Photographs & History

Photographs and History

State Interlocking

Plate drawing circa 1963 illustrating the territory of State Interlocking, which is still controlled today by the original Union Switch and Signal Model 14 interlocking machine. Plate drawings collection of "The Broad Way" website 

Plate drawing circa 1963 illustrating the territory of State Interlocking, which is still controlled today by the original Union Switch and Signal Model 14 interlocking machine. Plate drawings collection of "The Broad Way" website 

On the south end of the Harrisburg Passenger Station, tucked away in a two-story addition dating back to the final phase of electrification in 1937 two significant PRR facilities operated around the clock. State Interlocking Tower is on the far south end of the station building and originally controlled the east end operations of the passenger terminal, access to the Cumberland Valley line to Hagerstown and the Northern Central via Lemoyne Junction on the West side of the Cumberland Valley Bridge. In addition to these important mainline connections State also controlled the Columbia branch that comes up from Royalton as well as access to both PRR and Railway Express Agency warehouses that handled local express traffic off the passenger trains.

Detail of current State Interlocking US&S machine and model board. Compared to plate drawing above note home much trackage has been removed including connection to the Columbia Branch, Reading interchange (now NS Harrisburg Line) and Cumberland Valley Line (lower center segment). Inset below shows the existing State Interlocking including operators desk and one of three additional remote interlocking modules added after the original installation.

Detail of current State Interlocking US&S machine and model board. Compared to plate drawing above note home much trackage has been removed including connection to the Columbia Branch, Reading interchange (now NS Harrisburg Line) and Cumberland Valley Line (lower center segment). Inset below shows the existing State Interlocking including operators desk and one of three additional remote interlocking modules added after the original installation.

Harrisburg_Terminal_07

Opening in 1937 as part of the terminal electrification, State Tower contained a standard Model 14, Union Switch and Signal unit, customary in most PRR interlocking towers. The interlocking was operated in conjunction with Harris to coordinate the combining and splitting of passenger trains in the station while also facilitating engine changes and yard moves needed to maintain passenger operations. While State still operates as a local block and interlocking tower, the physical plant is not nearly as intricate as it once was. Since traffic no longer operates on and off the Cumberland Valley Bridge and Norfolk Southern makes no connection from the Columbia Branch at the passenger station, most operations focus on  Amtrak trains arriving and departing for Philadelphia. Occasionally a bad order coach or cab car will be switched out here or turned on the wye but typically operation is pretty straightforward. Several responsibilities were added to State’s territory after Roy and Harris were decommissioned, giving State the remaining control of the NS connector at Capitol Interlocking (just west of Harris) and Roy interlocking where the NS Columbia branch diverges off the mainline further east in Royalton.

Looking east across State interlocking from the pocket track on the #3 platform. Note the Norfolk Southern train holding the Royalton Branch (called Columbia branch in PRR days) which connects to the former Reading line now utilized by Norfolk Southern.

Looking east across State interlocking from the pocket track on the #3 platform. Note the Norfolk Southern train holding the Royalton Branch (called Columbia branch in PRR days) which connects to the former Reading line now utilized by Norfolk Southern.

Also part of the 1937 construction, the Harrisburg Power Dispatcher’s Office was constructed to monitor and control electrical supply and loads on all electrified territory from Harrisburg and Enola east to Thorndale on the main and low-grade routes and south to Perryville. This facility survives as an incredible symbol of the strides the PRR made in electric traction technology and remains intact although not in use. The facility is still occupied by Amtrak’s power dispatcher who now works from a computer terminal in the center control atrium of the original installation. When visiting the facility last fall there was discussion of this location closing with completion of Amtrak’s new CNOC pending, but to my knowledge the facility is maintained to date. The Harrisburg facility was one of three such installations on the PRR with the other two at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and the Service Plant building of Penn Station in New York City, neither of which are still intact.

Panel detail of Power Dispatcher's Office in the Harrisburg Passenger Station. This impressive installation dates back to the 1937 electrification to Harrisburg and was responsible for monitoring and controlling electrical loads and supply from Thorndale and Perryville west to Harrisburg. Along the three walls the entire mainline system is illustrated noting substation installations and interlockings, accompanied by indicator lights for the status of both train and signal power. In the foreground are control panels that correspond and essentially functions as breakers for all circuits, phase breaks, and sub stations. This would be a stressful place to work during inclement weather as dispatchers worked against ice, lightning and heavy winds to maintain power to keep trains moving in adverse conditions.

