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Sat, Sep. 6th, 2008, 04:59 pm

Don't worry, I have been getting better about processing my photos, but I just haven't had time to write up all of the new sets for public consumption. I now have three sets awaiting writeup so I might as well get off my duff and get one done with.

This set catalogues one of my railfanning triumphs from 2007. For those of you who don't know, the NS (nee-PRR) Port Road Branch is one of the most photogenic and also inaccessible rail lines in the east. Built as the Columbia and Port Deposit railroad, it hugs the east bank of the Susquehanna River between Port Deposit, MD and Columbia, PA, before turning into the Enola Branch from there to the Enola Yard near Harrisburg.

The Port Road contains many feats of engineering including 3 tunnels, a flying junction, electrification, 3 hydroelectric dams and perhaps the most interesting, three water shoeflies that direct creeks over the trackbed. After the Atglen and Susquehanna low-grade cuttoff was built around 1910 three creeks that ran under both adjacent RoW's began to periodically washout the Port Road trackbed. The solution was to build three overpasses for the troublesome creeks, channeling them under the A&S line and then over the Port Road to fall harmlessly into the Susquehanna River. The three creeks channeled were Mann's Run, Fry's Run and Fisherman's Run and it took place sometime in the 20's or 30's.

The problem with the Port Road is twofold. First, it is extremely hard to reach most of the locations as the Port Road is located between a cliff and the river and also about a mile from the nearest public road. Second, due to restrictions on the NEC most of the freight traffic runs at night. Now I wasn't going to even try to catch a train, but I was interested in taking some photos of some interesting Port Road locations. CP-HOLTWOOD, COLA tower and CP-SHOCKS were all generally assessable from public roads, but the shoeflies were another story. The southernmost, Fry's Run, involves a 2.5 mile walk along the RoW from the parking at the Safe Harbour Dam. Fishermans's run involves a half mile walk down a private driveway and then a farm field. Mann's Run was about half a mile from a public little league park and involved a walk through a landfill and a forest so with the parking problem solved my friend and I chose this as a exploration target.

As I mentioned before I also stopped by CP-HOLTWOOD, CP-SHOCKS and COLA tower to take pictures of the surviving all amber PRR Position Light signals and pneumatic switches. I also drove by the Safe Harbour Dam to take pictures of the large step-up substation where 25Hz power from the dam is sent into Amtrak's 25Hz transmission network.

You can see the whole batch of photos at:


and the COLA tower pics at:


Alright, sit back and enjoy the description of the whole trip.

My morning started poorly on a SEPTA R5 train to Exton as the train ahead of us had some sort of problem and we were stuck on signals all the way from Bryn Mawr to Frazer. Here's my train taking a RESTRICTING on the 12L signal at PAOLI interlocking. Fortunately, once the slowpoke cleared the Main Line at FRAZER we got back up to line speed.

From Exton I met my friend and we drove out to LEAMAN block station at Leaman Place, PA (near the Strassburg RR junction). We were lucky to line up this shot of a Keystone train with the block station shack.

Next stop was CP-HOLTWOOD, adjacent to the Holtwood DamHoltwood Dam</a>. A security guard bitched me out about taking pics of the dam, but had no problem with me taking pics of the railroad interlocking. Nice to see that terrorism concerns only go so far. CP-HOLTWOOD is a crossover in the middle of siding on the Port Road complete with authentic PRR Amber PL's and pneumatic switches.

Here is a view of CP-HOLTWOOD showing the leftover kit from the electrification days.

Next stop was the Safe Harbour Dam where there are two dedicated hydro-electric turbines generating up to 60MW of 25Hz power for the PRR Electrified lines. The dam is dominated by the massive viaduct for the Atglen and Susquehanna lo-grade line where it passes over a local creek. The A&S takes about 10 miles to ride out of the river valley before it can turn east to join the Main Line at Parksburg. The lower bridge is the Port Road.

Next to the dam is the large Safe Harbour step-up, where 25Hz power from the dam is stepped up to 132,000 volts for transmission to the Amtrak electrified lines. There are 7 active 132kv circuits running out of Safe Harbour and one inactive circuit. 2 run east along the A&S RoW to Parksburg. One (formerly two) run north along the A&S to Harrisburg and 4 run south on commercial hi-tension lines to Perryville on the NEC. Remember, you can tell the 25Hz lines because they come in sets of 2, not 3 as typically seen in the 3-phase 60Hz grid. Each pair is a single circuit, one at +66Kv, the other at -66Kv.

Finally we get to the Shoefly. The creek is grafted into the shoefly channel right above the A&S RoW.

The water level was low, but you can guess that in a downpour this trough fills up quick. Here the creek passes under the A&S.

Here is the shoefly trough as it juts out over the Port Road to the river. A clump of grass add a touch of color.


Here is the more traditional view of the shoefly.

Backlit view of the waterfall.

View of the river and the RoW from the lip of the shoefly.

Port Road RoW looking north.

A&S RoW looking south, the 25Hz circuit on the right is the active one.

Next stop on the tour was COLA interlocking in Columbia, PA. COLA tower was a sister to THORN tower in Thorndale, PA and employed a similar CTC machine. COLA had control of several nearby interlockings including SHOCKS, MANOR, PORT, JEFF and CRESS and was the hub of the low-grade electrified freight network. When Conrail closed the tower they basically kept all the relays and just slapped on a remote interface. Here is the bricked up COLA tower as it stands today.

View of COLA off the Columbia Secondary that connects with the Main Line at Lancaster.

There's a 3-track PRR signal gantry at the west end of the interlocking, I got lucky and caught a SLOW APPROACH signal for a local freight movement down the Columbia Branch.

It arrived a few minutes later.

While only a faction of the original interlocking plant was left, the pneumatic switches still bore their original lever numbers.

Moving on, the next stop on my whirlwind tour was CP-SHOCKS. Once remoted from COLA, SHOCKS is the junction between the Royalton Branch and the Enola Branch just before it cuts across the Susquehanna River. I was lucky to stop by SHOCKS as the jerks at NS were the the provess of replacing the PRR PL's with Darth Vader signals.

Fortunately, the pneumatic switch machines did not appear slated for replacement.

Some of the old PRR PL's did look ready for replacement tho.

But others were fairly new Safetran units.

Here is the Royalton Branch junction. Track to the right is the 15mph Jeff Siding. Track on the left is the main track.

Last stop on my trip was to the Lititz section of CORK interlocking, also about to undergo re-signaling into the independent Lititz interlocking. This is the far westernmost section of CORK interlocking and consists of a connection from 2 track to the NS Lititz Secondary. Here is the westward home signal showing the PRR signals on the Main Line and a Reading Style colour light on the Lititz Secondary (a former Reading RR branch).

The new LED colourized position lights were siting there in boxes. They are much bigger up close.

The PRR PL on 1 track has been moved down onto a new bracket pending the installation of one of the new signals.

The new turnout is already in place.

This was over the Thanksgiving holiday so I didn't have much light. By the time I got back to Exton the moon was coming out and made for a nice picture over the position lights.

Before I go I also have some multimedia offerings!!

Inside the shoefly trough.

Shoefly waterfall from below.

NS Local freight at COLA.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the photos and PLEASE click on the links to view the full set. You can see why it took me so long to get it written up. Its taken me well over an hour to write this so I hope you'll make comments.