Crossings and Interlockers

Oxford MI Interlocking

The earliest known crossing of any two railroad lines in Michigan was in 1840 at Lenawee Junction in Lenawee County.  The "Southern" line was being built west from Monroe and it crossed the Jacksonburgh branch of the Erie & Kalamazoo about five miles east of Adrian.  It is likely that there were other rail crossings of yard tracks in Detroit, but this rural crossing is the first documented.

In early times, crossings were unmarked or perhaps a ball signal was raised on a pole at the crossing to indicate which road had the right-of-way.  This is where the term "highball" came from which instructed engineers to proceed. In many cases, trains ran slowly and they were required to stop before proceeding at a crossing once it was known that the way was clear.  But as fate would have it, weather and visibility could be poor, engineers did not heed speed restrictions, and crashes became common and deaths occurred.

Crossing protection became increasingly sophisticated.  Ball signals were raised higher and lighted at night for better visibility.  Gates were installed.  Crossing watchmen were deployed.  Ball signals were replaced by semaphore signals and advance semaphores were placed farther down each track to give advanced warning of the crossing as train speeds increased.

Around the 1870's, the interlocking device was invented in England and brought to the United States.  These interlocker machines were located in a tower at the crossing.  Interlockers controlled crossing rights, signals and switches within the interlocking limits so that it was not possible for trains to interfere with each other.

About the same time, "derails" were deployed near the crossing, the theory being that it was better to derail a train rather than allow it to enter the crossing and possibly strike an opposing train.

One of the deadliest interlocker accidents occurred in February 27, 1921 at Porter, Indiana when a Michigan Central passenger train crew mistook a green train order signal for a proceed indication at night.  The train struck a westbound New York Central passenger train derailing everything, killing 37 and injuring 20.  Miraculously the tower and it's operator came out unscathed. 

Interlockings came in various sizes and styles.  Most were "armstrong" machines - named after the strong arms of the operator or leverman that had to move switches by brut force from levers in the tower.  These strong arm levers were connected to switches, signals, derails and locks by an intricate pattern of pipes which protruded from the base of the tower and in some cases went over 100 feet to the switch.  Some towers had 75-80 levers.  Others had as few as 6,  It just depended how complicated the crossing and wye tracks were in the "plant", a term used to describe the machine and it's control area.

Other interlocking frames were small and set in the ground at the crossing and operated by trainmen.

Over time, some interlockers became higher tech and were powered by electric or pneumatic (compressed air) operation.  Early on, some signals (and even distant signals as far as 1,500 feet away) were controlled by movable wire instead of pipe.  But these proved to be a maintenance headache and were replaced by pipe control or even electrical control as motors became available for semaphore signals.  For low speed branch lines, distant signals were modified to be fixed in the approach position.

Relay control of interlockers became more common after World War II and centralized traffic control (CTC) was invented allowing one operator or dispatcher to control a series of control points and crossings while cutting labor costs.  Early CTC models (known by other names as well) operated using electric pulse operation of relays through a "code line" along the track (buried or on poles).  These began to be replaced by microprosser control in the 1960's using wire and microwave control, radio, satellites and the internet.  At one point, the CSX railroad controlled most of its lines through a single, remote control dispatch center located in Jacksonville, Florida but this was later decentralized for redundancy purposes and to get dispatchers closer to the customer.

Most interlocking towers were manned by a single operator.  In busy urban areas like West Detroit or the MCRR depot interlockers (20th and 15th Streets), the tower was in the charge of a traffic director and one or two leverman who moved the levers.  Some interlockers in low volume branch line crossings were manned on only one shift or not regularly manned at all.  Some, like Tesch west of Escanaba, were literally in the middle of nowhere.  In the days before automobiles, this must have made getting to work a challenge.  Other towers, like Lakeland in Hamburg Township in Livingston County were scenic.  Lakeland was next to a beautiful lake and summer beach resort and working the tower must have been a pleasure.

Individual crossings and interlockers are located in the Stations and Locations category.  But the are listed below by city/location name and county for reference purposes.

