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Thread: Delray Tower

  1. #1

    Default Delray Tower

    Not sure how many here will care since she's no gem, but I saw some reports on a railfan forum that Delray Tower, at the corner of Carbon and Dearborn Streets days are numbered, likely in the spring. The argument going on there is that it's a rumour, and apparently has been for years. One guy says he knows guys in the tower who say it's true (Rocko...was that you? lol), another says he knows guys in the tower who havn't heard a thing.

    Have any of you?

    Do any of you think this tower would be worth being rebuilt at Greenfeild Village? I think it was built in '44, not of any particular architectual value, but a part of local rail history, and yet another removal of the Human element.

    Either way, I thought any railfans here might want to get their cameras out and photograph the building before it's gone.........uh, maybe.

    ....don't like these boxes around the smilies .....ugh

  2. #2

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    Is this what you're talking about...?: http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=&q=ca...,181.75,,0,2.3

    If so, what the heck is it?

  3. #3

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    Those were my exact thoughts... I just looked it up too. Is that really considered a tower?

  4. #4

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    Yup, that's it. It's an interlocking tower. In a nutshell, what it does is controls all the railway traffic in that area. When you look down on the area on the maps you'll see a fairly complex web of tracks cris-crossing one another, that tower points all the switches in the right direction, gives signals to approching trains to slow down, stop, etc......

    It'll all just get replaced with a couple metal boxes, with some dispatcher somewhere doing the work instead via computer. There's nothing wrong with progress I suppose, but having people there ment a set of eyes doing a visual inspection on passing trains, and a couple jobs don't hurt none either.

  5. #5

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    I don't know, but there are plenty of other buildings that need to be saved before this brick box.

    This building has no architectural significance. I really don't think its Greenfield Village material either. Is it providing jobs or wasting money?

  6. #6

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    'Twas not this forumite who started that thread, but I did post some photos there. The I knew who worked there retired back in '08. But I suppose moreso now than ever, the rumors are circulating that the end is near. As always, we can just wait to see what happens, but if you like photographs of things in their "natural environment," this winter may be the time to get them without a backhoe clawing away.

    It really is considered a "tower," the upper level is where the operator (levermen back in the day) works and where the Armstrong interlocking machine is, the lower level is for storage and is where the interlocking bed (the guts) is housed. Basically, the large mechanical device in the tower is a series of long arms that when throw in specific sequences allow the operator to line up train movements and give signals for clear operation. The beauty of the device is that it mechanically prohibits a person from lining a conflicting movement; it "interlocks" to prevent this. Each one was built specifically for the junction and track layout it serves. In the old days, the interlocking links were tied into steel rods, which went out from the tower and hooked directly to the switches. Ever try to move a switch in the dead of winter that can only be moved using a chest-high level connected to maybe 500' of cold steel pipe? That's why back in the day there were sometime up to three guys working round the clock there. Since 1992 or so, the last of the switches have been converted from the old school "pipe" to modern electronics. You still throw the levels in the tower, but they just connect to small electronic relays below.

    Delray is actually staffed by operators from CSX, even though CSX only runs about 6-8 trains through here a day. CN and NS and CP Rail all run at least twice that. Detroit is one of the areas where Conrail in its pared-down terminal form still exists. So, some NS and CSX-led trains are actually Conrail jobs. The CSX ownership of the tower is a holdover from the days when predecessor C&O and Pere Marquette ran many passenger trains from Rougemere through to Fort Street Union Depot, and had many freight trains per day using the carferries near the Ambassador Bridge, and later trackage rights through the MC tunnel.

    Michigan has 5 interlocking towers active at the moment: Delray, NS Bridge, Conrail Bridge, Shortcut Bridge, and BO Tower in Kalamazoo. The Bridge Towers are all present along the lower Rouge River - they control bridge function, but also railroad junctions adjacent to the bridge, too. BO is a real out of state relic which has survived because it lies at the eastern end of the Amtrak-owned high-speed corridor. It's actually staffed by NS employees - but not a single NS train passes the tower anymore, since they leased their freight hauling rights to shortline Grand Elk Railroad in 2009.

    As for preservation - I would argue that it deserves it (where else have you seen a 6 sided brick interlocking tower?), but Greenfield Village is the wrong place. They didn't even want nearby Schaefer Tower, and that was a DT&I/Ford built tower right outside the Rouge Plant which had a small enough interlocking plant such that it could have been a functioning part of their Weiser Railroad. The Hoosier Valley RR Museum down in North Judson, IN raised several tens of thousand dollars to move and is now working on restoring a wood-frame tower from the Indiana Harbor Belt called Grasselli. I believe the train museum in Saginaw has the old Mershon Tower, but I don't think it's in any kind of condition to go in.

    Delray Tower - despite being nearly under I-75 and not in one of Detroit's "finer" neighborhoods, really adds some character to that dismal stretch of Dearborn Avenue. Once it's gone - whenever that may be - it will be one less bit of history or bright light present in southwest Detroit.
    Last edited by Rocko; January-12-11 at 07:41 AM.

