Pennsylvania Railroad

by Mike Brotzman

Track Plan

HOLMES (formerly HG) interlocking is located at Holmesburg Junction Pennsylvania, four miles north of FORD and primarily serves as a full mainline crossover point, with a secondary function to allow access to the Bussleton Branch, a short freight line. HOLMES is also the termination of the 0 track that originated at FORD. HOLMES, located at milepost 77.2 served as the division post tower between the Philadelphia Terminal and New York divisions, the true division boundary occurring at milepost 76. Thus the operator at HOLMES had to coordinate efforts between both PT and New York Division dispatchers.

View towards Holmes tower
Photograph by Mike Brotzman, 2002

In this image you can see the placement of the current HOLMES tower at the point where the Bussleton Branch joins the NEC. As you can see, SEPTA has spared no effort turning every available inch into commuter parking and some lucky motorists get a four-foot walk to their train. The original HOLMES tower was located on the east side of the tracks and contained a 40+10 lever US&S S-8 electro-mechanical machine with 31+10 used levers. In 1947 the PRR built a brand new tower at HOLMES interlocking with a new 31 lever US&S Model 14 electro-pneumatic machine and special (for the time) 45 mph turnouts (replacing the old 30 mph turnouts). The HOLMES design is reminiscent of the towers at GRUNDY and NASSAU, yet was bigger to make room for its duties as a division post tower. HOMLES was also built as part of a brand new passenger station at Holmesburg Junction.

Holmes tower
Photograph by Mike Brotzman, 2002

HOLMES is part of the PRR's last generation of new interlocking towers. It was of all brick and concrete construction and lacked the typical PRR bay window as the two corner windows were clearly though to provide enough line sight in this location. The typical PRR peaked slate roof ends in a somewhat broad overhand and like all it's later towers HOLMES has an integrated track illumination light directly in between the two front windows. Like most PRR towers HOLMES is equipped with an internal stairway, internal bathroom and central oil-fired heat. In this picture (where my digital camera chose to focus on the BMW in the foreground) we see HOLMES tower as it stands today. It retains its baby blue Amtrak placards despite being closed around 1994 and replaced by a rusty relay hut across the tracks. Also across the tracks is the standard PRR electric substation for the overhead wires. At the time of this writing, HOLMES is still a pneumatic interlocking.

About the photographs

Comments about this article should be addressed to Mike Brotzman