Photo info/credit: A photograph of XN Interlocking at Oxford, Michigan on the NYC Bay City Branch in the 1950's. The depot is across the New York Central track. The interlocking tower controlled the NYC's crossing of the GTW's Pontiac, Oxford and Northern (PO&N) line to Caseville. In 1961, the crossing was automated (first train in the circuit gets the proceed signal) and the tower was closed. [Ernie Novak photo, Robert Michalka collection]

 

Alcona County (01)

None identified

Alger County (02)

Doty - DSS&A / LS&I

Allegen County (03)

Plainwell - GR&I / LS&MS / Electric - JN Tower

Alpena County (04)

Alpena - D&M / BCG&A - BCG&A Junction

Kerston - D&M / BCG&A - On D&M Hillman Branch (Not interlocked)

Antrim County (05)

Alba - GR&I / D&C

Baraga County (06)

L'Anse - DSS&A / Ford Motor Ry. (Not interlocked)

Barry County (07)

None identified

Bay County (09)

Bay City - MC / PM - 26th Street

Bay City - MC / PM - Center Street

Bay City - MC / Electric - Farragut Street

Bay City - MC / GTW - Hart Street

Bay City - MC / PM - H&W Crossing

Bay City - MC / PM / HBL - Tower 12

Bay City - MC / PM - Water Street Junction

Bay City - MC / GTW - West Main Street

North Bay City - DM / GTW / PM / MC

Pinconning - DM / MC Spur

Benzie County (10)

Thompsonville - AA / PM

Berrien County (11)

None identified

Branch County (12)

None identified

Calhoun County (13)

Albion - MC / LS&MS - "A" Tower - Full then Half Interlocker

Battle Creek - MC / GTW - Dickman Street

Battle Creek - MC / GTW - Hall Street - Tower

Battle Creek - GTW / DT&M - McCamley Street - Half Interlocker

Battle Creek - MC / GTW - Nichols

Battle Creek - CJ&M / StLS&BC - Rose Street - Tower

Battle Creek - MC / Interurban - Spencer Street

Battle Creek - MC / Electric - West Main Street

Burlington - MC / BCC  (Not interlocked)

Cass County (14)

Cassopolis - GTW Main / MC Air Line

Charlevoix County (15)

Boyne Falls - GR&I / BCG&A / BF&NE - Tower

Cheboygan County (16)

Cheboygan - MC / D&M - MC Tannery Spur

Cheboygan - MC / D&M - D&M Dock Spur

Chippewa County (17)

None identified

Clare County (18)

Clare - PM / AA - Tower

Clinton County (19)

None identified

Crawford County (20)

None

Delta County (21)

Escanaba - C&NW / E&LS

Nahma - Soo / N&N

Tesch - C&NW / Soo - Wood tower.

Dickenson County (22)

Antoine - C&NW / MILW - (East of)

Norway - W&M / C&NW - Near W&M depot

Eaton County (23)

Charlotte - GTW / MC

Eaton Rapids - MC / LS&MS

Emmet County (24)

None identified

Genesee County (25)

Flint - GTW / PM - Downtown (old main lines)

Flint - GTW / Electric - Crapo Street

Flint - GTW / PM - North Kearsley (PM Belt - New Main Line, Old GTW main line)

Flint - GTW / PM - South Kearsley (PM Old Main, GTW main line)

Gladwin County (26)

None identified

Gogebic County (27)

None identified

Grand Traverse County (28)

Interlochen - PM / M&NE

Traverse City - GR&I / PM - Kerry - Tower

Gratiot County (29)

None identified

Hillsdale County (30)

Jonesville - LS&MS / LS&MS - Fort Wayne Jct.

Houghton County (31)

Calumet - H&TL / MR - Calumet Tower

Dollar Bay - CR / MR 

Osceola - MR / MR

Sidnaw - DSS&A / MILW - Auto interlocking

Huron County (32)

Pigeon - GTW / PM

Ingham County (33)

East Lansing - GTW / PM - Trowbridge Tower

Lansing - GTW / MC / LS&MS - Cedar Street

Lansing - MC / PM / Electric - Michigan Avenue (MA) Tower

Lansing - MC / PM / Electric - North Lansing

Lansing - GTW / Electric - Washington Avenue

Lansing - LS&MS / Electric - Washington Avenue

Ionia County (34)

Ionia - PM / GTW

Iosco County (35)

AuSable - D&M / AS&NW

Iron County (36)

None identified

Isabella County (37)

None identified

Jackson County (38)

Jackson - MC - East End (Junction only)

