Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dolton Junction

First of all, what is the name? Bill, Jersey, RailroadForums, and Todd call it "Dolton Junction." But the Train Watcher's Guide Third Edition called it "Dolton Crossing." I'm going with the majority and using "Junction."

(CRJJohn Haynes Track Diagram, satellite images below)
NorthAmericanInterlockings:  photo photo photo photo photo diagram
Chicago and Northern Indiana Railroad Interlocking Towers (click the marker for more information)

20150510 1186c

I captured this satellite image because it caught four trains going through the junction. It is better to have trains mark a route than to have to draw more lines on the image. The "white train" is being pulled by 3 "black" engines eastbound on the B&OCT route. When I zoomed in on the white cars, they were long, tall, and had rounded edges so they are probably vehicle cars. The end of this train is back in Barr Yard.
Just below the last of the three engines is two yellow engines running light. I assume these are UP engines.

The "black train" running east/west near the middle of the picture is on the IHB route.
It is an eastbound tank car train pulled by two engines. The "orange" car after the engines is a buffer car. Typically a covered hopper car filled with sand.

The "white and green train" appears to be a container train that is using the connection from the UP (former Chicago & Eastern Illinois) route to the IHB route. If UP trains continue north, they use the former Chicago & Western Indiana route because ownership of the tack changed from C&EI to C&WI at this junction. UP now owns both of these segments. Given that the four engines for this train are not yellow, I assume they are CSX because it has trackage rights on the former C&EI. Because that train is too short to justify four engines, I assume that this train has already dropped off some cars at Yard Center and that it will drop off these remaining cars in Bedford Park.

The yellow line indicates where the abandoned Panhandle route used to run. Note that there is still a remnant of that route on the north side now served from the IHB. It carries bottle trains to the ArcelorMittal (former Interlake) steel plant.
Pennsy Track Diagram
We start our tour of Dolton Junction with an overview from the northeast corner of the street crossing that is on the east side of the junction. The brick building on the left is the Municipal Building. The white building in the middle was the tower. The northern most track that curves to the north is a connector between the B&OCT and the C&WI. The next two tracks are the B&OCT route. The remaining two lines are the IHB route.

20150510 1148
From Jersey, we learn:
The tower at Dolton Junction was built in 1944 and contained a 178 lever frame with 100 active levers. As built the interlocking contained a total of 20 diamonds which included an extra 4 from various connection tracks between the main lines. At the time most of the routes through the plant were fitted with split point derails to prevent any catastrophic Stop signal violations.

Today the interlocking plant has seen some expensive reconfigurations carried out on the old mechanical frame. With the removal of the PRR route the number of diamonds has been reduced to 11 and a few new crossovers and connector tracks have been installed. Still the interlocking is operated as an island of manual control with CTC on all sides. Most of my photos were taken from the rear of a south/eastbound train as it passed through the interlocking in 2009.
Another source indicated it originally had 24 diamonds. Bill Gustason has a 1995 interior shot of this tower.

Jacob Diorio posted
NS 7135 hops onto the IHB from the old Pennsy at CP Dolton with an empty bottle train. 3/16/20
[The UP/C&EI tracks are out-of-frame at the bottom. They are probably below the drone. I had never noticed that connector from UP to B&OCT before.]

Going south across the street, we have east and west views of the B&OCT.

Proceeding further south across the street we get east and west views of the IHB.

In the view looking west, the diamonds of the C&EI/C&WI route are far enough away that they are just a black smudge. Jersey's post views the junction from the perspective of a passenger train on that north/south route so he has much better photos of the diamonds than I can legally get.

I got a closeup of the turnout you see above next to the road because it was convenient. Note the pipes on both sides to supply gas to the burners to keep the switch free of ice and snow. The gas meter in the middle of the junction kept showing up in my pictures.

Gas meter below the "shed"
As you can see in the above westward view of the B&OCT tracks, there is a signal bridge just west of the street crossing. Below is a shot of an eastbound UP (8783, 5221) vehicle train passing a westbound coal train that illustrates the signals are of the modern "Darth Vader" design. I believe that they are colored LED heads.

For the record, the coal train was a BNSF (6223, 9837) train. Later there was a westbound UP vehicle train on the IHB that almost skunked noting the end of the above BNSF vehicle train.

