Home > Worthington  > Worthington Tower > inside

Previous *** Next

Inside the Worthington Tower        

        The Worthington Interlocking Tower was a two story building.   The first floor held equipment most notably the hardware for the switch levers.  The switch levers were connect to the switches themselves by pipes that rested on rollers so they could move.  The pipes came down from the second floor, made a 90 degree change in direction and left the building.  When they got to the track they made another change in direction and ran along the track to the switch or signal it controlled.   Each turn required a bell crank to change the direction of travel. 


This photo looking south gives an excellent view of the switch levers. 

The levers controlling the switches and signals had to be changed in a specific sequence.  There was a system of slide bars that kept a lever from being changed out of sequence. Close to the floor on the left are the slide bars that made up the interlocking system.  Pulling the levers in the correct sequence slides the bar to unlock the next lever. For example you couldn’t set the semaphore to clear or caution until the lever controlling the derail was in the proper position. The derail couldn’t be closed unless the diamond was lined up properly.  The diamond couldn’t be changed unless the signal and derail were in the proper position for the track being crossed. That is why these towers were called interlocking towers, they were designed to eliminate human error as much as possible.

The levers were either pulled or pushed to switch the track or change a signal.  The handle had a release on it that lifted a locking pin.  To operate the lever you pulled the release to unlock the pin moved the lever a little, released the lever to the locking pin and moved the lever until the pin dropped in the hole locking the lever in its new position and letting the operator know the operation was complete.  Only the two PRR semaphore levers had three positions – stop, approach and proceed.  All other levers controlled switches or derails and had two positions – open or closed.  The signals for the NYC were electronically controlled as was the NYC passing siding.

On the wall is the much coveted PRR calendar for 1956.  Also on the wall are the train order hoops used for passing train orders to the engineer and conductor of a moving train.  One of the scariest aspects of an operator's job. The train order was tied to a loop of string that was stretched and attached to the order hoop at three points making a triangle.  The operator held the hoop over his head next to the track.  The trainman would put his arm through the triangle of string pulling the string and train order off the hoop.  It took nerves of steel to hold that hoop while a train not slowing down came at the operator.

Photo by Dave Bunge.


The operator is facing west in this photo taken in the winter of 1937-38.  The telegraph sounder is in the open wooden box to the left.  The wooden box acted as an amplifier which made it easier to distinguish the dashes from the dots.  A novice would strain to pick out the individual letters in the message while an experience telegrapher heard whole words.  A super expert would listen to the message then walk over to his typewriter and type out the message.

By 1937 the operators also had access to the company phone line.  The switch box to the right of the operator was used to select the line on which he wanted to talk or send a telegraph message.  The operator has his train sheet on the desk.  He would record every train movement on the daily train sheet. 

Photo by Don O'Brien

Another view of the switch levers this time looking north.  You can see another telephone and the operator's typewriter.  Looking out the window the double-tracked Sandusky Branch is on the left and the Big Four is on the right.

The window glass must have been very old as it had the waviness characteristic of old glass.  Maybe some of the glass in this tower was reused from the original tower.

Photo by Don O'Brien

Previous *** Next