Photographs & History

Photographs and History

Christiana | Last Stop in Lancaster County

Previously, on the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline we left off in Lancaster County at Mine Ridge, the highest point on the PRR east of the Alleghenies. The route closely follows the original 1834 alignment of the PRR's predecessor, the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad, crossing through a gap in the ridge between Lancaster and Chester Counties and the divide between the Susquehanna and Deleware Watersheds. From the west, the line climbs the grade between Kinzer and Gap on a series of reverse curves in short succession following a brief tangent, attaining the summit at roughly milepost 50. The eastward descent starts into another  1-degree curve positioning the line into a long straight until reaching Christiana, the last station along the line in Lancaster County. In Christiana, the line again navigates another series of reverse curves flanking the town center followed by a sharp curve at North Bend where the line crosses into Chester County.

A modern-day view of the 1912 era Christiana train station. While manufacturing has left communities like this, the historical character and old buildings speak to the Borough's importance in industrial history throughout the United States in the 19th Century .

A modern-day view of the 1912 era Christiana train station. While manufacturing has left communities like this, the historical character and old buildings speak to the Borough's importance in industrial history throughout the United States in the 19th Century.

The area around Christiana took root in the 1690's after King Charles II granted William Penn 45,000 square miles of land west of the Delaware River. Originally part of Chester County, Sadsbury Township was part of a land transfer to establish Lancaster Country in 1729. As a result, Sadsbury Township spanned the new county line, and thus became two separate townships by the same name in each of the neighboring counties. By the dawn of the 19th Century, Christiana began to develop around the crossroads of the Lancaster and the Gap & Newport Turnpikes, both major eastern trade routes. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 would rival many of these roads taking away commerce and trade from the port city of Philadelphia, thus affecting developing towns along the way. The Commonwealth's answer was to build a state-owned system utilizing a railroad between Philadelphia and the Susquehanna River and a canal system west to Pittsburgh, including a series of inclined planes to cross the Alleghenies. The new rail line, called the Philadelphia & Columbia, brought great promise for developing communities like Christianna. The railroad and the larger Mainline of Public Works would allow people and industry to connect with markets outside their region, providing a potentially unlimited opportunity for commerce.

The P&C commenced operations in 1834, around the same time local businessman, William Noble constructed a foundry and blacksmith shop along the line in Sadsbury Township, Lancaster County. Ten years later Hugh McClarron opened a grain and produce business, and by 1846 Samuel L. Denney purchased the foundry from Noble, adding a machine shop to the operation. By 1847 the growing village became officially known as Christiana, named for Noble's first wife. Denny's endeavor followed suit, and the new Christiana Machine became a focal point of industrial commerce in the area. 

View looking west from the mainline, showing the old (left) and new (right) alignments of the right of way. Soon the old right of way and overpass would be removed. Cattle pens and a siding in the immediate foreground are in the vicinity of the freight house which still stands today. Note the absence of the fourth track which indicates that this view was before 1895. Library of Congress HAER collection.

View looking west from the mainline, showing the old (left) and new (right) alignments of the right of way. Soon the old right of way and overpass would be removed. Cattle pens and a siding in the immediate foreground are in the vicinity of the freight house which still stands today. Note the absence of the fourth track which indicates that this view was before 1895. Library of Congress HAER collection.

Annotated map of the Borough of Christiana illustrating the original P&C alignment (red) and the relocated mainline (white), part of the PRR's line improvements completed in 1895. Note the Atglen & Susquehanna Branch in the bottom left, which would not be completed until 1906, joins the right of way to the east of here.

Annotated map of the Borough of Christiana illustrating the original P&C alignment (red) and the relocated mainline (white), part of the PRR's line improvements completed in 1895. Note the Atglen & Susquehanna Branch in the bottom left, which would not be completed until 1906, joins the right of way to the east of here.

By the 1880's the failed Mainline of Public Works had long since been sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad, putting Christiana alongside one of the most ambitious interstate rail transportation systems in the land. The town itself thrived, now a borough of 800 residents, complete with a new library association, bank, and town newspaper. Christiana was home to a diverse base of manufacturing with much of its output shipped by rail. Christiana Machine, once again under new ownership, evolved from making farming implements to the production of water turbine equipment and later other elements for power transmission systems for shipment all over the developing nation.

Growing with the ever-increasing traffic demands the PRR was amidst an era of improvements in the 1890's, addressing both capacity and infrastructure limitations. Symbolized by the PRR's impressive stone bridges and four-track system, the improvements program targeted issues that stemmed from the early construction of the right of way. In this particular region, the engineers and contractors building the P&C mainline encountered springs, and quicksand while excavating the pass over the Gap Summit. The compromise was less cutting to avoid the muck resulting in steeper grades. Cheif Engineer William H. Brown looked to finish what the P&C could not accomplish some fifty years before.  As a result, measures were taken to re-grade and realign the railroad between Gap and North Bend. 

In Christiana, the tracks were shifted from the old P&C right-of-way to a new alignment altogether, moving the tracks some  150' to reduce the curvature and accommodate the expansion of the right of way to four tracks. The realignment necessitated moving the large brick freight house some 40' east and the abandonment of the existing Bridge Street overpass. Construction of its replacement called for the use of a "new" Whipple style iron truss span, repurposed from improvements undertaken on the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore, where the mainline crossed White Clay Creek below Wilmington. 

