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.

Harrisburg Terminal: Enola Yard

West end of Enola Yard showing the departure end of the westbound hump, this yard was rebuilt in 2003 by Norfolk Southern to reinstate hump yard operations due to traffic demands on the former PRR system.

West end of Enola Yard showing the departure end of the westbound hump, this yard was rebuilt in 2003 by Norfolk Southern to reinstate hump yard operations due to traffic demands on the former PRR system.

Part of the 1902 mainline improvements project the Enola Terminal served as a western anchor for President A. J. Cassatt’s low grade freight line to funnel freight from the west to the eastern ports of New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Situated at the eastern end of the original mainline, Enola channeled traffic from all directions and at one time was the largest such facility in the Country. Constructed on the former Northern Central directly across from Harrisburg, the facility came on line in 1905 with construction continuing for several years. Oriented north-south on a large parcel of land along the west bank of the Susquehanna the facility stretches over 3 miles in length and once contained 145 miles of track and 476 switches. As typical freight sorting yards are designed, Enola was built with two receiving yards to handle arriving traffic from the east and west, two separate hump yards to sort traffic and construct outbound trains, and relay tracks for trains staying intact like coal or other mineral traffic that require staging or crew/ motive power changes. In the center of the complex were extensive engine facilities for both electric, steam and later diesels included a running repair shop, two turntables, and a 54 stall roundhouse. In addition the facility also had a full car repair and fabrication shop which prior to the 1956 opening of the Sam Rea Shops in Hollidaysburg was a major facility for constructing steel freight cars for the PRR. Later alterations included addition of a diesel shop in the late 1940’s and a container yard for containerized less than car-load service (LCL) service.

Terminal overview circa 1956

Terminal overview circa 1956

Plate drawing of the westbound classification yards circa 1963. Note the reference to the Northern Central in regard to the tracks running across the top of the map against the Susquehanna. Although the PRR had absorbed the the NC operations the name was still a fixture in Harrisburg area 60 years later. The westbound facility is where NS reinstated hump service after Conrail ceased operations in the 1990's.   Track Charts collection of  The Broad Way website

Plate drawing of the westbound classification yards circa 1963. Note the reference to the Northern Central in regard to the tracks running across the top of the map against the Susquehanna. Although the PRR had absorbed the the NC operations the name was still a fixture in Harrisburg area 60 years later. The westbound facility is where NS reinstated hump service after Conrail ceased operations in the 1990's. Track Charts collection of The Broad Way website

As the western anchor of the Atglen and Susquehanna Low Grade, Columbia Branch and Columbia & Port Deposit, electric traction handled freight from the east upon completion of the landmark electrification project in 1938. The entire westbound receiving yard was under catenary allowing entire electric powered trains to arrive without assistance from yard crews. In contrast, the eastbound relay and hump tracks were only wired on the far-east end to facilitate departures utilizing electric locomotives.

Plate drawing of the eastbound classification yards circa 1963. Plate drawing of the eastbound classification yards circa 1963.  Track Charts collection of  The Broad Way website

Plate drawing of the eastbound classification yards circa 1963. Plate drawing of the eastbound classification yards circa 1963.Track Charts collection of The Broad Way website

The facility was revised and expanded as traffic warranted with a World War II capacity of the east and west facilities each handling 5000 cars per day utilizing state of the art Union Switch and Signal car retarder systems helping to control and automate freight car sorting requiring less people while improving efficiency. Pre-War traffic averaged less than 10,000 freight cars a day, but at the peak of WWII traffic in 1942, Enola Terminal processed up to 20,661 cars in a 24 hour period!

Westbound mixed freight departing Enola from one of five running tracks connecting to the Rockville interlocking complex just to the north.

Westbound mixed freight departing Enola from one of five running tracks connecting to the Rockville interlocking complex just to the north.

After the war, traffic levels decreased and the revision and expansion of the PRR facility in Conway just west of Pittsburgh was completed. Enola began to loose work in a system wide effort to reduce car handling and cut costs. Since then Enola has survived several service reductions and closures under PRR predecessors Conrail an Norfolk Southern. The facility was reborn in a smaller capacity in 2003 when Norfolk Southern began utilizing hump switching for mixed freight once again. Though not quite the facility it used to be, the engine terminal is still responsible for running repairs and inspections for the NS diesel fleet, being one of only  three such locations in the Northeast region to carry out these tasks. Today Enola continues to provide many jobs to the local economy as both a crew change point for run through and originating traffic for five general road and yard crew pools.

Current sorting operations focus around the former westbound classification yard (background) that Norfolk Southern rebuilt in 2003. Note the proximity of the facility to the beautiful Susquehanna River.

