Discussion relating to the PRR, up to 1968. Visit the PRR Technical & Historical Society for more information.
  by lirr42
Greetings from the LIRR forum!

Over the last couple days I've been doing quite a bit a of research and writing about NY Penn Station, and particularly the track level and interlockings. I was curious as to the origin of the names of the interlockings that surround the station (A, C, JO, and KN) and some of the ones on the other side of the tunnels in Queens (F, R, Q, HAROLD). It seems like the naming of the interlockings pre-date the current owner of the Penn Station complex, and I was curious if any of our resident historians would be able to shed any light on the situation.

Were the letters A, C, JO, KN, F, R, Q, etc. assigned just out of simplicity or is there a deeper meaning behind their names?

I believe the origin of HAROLD came from a "Harold Avenue" in Long Island City, but I can no longer find a street by such name on today's map.

Thanks in advance for any information given.
  by ExCon90
I have heard long-time New Haven employees refer to Harold Avenue, and I believe that many of those streets in Queens were originally named, and later changed to numbers.
  by lirr42
According to this site, Harold Avenue became 39th Street, which is one of the streets that currently passes over the interlocking.
  by ExCon90
As to the omission of B, D, and E from the sequence, I believe that when Penn Station was built the PRR was still using Morse telegraph, so I googled Morse Code and found the following:

A .-
B -...
C -.-.
D -..
E .
F ..-.
Q --.- (easy to remember, that one)
R .-.

It seems possible that B and D might have been considered too similar and thus subject to confusion, and with E being just one dot, it might not be a good idea to use that either. Google showed International Morse Code, and I think the code used by railroads differed slightly, but perhaps not involving letter codes themselves. I believe the PRR changed the name of the relevant department from Telegraphs and Signals to Communications and Signals sometime in the 1920's, so that might be indicative.
  by philipmartin
As I have posted before the interlocking machine in JO had a plate on it reading "cabin D." I noticed it when I worked there.
  by ExCon90
That might explain why if they used D they probably wouldn't have wanted B also, especially nearby.
  by philipmartin
ExCon90 wrote:I believe that when Penn Station was built the PRR was still using Morse telegraphI
Yes, there was a difference between international morse and railroad morse.
When I worked there, JO, F, Q, R and H were on an open speaker system, with A tower listening. I forget whether C was on it or not. For instance, if JO had an LIRR or New Haven train to report out, the operator would pick up the microphone and say F and H JO on 1, and give the report. The operators affected dropped what they were doing and started copying. Everybody had a private line to the train director at A, who was like a dispatcher, including dictating train orders. C had private lines to talk to KN and JO.
The railroad probably had this capability in 1910, but whether they installed it then or later, I don't know.
Here's a blurb on A tower. http://www.rrsignalpix.com/tower_a.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
On the bottom is a photo I find striking of the station; middle, a photo of the Greyhound terminal next door (because I am a bus lover.) The greyhound drivers used the railroad YMCA on the 8th Avenue side of the station along with us railroaders. They also honored our Pennsy passes on their buses; train crews and drivers could legally ride each other's vehicles, and the rest of us railroaders just horned in. That wasn't unique with the Pennsy; some other roads had similar arrangements with local Greyhound companies.
Top photo is A tower.