The remains of the original Philadelphia & Columbia stone arch bridge crossing Pine Creek still survive despite being part of the right of way that was abandoned during the 1890's line improvements between Gap and Atglen, Pennsylvania. The structures at the left are part of what was Christiana Machine, one of the first industries in Sadsbury Township to take advantage of the railroad's expanded market reach.

The remains of the original Philadelphia & Columbia stone arch bridge crossing Pine Creek still survive despite being part of the right of way that was abandoned during the 1890's line improvements between Gap and Atglen, Pennsylvania. The structures at the left are part of what was Christiana Machine, one of the first industries in Sadsbury Township to take advantage of the railroad's expanded market reach.

At North Bend, where the railroad arcs from a north-south to an east-west orientation through the gap in the North Valley Hills, a substantial cut was excavated at the base of Zion Hill,  accommodating the wider right-of-way, reducing curvature from the previous P&C alignment. The 1895 annual report from the PRR notes the completion of this segment of four track line from Atglen to Gap, among other places. Not much else would change in Christiana except for the construction of a modest new passenger facility and pedestrian subway along the Gay Street underpass in 1912. 

While Christiana lost passenger service in 1952, the station remained open as a Railway Express office until 1962. Though much of the region's manufacturing shifted away from smaller communities like Christiana, the landmark brick freight house and passenger station survive, the former becoming the home of the Lancaster Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society who restored the building to its original condition. The Lancaster Chapter, chartered in 1936 is the founding Chapter of NRHS and a very accomplished group in the field of preservation of railroad structures and equipment.  The mainline today serves the Amtrak Keystone Corridor, hosting some thirty trains a day, still rolling through Christiana and the right of way improvements of the late 1800's.

 

Summer News and Events

Greetings! I hope everyone is having a great summer and taking some much deserved time off to enjoy the season with family and friends. Here is a quick list of some upcoming and ongoing events pertaining to the Main Line Project! 

Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-US 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin:0in;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:12.0pt;
	font-family:Cambria;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
   Semi-automatic signals beckon outside the window of the station waiting room in Chester, Pennsylvania on the former Chesapeake Division   mainline   to Washington D.C., 2016.

Semi-automatic signals beckon outside the window of the station waiting room in Chester, Pennsylvania on the former Chesapeake Division mainline to Washington D.C., 2016.

They All Fall Down | Lamenting the loss of a classic PRR Signal - The Position Light
I am very excited to have a new article featured on the blog, The Trackside Photographer this week. The piece focuses on the Pennsylvania Railroad's classic Position Light signals, many of which face an uncertain future as railroads push to implement Positive Train Control. It's a sizable article featuring a lot of imagery, several which have never been published. Please pay the Trackside Photographer a visit if you haven't already, they are doing a fantastic job featuring a diverse range of photographers and writers whose work focuses on the railroad landscape, it's an honor to have work published there! 

Plate 36. B.Q. Tower and Signals - Bellewood, Pennsylvania, Middle Division (III-895), William H Rau, Altoona Public Library Collection. One of 27 images currently on display in the exhibition William H. Rau: Urban, Rural, Rail at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art - Altoona.  

Plate 36. B.Q. Tower and Signals - Bellewood, Pennsylvania, Middle Division (III-895), William H Rau, Altoona Public Library Collection. One of 27 images currently on display in the exhibition William H. Rau: Urban, Rural, Rail at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art - Altoona.  

Ongoing Exhibition: William H Rau: Urban, Rural, Rail

On view through September 9th, 2017. Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art - Altoona

The current exhibition on display at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Altoona has more than a month remaining and is generating a lot of great feedback so far. The exhibition features a selection of Rau's Pennsylvania Railroad images from the Altoona Public Library collection, along with several images from the Main Line Project. If you are in the area, the exhibition at SAMA - Altoona is a must see! 

Rau Symposium - SAMA - Altoona: August 16

In conjunction with the ongoing exhibition, I will be speaking at a symposium along with Penn State - Altoona history lecturer Julie Fether who curated the show. My talk will focus on Rau's imagery and how it continues to inspire my project, while Julie will discuss how the show evolved, tying in influences from Harvard Landscape Studies Professor, John Stilgoe's writings and ideas on the "art and practice of 'seeing' landscape." 

The event is at the SAMA - Altoona location on Wednesday, August 16th from 11AM-1PM, lunch provided, and costs $15 ($14 for SAMA members). Reservations are required by calling the museum at (814) 946-4464 or emailing altoona@sama-art.org. 

Pop- Up Exhibition: The Study at University City - Philadelphia
On display through September 30th. 

An excellent opportunity came up recently to showcase some work from the Main Line Project, at the Study, a beautiful new Hotel in University City, central to Drexel University's campus at 33rd and Chestnut Streets, in Philadelphia. The small show includes ten pieces from the project and is free and open to the public. If you're in the area, please stop in and have a look! 

The Study at University City, 20 S 33rd St, Philadelphia, PA

The Engineer And the Contractor

BY 1903 William H. Brown, the man who earned the nickname the stone man for his preference of masonry bridge construction was winding down a rewarding 44-year career with the Pennsylvania Railroad, 32 of which he served as Chief Engineer. Brown's tenure was part of an era that was arguably one of the most transformative times for the PRR's infrastructure and right of way. His role in the construction of the Low Grade, especially the Atglen & Susquehanna segment would be his last major project before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. Brown had come full circle in life having been born and raised in the same rolling countryside of Southern Lancaster County where he'd close out an impressive career.