Jackson - MC / Electric - Francis Street

Jackson - MC /MC - Jackson Jct. Yard Crossing (switchtender, later controlled by XN)

Jackson - MC / GTW - MAL Crossing Tower

Jackson - LS&MS / MC / CN - OD Tower

Jackson - MC / MC - Pearl Street Tower (Junction only)

Jackson - MC - XN Interlocking (Depot)

Rives Junction - MC - (Junction, Electric overhead)

Kalamazoo County (39)

Augusta - DT&M / Electric - Half interlocking

Kalamazoo - MC / GR&I - Tower 1

Kalamazoo - MC / LS&MS / GTW / CK&S - BO Tower

Kalamazoo - MC / Electric - North Burdick Street

Kalamazoo - MC - East Avenue

Kalamazoo - GR&I / GTW / LS&MS - Gibson Street

Kalamazoo - CK&S / LS&MS

Richland - CK&S / DT&M - Richland Jct Tower

Schoolcraft - GTW / LS&MS - CF Tower

Vicksburg - GR&I / GTW - Controlled in depot

Kalkaska County (40)

Kalkaska - GR&I / Smith Lumber

Kent County (41)

Elmdale - PM / PM - Crossing, later a junction

Grand Rapids - PM / Electric - Division Street

Grand Rapids - GR&I / GTW / PM and GR&I / PRR - Fuller - Originally a gate, then interlocking

Grand Rapids - LS&MS / PM - Lamar Interlocking

Grand Rapids - PM / Electric - Madison Street

Grand Rapids - GTW / Electric - Plainfield Avenue

Grand Rapids - PM - Plaster Creek JG Interlocking

Grand Rapids - GR&I / MC / PM - Pleasant Street Interlocking Tower

Grand Rapids - PM - Sunnyside

Lowell - GTW / PM - Malta Tower

Sparta - PM / GTW - Saxon Tower

Keweenaw County (42)

None identified

Lake County (43)

Baldwin - PM / PM - Automatic interlocking

Lapeer County (44)

Lapeer - GTW / MC - Lapeer Jct. Tower

Otter Lake - MC / PM / DBC - Tower

Leelanau County (45)

None identified

Lenawee County (46)

Addison - CN / DT&M - Addison Jct.  Gate (2 miles east of)

Adrian - LS&MS / DT&I - DT&I Crossing - Interlocking tower

Adrian - Wabash / DT&I - South Adrian - Tower/cabin

Adrian - LS&MS / Wabash - WB Tower

Britton - Wabash / DT&M - Interlocking tower

Lenawee Jct - LS&MS / LS&MS - Gate at depot

Riga - DT&I / LS&MS - Riga Jct. - Automatic interlocking

Tecumseh - LS&MS / DT&I - Tecumseh Jct. Gate

Weston - LS&MS / DT&I - Bimo - Gate

Livingston County (47)

Howell - PM / AA - Annpere Tower (east of)

Lakeland - AA / GTW - Interlocking tower

Luce County (48)

Seney - DSS&A / Manistique Ry

Mackinac County (49)

None identified

Macomb County (50)

Mt. Clemens - GTW / Electric - Cass Avenue

Mt. Clemens - GTW / Electric - Gratiot Avenue

Manistee County (51)

East Lake - PM / M&L

Kaleva - PM / M&NE

Manistee - M&NE / PM

Marquette County (52)

Eagle Mills - DSS&A / LS&I

Ishpeming - C&NW / LS&I

Little Lake - C&NW / LS&I

Marquette - DSS&A / LS&I - Schneider Crossing

Marquette - Industrial crossings north side

Marquette - DSS&A / LS&I - West Yard

Michigamme - C&NW / DSS&A 

Milwaukee Jct. - C&NW / DSS&A / MILW - Republic?

Negaunee - C&NW / DSS&A  LS&I

Webec - C&NW / MILW

Mason County (53)

None identified

Mecosta County (54)

None identified

Menominee County (55)

Menominee - C&NW / MILW

Midland County (56)

Midland - PM / Midland & Hubbard

Missaukee County (57)

None identified

Monroe County (58)

Carleton - PM / DT&I / PRR - Interlocking tower

Dundee - AA / DT&I - Diann Interlocking

Federman - AA / LS&MS - Shanty interlocker

Milan - Wabash / AA - Interlocking tower

Monroe - LS&MS / PM - Dans Street

Monroe - LS&MS / Electric - Elm Street

Monroe - LS&MS / MCRR / D&TSL / T&M - Greenings Tower, later half interlocking with gate

Petersburg - DT&I / LS&MS - Petersburg Jct.