Current sorting operations focus around the former westbound classification yard (background) that Norfolk Southern rebuilt in 2003. Note the proximity of the facility to the beautiful Susquehanna River.

Harrisburg Terminal: Rockville

Gateway from the West and North

The famous Rockville Bridge is at the center of the Rockville interlocking complex. Rockville bridge, completed in 1902   is the largest masonry arch railroad viaduct in the World measuring in at 3280 feet in length.

The famous Rockville Bridge is at the center of the Rockville interlocking complex. Rockville bridge, completed in 1902 is the largest masonry arch railroad viaduct in the World measuring in at 3280 feet in length.

Though Rockville Bridge is a well noted landmark on the Pennsylvania Railroad, the entire facility associated with that name deserves a close examination. The junction, simply know as Rockville was a complex interlocking that was essentially shaped like a large "H" on both the east and west Side of the Susquehanna River, the bridge spanning the river in between. From the west on the mainline, Banks Tower in Marysville, would set up traffic to Rockville for a number of different scenarios. The two most common, freight arriving or leaving Enola Yard, or traffic to and from the bridge and Harrisburg. At Banks the complex junction began with running tracks dropping below grade between the mainline, essentially "ducking under" the route to Harrisburg so as not to interrupt traffic flow at the west end of Rockville Bridge. This simple concept that we now take for granted in highway construction was something that the PRR developed to keep passenger and freight traffic fluid while sharing the same track system.

Banks located at milepost 113.2 controlled a set of uni-directional crossovers from D track (Westbound Enola Departure) across to the Harrisburg eastbound #1 Track to handle normal east west traffic and arrival and departures from the Enola Yard. What also made Banks unique was that its status as the Division boundary between the Harrisburg Division and Allegheny Division. It was appropriately named for its location on the west bank of the Susquehanna River in the town of Marysville  .   Map circa 1963. Track Charts collection of  T  he Broad Way Website

Banks located at milepost 113.2 controlled a set of uni-directional crossovers from D track (Westbound Enola Departure) across to the Harrisburg eastbound #1 Track to handle normal east west traffic and arrival and departures from the Enola Yard. What also made Banks unique was that its status as the Division boundary between the Harrisburg Division and Allegheny Division. It was appropriately named for its location on the west bank of the Susquehanna River in the town of MarysvilleMap circa 1963. Track Charts collection of The Broad Way Website

Rockville West as it was sometimes referred to, was the more complex and remote part of the junction, providing connection with the massive Enola Yard complex, at one time the largest on the PRR system. The mainline and yard leads to Enola essentially run North - South here along the west bank. At Rockville West the mainline comes up and over the yard leads and turns left onto the beautiful Rockville Bridge, the third bridge built here by the PRR. Much of this infrastructure including the early Enola Yard, flying junction, and the Rockville Bridge itself, comes from a landmark improvements project under the leadership of PRR President Alexander Cassatt, and Chief Engineer William H Brown. The trademark cut masonry retaining walls, bridges and brick lined tunnels are beautiful examples of Brown's preference of these materials, and have become a case study for his belief that this construction style would last a very long time.

View of mainline tracks in immediate foreground and distant background. The space in between is the running tracks that connect from Enola Yard to Banks Tower in Marysville about a mile to the west (left). This area was also the original site of the Northern Central's freight terminal, and later auxiliary yard to Enola, used primarily to handle and reverse trains off the Williamsport Line prior to the 1939 installation of the "B track" to facilitate moves from the east directly into Enola.

View of mainline tracks in immediate foreground and distant background. The space in between is the running tracks that connect from Enola Yard to Banks Tower in Marysville about a mile to the west (left). This area was also the original site of the Northern Central's freight terminal, and later auxiliary yard to Enola, used primarily to handle and reverse trains off the Williamsport Line prior to the 1939 installation of the "B track" to facilitate moves from the east directly into Enola.

Plate drawing of the sprawling Rockville Interlocking. The diagonal line from bottom left to top right is the mainline, the center diagonal segment representing the actual bridge over the Susquehanna. The line coming from the wye (top center) and moving to the top left is the line to Nothumberland and Williamsport, and the bottom right, the Enola Yard Complex. You will note in both of these plate drawings signs of a struggling railroad are evident with the reduction of the mainline from 4 to three tracks and the single tracking of the Williamsport Line. Map circa 1963.   Track Charts collection of  T  he Broad Way Website

Plate drawing of the sprawling Rockville Interlocking. The diagonal line from bottom left to top right is the mainline, the center diagonal segment representing the actual bridge over the Susquehanna. The line coming from the wye (top center) and moving to the top left is the line to Nothumberland and Williamsport, and the bottom right, the Enola Yard Complex. You will note in both of these plate drawings signs of a struggling railroad are evident with the reduction of the mainline from 4 to three tracks and the single tracking of the Williamsport Line. Map circa 1963. Track Charts collection of The Broad Way Website

Opened in 1902, W H Brown's Rockville Bridge is the longest masonry arch railroad viaduct in the world. Taking three years to complete the 3820′ long span is made of 48 seventy foot arched spans over the Susquehanna River. At the base of the west abutment the "B Track" was added in 1939 to allow Enola traffic access east to the Harrisburg Yard and more importantly the Northern Division by way of the line to Northumberland.