One of seven cuts and a fill illustrated in this Manor Township view in Southern Lancaster County. Chief Engineer, William, H Brown, saw to it that the ablest contractors were employed to complete this challenging work promptly. The Manor section was contracted to Patricius McManus a very accomplished railroad builder and neighbor of Brown. Harry P. Stoner photograph, Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PHMC

One of seven cuts and a fill illustrated in this Manor Township view in Southern Lancaster County. Chief Engineer, William, H Brown, saw to it that the ablest contractors were employed to complete this challenging work promptly. The Manor section was contracted to Patricius McManus a very accomplished railroad builder and neighbor of Brown. Harry P. Stoner photograph, Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PHMC

Throughout Brown's tenure in the Engineering Department, he relied on skilled contractors to undertake the task of completing a project, among them was arguably one of the most prominent railroad builders of the time, the McManus Construction Company.  By the time construction commenced on the A&S, Patricius McManus, president, and general manager had over 37 years of experience managing railroad construction projects.  McManus started his first project for the Sunbury & Lewistown building 11 miles of track at just 19 years old, developing an impressive portfolio of projects including the double tracking of the Reading's Atlantic City Railroad. The PRR also contracted McManus for the expansion and double tracking of the electrified WJ&S line between Camden and Atlantic City via Newfield as well as various components of the Philadelphia Terminal Division including the terminal trackage for Broad Street Station.  Brown and McManus shared a common thread in their lives and careers, coming from similar social circles, rising from humble roots to the upper echelon of society; they were both self-made success stories. Both Brown and McManus lived in the Powelton Village neighborhood of West Philadelphia, for a time as next-door neighbors, an area regarded as the home of the nouveau riche, outcasts from the old blue-blooded money of railroad executives on the fabled Main Line to Paoli.

This cut excavated on the Manor Township section of the Atglen and Susquehanna illustrates the massive scope of ongoing work. The temporary narrow gauge track used to haul some of the 1.3 million cubic yards of debris is evident in the cut complete with a steam shovel at lower right, one of the key pieces of equipment for such work. Harry P. Stoner photograph, Columbia Historic Preservation Society

This cut excavated on the Manor Township section of the Atglen and Susquehanna illustrates the massive scope of ongoing work. The temporary narrow gauge track used to haul some of the 1.3 million cubic yards of debris is evident in the cut complete with a steam shovel at lower right, one of the key pieces of equipment for such work. Harry P. Stoner photograph, Columbia Historic Preservation Society

L. Patricius McManus, Railroad Contractor. R. William H. Brown, Chief Engineer of the Pennsylvania Railroad. 

L. Patricius McManus, Railroad Contractor. R. William H. Brown, Chief Engineer of the Pennsylvania Railroad. 

When Brown parceled out eight contracts for grading and excavating the A&S in 1903, the engineering department knew that no section would be particularly easy. While some places required less significant work than others the line through Providence Township would be an imposing endeavor requiring the railroad to carve a path through the rolling hills since the local topography offered none. Brown charged McManus to execute this segment; Working west from Quarryville, equipment was brought in on an existing branch line via Lancaster and distributed by temporary trackage, moving in construction materials and supplies. Blasting and steam shovels did the grunt work of digging cuts through the hills, some up to 90' deep. McManus's crew of 300 men excavated some 1.3 million cubic yards of rock and earth creating seven cuts and a massive fill in the roughly 8 miles of line through the Township alone.

Brown closed out his storied career on March 1st, 1906 just shy of the dedication of the A&S on July 27th, but McManus's company would soon be involved with the construction of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Cut-Off between Park Summit and Milford, Pennsylvania another remarkable accomplishment of railroad engineering. Though Brown's Low Grade is abandoned now, so many other projects he and McManus worked on together remain a vital part of rail operations for the successors of the Pennsylvania Railroad, a testament to the     
formidable team of Engineer and Contractor. 

Summer Break

As summer begins I have taken a few weeks to look back at the first half of the year, and for the first time was able to take a breath. So far 2013 has been a year of considerable progress for my project documenting the Pennsylvania Railroad. With four lectures, six photographic site visits, an article published online with Trains Magazine, a new website and over 20 blog posts I have come to a point where a little break is in order.

My work isn't just centered around the Pennsylvania Railroad, it also explores places of natural beauty and of a historic nature. The summer is often a relaxed time when I venture out with my family to explore new places and revisit old favorites, sometimes to make photos, but more often just to share the diverse history and landscape with the kids.  Delaware River at Washington's Crossing, Pennsylvania. 

My work isn't just centered around the Pennsylvania Railroad, it also explores places of natural beauty and of a historic nature. The summer is often a relaxed time when I venture out with my family to explore new places and revisit old favorites, sometimes to make photos, but more often just to share the diverse history and landscape with the kids.Delaware River at Washington's Crossing, Pennsylvania. 

I look forward to time with my family and will regroup with my research and writing in a month or so. In the fall you can expect some exciting opportunities, more lectures and maybe even an exhibition in the Philadelphia area, but more on that later! For now I hope you all enjoy a wonderful and rejuvenating summer season, whether you’re out making art, exploring new places, or just spending time close to home with family. I will be staying in touch on a relaxed schedule this summer and look forward to sharing more in the future.