This train had a DPU that had seen a fire. Earlier a couple of westbound CSX intermodal trains rolled past on the B&OCT tracks.

212, 232

3051, 454, 5297

While this second container train rolled through, a mixed freight used the connector on the other side of the tower to go from the C&EI to the IHB.

Update: Sean Kelleher caught an Amtrak train being delayed by IHB activity. A picture of the levers inside the Dolton Tower.

Mike Breski posted
Dolton Tower The large interlocking tower was constructed in 1943 using a 172 lever US&S mechanical lever frame salvaged from elsewhere as a war emergency measure. In it's prime the plant could boast 20 diamonds, and although that number has since shrunk to 10, it is still enough to resist the forces of automation
[Not automation, but remote control by a dispatcher.]
John David Larson posted
John's comment:
This junction is located at Dolton, Illinois which is is far south suburban Chicago as seen in the year 1992. The location was almost 50 miles from my place in the northwest suburbs, so for the decade I lived in Chicago my trips here were few.
I went there always hoping to catch locomotives of the predecessor railroads of the big CSX system that was created in the 1980's. One of those predecessor railroads was called Seaboard System and on this day I caught one such unit on the point of a northbound train. The distinctive building in the background is the city hall of Dolton. By the way, in case you're interested, the town name is pronounced DAHL-ton.
 Ken Draus Actually, it's not pronounced Dahl-ton, but rather dawl-ton

Steven J. Brown posted
Conrail SD35 (ex-PRR) leading three SD40-2's across the diamonds east at Dolton, Illinois - May 28, 1979.
[So Conrail was still using the Panhandle in 1979.]
Scott Brons posted 10 pictures on Jan 10, 2017 that included this one
Chad Malinovsky The kiss of death is 1 month away
Scott Brons Is the Tower being closed?
Chad Malinovsky Yes
Scott Brons They just resided the tower last year. Hope they dont tear it down.
Chad Malinovsky It will eventually to straighten out the UP-CSX connection

Mark Hinsdale posted
"Six Flags Over Dolton"
A long, northbound Union Pacific merchandise train crosses the Indiana Harbor Belt and CSX Barr Subdivision main lines at Dolton in the day's last golden sunlight. 6-4-16
[A comment indicates this is the UP Villa Grove Subdivision.]
Jacob Metzger posted
Heading westward for Joliet's Global 4, CSXT Q147's colorful consist adds contrast to this dreary day with a pair of fresh CREX leasers. (Dolton, IL)
Bill Edrington I didn't realize CSX operated trains to Global 4. What route do they take west of Barr Yard? Up to Argo, then down the CN...or over Metra (Rock Island) from Blue Island to Joliet?Jacob Metzger This particular train goes up the CSX to Bedford Park, out to the IHB, and then down the Alton to Joliet. Turns into ICOG4 on UP. Yep. Usually shows up mid-afternoon and follows Amtrak 307.

One of three photos that Mark Hinsdale posted
...was an apt descriptive for today's weather around Chicagoland. However, it turned out to be a most interesting day nonetheless, capped off by a sanctioned, impromptu tour of Dolton (IL) Tower, soon to be decommissioned. I would also offer that the surprise appearance of the eastbound CSX Track Geometry Train, complete with a ballast hopper in tow, should surely qualify as the "Mixed Train" catch of the day
From Mark's timeline
Dennis DeBruler commented on the above posting
I like this shot because it helps me orient where the tower is. And it includes two trains. Taken from the municipal parking lot.

A Michael Miller Flickr photo of  seven IHB units, including a slug, with two different paint schemes pulling a train through the junction.
David Daruszka posted
1897 Railway & Engineering article about Dolton Jct.
David Daruszka posted, full resolution
Scott provided the above track diagram in higher resolution.
Scott Griffith posted
Dolton in 1897
[Bob Lalich Flickr Photo, Jon Roma scanning and annotation.]

I transcribed the text. Note that the Chicago & Calumet Terminal is now the B&OCT(CSX), the Chicago, Hammond & Western is now the IHB, and the C&EI+C&WI is now the UP. CSX has trackage rights on the C&EI. I don't know if they have rights on the C&WI. The Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis is the abandoned Pennsylvania's Panhandle route.