  7. #7

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    Those towers are amazing inside. Used to go into FN tower in Trenton years ago before it came down. Got to throw the levers and switch some tracks. They need to preserve these so younger people can see how trains switched tracks in the good old days.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocko View Post
    'Twas not this forumite who started that thread, but I did post some photos there. ...Once it's gone - whenever that may be - it will be one less bit of history or bright light present in southwest Detroit.
    Rocko, thanks for shining some light on this structure's history.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocko View Post
    Basically, the large mechanical device in the tower is a series of long arms that when throw in specific sequences allow the operator to line up train movements and give signals for clear operation. The beauty of the device is that it mechanically prohibits a person from lining a conflicting movement; it "interlocks" to prevent this. Each one was built specifically for the junction and track layout it serves.
    I used to work with an older guy who started his career designing these things. They were like mechanical computers. Fascinating, complex stuff. Last I knew he was designing compilers for the Ada computer language. What a strange, meandering career he had!

  10. #10

  11. #11

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    Rocco.....
    .....Is Delray part of the Conrail Shared Assets Operation?

    I may be wrong, but I beleive CSX dispatches out of Calumet City, Illinois, so I assume when Delray is closed, that's where the switches will be "thrown" from.
    Last edited by douglasm; January-12-11 at 05:32 PM.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Planner3357 View Post
    I don't know, but there are plenty of other buildings that need to be saved before this brick box.

    This building has no architectural significance. I really don't think its Greenfield Village material either. Is it providing jobs or wasting money?
    Wow, are you kidding me? Yeah this isn't an architectural gem BECAUSE IT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE! It served a function that is dying out quickly, which is one reason why this is significant. True if it's gone, barely no one will notice, but in its day this was probably very important to the rail yards there.

  13. #13

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    Wow, are you kidding me? Yeah this isn't an architectural gem BECAUSE IT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE!
    Vernacular, functional architecture at its finest. Most towers were rectangular in shape. Due to the unusual angle of Dearborn Street and the acute angle of the NYC/C&O diamonds to the east of the tower, the angled sides were necessary. The tower has control of the crossing protection at Dearborn. It's all electronic now, but the operator can raise the gates manually if they are stuck down or don't need to be lowered. While relay boxes today are able to determine whether a train is close, approaching, and speed, no box can do what a pair of eyes and a couple switches can.

    douglasm: The tower has always been a CSX tower, previously Chessie>C&O>Pere Marquette. Despite the Conrail blue sign facing Dearborn, it is not and has never been a Conrail tower. And yes, Michigan operations are based out of Calumet City, and it is likely when the tower closes, control will be given to a dispatcher there....who better have a lot of time to release the junction for other roads' operations.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Downriviera View Post
    Those towers are amazing inside. Used to go into FN tower in Trenton years ago before it came down. Got to throw the levers and switch some tracks. They need to preserve these so younger people can see how trains switched tracks in the good old days.
    I own the track display board from FN tower. I traded a painting of mine to Conrail for the board just prior to the tower being torn down. NS bridge will be the last interlocking tower left when this one is town down. I got a chance to visit Delray Tower years ago and threw some of the levers and signal grips. These switches are now electric powered but in the old days the levers moved the switches by means of rods and couplings requiring some serious force to move them!

  15. #15

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    Another thing that is quickly disappearing is the old style signal lights. The new ones are rather boring.

  16. #16

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    @Dtrrman....Rocko is correct about the number of interlocking towers remaining.

    As the Senior Operator (15 years now) in the Short Cut Tower, we averaged 100+ train movements PER DAY (over 36,500 yearly total) on our territory last year, as well as 1,560 bridge openings (yearly total). We have a Union Switch and Signal Type "F" interlocking machine up here (same as NS Bridge) and we use it day in and day out, 24 hours/365 days.

    I might add that the control of FN interlocking is still technically controlled by a working tower. It is under the authority of the NS Dispatcher, but is actually controlled from the Conrail Bridge.

    The Short Cut Tower controls the former DT&I mainline. At the time of its construction in 1922, the DT&I was owned by Henry Ford and the tower was built to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The counterweight is in a pit and not visible and the tower is tan brick with a red terra cotta tile roof. The interlocking machine was a top of the line electric interlocking (keep in mind the Ford/Edison connection) The bridge and tower were the reason that Henry Ford bought the DT&I. The construction of a new bridge over the newly constructed Short Cut Canal would have bankrupted the DT&I and they appealed to Henry Ford for a loan. He decided that with their North-South route from Detroit to Ironton, OH and its interchange with the major East-West railroads and its proximity to the coal fields in Southern Ohio that it would be a good investment and he bought it. He later built the D&I Subdivision which are the tracks leading to the Rouge Plant with the famous concrete arches.

    I have attached a photo of the Short Cut Tower and Bridge that I took from the S/S Kaye E. Barker a few years ago.

    Name:  KayeOutboundDTI.jpg
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Size:  31.2 KB
    Last edited by BillyBBrew; January-12-11 at 11:32 PM.

  17. #17

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    Thanks for all the great information on the tower Rocko. All of you really helped it look like much more than just a simple building than I did, thanks!

