SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

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samcevoy
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SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by samcevoy » Mon Aug 06, 2018 12:10 am

This retired New Haven, Penn Central and Metro-North Railroad signal tower in South Norwalk, Connecticut once controlled the entire Norwalk area. Under the New Haven, it was called Signal Station (S.S.) 44, and was renamed Berk under Penn Central. I first visited the SoNo Switch Tower Museum in 2006, and have returned every year or two. I have never been bored during my visits and always learn something new. I even joined the Western Connecticut Chapter of the NRHS, which restored and operates this former railroad interlocking tower.

The signal tower overlooks Metro-North's New Haven Line that is part of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, and is one of the best places to watch frequent trains passing by, including Amtrak’s high-speed Acela trains. Because of the curve and swing bridge immediately east of the tower, trains travel past the building no faster than 30 to 40 mph, which allows ample time for taking great photos.

The tour guides always give fascinating presentations and answer my many and never-ending questions.

They let me throw the levers to line trains on specific routes, to unlock and open the bridge, etc. The interlocking machine still requires that the levers be thrown in the exact proper sequences and that the switch and derail levers must be all properly positioned before a signal lever can be cleared, because the original mechanical locking is still operational. I found this amazing!

The tower also has a power board by which the tower operators controlled the electric propulsion power in the catenary above the tracks both east and west of the interlocking.

My recent visit this year was so enjoyable that I felt that I should make this post!

Backshophoss
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by Backshophoss » Mon Aug 06, 2018 6:49 pm

That tower in the past controlled the Danbury Branch when it was Manual block signals,and when both Wilton and Danbury block stations were closed.
Was Renamed Walk tower under PC,Conrail,and MN before it was turned into a CP controlled by the DS in New York City.
The Land of Enchantment is not Flyover country!

samcevoy
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by samcevoy » Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:42 pm

Thanks Backshophoss for the comments. Yes, the tower controlled the Danbury Branch manual-block trackage to the next open block station, which depended on the time of day and day of week. During the midnight hours, the tower was responsible all the way to Danbury.

SS44 was renamed Berk under Penn Central and that name carried on to Conrail and Metro-North. The swing-bridge Cabin was SS45 under the New Haven and was renamed Walk by Penn Central.

And yes, the interlocking is now split into two CPs 240 and 241 controlled by the Metro-North DS office in Manhattan.

The museum and Amazon sell a book that explains it all - "The Classic Railway Signal Tower - New Haven Railroad S.S.44 / Berk."

Ridgefielder
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by Ridgefielder » Wed Aug 08, 2018 11:34 am

samcevoy wrote:Thanks Backshophoss for the comments. Yes, the tower controlled the Danbury Branch manual-block trackage to the next open block station, which depended on the time of day and day of week. During the midnight hours, the tower was responsible all the way to Danbury.

SS44 was renamed Berk under Penn Central and that name carried on to Conrail and Metro-North. The swing-bridge Cabin was SS45 under the New Haven and was renamed Walk by Penn Central.

And yes, the interlocking is now split into two CPs 240 and 241 controlled by the Metro-North DS office in Manhattan.

The museum and Amazon sell a book that explains it all - "The Classic Railway Signal Tower - New Haven Railroad S.S.44 / Berk."
I'm a little bit confused on the timeline, mainly because I recall BERK as being the 1970's-era flat topped tower across the tracks from SS.44, in the split between the main and the Danbury Branch. The operator in that tower was still hooping-up orders for Danbury Branch crews into the late 1990's, if not the '00s.

Noel Weaver
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by Noel Weaver » Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:55 pm

SS-44 the original on the NHRR and presently the museum was changed early in the Penn Central period from SS-44 to "Berk". Much later I don't remember exactly when they the new building next to the Danbury Branch and named it "Walk". That was when the present museum went out of use. Today the signals and switches are controlled from New York but when they have to open the bridge they have an operator at the facility to handle the bridge. I am not sure whether they actually have a regular operator at that location or whether one goes there when they need the bridge. I think the railroad requires advance notice in order to open the bridge.
Noel Weaver

Backshophoss
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by Backshophoss » Wed Aug 08, 2018 4:06 pm

The Last CR ETT for the Metro Region showed Walk as the tower name,as does a MN ETT,that is the tower viewed by(now PAYWALLED)
Vitural Railfan Cam,mis-titled as So No cams. :(
The Land of Enchantment is not Flyover country!

samcevoy
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by samcevoy » Wed Aug 08, 2018 6:40 pm

Thanks for the replies and info, and it is great to hear from New Haven Locomotive Engineer Noel Weaver. I can say for sure that the tower was named SS44 by the New Haven and was renamed Berk when Penn Central took over in 1969. When I left the New Haven in 1970, it was still named Berk. And Walk was the name Penn Central assigned to the SS45 cabin on the swing-bridge.