On the east bank of the River there was a uni-directional crossover from the Eastbound #1 Track to Westbound #4 Track, and connection to the north leg of a wye that provided access to the line to Williamsport. Continuing to the East the other side of the cross-over from the Williamsport lead across to #1 track allowed traffic on and off the Williamsport Line from the East. Inside the area of this junction sometimes referred to Rockville East stood the interlocking tower. Originally built in 1898, it was the third in this general location, originally utilizing a mechanical plant to control switches and signals. In 1942 the interlocking complex was rebuilt with a standard Model 14 Union Switch and Signal 43 lever elecro-pneumatic interlocking plant. The tower lasted into the Conrail era until 1986 when it met its demise with Conrail's efforts to close towers and implement Centralized Traffic Control on the former PRR lines.

View looking north (railroad west). Abandoned "D" track Tunnel under the Westbound Mainline from Harrisburg at Rockville West.

View looking north (railroad west). Abandoned "D" track Tunnel under the Westbound Mainline from Harrisburg at Rockville West.

Today this bridge and a scaled down version of the Rockville Interlocking still faithfully serves the Norfolk Southern Corporation seeing heavy freight traffic and a round trip of daily Amtrak NYC-Pittsburgh service. While the track layout has been altered over the years, changing from the original 4 track system, to three, to the current two track layout, the approach infrastructure and the bridge’s appearance is still just as impressive.

The Pennsylvania Railroad's Harrisburg Terminal : A Historical Overview

Grid highlighting upcoming posts of the various facilities that served the Pennsylvania Railroad in Harrisburg.

Grid highlighting upcoming posts of the various facilities that served the Pennsylvania Railroad in Harrisburg.

Dating back to the original charter of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1846, Harrisburg has long been host to the Standard Railroad of the World, beginning with the original mainline from the State Capitol, west to the city of Pittsburgh. Under the leadership of J. Edgar Thompson the PRR expanded South to Baltimore and North to Williamsport via control of the Northern Central Railway. East to Philadelphia with connections to New York City via the failed State owned Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad and Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Mt Joy and Lancaster Railroad Company, and finally southwest by way of the Cumberland Valley Railroad.

While this early hub of activity was growing, expansion would soon be needed to alleviate traffic through the busy terminal. Enter Alexander J. Cassatt and his landmark 1898-1902 system improvements carried out by Chief Engineer William H Brown. These improvements introduced standardization of the physical plant, the expansion to the trademark four track “Broadway” mainline, grade separation projects and construction of sophisticated junctions allowing continuous freight and passenger movements with minimal interruption. New terminals were also built to better suit the modern needs of a growing nation. When complete, Cassatt and Brown effectively re-engineered the PRR to carry the company through the future.

PRR system map circa 1957, illustrating the importance of Harrisburg among the connection of various Divisions.

PRR system map circa 1957, illustrating the importance of Harrisburg among the connection of various Divisions.

Later upgrades under PRR President Martin M. Clement completed electrification of both passenger and freight lines to Harrisburg in 1938, helping to increase travel times, capacity and reduce labor costs. At its peak, Harrisburg was a crossroads of four operating divisions the Williamsport, Middle, Philadelphia and Maryland Divisions, creating a hub where all destinations on the system could be accessed via various routing through the terminal area.

The Harrisburg area flourished through WWII with the Enola Freight Terminal processing an all time record of 20,660 freight cars in one day in June of 1943! Post war traffic levels declined and the railroads were left with battered track, worn out equipment and new found competition from airlines and the tractor-trailer. As railroads tried to recover and rebuild, the downward slide continued, and on that fateful day of February 1st 1968 two long time rivals, the Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central merged. Through continued financial problems, government regulations, and one massive incompatible system that was to big for the current rail market, the PC spiraled downward, and in 1970 made the record books, being the largest corporate bankruptcy case in U.S. history. This bankruptcy was the final step in spurring the effort of government intervention to save a struggling national passenger rail network, thus Amtrak was created removing the burden of passenger trains from the freight carriers. Finally while operating under bankruptcy protection the PC was organized into merger with six other bankrupt railroads to liquidate excess properties and form one solvent rail transportation network in the region. Beginning operations on April 1st 1976, Conrail rose from the ashes with a less than ideal start, but eventually became a successful private company serving the Northeast region with connections to Canada, the South, Detroit, Chicago and St Louis.