Montcalm County (59)

Greenville - GTW / PM - Tower

Sheridan - GTW / PM - Virgil

Montmorency County (60)

None identified

Muskegon County (61)

Muskegon - GR&I / PM - Fruitport Jct.

Muskegon - GTW / PM - Simpson

Newaygo County (62)

None identified

Oakland County (63)

Oxford - GTW / MC - XN Tower

Pontiac - GTW / Electric - Foote Street

Pontiac - GTW / Electric - Huron Street

Pontiac - GTW / GTW - MAL Junction

Pontiac - GTW / Electric - South Saginaw Street

Pontiac - GTW / Electric - Sanford Street

Pontiac - GTW / Electric - South Blvd.

Rochester - MC / Electric - Main Street

Rochester - MC / GTW - Rochester Jct. Tower, then remote from depot

Royal Oak - GTW / Electric - Fourth Street

South Lyon - PM / GTW - Depot, then Dispatcher controlled

Wixom - PM / GTW - Depot, then Dispatcher controlled

Oceana County (64)

None identified

Ogemaw County (65)

None identified

Ontonagon County (66)

None identified

Osceola County (67)

Reed City - GR&I / PM

Oscoda County (68)

None identified

Otsego County (69)

Gaylord - MC / BCG&A 

Ottawa County (70)

Grand Haven - PM / GRGH&M 

Walker - GR&I / GTW - Junction

Zeeland - PM Spur / GRGH&C - Half interlocking

Presque Isle County (71)

Calcite - DM & M&LC - Rogers City Jct. A - Tower

Calcite - DM & M&LC - Rogers City Jct. B - Tower

Onaway - DM & Onaway & Northern - near Lobbel Emory Plant - not interlocked

Roscommon County (72)

None identified

Saginaw County (73)

Paines - MC / PM - Junction

Saginaw - PM - 5th Street Junction

Saginaw - PM / Electric - Donald

Saginaw - PM - Fifth Avenue Tower (junction)

Saginaw - PM / MC - Fordney Tower

Saginaw - PM / MC - Hoyt Interlocking Tower

Saginaw - GTW / MC / PM / Electric - Mershon Interlocking Tower

Saginaw - MC / GTW - MX Interlocking Tower

Saginaw - PM / Saginaw River - Interlocked bascule bridge

Saginaw - PM - Washington Avenue

Saginaw - MC / GTW and MC / PM - West Shore

Saginaw - MC / GTW (old line at West Shore)

Saginaw - PM / GTW (old line at West Shore)

Zilwaukee - MC / Electric - Half Interlocking

St. Clair County (74)

Port Huron - GTW - 16th Street (junction)

Port Huron - GTW / PM - Tappan Interlocking Tower

St. Joseph County (75)

Sturgis - GR&I / LS&MS / LS&MS - BK Tower

Three Rivers - MC / LS&MS - VA Tower

Wasepi - GR&I / MC - Interlocking Tower

Sanilac County (76)

None identified

Schoolcraft County (77)

Inland Jct - Soo / Industrial

Manistique - M&LS / Soo

Shiawassee County (78)

Owosso - AA / Electric - Corunna Avenue

Owosso - GTW / Electric - Washington Street

Tuscola County (79)

Akron - PM / D&DC

Vassar - MC / PM - Vasser Jct.

Van Buren County (80)

Grand Junction - MC / PM

Washtenaw County (81)

Manchester - LS&MS / LS&MS - Manchester Jct. - Crossing, later dual junction/switches

Pittsfield - AA / LS&MS - Pittsfield Jct. - Automatic interlocking

Ypsilanti - MC / LS&MS - Junction, west of depot

Ypsilanti - LS&MS / Electric - Washtenaw Avenue

Wayne County (82) - Detroit Terminal

Dearborn - DT / PM / Electric - Michigan Avenue Tower

Dearborn - PM - Rouge Telegraph Tower (Yard entrance)

Dearborn - MC / DT&I - Schaefer Interlocking Tower

Dearborn - MC / MC - Town Line (shanty at junction) "J"