The SS44 tower was retired in 1984 and control went to the new tower on the north side of the tracks in the crotch between the Danbury Branch and the mainline to New Haven.

My guess is that is when the name was changed to Walk, but it is just a guess. I did not know or remember. And then when Connecticut obtained the necessary funding, control was remoted from the MNR dispatching office.

In any case, the folk that restored the tower and got the levers operational did a great job. There are three floors of things to see. The SoNo Switch Tower Museum is a beautiful, historical relic located in a nice area with many shops, restaurants, and other things to do. I greatly enjoy making a visit every year. Thanks again to all!

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Otto Vondrak
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by Otto Vondrak » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:30 pm

I thought WALK was the new cinderblock structure in the vee of the branch, erected in 1985? to hoop orders up to Danbury Branch trains? I thought BERK was the original old tower that is the museum.

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samcevoy
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by samcevoy » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:19 am

Hello Otto:

That is what the previous comments seem to indicate, and I just confirmed that they are correct.

What I am certain of is as follows:

The signal tower which is now a museum was named SS44 during my tenure from 1965 to 1970. The interlocking cabin on the swing bridge was named SS45.

When Penn Central took over in 1969, SS44 was renamed Berk and SS45 was renamed Walk.

In 1984 when the interlocking was modernized, Berk was closed. Control was transferred to the new tower in the crotch of the wye. Folk on here have been saying that the new tower was called Walk.
I personally did not know that. However, I looked at the photograph of the new interlocking machine in the book and see that the panel faceplate calls the two interlockings West Walk and Walk.

The interlocking was controlled from the new tower after 1984 until funding was obtained to remote the interlocking from the MNR dispatching office in Manhattan.

After that, they still had and I believe still have a bridge operator who I believe hangs out in the new tower.

That operator handled the Danbury Branch manual-block paperwork from after the interlocking was remoted until the dispatching office took over using radio. After that, the operator only handles the bridge.

The interlocking was split into two CPs - 240 and 241. CP 240 is what was called West Walk, and CP 241 is what was called Walk. The control machine in the new tower is now the local control panel for the two CPs.

As far as I can tell, the MNR paperwork no longer mentions Walk.

I do not pretend to know the history after I left the NH/PC in 1970 until 2013 or so. If anyone thinks I am in error, just say so.

Thanks Otto.

The SoNo Switch Tower Museum is a GREAT place to visit.

Steve

samcevoy
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by samcevoy » Mon Aug 20, 2018 11:37 am

The SoNo Switch Tower Museum and the WestConn Chapter NRHS asked me to post the scheduled open hours for the museum:

The SoNo Switch Tower Museum is open Saturdays & Sundays, Noon to 5 pm, from May through the end of October. They expect to be closed on Sunday October 7, 2018 because of a chapter event.

Unlike most other museums that restrict cameras, flash and/or video recorders, you can and should bring your cameras and take still photos and videos, with or without flash, while in the museum (any floor) or on adjacent public property.

Nothing herein is suggesting, encouraging or permitting the use of drones.

Steve McEvoy

Backshophoss
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by Backshophoss » Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:49 pm

Drones and 12.5 kv wire don't play well together,if the drone hits a Line switch,can create an outage.
Anywhere there's catenary,IT'S A NO FLY ZONE!!
The Land of Enchantment is not Flyover country!

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BandA
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by BandA » Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:44 pm

Are drones prohibited over catenery by regulations or is it just a good idea?

samcevoy
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by samcevoy » Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:45 pm

Hello BandA:
I do not know the drone regulations.
However, I read something a while ago about a lawsuit over damage caused by a drone. Both the drone operator and the property owner from where the drone was controlled were sued. The property owner was sued as I remember it because he gave implied consent I believe they called it.
In any case, I was just covering my butt in my post. I did not want to write anything that might be construed as inviting drones to the tower. Still and video cameras are very welcome.
Steve

ExCon90
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by ExCon90 » Thu Aug 23, 2018 2:53 pm

This would be for the moderators to decide, but I think the above post regarding possible liability deserves wider distribution on these forums; the liability issue where drones are involved seems like something on which case law will develop in the near future.

jgarf
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Re: SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Post by jgarf » Sun Oct 21, 2018 10:40 am

The museum still contains the mechanical interlocking machine. Visitors can try their hand at lining up routes by throwing the 68 "Armstrong" levers, subject to the mechanical locking, just as the operators did for 88 years. The machine is quite complex and will not allow an "operator" to put in a conflicting route.

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