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January 1998


MARC Extension to Frederick, Maryland, to be Delayed

The extension of MARC commuter rail service to Frederick, Maryland, will be delayed by at least a year, according to a Frederick County planner. Completion of the 13.5 mile route and two rail stations is now expected in February 2001 instead of February 2000.


Amtrak's N.E. Corridor Sales Up for Thanksgiving Week

Amtrak's Northeast Corridor train service during Thanksgiving week had a 21 percent increase in station ticket sales compared to the same week in 1996.


George Warrington Named Acting President of Amtrak

George Warrington has been named acting president of Amtrak. He replaces Thomas Downs, who has resigned.


BNSF Sells 57 Miles of Track in Illinois

Burlington Northern Santa Fe has sold 57 miles of track between Montgomery and Streator, Illinois, to Illinois Railnet, a subsidiary of North American Railnet, Inc., headquartered in Bedford, Texas.


Conrail Anticipates Hiring Over 500 Train and Engine Employees

Conrail anticipates hiring over 500 train and engine service employees at various points around the system in 1998. Preference will be given to active and furloughed employees.


CSXT Retires its Last Two BQ23-7 Locomotives

CSXT has retired its last two BQ23-7 class locomotives. Units 3001 and 3004 were deleted from the roster on December 23. There were originally ten of these locomotives, a modification of the B23-7 class unit with an enlarged cab with room for five crew members. In later years, the remaining BQ23-7's were converted into B units with the windows painted over.


CSXT Making Progress Installing Radio Code, Electronic Track Circuits

CSXT reports that it has been making significant progress in its program to install radio code and electronic track circuits to reduce the need for wayside line wires. As of the end of 1997, dispatchers controlled signals and switches via radio transmissions instead of line wires on 30 percent of the signal-equipped system, with 27 percent of the on-line track circuitry being transmitted via electronic circuits in the rails. Yet another function of pole lines, the transmission of electric power to signals and other devices, is also being eliminated with that function being transferred to local utility companies or, in some cases, solar power.The company anticipates that by the end of this year, 40 percent of the CSXT signal system, including most routes serving Amtrak, will be radio-code signaled.


CSXT's 75th Street Tower in Chicago Closes

NOVEMBER 30, 1997 - [Reported by Jon Roma, excerpted from original article] - The era of large mechanical interlocking towers came to an end with the closing of CSXT's 75th Street Tower on Chicago's South Side at 10 a.m. Sunday. Placed in service by the Federal Signal Company on July 9, 1908, the old mechanical interlocking machine served for 89 years, four months, and 19 days before being removed from service at 7 a.m. Friday. The operators remained on duty until the new solid-state interlocking passed operational tests and was activated Sunday morning. The tower was a rarity in these waning days of the 20th century, an amazing throwback to train control methods from the golden age of railroading. Arguably the most interesting interlocking in North America due to the abundance of mechanically-operated switches, derails and signals that remained in service until recent weeks, 75th Street Tower controlled the crossing of CSXT's double-track Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal with Norfolk Southern's double-track ex-Wabash line and Belt Railway of Chicago's double-track main line, which parallel each other through the plant. A wye track connects the BRC and CSXT lines in the northwest quadrant of the plant. Until its abandonment by Conrail in the early 1980's, the ex-Pennsylvania "Panhandle" line paralleled the B&OCT through the interlocking and also accessed the wye. The fascination of 75th Street Tower was in the fact that a large portion of the tower's 132-lever Saxby & Farmer "strong arm" interlocking machine did its work the old fashioned way - by the operator's lever motions moving lengths of one-inch iron pipe between the tower and the appliances at trackside. While some ten other interlocking plants around the country continue to operate mechanically via this type of connection, those facilities are either small rural towers or are large towers that are a skeleton of their former selves and have lost a large number of their mechanical functions. In contrast, over 50 of the levers at 75th Street Tower continued to operate their functions by mechanical force up until this fall's cutover.