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Nostalgia & History > Vintage State Line Tower - Part One


Date: 01/13/22 12:30
Vintage State Line Tower - Part One
Author: sierrawestern

Time to post some vintage State Line Tower.

The Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad's State Line Tower sat on the Indiana side of the Indiana-Illinois state line, hence the tower's name.  State Line was the world's largest mechanical interlocking plant with a 224-lever National armstrong frame.  I believe seven separate lineups could be made with signals cleared and none be in conflict with any of the others.  My father was introduced to Monday-Friday first-trick operator Dick Grobner in the spring of 1965 and Memorial Day 1965 was our first visit to the tower.  My siblings and I virtually grew up at State Line and made hundreds of lineups as Dick Grobner sat at the operator's desk and rattled off the lever numbers.  Dick Grobner retired on December 31, 1976 at age 65.  He always said the railroad fired him for having too many birthdays.  Sadly, he passed away in 1983. 

Photo 1 shows the model board, centered in the tower and hanging above the lever frame.  The lights on the track diagram indicate a westbound Nickel Plate (N&W) is stretched across the plant.  The two tracks at the bottom are the Chicago, South Shore & South Bend electric line.  Being the South Shore ran a number of commuter trains all day long and crossed only a single-track Indiana Harbor Belt branch line, the signals were always kept clear for the South Shore and only taken down when an IHB lineup needed to be made.

Photo 2 shows half of the lever frame looking north.  The white-painted levers were out of service, black ones were switch points and derails, blue were locks and red were signals.  Us kids would make the lineups and the last lever pulled (reversed) was the red signal lever.  We'd then look at the model board and note the signal's indicating lamp lit telling us the signal was cleared.  Once the approaching train entered the plant and "knocked down" the signal the lamp would go out and it was practice to put the signal lever back, returning it to the "normal" position.

Photo 3 is looking south with the operator's desk immediately in front of us.  Dick Grobner is making a lineup. 

Part Two to follow.  Enjoy.

Sierra Western  
    








Date: 01/13/22 13:16
Re: Vintage State Line Tower - Part One
Author: ghemr

Great photos! I'm looking forward to Part Two!!



Date: 01/13/22 17:59
Re: Vintage State Line Tower - Part One
Author: Seventyfive

Photos inside of the towers are always a treat to see.  I met Dick in '73 and was amazed how calm he was.
I was working B&OCT 75th St. Tower at the time, with about 80 moves per shift, but being inside State Line
made my head spin.  I can still hear Dick on the dispatcher's line... "Staaaaate Liiiiiiine ."



Date: 01/13/22 18:31
Re: Vintage State Line Tower - Part One
Author: sierrawestern

Our family was very lucky to have known Dick Grobner!  He opened many doors and my father and I experienced many unique railroad outings with him, visits to other towers, rides with engine and caboose crews, roundhouse visits, etc. 

He arranged three separate rides for us with the Monon engine crew that ran the Clearing Turn between the Monon's South Hammond (IN) Yard and the Belt's Clearing Yard in Bedford Park.  I rode alone once, maybe 14 years old at the time.  Packed a lunch and rode my bicycle to State Line.  Dick Grobner called South Hammond and left a message for the engine crew on the Clearing run to stop at State Line and pick up a passenger.  I remember two BL-2s were the power that day and once we were north of Pullman Junction the Rock Island put something on the ground there and tore up the Western Indiana diamond.  We detoured over the Belt going home and didn't regain access to the Western Indiana until South Deering.  Delays before leaving Clearing and waiting for a pilot at Pullman Junction got me back to State Line about midnight when 4:00 in the afternoon would have been normal.    



Date: 01/13/22 18:36
Re: Vintage State Line Tower - Part One
Author: SpecsGTP

sierrawestern Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Our family was very lucky to have known Dick
> Grobner!  He opened many doors and my father and
> I experienced many unique railroad outings with
> him, visits to other towers, rides with engine and
> caboose crews, roundhouse visits, etc. 
>
> He arranged three separate rides for us with the
> Monon engine crew that ran the Clearing Turn
> between the Monon's South Hammond (IN) Yard and
> the Belt's Clearing Yard in Bedford Park.  I rode
> alone once, maybe 14 years old at the time. 
> Packed a lunch and rode my bicycle to State
> Line.  Dick Grobner called South Hammond and left
> a message for the engine crew on the Clearing run
> to stop at State Line and pick up a passenger.  I
> remember two BL-2s were the power that day and
> once we were north of Pullman Junction the Rock
> Island put something on the ground there and tore
> up the Western Indiana diamond.  We detoured over
> the Belt going home and didn't regain access to
> the Western Indiana until South Deering.  Delays
> before leaving Clearing and waiting for a pilot at
> Pullman Junction got me back to State Line about
> midnight when 4:00 in the afternoon would have
> been normal.    

Neat story!  Think they would allow a teenager to do that today??? LOL!



Date: 01/14/22 10:20
Re: Vintage State Line Tower - Part One
Author: jbohdan2

Very cool series.  Does anyone know where the model board was preserved at?  Surely it was not trashed when the tower came down.



Date: 01/14/22 11:29
Re: Vintage State Line Tower - Part One
Author: Pullman_Jct

sierrawestern Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I believe seven
> separate lineups could be made with signals
> cleared and none be in conflict with any of the
> others.  

I never thought about this before. Six lineups are straightforward - EB and WB on the South Shore, EB and WB on the C&WI, and EB and WB on the NKP. The seventh might have been WB B&OCT to the C&WI northbound siding around the "back" of the tower.



Date: 01/15/22 05:05
Re: Vintage State Line Tower - Part One
Author: sierrawestern

As far as I know the model board was trashed.



Date: 01/15/22 05:06
Re: Vintage State Line Tower - Part One
Author: sierrawestern

You are correct on the seventh lineup.



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