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Saturday, June 30, 2007

07-06-30 PHOTOS: Last Days of BRIGHTON PARK

Back in July I took an Amtrak trip out to Chicago for the express purpose of taking photos at Brighton Park Crossing. For those of you who do not know Brighton Park was rather special. As far as I know it was the last instance of mechanically operated semaphore signals on an active railroad in the United States (there is still a crew operated semaphore diamond crossing signal in British Columbia). Brighton Park technically wasn't even an interlocking. It was a non-interlocked crossing at grade manned by a switchtender. Right now it consisted of 10 diamonds. The two track former Alton RR line used by Amtrak and Metra Heritage Corridor trains and CN freights crosses a two track NS main, former the PRR Panhandle Division, a two track CSX main formerly the B&OCT and a single track NS industrial spur. If you think this is complex, it's nothing compared with what Brighton Park looked like back in the day.

The switchtender at Brighton Park operated a number of semaphore signals mounted on a bracket mast and a regular mast. The blades were directly operated from the mechanical lever frame in the tender's shanty via a system of pipelines and cranks. All trains approaching Brighton Park had to come to a full stop. The tender would then signal permission to occupy the crossing via the semaphores. Each semaphore represented a specific track and direction. The tender was also responsible for lining the switches north of the crossing for NS trains to cross the CSX main to then get to the industrial spur via a diagonal track.

Here is some more information about Brighton Park at the Chicago Rail Junctions page, and some additional photos courtesy John Roma.

Anyway, the reason Brighton Park hung around for so long in this archaic configuration was because the three railroads involved could never agree on who would pick up the tab for interlocking the crossing. Furthermore, no railroad wanted to cede dispatching to one of the others and risk getting screwed over priority wise. The tender at Brighton Park routed the trains on a FCFS basis, except for scheduled Amtrak and Metra trains which were given priority.

Eventually Norfolk Southern was responsible for the rebuild and took over dispatching the crossing. The other driving factor was that the Brighton Park diamonds needed replacing and the whole crossing had sunk down into the roadbed over the past 70 or 80 years and needed to be completely re-graded.

I decided to hit up Brighton Park early Sunday Morning after staying in a hotel with Pigs in the Loop. We got out there around 9 or 10 am and the weather couldn't have been better. We were not alone. A spike of railfans had already gathered, some driving in from as far as Toronto. There were also construction crews doing their thing for the July 6th rebuild date.

Anyway, I should probably cut the chit chat and cut to the photos.

You can find them all here:

And those too lazy to click around on their own can enjoy a guided tour.

First we have Brighton Park as seen from above from the adjacent CTA Orange Line. New cantilever signal is in the foreground next to the CTA substation. The BP shanty and semaphore bracket is behind. You can see the diamonds and an NS freight waiting for clearance to occupy the crossing.

I got there just in the nick of time to see this Amtrak Lincoln service train with P42DC #122 rumble across the diamonds. I am kicking myself for not getting some video of this.

After the Amtrak cleared up NS C40-9W #8911 was granted entry to the crossing...

...via the semaphores on the simple mast.

The Brighton Park mast was easily accessible and stood next to the entrance signal on the Alton line. Brighton Park was literally a black hole in the signaling system and trains on the Alton needed signals to re-enter the land of CTC.

07-06-30 PHOTOS: Chicago From Above

Here's another little blurb of pics from my trip to Chicago. They consist of be running around taking some night shots as well as the photos I took from the Sears Tower. Using the 10x optical zoom on my camera I was able to zoom in to many of the area rail terminals and interlockings.

When I went to Chicago with American Pig he had the assiduity to insist that we do some "NON" railfan activities. These includes some walks up the Magnificent Mile to the old Chicago Water Tower, visiting Buckingham Fountain, Millennium Park and the Navy Pier.

We also had to talk a nighttime walk up the mile, but that let me go down and take some pics of Chicago's lower level. Interesting how Chicago was able to elevate on top of its previous incarnations while New York City is still at ground level.

You can find all of the photos at:

This is a smaller upload so its pretty manageable to get through them all.

As usual here are some samples.

Here's the Buckingham Fountain of Married With Children fame. Today it changes colours using LED lamps.

Hancock Tower and Water Tower in the daytime.

  ...and the same at night.

Friday, June 29, 2007

07-06-29 PHOTOS: CTA - Metra UP West

Continuing on with my Chicago trip with American Pig, after dropping our stuff off at the Hotel we decided to ride some of the Chicago El and a Metra line. Wanting to see how Mayor Daley's efforts to gentrify the Cermak area by attracting Communists was goin we rode the new Pink Line out and back, stopping off at Clinton to take some pictures of the CNW station. On the return trip from Cermak we changed to a Green Line train at Ashland and rode it out to the end of the line at Harlem Lake. There we transfered over to the Metra UP West Line at Oak Park to catch a train back to Chicago.