Panel detail of Power Dispatcher's Office in the Harrisburg Passenger Station. This impressive installation dates back to the 1937 electrification to Harrisburg and was responsible for monitoring and controlling electrical loads and supply from Thorndale and Perryville west to Harrisburg. Along the three walls the entire mainline system is illustrated noting substation installations and interlockings, accompanied by indicator lights for the status of both train and signal power. In the foreground are control panels that correspond and essentially functions as breakers for all circuits, phase breaks, and sub stations. This would be a stressful place to work during inclement weather as dispatchers worked against ice, lightning and heavy winds to maintain power to keep trains moving in adverse conditions.

Harrisburg Terminal: Harris Interlocking

Moving railroad east from Rockville on the mainline we enter the capitol city of Harrisburg. Beginning in 1836 the city has been host to railroads including the Pennsylvania Railroad, Philadelphia & Reading, Northern Central (NC), Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Mount Joy & Lancaster and the Cumberland Valley (CV), the later three eventually absorbed by the PRR in an effort to expand service under J. Edgar Thompson. Though there were numerous stations built in the general vicinity of the current Harrisburg station, the terminal complex was in constant flux through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, growing and changing with needs of this important terminal.

Plate drawing of Harris Interlocking circa 1963, regardless of the decline of passenger service by the 1960's on can see the vast expanse of this important interlocking. Plate drawings collection of  T  he Broad Way

Plate drawing of Harris Interlocking circa 1963, regardless of the decline of passenger service by the 1960's on can see the vast expanse of this important interlocking. Plate drawings collection of The Broad Way

During the late 1920’s the City of Harrisburg sought to expand the Market Street Subway crossing under the terminal, while a State project commenced to build a grand new bridge over the PRR at State Street; both projects necessitated a major reconfiguring of the terminal on the west end of the passenger station. With this construction the PRR saw an opportunity to replace several older mechanical switch towers that controlled various parts of the terminal with one state of the art facility utilizing an electro-pneumatic Union Switch and Signal interlocking plant. Opening for service in April of 1930, Harris Tower operated 82 signals and 74 switches with additional controls for the train director to set up directional flow of traffic through the six bi-directional station platform tracks for operational flexibility. All these operations were controlled by a new US&S Model 14 interlocking machine from one centrally located building. The operating territory of the new facility spanned a length of 3,250 feet and would regularly handle over 100 scheduled passenger trains, approximately 25 freights, and scores of switch and light power moves.

View looking west in the vicinity of Harris Interlocking. Note the State Street Bridge which necessitated the revision of the trackage and the PRR's building of Harris Interlocking. Aptly named Memorial Bridge, the structure with massive art deco towers honors those who have served our Country in war. Harris Tower is center left between the parking structure and State Street bridge. The current Norfolk Southern mainline is on the right with the Amtrak connection to the left. Note the vast expanse of emptiness here including the catenary poles leading up to the overgrown areas on the right side of the bridge, this was once all part of the Harris Interlocking plant moving traffic in and out of the Harrisburg passenger station

View looking west in the vicinity of Harris Interlocking. Note the State Street Bridge which necessitated the revision of the trackage and the PRR's building of Harris Interlocking. Aptly named Memorial Bridge, the structure with massive art deco towers honors those who have served our Country in war. Harris Tower is center left between the parking structure and State Street bridge. The current Norfolk Southern mainline is on the right with the Amtrak connection to the left. Note the vast expanse of emptiness here including the catenary poles leading up to the overgrown areas on the right side of the bridge, this was once all part of the Harris Interlocking plant moving traffic in and out of the Harrisburg passenger station

Operations at Harris and the train station itself were unique in that it was a place where various sections of westbound passenger traffic from both DC and New York were combined, with the opposite occurring for eastbound movements. Equipment moves including mail, express parcel, baggage and even dining cars were switched here by a number of yard crews through out a 24-hour cycle. While the engine changes were common in the early years, the location became far more significant when Harris became the western end of electrified service in 1938, becoming a place where electric motors, steam and later diesels co-mingled on a regular basis. Though Harris continued to play an important role in passenger operations after World War II the terminal and station complex would begin to fall victim to declining traffic as a result of the widespread popularity of the automobile and airlines. Through the turbulent transition of the ill-fated Penn Central merger and its subsequent bankruptcy, passenger service suffered critical blows eventually leading to the creation of Amtrak and later Conrail. Operations at Harris began to shrink as Conrail began to migrate away from using electric locomotives and Amtrak’s Philadelphia – Harrisburg line slowly became a stub end line with only one or two round trips continuing further west to Pittsburgh. During Conrail’s effort to separate themselves from Amtrak operations, piecing together an independent freight mainline, the Reading Company branch from Rutherford was rebuilt to link the PRR mainline and yards west of Harris with the Lurgan and Lebanon Lines. Part of the 9 million dollar Capitol interlocking reconfiguration the remaining responsibilities of Amtrak’s Harris Tower were eventually moved to neighboring State interlocking in 1991 making the historic facility surplus after 61 years of continual service.

