Pennsylvania Railroad

by Mike Brotzman

Track Plan

Located 1 mile north of MORRIS, FAIR tower in Trenton NJ was named for the nearby state FAIR grounds and was built in the late 1920's with improvements to the Trenton terminal area when FAIR (DO/Monmouth Street) interlocking was combined with TRENTON (DF/Clinton Street) interlocking. Built roughtly at the same time, FAIR and NORTH PHILADELPHIA are sister towers, nearly identical in design. Trenton is the most important station between Newark NJ and Philadelphia Pa and FAIR served several important functions. First it was used for the mundane task of switching trains on the center express tracks over to the local tracks to access the two island platforms of the Trenton station. Second, Trenton was about as far north as you would go in the Philadelphia commuting range and about as far south as you would do in the New York commuting range. Therefore FAIR served as a double ended terminal for MU trains from both cities. Thirdly, Trenton was a fairly important industrial center and had several local freight yards that needed tending two. Fourthly, Trenton was an intersection of two secondary lines with the New York main line. These were the Belvedere-Delaware freight line to the north and the Bordentown Secondary (connecting with the Camden and Amboy) to the south. The Bel-Del snaked up the Delaware river accessing the coal, slate and cement region of Pennsylvania and making "bridge" connections with such railroads as the Lehigh and Hudson River and Delaware, Lackawana and Western. The Camden and Amboy line hugged the east bank of the Delaware river down to Camden NJ. PRR New York to Atlantic City trains, such as the Nelly Bly, could make the power change from electric here and head off to Atlantic City directly, bypassing Philadelphia.

Fair tower
Photograph by Mike Brotzman, 2002

Here is FAIR tower, utilizing poured concrete and wood construction, FAIR is covered with features (like the covered entryway) that were common when skilled labour was cheap. Today, FAIR stands inactive, bearing a simple greeting from Amtrak's Engineering Department to passers-by but in its day FAIR contained a 75 lever US&S model 14 electro-pneumatic machine with 60 active levers. FAIR is located north of the station complex and directly in front of a combination full mainline crossover and double-slip ladder track for trains wanting to access the Bel-Del. On the south side of the station complex, four mainline tracks and a connection to the Bordentown Sec. expand to eight station tracks - C0, B0, 1-5, 7. Tracks B0, 1, 4 and 5 have platforms, with 2 and 3 being express tracks and 7 and C0 being storage tracks. On the north side of the station the eight station tracks split into four mainline tracks (1-4), two local freights tracks( 0 and 5) and the two tracks of the Bel-Del. Note how all of the old front windows have been replaced by smaller, prefabricated modern types. You can see the deference by comparing them to the side windows. Today the tower is an MoW base for Amtrak and you can see the air line for the pneumatic switches in front.

General view of Trenton
Photograph by Mike Brotzman, 2002

In addition to seeing an Amtrak Keystone Service train crossing from the express to the local track for the Trenton stop, we can see in this picture some of the massive changes that have occurred to FAIR interlocking since the 1960's.

Sometime in the early 1980's, a consulting firm recommended the elimination of MILLHAM interlocking, 1.9 miles north of FAIR. As discussed in another page MILLHAM was another victim of the declining freight traffic on the NEC. Along with MILLHAM's removal, FAIR's full crossover with its double slip ladder track and connection to the Bel-Del would also be eliminated. Four miles north of FAIR a new interlocking, FAIRHAM was constructed. FAIRHAM was a six-track full crossover from track 0 to 5, with tracks 0 and 5 now serving as MU layover yard leads for both SEPTA and New Jersey Transit (the two agencies that took over PRR commuter operations on the line). You can see in the photo how there is almost no trackwork in what was once an extremely complex interlocking. FAIRHAM was at first controlled on site by an operator in a shack receiving instructions from the Train Director at FAIR, but later, FAIR was given a direct control board inside its lever room.

As time went on and CTC took over the NEC around 1990, FAIR was given remote control of MIDWAY and COUNTY interlocking and controlled all the track from Trenton to New Brunswick NJ. Finally, in 1996, FAIR tower was closed, its functions relegated to CTEC dispatchers and FAIRHAM interlocking renamed to just plain HAM.

In the picture you can see FAIR's former southward home signal bridge. Today, the only thing left of FAIR's full crossover are the lever 7, 27, 29, 31, 43 and 19 switches. Note that the station access crossovers are rated for 45 mph and are each equipped with 2 pneumatic point machines and that the overhead wire is still in its original configuration. The sub-interlocking on the south throat of the station is still as it was except for the connection to the Bordentown Sec. being severed and turned into a commuter storage track.

Signal at Trenton
Photograph by Mike Brotzman, 2002

In this slightly different image we can see the lever 22L signal displaying a CLEAR indication for the No1 mainline track. On the gantry are home signals for the 2 and 3 tracks and the 0 track. An extra low-level platform was added in the mid 1990's to serve what used to be the C0 storage track. You can see the lever 26R dwarf signal that governs mainline entrance to the 0 station track at the bottom right of the 22L high signal. To the right of the lover head of the 22L signal and off in the distance is FAIR tower. In front of FAIR is an odd new signal that consists of a high signal that can only display STOP and RESTRICTING - something a dwarf signal usually handles. The 0 and 5 tracks continue on to each branch into small two to three track manually operated MU and Push-Pull storage yards that extend up to and through HAM interlocking.

At the time of this writing the remnants of FAIR are still pneumatically operated, while HAM is all electric with US&S M3 point machines and new mono-beam signal gantries.

About the photographs

Comments about this article should be addressed to Mike Brotzman