Tower Architecture

“CW Cabin” – Hinton, West Virginia – Chesapeake & Ohio – Robert Staples photo

Railroads today are very standardized in their operations and equipment. It is very difficult to distinguish one railroad from another other than by their paint scheme. Things were different in the golden age of railroading. The railroads were very different from each other in terms of operating practices, the equipment used to move freight, and even the structures used to support operations such as depots or interlocking towers.

I will cover just the general look and design that the railroads followed most of the time. Please keep in mind that there were always exceptions to the rules.

Each railroad’s towers had their distinctive look and most followed a standard design or plan, but even within the same railroad, the towers could differ in looks or style from line to line.


Pennsylvania Railroad

Pennsylvania’s towers in the east looked different from the ones that were on their New York to Chicago line. (Ft. Wayne Line) Starting in World War II, PRR built towers that looked to me like small castles, complete with parapets. The technical term for this feature was “crenelations.” These were constructed after the original tower was destroyed by fire or derailment. Dunkirk Ohio is a prime example of this.

“Dunkirk” – Dunkirk, Ohio – Pennsylvania RR – Dan Maners photo
“Hunt” – Huntingdon, Pennyslvania – Pennsylvania RR – Bruce Vogel photo
“Upper Sandusky” – Upper Sandusky, Ohio – Pennsylvania RR – Dave Oroszi photo
Adams – Ft. Wayne, Indiana – Pennsylvania RR – Dan Maners photo
“Vandalia” – Vandalia, Illinois – Pennsylvania RR – Dan Maners photo

New York Central

Another example were New York Central’s towers on the former Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis (Big Four Route). I believe that these towers that “stood on stilts” were unique to the Big Four. As time went on some of these towers received closed-in bottoms.

“Winchester” – Winchester, Indiana – New York Central – Photographer unknown
“Cobb” – Coal Bluff, Indiana – New York Central – Bob McCord photo
“Morgan” – Quincy, Ohio – New York Central – Jay Williams photo

The towers that stood on the New York Central in the east, especially on the “Water Level Route” were large, well built , brick structures.

“SS#30” – Utica, New York – New York Central – Mark Hinsdale photo
“X” – Dunkirk, New York – New York Central – Chip Syme photo

Baltimore & Ohio

Baltimore and Ohio’s interlockers were easy to distinguish. They were two story wooden structures with “fish scale” sidings right below the window line. B&O displayed the tower’s call letters prominently in the second story window.

“CF” Confluence, Pennsylvania – Baltimore & Ohio – Photographer unknown
“HO” – Hancock, West Virginia – Baltimore & Ohio – Photographer unknown

Chesapeake & Ohio

Chesapeake and Ohio’s towers with their two-story brick design, complete with iron overhangs, were some of the handsomest towers ever built. Somewhere along the line C&O changed their plans and built solid, one story, brick towers. As a side note, C&O referred to their interlockings as “cabins”

“NJ Cabin” – Edgington, Kentucky – Chesapeake & Ohio – Joe Ferguson photo
“C Cabin” – Carey, Ohio – Chesapeake & Ohio – Charlie Whipp photo
“A Cabin” – Millard Ave, Toledo, Ohio – Chesapeake & Ohio – Dan Maners photo

New Haven

The New York, New Haven and Hartford’s towers were beautiful structures. They were constructed of concrete with their call letters cast into a “shield” mounted under the window line and topped off with a distinctive pagoda-style roof. Some of their older towers were simple wood structures.

“SS#38” – Stamford, Connecticut – New Haven RR – Tom Donahue photo
“SS#202” (Bank Street) – Waterbury, Connecticut – Hew Haven RR – Tom Donahue photo
“SS#80” (Air Line Jct.) – New Haven, Connecticut – New Haven RR – Tom Donahue photo
“SS#79” (Mill River Jct.) – New Haven, Connecticut – New Haven RR – Tom Donahue photo

Erie

The last railroad I will mention is the Erie. They were easy to identify. Like other railroads the Erie in later years went to a concrete block design.

“GS” – Kingsland, Indiana – Erie RR – photographer unknown
“Newton” – Newton, Indiana – Erie RR – Bob McCord photo

Dan ManersText Copyright 2018 – Photographs Copyright as credited.

 

Live Steam!

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the 42d Annual Steam & Gas Pasture Party in Somerset, Virginia. This event is hosted each year by the Somerset Steam & Gas Engine Association. Now, I know that this is not exactly a railroad thing, but if you are interested in steam railroading,  experiencing some of the 19th century steam technology that grew up with the railroads will be of interest. This nine-minute video will give you a brief tour of the steam shed, a sawmill powered by a steam tractor, steam plowing demonstrations and more.

From massive steam powered tractors to small stationary steam engines, all are in steam and operating during the three days of the show. It’s a taste of the way things were over 100 years ago, when steam not only powered the railroad, but found widespread application in industry and agriculture.

Edd Fuller, Editor

This video is the latest addition to The Trackside Photographer's 
YouTube Channel

 

 

The Ticket Agent’s Last Day

The former Santa Fe Depot at Topeka, KS. at 5:00 am. The lights are still on, but no one works here anymore. The last ticket agent at the depot saw his last train depart on May 19, 2018

By 1880, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway had an operating depot in the City of Topeka, Kansas. For roughly the next 120 years, that depot was manned daily by a ticket agent until Amtrak went to a five day work week for the agent. During the days when the Santa Fe operated the depot, trains like the California Limited, Grand Canyon, Antelope, Kansas Cityan, and Scout all made stops at Topeka, along with many nameless trains known only by a number. The number of trains would decrease in the years leading up to the inception of Amtrak. When Amtrak began operating over the Santa Fe, trains like the Super Chief, El Capitan, and Texas Chief all made stops in Topeka during the early years of Amtrak Service.

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“I photographed what I saw”

Jim Shaughnessy

Railroad Photographer
1933 – 2018


Photograph Copyright 2018 by Tom Nanos

In 1959, a third grade boy borrowed a train book from the school library and sat down to enjoy it in the school cafeteria. Soon special pictures filled his imagination.

There was a nocturnal image of the 1852 train shed in St. Albans, Vermont, displaying a immense Central Vermont Mountain locomotive . . . Read more

Editor’s Notebook

East Broad Top Railroad – Photograph Copyright 2018 by Edd Fuller

Saving Our Past

 
I have been thinking about the role of photography in historic preservation lately.

This summer, plans were announced to widen the intersection in a crossroads town here in the county where I live. The change will require the destruction of an old wooden store building, and it is the last vestige of the town as it once was. After the “improvements” are completed, there will be nothing left but a post office, and a four-lane highway lined with fast food restaurants and gas stations. Read more

Blowing the Past Away

I was driving down Highway 4, between Rosetown and Swift Current, Saskatchewan, when I saw the old abandoned wood crib elevator in a farmer’s field just off the highway. How, I wondered, did it come to be there, all alone?

As it turns out, the elevator was once on a railway line—the old Canadian Pacific Railway McMorran Subdivision. Built in 1923, it was one of at least two elevators in the hamlet of Thrasher. But on this summer day in 2015, there is only one elevator left, abandoned like the rail line, and like Thrasher itself. Read more