For almost 14 years of my life I worked for the
Illinois Central Railroad. I controlled the flow of rail traffic around the
Chicago area from seven different interlocking towers, did yardmaster
duties, and other jobs.
I worked with most of the freight railroads in Chicago,
as well as Metra and Amtrak. I love trains, so on it's worst days as a
job, I always enjoyed the view. It may take a minute to load all the pics,
so please be patient.
Here I am relaxing on the job at Hawthorne Crossing, also known as the Belt Tower or C.M.& N. The view is looking south down the BRC (Belt Railway of Chicago) tracks. When the traffic slowed down, I often went outside, to throw rocks or look for snakes, or take pictures. Some summer days there, at work, were lazy, hazy sweet days.
Corwith Tower, one of the rail hotspots in the city, the Crossing of the Santa Fe and the IC (former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio). You can't see me, but I'm hanging out the window, behind the pole, waving at the engineer, which I always did. This train was likely a C.C.& P. coal train, headed for the dump at the power station in South Joliet. Corwith was very challenging to work, juggling the needs of the Amtraks, the IC, and the Santa FE #1 yardmaster, who, in a just world, would have the right of way, for all his trains, all the time.
A small view from the window atCorwith tower, of a northbound Amtrak train. You'll notice an order hoop....when I first worked there, all trains southbound had to pick up orders from the hoop, and couldn't go much further south if they didn't have them. The operator (that would be me) would get orders from the dispatcher, reading them back word for word, copy them by hand, and put them in the upper and lower hoop for the engineer and the conductor to pick up, on the fly. It was exciting railroading, the way it was everywhere at one time. The orders gave specific instructions about where the train had permission to be, and when, and how fast they could go. These peices of crinkly tissue-like paper were the thing that keep trains from running into each other.
Riverdale tower....now there was some old time railroading. The switches and signals were controlled by brute force, through pulling these levers back and forth. The levers were connected to pipelines (see next pic)that were connected to switches sometimes a block away or more. In it's prime, I'm sure it worked well, but, by the time I got there, the pipes were bent, making every pull a grunt and strain producing task.
If that wasn't bad enough, the tower itself was falling down, would have and should have been condemned, and was cold cold cold in the winter. It was a shack, barely held up by the metal locking bed of the levers.
These are the pipelines that connected the levers to the switches.
Riverdale tower is long gone. It was my introduction to railroading, a trial by fire, a true test of whether I'd stay on the railroad or not. I did. Did I mention the electric toilet, that burned instead of flush? I often drove a half mile to the B&O roundhouse to go.
Rumor has it that one of the fellows there flushed (burned electrically) then went to take a whiz. They say he was knocked across the room.
My Railfan page with lots of train pictures.