I was able to use the gallery cab car's railfan window to good effect taking pictures of KEDZIE interlocking, TOWER A-2 at Western Ave and the semaphores at Lake Street interlocking right before the Chicago Northwestern Station.

Anyway, there are quite a lot of photos and you can see them all here.

There are going to be a good deal of high-lite pics so hold onto your DSL connection.

Green Line train a Wabash with a Boeing 2400 series car #2501.

The famous CTA Tower 18 with another 2400 series Green Line train approaching over the Lake St drawbridge.

Pink Line trains pass before Ashland with Budd 2600 series train #3013 in the lead.  Ashland affords a spectacular view of the downtown behind a classic elevated transit line.

Pink Line train turns off at Ashland with 2200 series Budd #2206 in the rear.

Patriotic 2400's are still running on the Green Line with #2530.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

07-06-28 PHOTOS: Riding the Lake Shore Limited

This summer around the first of July I took a trip to Chicago with fellow Subchatter American/Spider Pig. The purpose of the trip was to go and see BRIGHTON PARK crossing before it was ruined by the powers that be. However I also got to do some CTA riding as well as walk around Chicago.

I caught the LSL at Penn and then picked up Pigs at Buffalo "Pepe" DePew station. Using the "loud conversation/cellphone" loophole we were able to spend a good deal of time in the rear vestibule and after waking up around South Bend I took a good deal of photos as she dashed in to Chicago.

I was happy to see that the PRR PL gantries at CP-509 (Quad Draws) were still in place, but 21ST ST had been completely ruined with all the air switches turned electric.

This is the first of around 4-5 batches of photos from this trip. I should have the next one ready in a week or so.

You can see all of the photos at:

Or just be lazy and see a few here.

Three sleepers and a real diner on the LSL at Albany.

CP-482 at Porter where the Amtrak Michigan Line joins the Chicago Line.  CP-482 is notable for its use of small target Michigan Central style searchlight signals on modern tubular signal gantries

 PRR signal bridge at CP-506.

 Brand new NS SD70M-2 #2749 waiting with a doublestack train at CP-509.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

07-06-16 PHOTOS: West Jersey NRHS Visits Baltimore

Back in Mid-June the West Jersey Chapter of the NRHS lead by Subchatter Chuchubob paid a visit to Baltimore to ride the Light Rail, Metro Subway and visit the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. I helped out as best I could leading the group to a lunch venue and keeping people from getting lost. The trip was somewhat hampered by taking an unnecessarily late Amtrak train and some poor mobility of various trip participants.

The basic schedule was to take the Light Rail from Mt Royal to Timonium and then back down to Penn Station. From there we went and got lunch before visiting the BSM for a few hours. At that point the group hobbled to the State Center Metro Station for a ride out to Owens Mills and to Lexington Market. Finally the group made a quick swing by Camden Yards before finally returning to Penn Station.

You can see the pictures I took at:

And of course some examples.

This Amtrak HHP-8 has its rear view mirror or sun visor deployed.

Inbound Light Rail train arriving at Mt Royal with LRV #5052

 LRV's 5012 passes 5050 at Mt Royal.

Our light rail train at Timonium with LRV #5021.

#4533 and #1164 were providing the service at the BSM.

Monday, June 4, 2007

07-06-04 PHOTOS: South Jersey Circle

ay back in June I was able to convince Chuchubob into meeting me at 30th St station and then driving me around all over South Jersey. In return he got my usual creativity, navigating skills and general good luck. The stops on the tour were Woodbury where we caught some freight action and then to Paulsboro to see the recently automated Paulsboro movable bridge and then onto the SMS Yard in Pureland, NJ and from there we headed across the Commodore Barry Bridge to Marcus Hook, PA where we hung out at the SEPTA Station before moving onto the nearby HOOK Tower for some additional pictures. Finally, we went back to New Jersey for some photos at the Conrail Paulsboro yard.

We were lucky in that we caught a freight train doing some switching at CP-WOODBURY and then at Marcus Hook we saw another freight go through the station on its way to the industrial track off of HOOK interlocking. Of course we saw a great deal of Baldwins at the SMS yard, but you don't need any luck for that. The weather was pretty crummy, but it was the only day I was going to have off from work for railfanning so I couldn't be picky.

You can find all these wonderful pics at:

And for all of your lazy bums here are some samples.

Amtrak 911 from the 30th St Parking carhole showing the roof components.

CSX freight on the hi-line with C44-10W #5471 in the lead.

This was a first for me. Actually seeing a signal displayed at CP-WOODBURY, in this case a Restricting indication down onto the Penns Grove Secondary, which is DCS territory.

NS GP40-2 #3022 taking the signal at CP-WOODBURY

#3022 looking the other way.

SMS ( Switching Management Service) Baldwin AS-616 #554 in Reading colors switching cars at Pureland.