Framed by the State Street Bridge, the remaining signals that protect Amtrak movements entering the train station from a connection with Norfolk Southern stand guard. Harris Tower stands on the right, all remaining operations are handled by State tower in the train station.

Framed by the State Street Bridge, the remaining signals that protect Amtrak movements entering the train station from a connection with Norfolk Southern stand guard. Harris Tower stands on the right, all remaining operations are handled by State tower in the train station.

Amazingly enough, this would not be the demise of Harris Tower, as several visionary people with the Harrisburg Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society would rally to not only save Harris, but resurrect it as a hands on learning experience for generations to come. Led by dedicated chapter members the Harris Tower project included a full structural and architectural renovation bringing the building back to its original design and appearance. Even more significant, the interlocking machine and model board was fully restored, unlocking seized levers and restoring the model board to reflect the terminal at its peak operations during the height of World War II. Restoration also included development of a computer system that interacts with the interlocking machine to recreate the full experience of a working interlocking tower, giving visitors a hands on experience of being a lever man in Harris Tower, lining simulated routes and signals based on operating schedules from the period. Like many other towers, Harris is no longer responsible for directing traffic over the PRR system, but today it serves as a living history museum to many of us who never had the opportunity to experience a piece of railroading once so common in America.

Harris Tower, restored by the Harrisburg Chapter of the NRHS as a interactive museum. Visit  harrisburgnrhs.org  for more information. 

Harris Tower, restored by the Harrisburg Chapter of the NRHS as a interactive museum. Visit harrisburgnrhs.org for more information. 

Harrisburg Terminal: Cumberland Valley Bridge

Cumberland Valley Bridge from City Island. View looking west toward Lemoyne.

Cumberland Valley Bridge from City Island. View looking west toward Lemoyne.

Following up from the last post on Lemoyne Junction we arrive at the Cumberland Valley Bridge. This strategic bridge provided the PRR with connections to the Cumberland Valley Line to Hagerstown, the York Haven Line, the mainline and Harrisburg passenger terminal. The existing bridge is the last of five such spans at this location dating as far back as 1839. The current bridge was completed in 1916 and comprised of 45 reinforced concrete arch spans carrying two main tracks over the Susquehanna between the Harrisburg passenger terminal at State interlocking and Lemoyne Junction. As part of the final phase of PRR electrification the bridge received catenary primarily for freight moves as most passenger trains operating over the bridge were coming off the non-electrified Northern Central from Baltimore. This bridge also acted as a relief valve in the event that problems developed at Rockville Bridge or Shocks Mill further south on the freight only Low Grade. The bridge survives but without train service, having had all trackage across the bridge removed after Conrail rerouted all trains over the neighboring Reading Company bridge to the south.

View of the Reading Railroad's neighboring bridge to the south, which replaced the Cumberland Valley Bridge after Conrail diverted all Hagerstown traffic to the Reading line to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.  The Reading structure was completed in 1924 and consists of fifty one concrete reinforced arches.

View of the Reading Railroad's neighboring bridge to the south, which replaced the Cumberland Valley Bridge after Conrail diverted all Hagerstown traffic to the Reading line to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.The Reading structure was completed in 1924 and consists of fifty one concrete reinforced arches.

Harrisburg Terminal: Lemoyne Junction

Looking east on the Cumberland Valley we see the expansive bridge over the Susquehanna River, with the neighboring Reading Company bridge to the right visible just above the railing. The plate girders on the bridge mark where the York Haven Line crosses below bypassing Lemoyne Junction altogether. With Norfolk Southern's work progressing in the area, the catenary poles and substation structure may become a lost visual clue of the late great Pennsylvania Railroad with the ongoing re-signaling and clean up project along the Enola Branch and Port Road.

Looking east on the Cumberland Valley we see the expansive bridge over the Susquehanna River, with the neighboring Reading Company bridge to the right visible just above the railing. The plate girders on the bridge mark where the York Haven Line crosses below bypassing Lemoyne Junction altogether. With Norfolk Southern's work progressing in the area, the catenary poles and substation structure may become a lost visual clue of the late great Pennsylvania Railroad with the ongoing re-signaling and clean up project along the Enola Branch and Port Road.

