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Ridgely Tower
Springfield, Illinois
Page Menu:
General Photos
Spring 2010
Day of May 16th 2010
Day of May 20th 2010
Day of June 29th 2010
After the Closing..
Demolition of the Tower
From "Your Very Friendly U.P. Ridgely Tower Control Operator ... IM OUUUT"
Radio Clips
Before and After Photos
Paperwork and Blueprints

Ridgely Tower was built by the Chicago and Alton Railroad; it controlled the crossing for the Chicago & Alton (now Union Pacific) and the Chicago & Illinois Midland (now Illinois Midland). Ridgely houses a 32 lever Saxby and Farmer Lever frame, the interlocking once was a mechanical interlocking using pipeline and cranks. C&A RR had a mechanical semaphore train order signal and the C&IM had a electric lamp train order signal. The levers for the C&A train order signal used 2 levers that were painted half red and half white. Lever 27 was the Northbound train order signal and lever 31 was the Southbound train order signal. The C&IM had a small wooden box located to the left of the lever bed on the wall, it was a simple light switch marked C&IM T.O. Sig. Both the C&A and the C&IM train order signals have been long removed. The model board is an old style with hand drawn interlocking layout; it also contains the manipulation chart. Ridgely is now controlled by the Union Pacific Railroad.






To see the Signal or Tower, Click on it on the Diagram
Photos were taken with a Union Pacific Official's permission.

In 2007 Ridgely Tower was still a manned tower and was one of the few towers that also still had an active mechanical pipeline. Though most of the interlocking had been replaced with electric signals; one switch remained mechanical. That was switch number 22. Which was the switch to the yard tracks; this switch also had a mechanical lock that was lever 21. This pipeline had to be maintained and greased quite a bit. The lock was easy to operate but the switch was another story; if you didn't throw all your weight into it then you would have to rock the lever to get the switch to completely move. The switch was also below grade so during the winter months it would freeze and the operator would have to place the switch to out of service state until it unfroze. The switch also was located on a bridge above the roadway.

Spring of 2010
In 2009 Union Pacific started work to replace the old mechanical tower. Ridgely made history when in 2008 when it became the last mechanical tower in the United States following the closing of CSX's towers in Hancock and Keyser, West Virginia. There are still several towers that use levers, but none that have active pipeline connected to them. Those towers the pipeline has been removed and circuit controllers installed. On April 23rd 2010, official notice was given to the operators informing them that it was UPRR's intent to eliminate the jobs at Ridgely Tower on or about June 7th 2010. On May 2nd 2010 Ridgely once again made history when UPRR workers clamped switch 22 and started cutting up the old pipeline. By the end of the day all the old pipeline, cranks, compensators, and rollers had been dug up and hauled away. Ridgely tower was to close on May 11th 2010 but the day before its closing it was decided to postpone the closing until the track and signal crews finish the work.

May 16th 2010
On May 16th Union Pacific Track and Signal crews were working to remove the siding track and the Dick lead track and switch. Signal crews worked on the interlocking circuits and circuits for CP 183. Since they removed the switch and track circuits adjustments had to be made to the interlocking circuits. Track crews removed the Dick lead switch and took it to the yard to be cut up for scrap. Track crews took the old section of the siding track and hauled it to the yard. This track will later be used to replace the section where switch 22 sits. They then shoved the Dick lead track over to where the siding track was. By 3:20pm track crews had the old sections removed and the new sections in place. Crews start to ballast the entire new track and get ready to check the track. An hour later crews are working on inspecting the track and making adjustments. By the end of the day the siding is no more and the Dick lead becomes the "really long Dick lead."

May 20th 2010
May 20th started off as a very wet day, rain was in the forecast for all day and Union Pacific had crews out to remove the mechanical switch number 22. The crews didnít start to setup and get ready to remove the switch until after lunch; I had made arrangements to get parts from the switch and lock. I was to get the cranks and the lock. Crews started cutting the crank for the lock at 12:23pm, by 1:16 they had gotten the lock, switch and the switch tracks cut into sections. Union Pacific was to close East Sangamon Ave while crews worked on the switch over head. That day they decided that they could just board up the open sections in the bridge and remove the switch without closing the road. At 2:59pm crews wrapped a chain around the first section of track, which they call panels. They pulled the panel up then set it back down and used the jaws on the excavator to grab the panel then set it on the mainline. Then crews put a chain around the panel and connect it to a bulldozer that pulled the panel down the mainline. At the other end another excavator lifts the panels into the yard to be cut up and hauled away for scrap. Switch 22 was cut up into four panels, the last panel to be removed was the actual switch, and this panel fell apart when crews tried to drag it out. By 3:44pm Union Pacific crews had removed the last of switch 22 and were inspecting the wooden bridge timbers. While this all is being done, Union Pacific signal crews are working to remove the proper circuits since the track crew had removed the switch. The next few days the track crew would take the old Dick lead section and place it where switch 22 once was.