Thank you for your time and continued support!

Warm regards,

Michael Froio

Upcoming Lecture: NRHS Delaware Valley Chapter

NRHS_DELVAL_GRID_Crop
NRHS_DELVAL_GRID_Crop

I am excited to announce I will be presenting a lecture next Friday, May 17th about my ongoing project, From the Main Line: A Contemporary Survey of the Pennsylvania Railroad. This project as most of you know has been the culmination of a life long love of trains, history and photography. If you are free and live in the area, please come out for the event, it is part of the monthly meeting of the National Railway Historical Society's Delaware Valley Chapter and is free and open to the public. The lecture will follow the Chapter's monthly meeting and begin at approximately 8:30PM. Please see the details above or email me at michael@michaelfroio.com for more information.

Thank you for your support!

Michael Froio

Highball Lake Forest: Lecture for the Center for Railroad Photography and Art Conference

CRPA_GRID_Crop

This coming weekend the Center for Railroad Photography and Art will host its 11th annual Conversations about Photography Conference at Lake Forest College in beautiful Lake Forest, Illinois. Last year I had the opportunity to attend as a guest and had a wonderful time, making a lot of new friends and viewing some excellent presentations. This year I was invited speak at the 2013 conference, an opportunity that I am honored to have!

The Conversations Conference runs from Friday evening April 12th to Sunday April 14th and is host to a diverse group of guest speakers, ranging from illustrators, photographers and authors including a Sunday panel discussion on Railroad Journalism with a group of noted industry professionals. I will be in the Saturday morning line-up presenting my lecture, From the Main Line: A Contemporary Survey of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

 In addition to speaking at the conference I will be part of a two person exhibition with Steve Van Denburgh displaying a selection of 15 pieces from the Main Line Project and a print  to raise money for future Center programs.

Founded in 1997, the Center for Railroad Photography & Art has become America’s foremost organization for interpreting the intersection of railroad art and culture with America’s history and culture. Based in Madison, Wisconsin the organization collaborates with other institutions throughout the US to provide quality public programs associated with photography and art works in all media. Their efforts highlight a genre in American Art that has lacked a public voice outside its own community for quite some time. They publish a quarterly journal, Railroad Heritage and continue to put together some excellent exhibitions.

Some of their past programs include the following:

Railroads and the American Landscape: An exhibition of Ted Rose Paintings and Photographs.

The Last Steam Railroad in America: An exhibition of Railroad Photographs of O. Winston Link.

The Call of Trains: An exhibition of Railroad Photographs by Jim Shaughnessy to celebrate the release of Mr. Shaugnessy's book of the same title.

Requiem for Steam: The Railroad Photographs of David Plowden. An exhibition to celebrate the release of Mr Plowden's book of the same title.

While I realize many of you won’t be in Lake Forest this week, I encourage you all to check out the Center for Railroad Photography and Art, they have some terrific programs and a great web resource of their efforts and exhibitions past and present. If you are going to be attending, please be sure to say hello, I look forward to sharing my work and making some new friends!

Highball to Lake Forest!

Michael Froio

News and Updates for Winter 2013

Dear Friends, Happy New Year! I trust that you all had a wonderful and restful holiday and have settled into the New Year. Finishing out the last quarter of 2012 proved incredibly productive for the Main Line Project. While continuing work with many wonderful people at Amtrak for a second year I have begun building new relationships, with noted preservationist Bennett Levin and Eric Levin of Conrail Shared Assets opening many new opportunities. In addition, the release of the NRHS Bulletin article on the Main Line Project and the invitation to present lectures for several events ended 2012 with a promising start to the New Year.

Park. 001
Park. 001

In 2013 we will continue the tour of the Pennsylvania Railroad, focusing on the Philadelphia Division’s fabled Low Grade route east from Columbia, Pennsylvania as well as the main line from Royalton to Philadelphia. With new content and added historical imagery you can expect a more rounded look at the history and current operations of this important division of the PRR. I have already started making new images this year continuing documentation of the extensive infrastructure along the Main Line to finish out the Harrisburg – Philadelphia segment and expand upon my work in the Philadelphia Terminal and New York Divisions for future posts.

In addition to research, writing and photography, this year marks an exciting chapter for the project with the opportunity to present my imagery and research in three lectures scheduled for the winter and early spring. See below for details on these upcoming events!

From the Main Line: Exploring the former Pennsylvania Railroad today.

January 28th, 2013 7:30 PM

Though modern imagery inspired by railroad photographer William H Rau, the presentation will explore the unique landscape and vernacular associated with the Standard Railroad of the World.

West Jersey Chapter, National Railway Historical Society

625 Station Avenue, Haddon Heights NJ 08035

Understanding the Pennsylvania Railroad: Contemporary photographs in response to the historic works of William H Rau.

March 7th, 2013

This lecture will look directly at W.H. Rau’s photographs of the Pennsylvania Railroad made in the 1890's exploring their impact on the Main Line Project to understand the importance of dialog between the historic and contemporary photographer. Details to follow.

The Library Company of Philadelphia

1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Conversation on Photography Annual Conference

April 12th – 14th, 2013

The Center for Railroad Photography and Art hosts this annual conference. The Center has become America’s foremost organization for interpreting the intersection of railroad art and culture with America’s history and culture.

