THE SIGNAL BOX

OVERSEAS

COUNTY
Pennsylvania Railroad

by Mike Brotzman

Track Plan

Located 8.3 miles north of MIDWAY, in the southern end of the city of New Brunswick, New Jersey, sits COUNTY interlocking. While many people think that COUNTY is named after the fact that New Brunswick is the county seat of Middlesex county, in actuality it is named after Alexander T County, PRR VP and Treasurer who lived in New Brunswick who obviously had some influence about the time the tower was rebuilt. Originally known as CN tower at Millstone Junction, it controlled a full four-track crossover and access to the Millstone Branch, a wandering little branch branchlineline that followed the valley of the Millstone Creek for about 7 or so miles before terminating.

The first CN tower was built in 1900 and was a grand poured concrete affair with two symmetrical one-story "wings" flanking its base. This is listed as a compressor house which is a bit odd as the interlocking was supposedly mechanical at the time. Anyway, sometime in the late 1940's the Studebaker automobile corporation opened up what was to be a large assembly plant in open space adjacent to CN tower. As this would require a new electrified yard to service the facility and since CN was a mechanical interlocking and since the PRR was upgrading the towers on this particular main line, the old CN was torn down and replaced with what occupies the site today.

Country tower
Photograph by Mike Brotzman, 2002

Here is COUNTY "tower" if you can call it one. In addition to serving as the yard office the actual interlocking tower is located at the far end of the structure where the three adjacent windows are. COUNTY contained a state of the art US&S Style "C" relay based interlocking machine with 40 spaces for levers (toggles actually) with 25 of them actually in use. The machine in COUNTY would have been a desk type installation that would sort of wrap around the operator seated in front of it.

Like CN before it, COUNTY was a full four-track crossover with two turnouts on the west side of the track for the Millstone branch and the new electrified yard. Even though it was controlled by what some would describe as a CTC machine, COUNTY was a direct wire controlled interlocking without any CTC technology. As luck would have it, sales for Studebaker took a turn for the worse and the facility was sold to an outfit in another industry. For a long time the brand new electrified yard sat largely underutilized, until the 1980's when New Jersey Transit decided to make COUNTY an intermediate terminus for its Corridor Line trains. The stump of the Millstone Branch and part of the yard was turned into the Jersey Ave. Park N' Ride facility where local trains to/from New York terminate allowing trains originating at Trenton to run express past New Brunswick.

COUNTY tower was closed sometime around 1990, its duties being briefly remoted to FAIR, and before 2000 COUNTY was converted from pneumatic to electric point operation. One of the new US&S M-3 machines can be seen at the lower left of the image.

About the photographs


Comments about this article should be addressed to Mike Brotzman