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Thursday, July 3, 2008

08-07-03 PHOTOS: Holmesburg Junction

No, it doesn't have anything to do with the famous detective, but last summer I was able to visit HOMLES tower in Holmesburg Junction Pennsylvania and took a number of photos there that I thought you might be interested in. If the format of this port is a little off it was because it was originally geared toward a British signaling site.

HOLMES is one of the typical late model Pennsylvania Railroad towers built from the mid 30's onward. It's its sisters up and down the Northeast Corridor between Philadelphia and New York it features all brick construction and no bay window, which was a PRR tower trademark until this time. HOLMES is interesting in that it was constructed as part of the station building, the station part is still serving in its intended function.

As you can see from its interlocking diagram HOLMES is a nearly complete 4-track crossover (later made complete) built in 1947, making it one of the last classic towers constructed on the NEC. In addition to serving as a crossover point it handled the junction with the industrial Bussleton Branch and a number goods tracks on either side of the main line. The PRR rebuilt most of the interlockings along the NEC in the 30's and 40's replacing older wooden towers, installing segments of bi-directional trackage and 45mph turnouts. HOLMES was equipped with a PRR standard 31 lever US&S model 14 power frame.

The tower remained open well into the Amtrak years and was able to handle bi-directional operation on the center express tracks and a training crossover between 2 and 3 tracks to complete the layout. Around 1993 HOLMES was finally closed and automated, although it retained a number of interesting features such as pneumatic switch machines and full gantries of complete US&S model PL-3 position light signals.

Today HOLMES is one of a dwindling number (2) of complete 4-track pneumatic crossover interlockings on the NEC and I my trip was to document it before Amtrak decided to ruin it as they had with HOOK back in 2007. So I got pictures of the air plaint and the air line and the model CP air value units for the points (one of which looks like it was taken from elsewhere as it has a #110 lever number cast into its top). The main line 45mph turnouts are each powered by two US&S model A-5 pneumatic point machines.

 The #45 turnout is subject to its own bulletin order after a box car got loose on the Bussleton branch and rolled through the interlocking and onto the unused #5 track. The order states that dispatchers must keep the 45# turnout lined for the 5tk until needed for a movement in order to have it function as a form of power derail and prevent runaways from getting lose onto the main line.

HOLMES has an interesting parking situation with a small number of spaces cramped right up against the Bustleton Branch, which cuts through the parking lot. N00b station users often park in or get sideswiped by local freight trains. 

The station provides an excellent place to take pictures of NEC passenger trains moving at full clip (125mph). On this trip I caught a Reagional hauled by HHP-8 #668...

...and and ACELA pulled by 2036.

 Here is a video of an Amtrak Regional at HOLMES.

Even tho the home signals are typically fleeted, they can provide useful information and the presence of the Restricting aspect (\) makes tall 4 signal heads rather photogenic. .

Although the tower is closed and its windows are having some issues it is in no danger of demolition and probably sees use by the C&S department. The only real danger for HOLMES is the eventual replacement of its pneumatic switches. The US&S PL-3 signals will probably see an LED upgrade, but should avoid replacement by Safetran units.

Actually getting out was HOMLES was also important as I was able to take some pictures of the K section of ZOO interlocking before it was ruined by SEPTA. This includes the old 30R and 32R signals.

My train got a SLOW APPROACH onto the Berry Track for the run in front of ZOO tower.

This involved running over what was left of the K-ladder with two double slip switches over the 36th st connection.

Since my last trip over the Berry freight tracks due to a Misroute back in 2003, the #2 Berry has been taken out of service and trains have to run reverse on the #3 Berry. The Berry tracks run directly in front of ZOO and were the freight connection from the N/B NEC to the High Line.

We re-entered the NEC at the Pittsburgh Subway connection at GIRARD interlocking. and then crossed the Schukull River bridge to MANUTA interlocking.

We got a Medium Clear at MANTUA and crossed over to the local track.

All of this was scheduled to take 20 minutes to go from 30th St to North Philly. We actually arrived a little early and sat around at North Philly for about 5 minutes. On my trip back from HOMLES i got off at North Philly with Chuchubob and caught a train of Silverliner II's and III's waiting as our train had.

 Video of the Silverliner train departing North Philly.

 We also caught a regional heading through the station.

And some action with the new LED signals as our train pulled out.

The last part of the trip involves taking the BSS to Snyder station for some pics of the now closed Snyder tower. Desoite being just a crossover, Snyder had a US&S Model 14 interlocking machine. The manned tower somehow survived the Identra upgrades of the 80's. Snyder used to be the terminus of the line until the sports complex extension was built in the early 70's.

Thanks for watching, questions welcome.

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