Penford Crossing

YDRR-20 is southbound at Penford Crossing 4/26/91. This is the Lincoln Secondary's junction with the GTW Dearborn Subdivision, now part of the GTW Flat Rock Sub. We are standing on the Dearborn Sub looking North. Henry Ford built this line in 1927 after he purchased DT&I. He needed a short cut from Flat Rock to his massive Rouge Complex, and this line (called the Rouge Cut-Off at the time) is the result. The concrete towers are the enduring remnents of his short-lived DT&I electrification program; they were used to hang the catenary. Penford, which is in the community of Taylor, Michigan, is so named to reflect the ownership of the two lines that crossed here: the PENnsylvania Railroad and Henry FORD. The telegraph call for Penford was RK.

Photograph 1991-2001 Jeff Feldmeier


Penford Tower, which was allegedly built by a local farmer, used a simple US&S combination electro-mechanical lever machine: Saxby & Farmer-style levers for the switches, and hanging pistol-grip levers for the signals (the same type of machine that still exists at Delray and Schaefer towers) for the local interlocker. This was the typical interlocking machine for the PRR system. All that there was for a track chart was a framed track blueprint, without light indications on it. There weren't ANY light indications whatsoever to indicate the presence of a track circuit being "down" in the plant.

Authority for train movement on the PRR side was via an Absolute Permissive Block system (an Automatic Block Signal system in which all the signals clear in one direction, and stop on all signals in the opposite direction, if the track is clear, for the first train to enter at Carleton or Penford) and train orders, from Penford to Carleton. By 1978, there were no passing tracks anywhere to pass trains on the single track between Lincoln Yard and Carleton.

A small CTC panel controlling the DT&I's Dearborn Branch from Champaign St. in Allen Park (called "Park", where their track went from 2 tracks north of there, to 1 track south to Penford) to Woodhaven (West Road). The operators controlled all switches and signals on this panel for train movements under the direction of the DT&I train dispatcher.

PRR 1954-1957 Track Chart from the collection of Mark Bej.

Traffic by the tower on a daily basis in 1978 was down to 10 regular freights - 2 on the Lincoln Secondary (TV25D north, don't remember the southward one), and 8 on the DT&I (4 freights north, 4 freights south) M-F, plus a switching job on each line, M-F. With this traffic divided into 3 shifts, Penford was a thoroughly boring place to work - Block Operators hated getting assigned to work there. To relieve his boredom, one operator was always playing stickball with himself outside the tower.

Back before the early 1960s, the DT&I Dearborn Branch was double track for its entire length from Fordson Yard at the Rouge Plant to D&I Junction, where it ended just east of Flat Rock Yard. The Lincoln Secondary was single track from Cicotte Street in Lincoln Park to Carleton, with passing tracks between Carleton and Ash, and at a place called Huron . Huron disappeared in the early 1950s. There may have been a water tank there. When the Lincoln Secondary was constructed, provision was made along its entire length for a second main track to be added later, but this never done.

The only other tower on this line was at Ecorse Junction, where the PRR Lincoln Branch junctions with the Wabash. We believe that it disappeared in the 1930s since this seems to be the time of the addition to the US&S Model F machine at the Wabash (now NS) River Rouge Bridge, which has controlled that junction ever since.

Old PRR employee timetables card the Detroit Red Arrow passenger train for 18 minutes running time between Ecorse Jct. and Carleton, an average speed of 60 MPH. CSX would just love to have those speeds today. We can imagine swarms of Operation Lifesaver clad geeps in the area if that were to ever happen. Today it takes a solid hour for through trains to make the trip.

Penford Tower was razed in 1985, with control changed to semi-automatic. This means that the GTW TD2 dispatcher choses his/her routes for train movements on the control panel or video screen, but the first train to approach the crossing lines up the interlocker for the move via the track circuit in the field.

Text 2001 Jim H. Harlow


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This website and all contents herein Copyright 2001 by Jeff Knorek except where noted.