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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

09-05-09 PHOTOS: PRR Main Line Survey 2009 - Part 2

And so begins Part 2 of my epic rear vestibule journey across Pennsylvania on the former PRR Main Line. Part 1 from ZOO to STATE can be seen at this previous post. PART two will cover CP-HARRIS to ALTO tower inclusive.

The raw photo set arranged by name for interlockings and milepost for block signals and sights can be found on this website.

So we leave Amtrak territory and enter into the former Conrail and now NS territory at CP-HARRIS. Up until about 1990 CP-HARRIS was actually an Amtrak interlocking controlled by HARRIS tower. This was a holdover from the time when freight trains running on the east side of the Susquehanna came up from the electrified main to the south through the Harrisburg station and then westward to Pittsburgh. After Conrail dumped electrified operations around 1981 it began to shift its New York terminal freight traffic to the Reading/Lehigh Valley route via Reading. The route was not only faster it avoided having to deal with Amtrak notoriously high trackage rates.

As a result HARRIS interlocking was in a somewhat awkward position being operated by Amtrak and optimized for "PRR" route traffic. Around 1990 Conrail implemented a project to take over control of HARRIS and re-align the routings to better connect with the former Reading Lebanon Valley branch, now known as the Harrisburg Line. Here we can see the NS Harrisburg Line taking the straight route, while the single connecting track to the Amtrak station branches off to the right.

Conrail chose to install Michigan Central style small target searchlight signals, which was the style at the time, and put them on a rather economical signal gantry derived from an old PRR catenary support. CP-HARRIS is also the southern end of the Harrisburg yard complex.

Just past automatic signals 107 we find the harrisburg fuel pad and engine terminal.

The entire PRR Main Line was rebuilt and re-signaled in the late 1980's, shifting the line from a 3-track operation with the original manned PRR block towers to a 2-track operation with full CTC. In most cases the original signals were kept, but at CP-ROCKVILLE this brand new 4-track PRR PL gantry was installed for westbound movements.

More recently the 3rd track was removed from the ROCKVILLE bridge due to problems with wind blowing double stack containers into the river below. The eastbound mast signals were re-configured, but NS was nice enough to replace the 3-track PL cantilever with these brand new PRR PL mast units.

Past the famous Rockville Bridge we arrive at CP-BANKS where the Enola Branch to Enola Yard splits off. Here is the eastbound PRR PL gantry with paint that not completely peeling off.

The eastbound signal at CP-CANNON is displaying a restricting aspect as we had just passed an intermodal train. This is about where the main line will leave the Susquehanna river valley for the Juniata River valley.

Freight traffic on the Main Line often comes in waves. Here another intermodal train is passing under the #121 automatic as it approaches the previous signal at CP-CANNON.

This train was followed by a third, mixed freight, which contained a load of export tractors bound for Baltimore.

New switches had been installed at CP-PORT since my trip in Nov 2008, but luckily the pneumatic point machines had been remained.

The former PRR Middle Division saw a lot of these double sided PRR Pl mast signals installed when the line was re-signaled. These have stood strong as the former PRR gantries are gradually removed for structural reasons.

CP-THOMPSON was a new basic crossover interlocking built in the 1980's CTC conversion to fill in a long stretch between former block stations.

In the 1990's Conrail began to slowly replace some of the older PRR signal bridges with simple target type colour light masts. Here is an example at MP 148 with an HBD-DED in the foreground.

 The PL mast signals at CP-MIFFLIN were looking freshly painted even if the former PL gantry on the other end had recently been replaced.

The 3-track section west of CP-MIFFLIN sports another of the new-install tubular aluminum gantries.

The 3-track section ends at CP-HAWSTONE.

At the Lewistown station stop another intermodal train was passing by. Here seen next to one of CP-LEWIS' eastbound position light masts with the historic station building in the background.

This train was mostlyy COFC. Here we see the end of the train as we pass by the small Lewistown freight yard.

 An ironically short distance from CP-LEWIS is CP-LONG which ends the temporary third track.

WTF another train at the MP 172 automatics!

Like CP-THOMPSON, CP-McVEY was another infill crossover interlocking, but at some point a brand new PL mast was installed, probably due to derailment damage.

