory included a combination of centralized traffic control and track warrants.

Last April control of the interlocking controls at Hallett had been shifted to a CSX dispatching office in Jacksonville, Florida.

That change coincided with the replacement of signals by CSX at the junction.

Hallett Tower, located off Matzinger Road on the north side of Toledo, was the last interlocking tower still operating in Ohio.

“We used to hang orders for every northbound and southbound train on [what is now] CSX, and on the Ann Arbor we gave northbound trains orders while southbounds gave us their consists” — lists of their trains’ cars that were then given to yardmasters in nearby Ottawa Yard, said Larry Bohland in an interview with The Blade newspaper of Toledo.

Excluding drawbridge towers, as recently as 1994 there were eight open interlocking towers in Toledo controlling railroad junctions.

John Vance, the Ann Arbor general manager in Toledo, said that Hallett survived because neither the Ann Arbor, which owned the tower nor CSX, which paid two-thirds of its operating costs under a decades-long operating agreement, had a significant incentive to replace it.

Besides, the Ann Arbor would need dispatchers when it was spun off from the former Michigan Interstate Railroad in 1985 so Hallett Tower was tapped to serve that purpose.

Vance told the Blade that the tower building will remain standing for now to provide storage for the Ann Arbor’s signal department.

He said Watco is open to the idea of donating all or part of it to a museum.

Drawbridge Tower in Cleveland is still open with operators there raising and lowering the lift bridge over the Cuyahoga River under the direction of NS dispatchers in Atlanta, who also line the switches and signals there.

The four operators at Hallett were given the opportunity to transfer to the Kansas office, but all elected instead to take a severance payment.

CSX Razing Historical Abandoned Facilities

June 20, 2018

CSX has been active of late swinging the wrecking ball and razing vacant stations and former interlocking towers along its right of way.

In a statement, CSX said it is considering safety and historical preservation in deciding which structures to take down.

However, in some instances the railroad has generated controversy by razing structures that local communities were seeking to preserve.

Such was the case last spring in Abbeville, South Carolina, where a station was razed even though preservationists contended that they had reached an agreement with CSX to save the station.

News reports in May said a state preservation society had negotiated with the railroad for the depot to be preserved and moved if $50,000 could be raised for the depot’s preservation.

However, CSX contended that the preservation group indicated it could not meet those financial requirements and the 128-year depot was razed.

Closer to home, the former New York Central station in Ashtabula was demolished on May 31, although preservation efforts in that case did not get to the stage of offering money for the building.

CSX has also removed Chesapeake & Ohio-built interlocking towers at A Cabin in Alleghany, Virginia, and CW Cabin in Hinton, West Virginia.

Also catching the wrecking ball was the C&O Balcony Falls, Va., station.

In a statement CSX said it has been identifying structures that are vacant, have structural issues and overgrown vegetation. It also contended that it decides what to tear down on a case-by-case basis.

Railroading as It Once Was: Just Another Day at RU Tower in Sterling on the Erie Lackawanna

January 25, 2017

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It’s just another normal hot August 1975 afternoon in Sterling. The Erie Lackawanna was doing its normal thing, too, as this eastbound train blasts past RU tower making a run for Wadsworth hill. In a few short miles it would be down to a crawl as gravity worked its magic.

Photograph by Roger Durfee

The Mystery of Brady Lake Tower

October 11, 2016

It has been 50 years since the Brady Lake Tower operator routinely watched over the tracks from these windows.

It has been 50 years since the Brady Lake Tower operator routinely watched over the tracks from these windows.

Curiosity as much as anything motivated me to venture to the 40th anniversary celebration of Towner’s Wood Park in Portage County.

For years I’ve made the park a place to hang out and watch Norfolk Southern trains pass by on the adjacent Cleveland Line.

Looming over the park is the former Brady Lake Tower – once known as Brady’s Lake Tower – that was operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The tower controlled the junction of the east end of the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh with the Pennsy.

There has always been an air of mystery about Brady Lake Tower. I had never been inside of it and long wondered what there was to see. The answer turned out to be “not much.”

For the 40th anniversary event, the park district converted the bottom floor of the concrete tower into a makeshift exhibit area.

There was poster about railroads, but much of the information was about nature.

The second story of Brady Lake Tower looks like a wreck. The Park District uses it for storage of all manner of things.

There are holes in the ceiling and no trace of anything that was associated with the railroad other than the structure itself.

I wasn’t expecting to find the interlocking machine, the operator’s desk, or clipboards containing railroad bulletins and orders hanging on the wall that had been left behind.

Those have long since been removed.

There were a few reminders of the railroad on the first floor, but those were obvious only if you knew what you were looking at.

You had to use your imagination to “see” the railroad presence on the top floor.

Photographs of the interior of Brady Lake Tower are rare or nonexistent. There are some images of the exterior, including a photo made by Paul Geiger that is published on Page 100 of Volume 12 of the Pennsylvania Railroad Facilities series by Morning Sun books.

We know that the original Cleveland & Pittsburgh ran through what is now the parking lot at Tower’s Woods.

The C&P was a single-track railroad that crossed the predecessor of the Erie Railroad at grade at Brady Lake.

When the PRR rebuilt its line in the early 1900s, the tracks were shifted to their current alignment and at least a portion of the former right of way between Brady Lake and Ravenna was sold to the Erie.

The rebuilding gave the Pennsy a better grade for its ore trains and slightly shortened the distance between Hudson and Ravenna.

The Pennsy facilities book reports that Brady Lake was removed from service on May 14, 1966, but kept intact to “be placed in service by train order or general order.” By 1970, its interlocking capability had been removed.

We don’t know for certain when Brady Lake Tower was built. A PRR track diagram from 1965 has the notation “built (or rebuilt) 1928.”

The LE&P opened in 1911. Could the tower have been built then? Or was it built earlier?

I’ve heard various speculations from railroad historians on that point but my visit Saturday yielded no new hard information about the origin of Brady Lake Tower.

I enjoyed my visit to the tower. One of the speakers said the bottom floor might be converted to a light food service facility that is open part time to sell snacks and beverages.

Towner’s Woods is the most popular park in the Portage Park District network and strategically located on the Portage Hike and Bike Trail.

So Brady Lake Tower seems assured to have a long continued life.

But as for when that life began as a railroad facility, some mysteries, it seems, might never be solved.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

A view from a window of the operator's bay of the Norfolk Southern tracks. The trees weren't there back when this was an active tower.

A view from a window of the operator’s bay of the Norfolk Southern tracks. The trees weren’t there back when this was an active tower.

To say the least, the second floor of Brady Lake Tower is cluttered. The view is looking toward where the operator's desk probably sat.

To say the least, the second floor of Brady Lake Tower is cluttered.
The view is looking toward where the operator’s desk probably sat.

Roger Durfee records the railroad exhibit on the first floor of Brady Lake Tower with his cell phone.

Roger Durfee records the railroad exhibit on the first floor of Brady Lake Tower with his cell phone.

Bruce Dzeda gives a presentation of the railroads that passed through Brady Lake.

Bruce Dzeda gives a presentation of the railroads that passed through Brady Lake.