I will discuss the ongoing photographic project (2007- present) From the Main Line, exploring the transitioning landscape along the Pennsylvania Railroad from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh highlighting the unique vernacular of facilities and infrastructure built by the former Standard Railroad of the World. Details to follow.

Lake Forest College, 555 North Sheridan Road, Lake Forrest, IL 60045

I look forward to sharing another year of history and stories from the great Pennsylvania Railroad. I encourage you all to stay in touch and please feel free to share your stories and experiences with the railroad. I am only one person in the fraternity of countless historians and enthusiasts of our railroad heritage; it is exciting for me to understand a railroad that I never had the good fortune to experience though the oral histories and photographs of others!

As always, thank you for your time and support!

Sincerely,

Michael Froio

Relic Exhibition: Lansdowne Theater

Auditorium Detail, Northeast Corner, Lansdowne Theater. May 2009

Auditorium Detail, Northeast Corner, Lansdowne Theater. May 2009

In conjunction with the current exhibition of work from the Relic Project I would like to share some history about the buildings featured in the show. The fifth and final building in the Relic exhibition is the beautiful Lansdowne Theater. This Theater opened it’s doors on June 1st, 1927 just two years before the Great Depression and continued to operate for over 60 years. Situated in the heart of the downtown business area of this Philadelphia commuter suburb the theater survives as one of the most prominent structures on North Lansdowne Avenue. Financed by the Stanley Warner Company and Herbert Effinger who commissioned renowned theater architect W. H. Lee to design a modern 1300 seat theater, the $250,000 project resulted in a grand, lavish theater featuring remarkable interiors clad with chandeliers and intricate tile plasterwork throughout. The theater featured an organ, built by the W.W. Kimball Company of Chicago to provide both music and sound effects prior to the introduction of sound movies. Situated in the front of the auditorium in the orchestra pit the “band” organ also controlled a variety of instruments and sound effects for silent films in the false balconies on both sides of the stage. According to the Lansdowne Theater Corporation the organ originally fell silent by 1937 and was later restored by local volunteers which provided a unique venue for professional organists to perform in the historic theater, a tradition that continued until the removal of the organ in the late 1970s

Into the early 1980’s ownership changed hands and Lansdowne Theater Associates, Inc cosmetically restored the building after purchase in 1986. Shortly after in July of 1987 an electrical fire broke out during a movie, fortunately nobody was hurt but the electrical systems that served the theater suffered major damage. While repairs were started the group was never successful in getting the building back to operating condition and the property eventually defaulted to bank ownership. Today the building’s retail spaces have been renovated and provide income revenue for the site while the non-profit Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation works tirelessly to secure funding and make efforts to stabilize and restore the theater back to it’s original operating condition.

For more information on the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation please visit their website.

The exhibition featuring work from the Relic Portfolio is currently on view at the Dr. Ross Beitzel Art Gallery,Gloucester County College. The exhibition runs through November 28, 2012. Gallery hours are Mon.–Fri., 8:00 am–10:00 pm and Saturday, 8:00 am–3:00 pm. For more information contact Eoin Kinnarney, Gallery Director, 856-415-2122.

Relic Exhibition: Board of Education Building

East Wing Board Room, First Floor, Philadelphia Board of Education Building. June, 2007

East Wing Board Room, First Floor, Philadelphia Board of Education Building. June, 2007

In conjunction with the current exhibition of work from the Relic Project I would like to share some history about the buildings featured in the show. The fourth building in the Relic exhibition is The Philadelphia Board of Education Building, completed in 1932 and one of several civic buildings constructed during the development of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Designed by school board architect and later superintendent of building, Irwin T. Catherine the ten-story art deco building was home to the Board of Education until its sale in 2007. The building has survived largely intact with the elegant art deco features and was recently renovated to create 130 luxury apartments. During the renovation most of the public corridors, first floor offices, conference room and auditorium were carefully restored retaining the unique architectural styles of each space. During the renovation the Philadelphia AIA Landmark Building program awarded the Board of Education Building as a notable example of the art deco era. The nomination sited the "...public and ceremonial areas are fine examples of Art Deco and eclectic styles. The main corridors on each floor, as well as the auditorium, feature lighting, grilles, and signage executed in the Art Deco style. The Board Room foyer is Neo-Greek in the Ionic style; the Board Room, the Secretary’s office, and the Superintendent’s office are Neo-Colonial; the President’s office is done in the Georgian style, and the 10th floor cafeteria is described as being of the Spanish provincial style." Since the renovation, the Barnes Foundation utilizes the historic Board Room and offices and the beautiful auditorium space is home to the Varenhorst architecture firm who actually planned the adaptive reuse of the building for developer PMC Property Group.

The exhibition featuring work from the Relic Portfolio is currently on view at the Dr. Ross Beitzel Art Gallery,Gloucester County College. The exhibition runs through November 28, 2012. Gallery hours are Mon.–Fri., 8:00 am–10:00 pm and Saturday, 8:00 am–3:00 pm. For more information contact Eoin Kinnarney, Gallery Director, 856-415-2122.