The largest mechanical interlocking plant in the United States has been under construction for several months at the crossing of the Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad with the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis, the Chicago & Calumet Terminal and the Chicago, Hammond & Western Railways near Chicago. This crossing is a very important one in that it is at the point where the Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad ends and the Chicago & Eastern Illinois road begins, and connections are formed here between three belt lines. The plan view, Fig. 1, shows the arrangement of tracks, the names of the roads being designated. A crossing has existed for a number of years at this point, but the addition of the Hammond & Blue Island, which is now the Chicago, Hammond & Western, necessitated the application of interlocking. There is very little to be said as to the arrangement of the tracks beyond that, with the exception of those of the Hammond & Blue Island Railroad, they were put in at different times with entire disregard of ever being interlocked, and the cost of changing the arrangement for convenience in applying the apparatus was so great as to prohibit systematizing it. The result of this is that some of the signals are nearly 2,000 ft. from the tower and the arrangement of the work, both as far as track and interlocking is concerned, is somewhat awkward.

The tower is 22x80 ft. in size and contains 172 levers, 161 of which are connected with the outside work and eleven of them, which are numbered from 26 to 31 inclusive, and from 143 to 147 inclusive, are available for extensions of work. The tower is the new Union Switch & Signal Co.'s standard, and its appearance is shown in Fig. 4, which was prepared from a photograph. The windows are arranged with transoms which open outwardly and form an effective means of ventilating the building from points above the heads of the operators. These transoms are hinged at their tops, and when open protect the interior of the building from the weather. Below each transom is a window with a single pane of glass, 26x48 in. in size, without obstructions of the view of the operators. Certain of these windows, though not all of them, are hung upon hinges at their sides and open outwardly. By this arrangement of windows it is seen to be impossible for the view of the tracks to become obscured by the sashes, as would be the case if the windows slid either horizontally or vertically. The lever room of the tower is sheathed, and the large area of the building makes it an attractive, roomy place. It will be noticed from the illustration that the stairs are on the outside of the building, and that they are not provided with risers. This facilitates keeping them clean. The overhang of the roof is made on a radius of 6 ft., which adds greatly to the appearance of the building, and a substantial gutter of galvanized crimped iron is provided.

The plant having 161 working levers, is as stated, the largest in this country, 51 of the levers work 73 switches, 9 operate 20 crossing bars, 50 operate 50 signals and 9 bolt locks, and 51 more operate 73 facing point locks and 16 crossing bars. The spare levers are in place in the machine, and the locking for these may be put in at any time when they become necessary. It will be noted in Fig. 1 that the direction of traffic movement is given by the arrows, and the dotted lines along the Chicago & Calumet Terminal tracks indicate a proposed extension provided for in the machine. All possible movements have been provided for in the interlocking work and back up movements may be made on all of the tracks, dwarf signals governing such movements having been installed. There are connections between all of the roads for switching movements and the plant is to be a busy one on this account. The apparatus is standard of the Union Switch & Signal Co. throughout with the exception of two Travis derails which were put in at switches Nos. 53 and 100 immediately in front of the tower. The ordinary point derail could not be used in these cases, owing to the fact that the combination of 21 and 15 degree curves required the use of a guard rail past both of these switches, and the sharpness of the curves would interfere with the maintenance of the derail points if put on the outside rail of the curves. The Travis derail is manufactured by the National Switch & Signal Co. On the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis tracks, Wharton derails were used which do not require cutting the main traffic rails. Where it is necessary for the main line of lead out to cross the tracks of the Pennsylvania or the Hammond & Blue Island roads, the tracks are carried on 12 in. timbers and upon 6 in. I-beams between which the lead out connections pass. The home signals are all wire connected and no selectors are used. Crossing bars are provided at every crossing, and it is understood that the plans for the work were approved by the consulting engineer of the state warehouse commission before the work was started. The construction will be completed in about three weeks, whereupon the plant will probably immediately be put in service. The plans were arranged under the supervision of Mr. J. H. Cox, assistant engineer of the Chicago, Hammond & Western Railway, and they were approved by the signal engineers of the other lines interested.

The tower was closed 2/27/2017 so there is a burst of information concerning this tower.