Dearborn - DT / DSR - Warren Avenue

Detroit - MC Depot - 15th Street Interlocking Tower (east end)

Detroit - MC Depot - 20th Street Interlocking Tower (west end)

Detroit - MC - Bay City Jct. Interlocking Tower

Detroit - GTW / MC / LS&MS - Beaubien Street Interlocking Tower - later dual junction/switches

Detroit - GTW / MC - Belt Line Jct. Interlocking Tower

Detroit - MC / DSR - Campau Avenue

Detroit - Clay Avenue

Detroit - PRR / MC - Forman Street Crossing by PRR

Detroit - DT&I / DSR - Dearborn Avenue

Detroit - MC / LS&MS / PM / Wabash / DSR - Delray Interlocking Tower

Detroit - DT / GTW - Ford Jct.

Detroit - GTW / DSR - Forest Avenue

Detroit - DT / GTW - Forest Lawn Interlocking Tower

Detroit - MC / GTW - Forest Lawn

Detroit - MC / LS&MS / DSR - Fort Street

Detroit - PM / PRR / Electric - Shanty - later an underpass

Detroit - GTW / DSR - Gratiot Avenue

Detroit - MC / DSR - Gratiot Avenue

Detroit - DT / DSR - Jefferson Avenue

Detroit - Wabash / DSR - Jefferson Avenue

Detroit - PM / Wabash / DSR - Junction Avenue

Detroit - PRR / DT - Livernois Avenue

Detroit - GTW / DSR - Mack Avenue

Detroit - GTW / DSR - Milwaukee Avenue

Detroit - GTW / MC - Milwaukee Junction Tower

Detroit - MC / DT - North Yard Interlocking Tower

Detroit - GTW / DSR - Oakland Avenue

Detroit - DT&I / Wabash - Oakwood Junction

Detroit - MC / D&TSL - Peninsular Salt Works

Detroit - MC / LS&MS / Rouge River - Rouge Bridge Interlocking Tower

Detroit - FSUD / UBoD - Sixth Street Tower (entrance to Fort Street Union Station)

Detroit - DSR / DT / PRR - Twelfth Street

Detroit - GTW / DUR - Vandyke Street

Detroit - MC - Vinewood (swithtender - junction)

Detroit - MC / LS&MS and PM / Wabash / DSR - Warren Avenue

Detroit - MC / LS&MS / Wabash - Waterman Avenue Switchtender

Detroit - MC / LS&MS / GTW / Wabash - West Detroit Interlocking Tower

River Rouge - Wabash / Rouge River - Bridge Tower

River Rouge - MC / LS&MS - YD Interlocking Tower

River Rouge - D&TSL / Wabash - Victoria Avenue

Wayne County (82) - Outside Detroit

Ecorse - MC / D&TSL - Mill Street

Eloise - MC Spur / Electric - Half Interlocking

Plymouth - PM / PM

Plymouth - PM / Interurban - Main Street

Romulus - Wabash / PM - Interlocking Tower

Sibley - DT&I / MC Spur - 

Taylor - PRR / DT&I - Penford Interlocking tower

Trenton - DT&I / D&TSL / MC / LS&MS - FN Interlocking Tower

Trenton - MC / D&TSL - Slocum Junction (NE Wye)

Trenton - MC / D&TSL - Slocum Junction (SE Wye)

Wayne - MC / PM - Wayne Junction Interlocking Tower

Wyandotte - MC Spur / DUR - Half Interlocking

Wyandotte - DT&I / DUR - Half Interlocking

Wyandotte - DT&I / MC Spur - Half Interlocking

Wexford County (83)

None identified

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DeKalb County, IN

None identified

Elkhart County, IN

Elkhart - LS&MS / MC - "B" Interlocking Tower

LaGrange County, IN

None identified

LaPorte County, IN

None identified

Porter County, IN

Porter - MC / LS&MS / E&JE / PM - Porter Interlocking Tower "PO"

St. Joseph County, IN

X

Steuben County, IN

None identified

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Fulton County, OH

None identified

Lucas County, OH

X

Williams County, OH

X

Wood County, OH

None identified

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Florence County, WI

None identified

Forest County, WI

None identified

Iron County, WI

None identified

Marinette County, WI

None identified

Vilas County, WI

None identified

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Algoma County, ON

None identified

Essex County, ON

None identified

Lambton County, ON

None identified