Relic Exhibition: Memorial Hall

Grand Hall and Entry. Memorial Hall, Fairmount Park. January, 2007

Grand Hall and Entry. Memorial Hall, Fairmount Park. January, 2007

In conjunction with the current exhibition of work from the Relic Project I would like to share some history about the buildings featured in the show. The third building in the Relic exhibition is Memorial Hall located in the historic Parkside neighborhood of Philadelphia. Designed by Herman J. Schwarzmann chief engineer and architect of the Fairmount Park Commission, Memorial Hall was built as an art gallery for the 1876 Centennial Exposition. The building stands as an early example of the monumental Beaux-Arts style of architecture in the US, with an exterior of granite and an interior finished with marble and ornamental plaster. Completed at total cost of $1.5 million dollars, architectural details include statuary and a glass and iron dome that peaks at 150’ above the grand rotunda creating a soft glow from the natural light above. After the exposition the building re-opened as the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art and also served as the first Philadelphia Museum of Art until 1929. One of few surviving structures from the 1876 Exposition, Memorial Hall was taken over by the Fairmount Park Commission in 1958, housing offices and administration. The space also had a public pool, gymnasium and police station into the 1980’s. The massive historic building fell into disrepair until 2005 when the Please Touch Museum began an $85- million renovation to create a new home for the museum. Finished in 2008, the building was brought back to its original splendor with a full interior and exterior restoration. In addition the museum created some amazing exhibitions kids specific to the history of the site while incorporating features of the original Center City museum location.

For more information on Memorial Hall and the Please Touch Museum please visit their website

The exhibition featuring work from the Relic Portfolio will be on view at the Dr. Ross Beitzel Art Gallery,Gloucester County College. The exhibition runs through November 28, 2012. Gallery hours are Mon.–Fri., 8:00 am–10:00 pm and Saturday, 8:00 am–3:00 pm. For more information contact Eoin Kinnarney, Gallery Director, 856-415-2122.

Relic Exhibition: Divine Lorraine Hotel

Banquet Hall, 10th Floor. Divine Lorraine Hotel. January, 2007.

Banquet Hall, 10th Floor. Divine Lorraine Hotel. January, 2007.

In conjunction with the upcoming show of work from the Relic Project I would like to share some history about the buildings featured in the exhibition. The second of this series is the Divine Lorraine Hotel. Built by the renowned architect Willis G. Hale between 1892 and 1894, the Divine Lorraine was home to many wealthy Philadelphia residents in this up and coming section on North Broad Street. The building boasted modern amenities such as electricity, provided a house staff to eliminate the need for personal servants and utilized a central kitchen to provide food service through out the facility. The Lorraine was a feat of modern design, one of the first hi-rise complexes in Philadelphia at 10 stories high. Advancements in structural materials, and the invention of the elevator made this building a first of its kind in Philadelphia. Hale would build several other Victorian styled buildings in the Philadelphia area which unfortunately after the great depression were considered dated compared to the modern sky scrapers and ultimately many were demolished. In 1948 the Lorraine would make history again when it was sold to Father Divine also known by the name of George Baker or Rev. Major Jealous Divine, leader of the Universal Peace Mission Movement. Baker’s hotel would become the first fully racially integrated hotel in the United States and was open to men and women of all faith and races as long as they lived by the rules of the movement which continued until its closure in 1999. Since then the building has changed hands several times and was gutted for salvage but never rehabbed by developer Lorraine Hotel LP. The building took the spotlight again in the past few weeks when renowned North Broad St. focused developer Eric Blumenfeld purchased the building at auction. He has announced plans to restore the building, creating 126 apartments with restaurants on the first floor, which was kept intact during the 2006-7 interior demolition.

The exhibition featuring work from the Relic Portfolio will be on view at the Dr. Ross Beitzel Art Gallery,Gloucester County College. The exhibition opens Friday, October 26, 2012 with a reception from 6:30 – 8:30 and the show runs through November 28, 2012. Gallery hours are Mon.–Fri., 8:00 am–10:00 pm and Saturday, 8:00 am–3:00 pm. For more information contact Eoin Kinnarney, Gallery Director, 856-415-2122.

Relic Exhibition: Philadelphia Civic Auditorium

Public Entry Foyer, Philadelphia Civic Center Auditorium, April 2005.

Public Entry Foyer, Philadelphia Civic Center Auditorium, April 2005.

In conjunction with the upcoming show of work from the Relic Project I would like to share some history about the buildings featured in the exhibition. The first of five buildings featured in this show is the Philadelphia Civic Auditorium. Completed in 1931 the Art Deco Auditorium graced Civic Center Boulevard in West Philadelphia as part of a complex of buildings that began with the National Export Exhibition in 1899. There were two important buildings on the site. The Commercial Museum, built in 1899, was one of the original exposition buildings and The Municipal Auditorium (Convention Hall), built in 1931, by Philip H. Johnson. The Auditorium would be host to four National Political Conventions and notable people such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul the II. The auditorium was also utilized for countless musical performances including the Beetles, Jackson Five, Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead while also serving as the original home of the Philadelphia 76ers and the Warriors. In 1967 the opening of the Spectrum sports arena in South Philadelphia made the Auditorium virtually obsolete, and the beautiful building was relegated to a secondary status occasionally utilized for performances or University of Penn and Drexel graduation services. By the mid 1990’s the City could not entice a regular tenant and the facility began fall in neglect. The massive building was expensive to maintain and would see sporadic use as a sound stage for both TV and movie productions. Finally in 2005 the Civic Auditorium would meet its demise to clear way for construction of University of Pennsylvania Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.