Scott Griffith posted five photos with the comment: "Some pics I found on the net of Dolton."





5: I have no idea what these are
Scott Griffith posted five photos with the comment:
I would like to say GOOD BYE "DOLTON TOWER" thanks for the memories, many naps and lineups. A 172 lever tower, built in 1896 by the Pittsburgh Cincinnati Chicago and st. Louis Railway
It was 1999 I was working a yard job at Barr Yard. When over the radio I hear from the undistinkable voice of Trainmaster Bruce Beaty " Mr.GRIFFITH come up to my office and see me now"
Me thinking to myself "what the hell did I do now" I park my locomotive, walk up stairs and say "what's up Bruce"
Bruce replies "your brother is working Dolton tower tonight and something is wrong go over there RIGHT NOW and check on him"
I said to him "But I'm in the middle of working"
He replies "you heard what I said go now"
So I'm thinking the worse what ever that could be. So never being inside this tower I pull up in my truck get out look up at this long building in the middle of a dark night and it had one light in the middle of the building shining down the old wood siding and at the north end of the building was the door to walk in. I open the door is pitch black , I look up this long stair case and can see a light on upstairs. So I walk up the stairs not knowing what I'm going to see. I get to the second floor, look down this long building there sits my brother Bill by this little desk with his elbows on the desk hands on his head with this light with a yellow hue shining behind him on the desk and the only other light in this place was the modle board to the left on the wall with little red and green lights.
I say "BILL"
He lifts his head up in a snap as being startled. I look at him and he has 2 kleenex stuffed up his nose.
I said "um you OK?"
I walk up to him and say "hey bud is ok, relax, it don't seem to busy, I don't hear no one calling on the phone or the radio just relax bud."
He looks up at me and says "that's because I took the phone off the hook and turned the radio off"
I said " Bro you can't do that man. Just take and run the trains in the order they arrive to you its your interlocking ,you control it. Don't worry about who is calling and bitching , you run the trains that arrive first at your circuts."
Me knowing nothing about a towers operation lol I said what I could. I asked him "why is there kleenex in both your nose holes? "
He said "I got so worked up my nose started bleeding".
Lol what a memory. I hate to see the tower go its the last one in operation on the B&OCT LINE. But I'm sure my brother is glad. Love you brother.





Robby Gragg posted
Robby Gragg posted
On Dolton's final day [Feb 26, 2017] as a manned tower, a IHB SW1500 heads eastbound past it. The tower will be having a date with the wrecking ball soon.
Jon Moore They spent a lot of money fixing it up last summer just to take it out of commission less than a year later!
Kenneth Pazdur posted
Dolton Tower is closed
Matt Lasayko posted
Dolton tower model board. At its new home at Hoosier Valley railroad museum. Fantastic to save this great piece of history.
Ken Draus They must have redid it after the panhandle was abandoned. That line is not shown, nor even blacked out.Kenny Wilkerson I think those holes in the bottom right were it.Ken Draus must be would have been right there. The track marked "NS CON" is a short remaining spur of the panhandle kept to service Acme Steel.
Matt Lasayko also provided the 1897 diagram
CH&W is Chicago, Hammond & Western, a predecessor to IHB. I could not find the company history that a comment implies is on their website.

Mark Hinsdale posted
Photo is from July 1977, at Dolton.
Thomas Kidd  MP 3232 is Northbound and the other is Southbound.Jim Sinclair Mark, not only is this a great capture with lots of human interest, you also captured the ACI scanner, which is seldom seen in older images. 
Donny Albertson posted
Conrail IHCO at Dolton crossing the C&EI with three GE's on 24MAR1990.
Terry Falduto Still learning about the layout there. Is the third unit crossing the remnant of the old PRR Panhandle?Donny Albertson That's the B&O connector to the C&EI. The Panhandle was on the other side of the tower and would have crossed by the first flat with the auto frames.
Donny Albertson posted
The CR hot bottle train has a GP15-1 for power as it approaches Dolton crossing on 24MAR1990.
Mike Tisdale posted
B&O CPL on the B&OCT and PRR position light on the Panhandle. 26 April 2010.
Mark Llanuza posted two photos with the comment: "Conrail on the Pan Handle line goes past Dolton tower 1977 which was removed yesterday [July 26, 2017] which was owned by the IHB RR."


