THE SIGNAL BOX
2.6 miles further up the main line from ELMORA we encounter LANE tower. Built in 1910 as NK tower, LANE controlled the entrance to the Waverly Freight Yard on the east side of the main line.
At LANE was an example of the little brother to the flying junction, the jumpover. Waverly Yard was the staging area for all PRR freight operations in the New York area and the freight trains traveling on the inner 2 and 3 tracks of the main line needed to get over and into (or out of) the yard. To accomplish this without tying up all mainline traffic, beginning in 1905 the No1 track was elevated on a half mile long ramp that led to a bridge giving 20 feet of clearance over both the No2 and No3 tracks who they went on into Waverly yard. The No1 track then descended on a slightly steeper ramp back to join the No4 track into Newark and Jersey City. The jumpover required the rerouting of Neck Lane to pass under the tracks instead of at a grade crossing.
In 1910 and with the coming of direct service to Midtown Manhattan, the line was four-tracked into Newark and NK interlocking was placed in service on tracks 2, 3 and 4 to allowing the two track freight lead to connect with the four-track main line with NK tower being placed between the fill elevated track 1 and the No2 track at the point of the junction. NK was a trailing point interlocking with a redundant crossover from track 3 to 4 to allow simultaneous routing of a main line train and a freight line train.
NK was originally outfitted with a 15+8 lever US&S Type P electro-mechanical machine with 3+3 spare levers. Sometime around the 1940's, unlike the other towers on the line, NK was upgraded to all electro-pneumatic operation with the mechanical levers being taken out of service and the electric levers being wired to operate pairs of points instead of each one singly. The tower was renamed NECKLANE, after the nearby road, which was then shortened to just LANE. The upgrade allowed LANE to survive into the modern era when so many other electro-mechanical towers were replaced, but alas LANE could not overcome its own wooden nature and after it was taken out of service it was also knocked down due to structural concerns. LANE was taken out of service sooner than many of the other corridor towers due to the decline in the PRR main as a major freight thoroughfare.
Back in the day, long freight trains headed up the middle two tracks of the New York main line would be switched into Waverly yard at LANE. Once there they would either be broken up or routed onto one of two possibly freight routes. One turned off to join up with the Lehigh Valley RR main line and the jointly operated UPPER BAY draw bridge into Greenville yards. The other option was to take the Passiac Branch over the KARNY draw into the Meadows enginehouse and freight terminal with connecting service over the HACK draw into Jersey City and the Harsimus Cove yard. Waverly yard had 6 towers, WA1 through WA6 with WA5 being the most important (and the most "towerly" and not some yard cabin) as it controlled the junction between the two branches. With the formation of Conrail in 1976, freight trains headed east could completely bypass the Northeast Corridor and all of its growing passenger operations. The need for Waverly yard drastically shrunk with the majority of freight being transported over the former Lehigh Valley main line and today all that is left are only a few storage/staging tracks and the junction of the two freight branches. The rest of the yard is either grassy field, light industry or something to do with the brand new Newark International Airport Rail Station and Monorail.
LANE still functions as a freight connection to the NEC, but it is only a single track now with only a few trains operated each day. The most important thing to happen at LANE recently is the new International Airport station that necessitates the NEC widening to six tracks to accommodate two large island platforms that allow stopped trains to be out of the way of express NJT and Amtrak trains. Furthermore, the project utilized all new high speed turnouts with movable point frogs.
Comments about this article should be addressed to Mike Brotzman