The exhibition featuring work from the Relic Portfolio will be on view at the Dr. Ross Beitzel Art Gallery, Gloucester County College, 1400 Tanyard Road, Sewell, New Jersey 08080. The exhibition opens Friday, October 26, 2012 with a reception from 6:30 – 8:30 and the show runs through November 28, 2012. Gallery hours are Mon.–Fri., 8:00 am–10:00 pm and Saturday, 8:00 am–3:00 pm. For more information contact Eoin Kinnarney, Gallery Director, 856-415-2122.

NRHS Bulletin Feature

Bulletin_Spread

I am excited about this week’s release of the National Railway Historical Society’s quarterly publication the Bulletin, in which I have a feature article about the Mainline Project. The 26-page essay explores the history, accomplishments and legacy of the Pennsylvania Railroad while examining its successors and state of operations today. Understanding the various attributes of the railroad helps to define the approach of the Mainline Project, celebrating not just the trains themselves but the landscape, physical plant and facilities associated with former Standard Railroad of the World.

The NRHS has been a figure in the preservation community since it was founded in 1935 growing from 40  members to over 13,000 people of all ages from US and abroad, making it the largest rail preservation and historical society in the country. The Bulletin represents 77 years of in-depth non-commercial coverage of Rail Preservation topics through out the rise, fall and rebirth of the American railroads.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this issue of the NRHS Bulletin please contact the National Railway Historical Society, 100 North 20th Street, Suite 400, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1462 or by email at info@nrhs.com copies are $6 each (including shipping) while supplies last.

As always thank you for your time and support!

Best regards,

Michael Froio

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.

Mainline Model for Historic Preservation: Harris Tower

Harris Tower avoided a fate most towers ultimately succumbed to after being decommissioned. Today as a result of dedicated volunteers from the Harrisburg Chapter of the NRHS, the 1930 built switch tower functions as a unique museum experience, providing visitors with a hands on understanding of tower operations and traffic management in golden age of railroading.

Harris Tower avoided a fate most towers ultimately succumbed to after being decommissioned. Today as a result of dedicated volunteers from the Harrisburg Chapter of the NRHS, the 1930 built switch tower functions as a unique museum experience, providing visitors with a hands on understanding of tower operations and traffic management in golden age of railroading.

In 1991 when Harris’s remaining functions were transferred over to State Tower, the Harrisburg Chapter of the NRHS realized the significance of this building and set out to preserve the facility in place. The initial state of affairs in the old tower was pretty sad: damaged windows, a dated electrical systems, leaky roof, a defunct heating system and an interlocking machine and board that was in rough shape made just stabilizing the building a monumental task. Under the direction of Fred Wertz former Chapter President, countless volunteer hours from members of the Harrisburg Chapter (see the complete honor roll below) were logged to bring the structure back to its original as built appearance. As work progressed on the building itself, volunteers Dan Rapak and Jeff Vinton worked to restore the Union Switch and Signal interlocking machine and its accompanying model board. Rapak and Vinton worked to free the seized electro-mechanical levers while John Smith took on the restoration of the model board. A computer-controlled system was developed to operate the magnets on the interlocking machine allowing the levers and locks on the unit to once again function properly. The concept of running virtual trains was developed to make the interlocking machine a hands on exhibit which, by way of computer simulation, a given visitor can direct trains through the “interlocking” during a typical 1943 shift. The block lines, phones, teletype and indicator bell all work as if a neighboring tower was relaying train info, complete with scripts developed and read by former tower operators, announce oncoming trains as was done in typical tower operations. The Harris Tower museum is a one of kind experience for the historian, train buff and curious observer alike. Where else can you go and have a hands on history lesson on how to manage trains and control traffic in what was one of the busier towers on the PRR system?

Detail of the restored interlocking machine and interior of Harris Tower. The operator and train director's desk in the foreground features a restored lamp and key control panel that provided the tower communications with dispatchers, line-side phone boxes and other interlocking towers. In the rear is the carefully restored Union Switch and Signal Model 14 Interlocking Machine and Model Board, the device by which switches and signals were controlled to route trains through the busy Harrisburg Station. Note the complexity of the track work through this junction, which was needed to route the many passenger and freight trains in addition to the countless light engine and switch moves that took place during the height of the PRR era.

Detail of the restored interlocking machine and interior of Harris Tower. The operator and train director's desk in the foreground features a restored lamp and key control panel that provided the tower communications with dispatchers, line-side phone boxes and other interlocking towers. In the rear is the carefully restored Union Switch and Signal Model 14 Interlocking Machine and Model Board, the device by which switches and signals were controlled to route trains through the busy Harrisburg Station. Note the complexity of the track work through this junction, which was needed to route the many passenger and freight trains in addition to the countless light engine and switch moves that took place during the height of the PRR era.

While we visited Harris Tower volunteer William Kcenich provided a great interpretive lesson on operations and the restoration. We were also joined by Chapter member Don Rittler who provided first hand knowledge of operations at Harris from his time as a block operator here. Don Rittler started his career with the Pennsylvania Railroad on October 11th, 1937 as a messenger for the interlocking towers on the PRR Philadelphia Division. The first person to be hired since the 1927 furlough of employees as a result of the Great Depression, Don worked the introductory job spending his days relaying messages and paperwork from tower to tower as needed, gaining a familiarity to the basic operations and chain of command among the many towers on the system.  On December 1st, 1940 Don posted his first position as a block operator and leverman, working the Philadelphia Division extra list, filling in at different towers. Over the years Don worked such posts as Norris, State, Harris, Cork and many others.