Brad Kanary posted
Dalton tower is being torn down.
Craig Cloud Why slow teardown? I can understand environmental issues, asbestos siding.Brad Kanary They just did all new siding and stuff to it last year.
Craig Cloud Waste of money, yea I recall seeing outside improvements.
Tim JT White Brad Kanary Standard practice. Renew it, then tear it down. Just like they did with the entire Kankakee Line with welded rail.
Chad Quick I believe this was the last Armstrong interlocking tower that was still known service in the US.
Craig Cloud I take it you got pics from little league park.
Steven J. Brown posted
Westbound Indiana Harbor Belt freight at Dolton, Illinois with four Conrail cabooses and a wrecked Rock Island box on an IHB flat - March 26, 1977.
John David Larson posted
Dolton as seen in the year 1994 - this area was almost 50 miles from my home in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago.
I made a point driving here during the summer of '94 hoping to catch pre-CSX units as much as possible as they were becoming hard to find. Therefore, this was a good score.
Craig Cloud Coming off CEI/L&N joint track onto Barr sub
Steven J. Brown posted
CSX GP40-2 6244 (built 1979 as B&O 4345) waits in Dolton for its turn through the Junction and into Barr Yard - February 9, 1991.
Steve Monti Dalton interlocking at one time one of the busiest interlockings in the country worked on the IHB for 12 years went through the interlocking daily.Dennis DeBruler Parked down by Marine Services so that it doesn't block Cottage Grove while it waits, https://www.google.com/.../data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4...
Mark Llanuza posted two photos with the comment: "Conrail on the Pan Handle line goes past Dolton tower 1977 which was removed yesterday [July 26, 2017] which was owned by the IHB RR"
Chad Quick It should have been saved. As far as I know it was the last Armstrong interlocking tower open in the US
Andy Baumann I had a chance to see it in person and go inside. Can't remember the tower operator 's name. Went there in the early 1990's. There was a young kid who would drive a pick-up truck to make sure what the levers did in the tower happened with the switches.

I've been passing up photos of trains at Dolton Junction because they are rather redundant. But this view from the northwest quadrant is rare.
Justin Oates posted
Westbound IHB passing Dolton tower in 2015.
Mike Heiligstedt Mouse infested fire pit !!!

Joe Di Bella posted four photos with the comment: "Caught these two Hot Metal Train s thru Dolton on Saturday 4-27-19."
Darryl Van Nort If you ever see a spot on the side of one of these cars that's glowing, get the gone quickly!
Anthony Osika We actually run those by thermal imaging systems before sending those out of the plant so that won’t happen. 🤞




I didn't notice that they no longer use spacer cars between the bottle cars until I watched the video below. They do still have buffer cars at the front and rear of the train.
Screenshot @ -3:04
Today was my first ever visit to Dolton Junction in Dolton, IL and for the most part during my 4-5 hour stay the traffic was steady. Here a eastbound CSX stack train led by CSX 721 and a eastbound CSX oil train led by CSX 3106 meet a westbound bottle train led by NS 7135. The bottle train comes from the blast furnaces in East Chicago to a steel plant in nearby Riverdale. You could feel the heat as it came by!! 06/09/19
Dennis DeBruler I was surprised there were no spacer cars between the bottle cars. I thought they were needed to reduce the weight on bridges and to provide braking power.
Nick Justice No they changed the spacer rule about a year now. The mill got tired of hashing them out, and they ok'd them to go without. Personally I think they handle better without the spacers anyway!

Steven J. Brown posted
The Dolton Tower operator has stopped east-west traffic on the IHB and Chessie to run some north-south traffic on the Missouri Pacific at Dolton, Illinois - May 1985.
Jon Roma Juan Antonio Troncoso-muñoz, no strong-arm at Dolton after the early Sixties – that was when the last bits of mechanical pipeline was removed, and the switches converted to use electrical power.

The tower still had the large strong-arm lever machine (172 levers – one of the biggest ever). The machine remained in use (though as time went by, fewer levers remained in service as the plant was slimmed down. This machine remained in service until the tower was closed and demolished in 2017.