June 29th 2010
The time had come to close Ridgely Tower; Union Pacific announced several weeks earlier that June 29th would be the cutover date. They also announced that the operators would still have a job at the tower until July 1st. On the morning of the 29th, Amtrak Number 300 was running an hour late. Amtrak #300 if on time would have been the last train to be lined through Ridgely by the tower operator. Operator Clerk Frances Jumper was working the first trick and lined a Southbound I&M loaded coal train through the interlocking, clearing signal number 28. A little after 8am Union Pacific Signal Crew started the cutover and Ridgely tower was now closed. The southbound I&M coal train was climbing grade approaching the tower when they saw an approach signal drop to red, at that point they hit the brakes and stopped on the hill. Due to lack of communication between the signal crew and the operator, when they removed the tower from service all the old signals dropped to red. Operator Jumper then gave verbal authority to the I&M train to pass the signal displaying stop. The crews could not get the train to move due to the loaded coal cars sitting on grade.

Signal Crews got right to work and started turning the new signal heads into place. They then started sighting the signals and put in new signal bulbs. The old interlocking signals were turned to the side and were removed throughout the day. Amtrak trains #301, #302, and #22 passed Ridgely Tower under a signal suspension. Amtrak #302 was the first train to pass Ridgely after being closed, operator still inside but doing nothing but watching. By 11am a Union Pacific grain train that was behind the I&M coal train had cut its power and coupled to the back of the coal train to help shove the coal train up the hill. Once the I&M train got half way up the hill it stopped and the Union Pacific helper engines cutoff and returned to its train. By noon Union Pacific signal crews were testing the interlocking and testing all the indications. While signal crews were testing CP 182 there were crews working at CP 181 and CP 183 getting them ready for the new CP 182. At 6:21pm CP 182 was given control to Union Pacific Springfield Subdivision Dispatcher 28/31 in Omaha. Signal Crews then started installing the new CP X182 I&M Jct signs on the signal hut when the first train under the new system past the old Ridgely tower. The first train to pass through CP 182 was MBNAS at 6:48pm. Shortly after MBNAS passed CP 182, the signal crews celebrated the completion of a project well done. Crews from CP 181 and CP 183 also join the crew at CP 182 for ice cream cake brought in by Mindy who is Nate's wife. Nate is the signal maintainer for that area.

By 7:30pm the crews clean up the area and start packing up the trucks. They lower the temporary antenna used by crews to talk and test the interlocking. Crews say their goodbyes and depart; most of them will be sent to other projects around the US and wonít work with each other for a while. Others get orders from Ron as to the new project they will be working on. Some get orders to head to Joliet Illinois to start on a project of installing several crossovers on a line. By 8pm the area around the tower that once was busy with 50+ signal guys is now empty. The only cars that remained were a few railfans and the night operator's car. Upstairs in the tower the model board was lit like a Christmas tree as the tower is no longer connected to the interlocking at all. Even the 110Vac is separate from the new interlocking.

After the closing...
The day after the cutover was the last day an operator would sit at the tower. First trick on June 30th would be the last ever trick at Ridgely, Operator Clerk Jumper was the last operator as there was no relief operator coming at 3pm. The day it closed some items were removed from the tower, like the mailbox and other things inside the tower. The day after the tower closed Boss Steve went and removed the computer, phone, and fax machine. After the operator left Steve replaced the normal lock with a large Master lock. Signal crews worked to clean up more of the interlocking. They took apart the old C&IM interlocking signal number 4 and took it to a trailer near the yard office; this will serve as spare parts. The other C&IM interlocking signal number 28 was contracted to me to remove; I gave it to a friend who is a C&IM Railfan. The rest of the signals had been removed and taken to the yard office were they will be used for replacements or repair parts. Some of these signals were just installed in 2007 when they replaced the old color position light signals. Three days after the tower closed the rented jonny on the spot was removed, the water machine was also to be removed but wasn't. Four days after the tower had closed nothing much remained in the tower. The chairs, table, trash can and a few other things were being removed and taken to the yard office for a second life.