Don Rittler who used to work at Harris as both train director and lever man, shared many great stories and insight on the daily operation of a busy tower like Harris. Don worked for the PRR for 42 years enjoying a flawless career and the camaraderie of the many people he worked with. Rittler, now 93 is still as sharp as ever and is never shy about sharing a great story or two about his experiences on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Don Rittler who used to work at Harris as both train director and lever man, shared many great stories and insight on the daily operation of a busy tower like Harris. Don worked for the PRR for 42 years enjoying a flawless career and the camaraderie of the many people he worked with. Rittler, now 93 is still as sharp as ever and is never shy about sharing a great story or two about his experiences on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

In 1944, like many other PRR employees Rittler was summoned to serve his Country in World War II. He would be part of an Army Unit known as the 775th Railway Grand Division, centered in the Pacific Theater during the height of the War. Initially working in the Philippines operating the Manila Railway the 775th would move on to Japan to be the first front if land attacks were made to secure a rail head for military transport inland. As a result of the infamous atomic bombs, their services were not needed for this purpose but they did continue to work keeping the Japanese rail systems functional. Returning to the US a short two years later almost exactly to the day, Rittler returned to work for the PRR holding tower positions as both leverman and eventually train director for State and Harris towers near the Harrisburg Passenger Station.  Rittler, who’s father was a master machinist for the Pennsy in Enola was always fascinated with the railroad, as it was always apart of his life, with many friends, neighbors and family also employed by the PRR.

Don and his wife built a house in New Cumberland near Lemoyne and lived a great life with their daughter Donna, sharing the family like atmosphere and camaraderie of the many railroaders Don worked with on a daily basis. Don continued to work out of the Harrisburg area well into the Penn Central era eventually moving to Conrail after the 1976 consolidation. Amtrak was slowly taking over operations on the Keystone Corridor in the mid 1970’s and Don’s choices of where to work were becoming increasingly limited. Don worked day trick at Lemo Tower, which he described as a welcome break from the busy towers he was accustomed to like Harris, finishing out a spotless 42 year career in railroading in 1979. Since retirement  Don has been very gracious with his time and experience in the towers, helping the NRHS Harrisburg Chapter with the Harris reconstruction and developing the interpretive exhibit. He also on occasion visits with small groups at Harris to provide first hand working knowledge of a craft that has largely disappeared from the railroad landscape.

I wish to thank Don for sharing his time and knowledge during our visit and subsequent phone conversation, for somebody who never experienced the PRR first hand, I feel very lucky to spend time with such a warm and welcoming gentleman. Special thanks to Mr. William Seigford who accompanied us to Harris and helped facilitate our visit, and of course to Mr. Kcenich who took time out of his schedule to accommodate our group from Amtrak and John Bowie Associates. In respect to the many people and countless hours bringing Harris to life again as key museum piece in the interpretive history of railroad operations I  would like to acknowledge NRHS Harrisburg Chapter members and their contributions. A very special congratulations and thanks to everyone, you have raised the bar on historic preservation and interactive exhibits all the while saving a part of the great Pennsylvania Railroad for future generations. Bravo!

Abe Burnette: Secured parts for model board and interlocking machine, including a reproduction machine builder's plate.Ed Burns:  Interior scrapping and painting (walls and ceilings).Richard Crow: Outdoor grounds keepingTerry Gardner:  Floor tile scrapping, cleaning.  Personally purchased and replaced all broken and/or smashed floor tile out of his own pocket. Joseph Heffron: Handled some of the interior painting of window trim and other interior painting.Charles High: Secured jacks and headed the moving of interior racks.Bill Kcenich: Responsible for assigning, training, and scheduling all Chapter members who volunteer as, and are, Harris Tower docents.Matthew Loser: Handled the initial negotiations with Amtrak to secure ownership of Harris Tower for the Harrisburg Chapter, NRHS; also handled the registration process to have Harris placed on the National Register of Historic Places; had a Harris reproduction sign made for the Walnut Street side.Robert Lyter: Responsible for the main front door restoration and maintenance.John Pari: Scrapping, painting of woodwork and window trim.Daniel Rapak: Interlocking machine restoration and development of the simulation systems, restoration of original ceiling lighting fixtures,  all interior electronics, including the securing and installation of the Seth Thomas #2 wall clock reproduction.  restoration of the original dispatcher's desk and accompanying furniture.John Smith: Responsible for model board graphic restoration, the elimination of oil heat and re-installation of city supplied steam heat (as original when Harris was constructed), the removal of  brick chimney (was added when oil heating conversion was done.) and personally involved with exterior renovation, i.e. power washing, new roofing, new gutters and new downspouts.Jeff Vinton: Assisted in restoring the interlocking machine and developing the simulation systems.Fred Wertz: Former Chapter President who has been instrumental since day one, overseeing building management, parts allocations and organizing monthly work sessions.Allen Wolfinger: Responsible for the removal of all interior wiring.Gary Yanko: Responsible for all building electrical upgrades, outdoor lighting, alarm system, and building insulation.

Currently the Harris Tower Museum is open to the public every Saturday from now through the end of October 10 AM-3 PM.  To learn more about the Harrisburg NRHS Chapter and Harris Tower, please visit their website, http://harristower.org/

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.