Pennsylvania Railroad

by Mike Brotzman

Track Plan

With one of the more interesting tower names on the PRR Washington to New York main line GRUNDY tower at Bristol, PA, 11.6 miles from HOLMES, was named for local industrialist Joe Grundy whose factory was across the street. Bristol was the largest industrial center north of Philadelphia and aside from providing a full crossover, GRUNDY provided access to the small Bristol freight yard and a new 0 track between here and MORRIS.

Grundy tower
Photograph by Mike Brotzman, 2002

Built in 1947, GRUNDY is as close as you can get to a "standard" tower design on the NEC and is almost a duplicate of HOLMES, just rotated 90°. It is of all brick construction with concrete foundation and flooring and no bay window, the PRR obviously finding in its later tower design that such appliances could be replaced by side windows. The PRR was flush with money after WW2 and so GRUNDY also sports a steeply peaked red tile roof, a feature only seen on this class of towers and another one of those track illumination lights mounted right below the central window. GRUNDY replaced 'BD', a mechanical tower built in 1911 when the alignment was grade separated, which itself replaced an earlier tower built in 1898.

Like HOLMES, GRUNDY was outfitted with a 31-lever US&S Model 14 electro-pneumatic machine and 45 mph turnouts. Heading northbound there is a ladder crossover all the way from the 0 track and Bristol yard to the 5 track. Heading southbound there is a ladder crossover from track 4 to the 0 track. GRUNDY still sports its blue placards from its active days with Amtrak, which ended around 1994. GRUNDY interlocking's signature feature is visible directly behind the tower in the form of the high Pennsylvania Turnpike bridge over the Delaware River. GRUNDY's substation is located on the other side of the bridge overpass, on the west side of the tracks.

Grundy tower
Photograph by Mike Brotzman, 2002

Here is a view from the opposite side of GRUNDY. GRUNDY is currently a busy Amtrak MoW base and helps out in the operations at the still active Bristol Yard (bathroom, lunch room, paperwork room, etc.). Sometime after 1992, Amtrak felt GRUNDY's role as a main line crossover point was redundant and went on to completely remove the the southbound ladder crossover from the fairly defunct 0 track to the No4 main track. The wise-ness of this move is somewhat dubious as now trains wanting to make facing point crossovers have an 18 mile gap from HOLMES to MORRIS. As with FORD, the catenary wires still do their dance over non-existent turnouts. At the time of this writing, GRUNDY is still a pneumatic interlocking.

About the photographs

Comments about this article should be addressed to Mike Brotzman