Lemoyne was a significant location in the Harrisburg Terminal as early as the 1830s. Site of a strategic junction between the Northern Central and Cumberland Valley Railroad, the facility was located on the eastern edge of the small borough directly west and across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg. Located approximately 2.5 miles south of Day Tower and Enola Yard, the original junction at Lemoyne was a physical crossing of the two railroads protected by an interlocking tower know as J (later Lemo). When the PRR assumed control of the two lines in late 1800's connecting tracks in the northwest, southwest and southeast quadrants were added to allow movements in a number of directions on and off the Northern Central, Cumberland Valley and into Harrisburg Station via the Cumberland Valley Bridge.

Plate drawing circa 1962 shows the expansive Lemoyne Junction. The horizontal line is the Cumberland Valley line to Hagerstown, Maryland, the vertical lines on the right show the original Northern Central alignment (left pair crossing at grade in front of Lemo tower) and the newer York Haven alignment (right pair passing under the Cumberland Valley).Track charts collection of  The Broad Way Webiste

Plate drawing circa 1962 shows the expansive Lemoyne Junction. The horizontal line is the Cumberland Valley line to Hagerstown, Maryland, the vertical lines on the right show the original Northern Central alignment (left pair crossing at grade in front of Lemo tower) and the newer York Haven alignment (right pair passing under the Cumberland Valley).Track charts collection of The Broad Way Webiste

During the Cassatt Administration construction of the Atglen and Susquehanna, a rebuilding of the Northern Central and construction of the Enola Yard brought significant changes to the Junction at Lemoyne. With an effort to maintain lines that were free of interruption particularly at grade crossings with other busy railroads, the York Haven Line between Wago Junction and Enola was built closer to the river at a lower elevation, bypassing the intersecting lines and passing beneath the Cumberland Valley Bridge. In 1937-38 electrification brought about more changes at the junction with the Low Grade, Cumberland Valley Bridge and original NC alignment receiving catenary. What evolved from the years of change was a junction equipped with a kind of local and express lanes. The junction utilizing the quadrant tracks at the original location to move trains off the Cumberland Valley to Enola, Columbia and Harrisburg while the low grade routed trains around the junction all-together.

Former location of J tower and the crossing of the Cumberland Valley Railroad and Northern Central Railway looking east. Note the catenary towers   on the Cumberland Valley bridge in the distant center.   The relay case in the right foreground supplemented Lemo tower some time in the early 1980s  .

Former location of J tower and the crossing of the Cumberland Valley Railroad and Northern Central Railway looking east. Note the catenary towers on the Cumberland Valley bridge in the distant center. The relay case in the right foreground supplemented Lemo tower some time in the early 1980s.

With the demise of passenger service on the Cumberland Valley in 1961, Lemoyne saw mostly freight activity with the exception of passenger trains off the Northern Central from Baltimore and Washington. These were often combined at Harrisburg with trains on the mainline from Philadelphia and New York City to head west, a practice that occurred into the Penn Central Era to a limited degree. In 1972 Hurricane Agnes pummeled the Northeast washing out a number of Penn Central properties including the Northern Central route between Wago and Baltimore. Since the line was primarily used for passenger and local freight traffic, it was deemed surplus and not rebuilt by the cash starved PC ending any regular passenger traffic through the junction at Lemoyne. Further loss took place under Conrail with the consolidation of Reading and PRR mainlines to Hagerstown. Compounded by the separation of Amtrak and Conrail operations and Conrail’s rebuilding of the Reading line to Harrisburg the existing Reading branch to Shippensburg provided an ideal connection for the project. The Cumbeland Valley route would be cut back to Carlisle with other segments incorporated into the new route that Conrail would later transfer to Norfolk Southern in 1999. Though not a through route, the old Cumberland Valley is a very busy operation today servicing a number of major industries between Lemoyne and Mechanicsburg with a yard and local crew base operating in Shiremanstown. All that remains at the junction at Lemoyne is the northwest connector to the CV and a few lone catenary poles with all Norfolk Southern traffic utilizing the low grade to the East.

Original alignment of the Northern Central Railway just south of the junction and crossing of the Cumberland Valley.

Original alignment of the Northern Central Railway just south of the junction and crossing of the Cumberland Valley.

Lemoyne Junction Follow-Up

One of only two surviving examples of early PRR wood frame two story switch towers, J Tower survives today as part of the interactive experience at the Strasburg Railroad.

One of only two surviving examples of early PRR wood frame two story switch towers, J Tower survives today as part of the interactive experience at the Strasburg Railroad.