Conrail map of the Harrisburg Terminal Area circa 1984. In the map it becomes evident how the PRR dominated the area over the Reading Company, which is represented by the line starting at Rutherford Yard and heading straight across(left to right) to the Lurgan Sub. This line today is what funnels Norfolk Southern traffic from the East. Amtrak lines are represented in dotted lines moving from Harrisburg proper to the South East (bottom right). Note all predecessor line are noted in parentheses.

Conrail map of the Harrisburg Terminal Area circa 1984. In the map it becomes evident how the PRR dominated the area over the Reading Company, which is represented by the line starting at Rutherford Yard and heading straight across(left to right) to the Lurgan Sub. This line today is what funnels Norfolk Southern traffic from the East. Amtrak lines are represented in dotted lines moving from Harrisburg proper to the South East (bottom right). Note all predecessor line are noted in parentheses.

During the early 1980's several events took place that forever changed the relationship of Conrail and Amtrak operating on the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak’s tragic collision with a Conrail locomotive at speed in Chase MD caused fall out nobody could have expected and accelerated the push for the separation of freight and passenger traffic in many regions where they would once routinely share the road. Conrail shifted remaining traffic from New York and Philadelphia off the PRR mainline (now Amtrak’s Harrisburg Line) and the Atglen and Susquehanna Branch to the former Lehigh Valley and Reading Company mainlines. Electrified freight service was discontinued and a major consolidation of facilities took place. While the Reading main became the choice line to Harrisburg, Enola Yard survived as the railroad's primary terminal in the area. Conrail later focused on redeveloping the Harrisburg Yard for intermodal trains and run through re-crew and refueling facilities. Tracks were stripped from the Cumberland Valley Bridge favoring the neighboring Reading viaduct over the Susquehanna River and the remains of the PRR Hagerstown Line became a branch ending near Carlisle PA, with a new connection to the Reading Lurgan Sub in Camp Hill. Though the Columbia and Port Deposit still funnels freight to Baltimore via the Amtrak connection at Perryville, Maryland freight activity is limited to a night time window to avoid passenger traffic on the line.

Today after the Conrail split between eastern giants Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation, the dust settled and NS prevailed on the former PRR / Reading properties in Harrisburg. Enola has been rebuilt and is used for blocking and classification of freights while the Harrisburg yard and the former Rutherford Facilities (Reading) are used for intermodal and crew changes. Amtrak has just completed a major rebuild of the Keystone Corridor to Philadelphia and for the first time in 20 years the electric traction system is used regularly for hourly service with Amtrak’s venerable AEM-7s and tubular Amfleet cars, capped with rebuilt Metroliner cab cars for push pull operation. The beautiful Harrisburg train station still retains its herringbone brick platforms and original 1887 train shed serving as the western anchor for the New York - Harrisburg service and the daily round trip of the Pennsylvanian, the last remaining passenger train to make the trek over the former PRR mainline west to Pittsburgh.

Next time we will begin to explore the key points and facilities in the Harrisburg area, to understand how the PRR managed traffic through this busy area and how facilities function today in Norfolk Southern's transportation network.

Mainline Tour - Harrisburg to Philadelphia

Map of the Pennsylvania Railroad Philadelphia Division. This map illustrates the entire division including mainline, branches and secondary tracks in the region between Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and the Cumberland Valley via Hagerstown Maryland.

Map of the Pennsylvania Railroad Philadelphia Division. This map illustrates the entire division including mainline, branches and secondary tracks in the region between Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and the Cumberland Valley via Hagerstown Maryland.

Over the next few months, we will be following the mainline of the former Pennsylvania Railroad on a tour moving east from Harrisburg to Philadelphia, exploring the landscape, physical plant and facilities along the line. In addition to the mainline, we will follow the Atglen and Susquehanna Low Grade, Enola Branch, Royalton Branch and some of the Columbia and Port Deposit line too. This work represents the past year of collaboration with Amtrak and was a sizable piece of railroad to cover in such a short time. For this segment there are currently over 250 photographs, and there will be more to come while I work to fill in a few gaps.

Beginning this Friday our first series of posts will cover the Harrisburg Terminal area. This historic and pivotal location on the PRR was significant as the origin of the initial construction to Pittsburgh in 1852 later continuing to grow and thrive with the company's development. Serving Amtrak and Norfolk Southern today, the Capitol City of the Commonwealth has been host to countless freight and passenger trains over the past 160 years.