Sunday, May 20, 2018

Watchman Tower to control crossing gates

In this photo of the old depot in Downers Grove, IL is a guard or watchman tower on the right side. Someone would staff the tower and trigger the gates to lower when a train was approaching. And then release the gates after the train has cleared.
Old Downers Grove Railroad Photos
The gates at Blue Island Junction were automated just a few years ago, so I was able to get my own photo of a watchman tower.
20150510 1291

Steve OConnor posted
Who knows the history of crossing gates and watchman towers? This photo is from Rochelle and I want to post it with a brief explanation about watchman towers and how they evolved and when automatic gates replaced them. When did they develop remote control of gates from the towers? Any photographs of the interior showing the controls?
Steve OConnor This is about the only thing I found -
Steve OConnor Here also -
James R. Walters Most of the transitions took place through the 40's and 50's.
Keith Pokorny posted
Dennis DeBruler It still has a watchman tower! Now I'm going to have to do another trip there. When I went to the True Value store, I was around Lawn Ave. I see I need to go another block west.Michael Matalis The crossing tower is a replica. They should let railfans up there and charge by the hour.
David Daruszka shared
The station sign says "Altenheim" which is a cemetery located at 7900 W. Madison Street in Forest Park. The railroad was built by the Chicago & Great Western Railroad, a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Central Railroad. It became the Chicago & Northern Pacific Railroad, who provided commuter service including stations in Beverly and Morgan Park. Ownership of the railroad changed hands a couple of time until it became part of the Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal Railroad (B&OCT). The tracks were an important connection for the SOO Line (successor to the WC) and their passenger trains operated out of Beman's Grand Central Station on Polk Street. The line no longer sees any kind of train service due to the condition of the bridges along the route. The tower in the background is more than likely a shanty for the crossing guard at a street crossing.

I have defined the label "towerGuard" to mark other posts that contain at least one photo with a watchman tower. This photo is so neat, I have copied them here.

Chicago & North Western Historical Society posted
We are in Chicago looking east along the C&NW west line in November 1905 when the railroad is working on elevating the right of way at the insistence of the City of Chicago. The street crossing in the foreground is Western Avenue! Note the Milwaukee Road trackage splitting off from the C&NW rails. For you Milwaukee Road fans, "Tower A-2" will be built at the lower left of this photo. What a smokey city!
Dennis DeBruler Look at the line of watchmen towers along the left, one per street.
Steve McCollum Read "The Devil in the White City" for some good background on the times. Grade level crossings were killing one person a day on average. And the smoke? Locomotives, plus coal-fired boilers for heat and power. Remember that the Chicago tunnel system was built to deliver coal and haul away ashes.
Dennis DeBruler Coal smoke was so bad that a (big) report was written in 1915 concluding that the railroads should electrify their city tracks. This is why the IC electrified its passenger tracks. (Diesel was invented before they had to electrify their freight tracks. And then their freight traffic to downtown went away and coal heating got replaced by natural gas.) I use this report for its detailed maps of the railroads in 1915.
Some crossing didn't even have crossing gates. The guard would have a ground level shanty and walk out into the street holding a stop sign.
Graig Keirns posted
Note the shanty by the road in this photo of Griffith Junction.
Wayne Hudak posted

An Alco PA setting at the depot before elevation with a watchman tower in the foreground. (source)

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