As one who threw levers at Dolton a number of times during the Nineties, I can attest that the levers were not particularly hard to throw, since they only operated electrical circuit controllers below the operating floor, which opened and closed circuits to operate the switches and signals.

The part about the levers that was difficult were twofold: First, the plant didn't have the usual "manipulation chart" that told what levers to throw in what order for each possible route. That was OK, because anyone who worked there regularly or had a reasonable knowledge of signaling logic could figure out the right sequence of lever manipulation.

The second trick to the machine was knowing which levers were bent through the very large machine becoming out of square due to the structure's age. There were certain levers that needed to be pulled reverse or pushed normal with a rightward or leftward twist. Those who operated the machine regularly (including me) got to know these little quirks.

The lone pipe you see there is probably just electrical conduit.
Jon Roma Juan Antonio Troncoso-muñoz, here's a picture of Dolton, and looking elsewhere in the same album you will find more pictures of the place. Some of the images need rescanning, unfortunately.

Steven J. Brown This looks north.

Steven J. Brown posted
CSX GP15T 1511 (built 1982 as C&O 1511) and Dolton Interlocking Tower at Dolton, Illinois - November 26, 2001.
Paul Musselman: Was there years ago..at the time it was supposed to be the second busiest area for train movements...lots of other guys around there, and they all said Don't try crossing the tracks to that tower, they will call police.
David Daruszka commented on Steven's post
What was under all that cladding.

Steven J. Brown posted
Grand Trunk Western GP38-2 5717 (built 1972 as MP 916) and HLCX SD40-2 5002 (built 1970 as Detroit Edison 002) are going by Dolton Tower on the connecting track from the MoPac to the B&OCT in Dolton, Illinois - November 1994.
Ken Schmidt You are way in the weeds there Steven. But I like it because you put the tower in the background. Probably about the only angle I never shot at Dolton.

Steven J Brown posted
Norfolk Southern GP60 7108 with a molten metal bottle train comes off the remnants of the ex-PRR Panhandle line onto the IHB at Dolton, Illinois - December 4, 2019.
I generally pass up additional photos of Dolton Junction. But this one caught my eye because John would have had to cross some railroad mainline tracks to get to this position. I knew the railroads were a lot more lax in the 1990s. But John's comment indicates that even in the 1990s, this shot was rather risky in terms of being caught by the railroad police. Unfortunately, the train skunks the tower from this position.
John David posted
This junction is located at Dolton, Illinois which is is far south suburban Chicago as seen in the year 1992. The location was almost 50 miles from my place in the northwest suburbs, so for the decade I lived in Chicago my trips here were few.
I went there always hoping to catch locomotives of the predecessor railroads of the big CSX system that was created in the 1980's. One of those predecessor railroads was called Seaboard System and on this day I caught one such unit on the point of a northbound train. The distinctive building in the background is the city hall of Dolton. By the way, in case you're interested, the town name is pronounced DAHL-ton.
To get on the sunny side of this shot I had to trespass like crazy, the railroad bulls kept an eye on this place too. Sometimes, you just do what it takes to get your shot.

Mike Breski posted some of the above material.
William L. Brushaber C&WI State Line tower was reported to be the largest lever tower. What is the comparison of the two towers.
Mike Breski State Line was built just a little later so for a time Dolton was the biggest.
Timothy Clement There is usually black tape where an abandon line used to be. I don't see any for the Panhandle sub on this model board.
Nick Justice Everything you see on that board was current till closure and still current today.
Timothy Clement Fine but the panhandle was taken out in the early 80's. There should be black tape on the board unless they made a new one.
Nick Justice Has to be a new one, no tape.

Jon R. Roma Flickr Set

The tower was removed in July, 2017. It was in the way of some track rearrangements.

1 comment:

  1. The Indiana Harbor Belt as we know it today was formed in 1907. The Chicago Junction Railway, a New York Central affiliate, had leased the East Chicago Belt Railroad and the Terminal Railroad in 1898, and had bought the Chicago, Hammond & Western Railroad in 1896. In October of 1907, the ECB's lease was dissolved, and it then acquired the CJ's interest in CH&W and assumed control of the Terminal Railroad as well. The new company was named the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad. Although not a signatory, the New York Central provided the financial backing and quietly orchestrated the entire transaction, reserving trackage rights over all routes of the new railroad.