Pennsylvania Railroad

by Mike Brotzman

Track Plan

SHORE (formerly VN) tower is located 2.9 miles from NORTH PHILADELPHIA at the point where the Connecting Railway met the original Philadelphia & Trenton alignment. Originally known as Frankford Junction, the main line made a sweeping turn to the west as it cut onto the new alignment while the old line into the city was left diverging from the main as an industrial branch. The one and only SHORE tower was built in 1896 as part of the Delaware RR and Bridge Company (a PRR subsidiary) project to build a massive new bridge over the Delaware River. The Delair Bridge as it came to be known was the first bridge from Philadelphia into Southern New Jersey. The primary reason for this bridge was because the New Jersey Shore (including such places as Atlantic City, Ocean City and Cape May) was a very popular summer weekend destination for those residents of the Philadelphia region. With the construction of the bridge, riders no longer had to catch a ferry boat across the river, but could board a train directly for a one-seat ride to the Jersey Shore. Thus as you can see, the name SHORE is very appropriate.

Shore tower
Photograph by Mike Brotzman, 2002

This image of SHORE was taken from the SEPTA Frankford Elevated Rapid Transit Line's bridge over the NEC. Across from SHORE and out of frame is an overhead power substation and to the right of the photo is where the bridge branch diverges. At SHORE, the two-track Delair Bridge Branch keeps heading straight as the rest of the four-track main line makes a tight 4° curve to the north. Currently this is the spot of the largest speed restriction on the main line NEC, one of 50 mph.

There was a station at Frankford Junction that served the Delair Branch, but it was closed in the 1960's although the platforms remain. The Delair Bridge Branch continued on on a high earthen fill and iron trestle on its mile long approach to the bridge. Right after the old station it crossed the old P&T line on a bridge at a 90° angle.

Frankford Junction soon became the center for all freight operations along the former P&T line into the city and along the main line from NORTH PHILADELPHIA to HOLMES. Fulfilling the same function to this day, at its peak Frankford Yard had a ten-track receiving yard, a seventeen-track classification yard and two other yards for storage with a total capacity of about 750 cars. There were also two small connections up to the Delair Bridge trestle for transfer moves coming from the east over the bridge and for local freight jobs heading west onto the main line via SHORE. Both the 5 and 0 tracks for local freight movements terminated at SHORE as this is where all that freight came from. SHORE was also the gateway for freight into Southern New Jersey and Camden's Pavonia yard and the overhead electrification extended across the Delair Bridge and into Pavonia yard. Oddly enough, the PRR planned to eliminate the nasty 4° curve at Frankford Junction and even bought the land to make the new alignment, however for reasons unknown they never went ahead with the project and the Frankford curve has become a well known location on the NEC. A rickety pedestrian walkway crosses the tracks and Frankford Yard and is a hot location for photographing action on the NEC. The old Frankford Junction platforms are also a popular photographic location, but Amtrak police have been cracking down more on that one recently.

Shore tower
Photograph by Mike Brotzman, 2002

Today SHORE is the oldest surviving tower on the NEC having been built with the Delair Bridge in 1896. It was taken out of service some time around 1990 and as you can see, it is a little worse for wear, with its boarded windows and generally rickety appearance, although the paint job is somewhat fresh. SHORE was fitted out in 1896 with an early US&S Model 14 Electro-Pneumatic interlocking machine, probably similar to the one in BRYN MAWR tower with a wood and glass cabinet. The PRR was very early to power signaling and most of its c1900 tower designs reflect this by having square, not rectangular footprints. SHORE is all wood with a brick foundation and was originally painted in a buff, brown and tuscan red scheme. The stairs are interesting not only by the fact that they are still standing, but they seem to resemble more the style of Signalboxes in the UK, instead of the internal or frame hugging stairs typically seen on American towers.

At the time of this writing (2002)\, SHORE is still a pneumatic interlocking and I believe is the last non-terminal interlocking on the NEC with a double slip switch. In the 1970's passenger traffic over the Delair Bridge ceased, but was restored in 1990. By that time, the southern track on the bridge belonged totally to Conrail and has been since separated from Amtrak control and ownership from here, through NORTH PHILADELPHIA. The northern track now serves as the connection to the New Jersey Transit Atlantic City Line. Amtrak control begins at home signal 20L and due to Amtrak's trains getting preference over NJT's, this is a popular place for NJT trains to be held waiting for a slot onto the NEC. The timings are set up so that a westbound NJT train will enter the NEC just before an eastbound train leaves the NEC bound for Atlantic City. Unlike many out of service towers along the NEC, SHORE does not appear to be used for any MoW or crew base purposes. I do not know the reason for the ungainly bulge out the rear of SHORE or when it was constructed, but it might have something to do with the story of FORD interlocking.

About the photographs

Comments about this article should be addressed to Mike Brotzman