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Worthington Interlocking Tower

Big Four (NYC) / Sandusky Branch (PRR) Crossing



        In 1851 the first railroad was built through Worthington.  It was called the Cleveland Columbus & Cincinnati Railroad although it would be over ten years before it reached Cincinnati.  By 1889 further railroad consolidations would change its name to the Cleveland Columbus Cincinnati and St Louis (C.C.C. & St. L) better know as the "Big Four Route".  In the twentieth Century the Big Four would become a part of the New York Central System (NYC).  In the 1950's even though the equipment and buildings were labeled New York Central, to the fans and railroad workers it was still called the Big Four.  The Big Four through Worthington was always a single track railroad.  There was a depot just north of SR 161.  To learn more about the Big Four click here.

        Things became interesting when in 1893 a second railroad was built through Worthington, the Sandusky & Columbus Short Line (S&CSL).  Its right-of-way paralleled the Big Four from Delaware to Columbus.  When it left Delaware it was on the west side of the Big Four, but when it got to Columbus in needed to be on the east side.  The S&CSL made the cross over at Worthington just south of SR 161.  The S&CSL was the junior railroad which meant it covered all the costs of the crossing and paid for the tower staffing. In 1902, after consolidation and bankruptcy, the Sandusky - Columbus section of the then Columbus Sandusky & Hocking  Line was purchased by the Pennsylvania and Detroit Railroad thus becoming part of the Pennsylvania Railroad.  This line was referred to as the Pennsylvania Railroad's Sandusky Branch.  The Sandusky Branch was built as a single track railroad through Worthington, although that would change.  There was a depot and a freight house on the north side of SR 161 and a tower controlling the crossing just south of SR 161.

This is the first Worthington tower built in 1893.  It lasted until the Sandusky Branch was double tracked.  Bicycle riding was a hot (literally) new activity in the 1890's.  Here a touring group was visiting the tower.  If they came from central Worthington they would have ridden over what is now SR 161, but then a dirt road.

Through the open window can be seen some of the levers for changing the switches.  Communication would have been by telegraph.  In the bottom half of the right hand first-floor window, behind the women's shoulder, can be seen a poster for the Ohio State Fair.  The camera is pointed east.  The track closest to the photographer with the sun reflecting off the rail is the S&CSL.  Photo from the DAK collection.

The second Worthington tower was built when the Sandusky Branch was double tracked sometime around 1916.    The first floor of the tower is the equipment room holding the switch and communications gear.  The operator worked on the second floor.  The little building on the left holds the furnace and coal supply for the furnace. 

This tower had to be larger then the first tower because now the operator controlled two diamonds, one for each Sandusky Branch track crossing the Big Four.  There were also crossovers from Sandusky Branch track one to track two on both sides of the diamonds.  These allowed a train, that was on a track opposing the flow of traffic, to change over to the correct track.  The tower had levers to control the Sandusky Branch signals and derails.  A passing siding for the Big Four and the signals for the Big Four were controlled by electrical switches.

Photo by Ryan Hoover in 1956.

This photo taken by Don O'Brien in the winter of 1937-38 is the earliest photo I have of tower #2.  The tower looks like it still has some paint on it and the "Worthington" sign is a little fancier than the 1956 photos. You can see how the tower foundation on the track  facing side of the building is notched out to allow the pipes that connect the switches to the levers  to exit the building.  Poste lake behind the tower is visible.  Since the late 1940's Poste lake has been surrounded by houses and now tall trees making for a total different view. 

Don O'Brien grew up in Worthington in the 1930-40's becoming a professional photographer.  You can see more of his excellent photos of Worthington by clicking here.