Of course it goes without say that Lemoyne Junction was protected by one of many interlocking towers along the PRR system. Built in 1885, J tower (later named Lemo) was situated in between the Cumberland Valley and Northern Central to protect the at grade crossing of the two lines in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania. The tower originally controlled switches and signals using a 35 lever mechanical machine (armstrong levers) linked to cranks and pulleys that moved the switches out on the line, subsequent upgrades modernized the interlocking plant using the standard Union Switch and Signal Model 14 electro-pnuematic plant. One of only two surviving examples of the early PRR standard design wood frame interlocking towers (the other variation being Shore Tower on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor) this tower was functioning up until the early 1980s under Conrail when the tower was removed from service. A group of volunteers with the Lancaster Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society saved the building, disassembling the structure and securing a location at the Strasburg Railroad where it would be reassembled and restored to its original appearance. In addition to the building's exterior restoration the interior would be reconstructed to its original operating configuration including the armstrong mechanical plant, parts of which were graciously supplied by Amtrak from Brill Tower in Southwest Philadelphia. Today people young and old can tour the building to gain a unique perspective of a facet of railroading that has largely disappeared in the computer age.

Here is a great little photo essay on Lemo Tower by photographer Jim Bradley

Harrisburg Terminal: Day Tower

Enola's South End

Situated at the southern end of the Enola Yards, Day Tower was responsible for movements in and out of the sprawling facility, handling traffic off the Atglen and Susquehanna, Columbia and Port Deposit, Columbia Branch, Northern Central, and Cumberland Valley Division. At one time the tower controlled four electrified running tracks that fanned out to the Westbound Relay and Receiving Yards, and the departure end of the Eastbound Hump and Relay Yard. Located in the West Fairview area along the Susquehanna River the tower was situated on the northern side of the State Route 11/15 overpass between the number 2 and 3 tracks into the yard. The eastern most tracks into the terminal, sometimes referred to as the Northern Central or Baltimore Old Line (tracks 3 and 4) were part of the original NC alignment prior to the 1905 opening of Enola and actually provided a bypass along the eastern side of the yard to Rockville West in Marysville. The western tracks (1 and 2) were built as part of the original construction of the Enola facility.

Plate drawing circa 1963 of Day Interlocking and Tower situated at the southern end of Enola Yard in West Fairview, Pennsylvania. (Track charts collection of  T he Broad Way Website)

Plate drawing circa 1963 of Day Interlocking and Tower situated at the southern end of Enola Yard in West Fairview, Pennsylvania. (Track charts collection of The Broad Way Website)

Day Tower, responsible for both yard moves, westbound arrivals and eastbound departures utilized electro-mechanical, electro-pneumatic and  and mechanical (armstrong) machines to control switches and signals in the interlocking. To the south (railroad east) the four tracks narrowed to two in order to cross the Conodoguinet Creek until 1964 when a third span was added to relieve the bottleneck in the busy area. South of the creek the railroad enters the town of Lemoyne where the railroad once again split into multiple tracks under the control of Lemo Tower (previously known as J tower). Today this location, referred to as Stell interlocking marks the end of yard limits and beginning of the Enola Branch which is controlled by the NS Harrisburg dispatchers.

View north of Baltimore Old Line tracks, now the only remaining tracks that enter the yard from Norfolk Southern's Enola Branch. Note the remains of the foundation between the catenary poles on the left side of the image, directly in front of the US 11/15 overpass. This is the only remaining evidence of the PRR's Day tower that once controlled the busy south end of the yard.

View north of Baltimore Old Line tracks, now the only remaining tracks that enter the yard from Norfolk Southern's Enola Branch. Note the remains of the foundation between the catenary poles on the left side of the image, directly in front of the US 11/15 overpass. This is the only remaining evidence of the PRR's Day tower that once controlled the busy south end of the yard.

While at the time of this post it is unclear how and when Day met it's demise, today all that remains is the foundation north of footings for the 11/15 overpass. Various sources report conflicting information stating it was closed and demolished in the 1970's while other images clearly show the facility still active in the mid-1980's. One report mentioned it was destroyed while in service as a result of a derailment sometime in late 1986/early 1987, which is not hard to believe considering the location of the structure. Today the interlocking has been removed with all tracks under the jurisdiction of the Enola yardmaster utilizing hand operated switches north of Stell Interlocking. Though not as busy as it was in the PRR era, the area still sees coal traffic to PP&L's large Brunner Island Generating Station and a fleet of nocturnal north and southbound trains heading to Baltimore via the C&PD and Northeast Corridor in Perryville MD.