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by BillyBBrew View Post
    @Dtrrman....Rocko is correct about the number of interlocking towers remaining.

    As the Senior Operator (15 years now) in the Short Cut Tower, we averaged 100+ train movements PER DAY (over 36,500 yearly total) on our territory last year, as well as 1,560 bridge openings (yearly total). We have a Union Switch and Signal Type "F" interlocking machine up here (same as NS Bridge) and we use it day in and day out, 24 hours/365 days.

    I might add that the control of FN interlocking is still technically controlled by a working tower. It is under the authority of the NS Dispatcher, but is actually controlled from the Conrail Bridge.

    The Short Cut Tower controls the former DT&I mainline. At the time of its construction in 1922, the DT&I was owned by Henry Ford and the tower was built to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The counterweight is in a pit and not visible and the tower is tan brick with a red terra cotta tile roof. The interlocking machine was a top of the line electric interlocking (keep in mind the Ford/Edison connection) The bridge and tower were the reason that Henry Ford bought the DT&I. The construction of a new bridge over the newly constructed Short Cut Canal would have bankrupted the DT&I and they appealed to Henry Ford for a loan. He decided that with their North-South route from Detroit to Ironton, OH and its interchange with the major East-West railroads and its proximity to the coal fields in Southern Ohio that it would be a good investment and he bought it. He later built the D&I Subdivision which are the tracks leading to the Rouge Plant with the famous concrete arches.

    I have attached a photo of the Short Cut Tower and Bridge that I took from the S/S Kaye E. Barker a few years ago.

    Name:  KayeOutboundDTI.jpg
Views: 1766
Size:  31.2 KB
    Forgot about the short cut setup. The FN control is a small panel on the desk at
    formely Conrail Bridge. When I aquired the FN board they were still setting up the FN control at the bridge. The Conrail supervisor told me they wanted to automate the Bridge but due to boat traffic situations it just didn't seem feasable. I did aquire the old Bridge model board, but its one of the paper on masonite types.

  19. #19

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    Pretty awsome DTRR. I had a chance to get the model board out of Beaubien Tower, but I was about a month too late. The owner had already sold it. Our model board is painted metal. Still has alot of the old stuff on it that's been removed and could easily be restored to its original condition. We also have two timers mounted right on the board. I was also one of the last full time operators on the 141 bridge over the Old Rouge. The interlocker was there (now at Greenfield Village), but not operating. All the crossing gates were still manually controlled and we had verbal control over the trains under the authority of the Solvay (DCRR) Yardmaster.

  20. #20

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    Hey All, 'been lurking here for almost three years, read a lot of great posts and learned a great deal, and it took a thread on Delray Tower to finally get me to register.

    I certainly can see where there's little-to-no interest in preserving this structure when it's put up against much more familiar buildings (many of which would have a better chance of re-use), but among railfans, Delray is something special. Ask any serious railfan in Michigan, northern Ohio or northern Indiana about Delray, and they'll know about it. The posts above already have touched on its historical relevance and the large amount of rail traffic that still passes by, as well as the fact that interlockers are just about extinct in this state. If a suitable home could be found for Delray and adequate funds raised, I would think it would be a worthy candidate for preservation. The book "Trackside Around Detroit - Downriver, 1946-76" does a great service to Delray Tower in words, photos and maps.

    Rocko, I haven't been inside Grasselli down at North Judson, but I know those folks have put a lot of effort into it. The effort to save Mershon kind of fell apart -- literally -- as soon as it began. The movers dropped the tower onto its side while they were in the process of lifting it from its original site and onto a flatbed in 1988, turning much of the structure into kindling. A few years later, the rebuilt tower was sitting on the grounds of the Saginaw Valley Railway Museum when it was torched in the middle of the night, again causing much damage. So, what remains is more or less a replica. This is all quite troubling to me, as I more or less lived in that tower from 1980 until it close in 1987.

    If there's a template for a great preservation effort of an interlocking tower, it's AC Tower down in Marion, Ohio. It took time, money, elbow grease, and a lot of cooperation between several parties, but the tower and nearby Marion Union Station have been beautifully restored.

    Dtrrman, that's great that you have the model board out of FN. That was a neat spot, too.

    Sorry for such a long-winded first post. Great site and great people here . . . proud to be a part of it.

  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by BillyBBrew View Post
    Pretty awsome DTRR. I had a chance to get the model board out of Beaubien Tower, but I was about a month too late. The owner had already sold it. Our model board is painted metal. Still has alot of the old stuff on it that's been removed and could easily be restored to its original condition. We also have two timers mounted right on the board. I was also one of the last full time operators on the 141 bridge over the Old Rouge. The interlocker was there (now at Greenfield Village), but not operating. All the crossing gates were still manually controlled and we had verbal control over the trains under the authority of the Solvay (DCRR) Yardmaster.
    Any chance on getting photos of that board at Shortcut?

  22. #22

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    The NX interlocking machine from Fostoria now at Marion I aquired years ago and set it up at marion. I was a great Friend of the late Todd Miller who did a lot of the work at marion saving that tower and depot. AC at Marion is really a model of restoration efforts.

  23. #23

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