Demolition of the Tower
In early June Parkland Environmental Group was contracted to remove the asbestos and take the tower down. Ridgely had 2040 sq feet of transite asbestos siding. Due to the asbestos and the condition of the actual building; most museums did not want to save the tower. Parkland started removing the siding Tuesday August 2nd and by the end of the day the tower had almost all of the siding removed. Parkland showed up early Wednesday morning and removed the last of the siding. They had hoped to take the tower down on Wednesday but Union Pacific did not supply a flagman. They would return Thursday and try again. Everyone showed up Thursday morning except the UP flagman and the tower demolition would be postponed until Monday August 8th. Crews took the outside metal staircase out Thursday morning and that was all. They could not do anything more because it was within 25 feet of live track.

The sunset on August 7th 2011 would be the last sunset Ridgely tower saw, for the next morning Parkland crews and Union Pacific flagman were on site to demolish the tower. I had made arrangements with David of parkland to purchase the interlocking machine. The idea was to remove the wall facing the road then the roof and then lay the lever bed down and knock the rest down. Work started at 0832hrs with the excavator knocking the chimney down. The crews took down the walls and roof down then pulled the lever bed down onto the rubble. They then dragged the lever bed across the street and into a private drive where I would later return to take the interlocking machine apart. Crews then work to remove the concrete foundation. During the demo of the foundation they also removed the lead out. By lunch time the tower was being loaded up into a dumpster to be hauled to the junkyard. At 1400hrs the UP flagman left and the crews could no longer work near the tracks but they could load trucks. By the end of the day the only thing left of the tower was a pile of twisted metal and concrete. A hole marked where the tower once stood.

In the following days Parkland and Union Pacific would return to finish the job and fill the hole in with rock. They also hauled away the concrete and scrap metal. The area once known as Ridgely tower now is nothing but an open space. A few pieces of the old interlocking remain, hidden in the weeds or under rock. Old pipeline still remains along the tracks and cranks still remain on the bridge over the roadway. Ridgely tower stood tall for nearly 100 years and was truly the last mechanically operated tower in the United States.

From "Your Very Friendly U.P. Ridgely Tower Control Operator ... IM OUUUT"
Bob's "Im OUUT"

" When I drove by that night, after working my job at Lenox Tower, I observed that most of the shades were drawn, all lights out, and even the mail box and its associated post were gone! I just stood there, all by myself for about 20 minutes, in just a stare, remembering my old job there, and how I spent the best 3 and one half years of my career in that Tower. It was a potpouri of mixed feelings. I guess an invisible power, wanted me to be alone for that little time, one last moment alone, with a place that was so much a part of me and my life, one last time. I then drove home, listening over and over again to Gilbert O'Sullivan's song, 'Alone Again, Naturally.'
-Bob Phillips, Former Ridgely Tower Operator

Radio Clips
Tooterville Cannonball (Amtrak 21)
Amtrak 21 Roll By, 5-16-2010
"Hello Malmazing Control Operator..."
"UP Fox Ridgely Towwaah..."

Before and After Photos
Below are photos of Ridgely during the replacement.
Photos were taken with a Union Pacific Official's permission.

Looking down the Southbound UPRR Main

Looking down the Northbound UPRR Main and into the yard

Looking at Ridgely's Pipeline

Paperwork and Blueprints
photo courtesy of Zachary Gillihan G.M.&O. R.R. Signal Dept
SD14CX - Sheet 1 & 2
Signal and Track Circuits
Ridgely Interlocker
photo courtesy of Zachary Gillihan I.C.G. R.R
SD 112 C
Ridgely, ILL.
Interlocking Circuit Plan
photo courtesy of Zachary Gillihan Union Pacific
April 23, 2010
photo courtesy of Zachary Gillihan Signal 25
Signal 25 Prints
by Signal Maintainer
Unknown Date
photo courtesy of Zachary Gillihan I.C.G. R.R
SD 112 C Page 1
Switch 22 and Signal 24
Ridgely, ILL.
Switch 22 and Signal 24 Circuit Plan
photo courtesy of Zachary Gillihan Southern Pacific Chicago St. Louis Corp.
SD 1026-C
Ridgely South Interlocking
photo courtesy of Zachary Gillihan Union Pacific Railroad
Proposed Connection With
I & M Railroad, Option 5