I guess its not surprising given the amount of rust that the eastbound PRR gantry at CP-JACKS is about to be replaced. Shame as the lower signal heads are of the original PRR design that use only a partial backing for the | row. NS is really hung up on the cantilever mast instead of full gantries, even when it means building the support in the unused part of the trackbed.

Speaking of the right of way, you can see at some of the signal bridges the original 4-track alignment. Here at the 193 automatic the curve forced the remaining two tracks to stick to their original arcs. This is the distant to CP-JACKS.

A coal train rumbles past just past the MP 200 automatics. This is 200 miles from Suburban Station in Philadelphia or about the same distance from New York to Washington DC. The slow coal trains were clearly released after the higher priority intermodal and mixed freight trains as The Pennsylvanian would have made "double barrel" passing difficult.

CP-HUNT in Huntington, PA sports its original PRR interlocking tower now preserved as a museum. HUNT tower was preserved due to its substantial brick construction compared with the wood construction of the other towers on the line. The Huntington Amtrak station is within the interlocking limits and trains on #1 track could in theory cross over and back within CP-HUNT to reach the single platform.

The PRR signal bridge at MP 206 was replaced by type NS mast signals for structural reasons in 2002 or 2003, but it took them 5 years to actually get around to remove the derelict structure. Note another HBD-DED.

CP-TUNNEL was where the main line separated into two alignments for each of the twin Spruce Creek tunnels, but today only one tunnel is in use so the interlocking is just a simple crossover.

 The left bore was enlarged for double stacks in the 1994 clearance project. The right bore was then abandoned.

 Between the tunnels and Tyrone the Main Line crosses over the Juniata river several times. Here is one instance at the MP215 automatics.

 The Tyrone station sports PRR heritage signs and appears to have recently benefited from some grant money.

At CP-GRAY we enter the 3-track racetrack that runs all the way to Altoona with 80mph speeds.

Mirror mirror on the wall, which is the most famous signal on the PRR Middle Division? Well with the replacement of the signals at Cove, that distinction falls to the Fostoria gantry at MP 227. While signals at MP 225 and MP 300 also cover 3 tracks and in the case of MP 230, are tubular aluminum, the Fostoria signals are easy accessible via grade crossing and because 4-block signaling is in effect eastbound, those on 1 and 2 track are usually both displaying Approach Medium. Today the signal on #2 track is displaying Clear for an approaching movement.

Anyway, here's that intermodal train I mentioned.

CP-ANTIS is the eastern access to the Altoona yard. Here we see the eastbound gantry. This interlocking is remote ALTO tower. 

 Conrail reconstructed the Altoona hump yard track, seen here passing over main, only to completely abandon it shortly there after.

All you Simpsons fans might like this, its CP-HOMER, also R-ALTO.

A coal tranin was getting read to depart eastbound at CP-ROSE.

Now things get fun as we begin to run along side the famous Altoona shoppes deadline with such old locomotives as...Conrail geeps....

 Southern RR high short hood SD-40s....

Union Pacific SD-40's....

NS SD70M-2's....errr, uhoh, that's not good. 

Getting close to wrapping it up here, here we have CP-WORKS which provide access to the west end of Altooma yard and the Altoona shoppe complex.

This monolithic tubular cantilever mast was a 1970's PC or Conrail addition. CP-WORKS is also R-ALTO.

In case you forgot here is what the stretch from CP-ANTS to CP-WORKS (+ Fostoria) looks like at night.

We reach ALTO interlocking. The Amtrak station is in the background left and the Altoona RR museum on the background right. My train makes the diverging move from 3tk onto 3tk.

My train then passes under the Penn Central era I-beam signal gantry.

And then in front of the still active ALTO tower, which recently received a fresh coat of paint.

Finally we pass by ALTO's eastbound home signal mast with the eastbound gantry for #3 track and the industrial track in the background. ALTO interlocking is designed to facilitate the attachment and removal of helper engines and thus has an interlocked pocket track in the middle of the plant.

From here to CP-CONPUT the Line will continue as three tracks up and over the Allegheny front via the Horseshoe curve and then down the West Slope into Pittsburgh, but that is all to come in Part 3.

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