Columbia is a midway point between
Harrisburg PA and Perryville MD. It is conveniently located off US30 in
between York PA and Lancaster PA.
Located here are the old Pennsy COLA
tower, a small MOW yard, the branch coming over from Lancaster, and old freight
shed, and a few signals - at least the one for the branch is still position
lights (for now).
Columbia is the largest town on the Port Road and is
located at Milepost EP38.4. There is quite a bit of railroad “stuff” in and
around COLA interlocking, including an MOW yard and office, COLA tower
(vacant, but still standing), and the connection to the Columbia Secondary,
which runs to Lancaster. There is also a small shortline railroad in town,
the Columbia & Reading Railway.
Since Amtrak still doesn't like Norfolk Southern trains
on the corridor during daylight hours, you will not get the chance to see to
much moving during the daytime. Sometimes you can find a number of
people at the Perryville station in the evenings waiting for Port Road
traffic to start coming down from Harrisburg, and continuing on to
I typically don't let pictures
and maps "hang off" the right side of the page, but I made exceptions so you
could see the detail in them without downloading them. They also
haven't been reduced in size so that the detail is still there....
In the April 1972 ETT Cola control began at Tome, 4.5 miles from Perryville,
plus 10 more interlockings between there and Cola, and 3 interlockings to the
west (Lake, Shocks, and Jeb). I don't know when Cola closed, but it would have
been in the late '80's. And yes those machines to the left print out the
readings from the hot box detectors in the field. (from OnBlock)
I believe Cola controlled from Shocks to Cres interlocking after Port shut down
This was sent in to me by a good
Irving Itzkowycz, who was the chap that pulled this switch
out of the CTC panel, great story!:
Bob and Jim Gambler were two
old towermen (or "block operators," to use Pennsy-speak) at "CD" Columbia,
Pa. They were brothers and had hired in the 1940s. In the last years of
the tower, Bob worked the second trick and Jim worked the midnight shift, as
I recall. I spent many, many, many nights in that tower with them. They
were good workers.
Bob always said his favorite lever on the massive
machine was the 110 lever, because that's where he "got rid of" trains.
When westbound trains reached the 110 signal at Shocks Mills, Pa, Bob had
had already handled them for nearly 50 miles, from Perryville MD, through 15
interlockings on the old 1938 CTC machine, and when he gave them the 110R
signal, they were someone else's problem.
When CD Columbia was closed in 1986, and the machine was junked, I got the
110 lever and the three indication lamps for Bob, intending to mount them on
a small metal plate and light the indication lamps with a small power
supply, so that he could play with his "favorite lever" in his retirement.
But before I got the job done, Bob died.
So the 110 lever has languished almost three decades in my basement. But at
last I have found a young man who lives just a stone's throw from the 110
signal at Shocks Mills, and this young man has a first rate railroad
collection, with all pieces in impeccably restored condition. So guess
where the 110 lever is going...? At least it will be close to home again,
and in appreciative hands.
A Little History
The following "stuff" comes
from the fellow who helped out with the information on the switch above...
many thanks for providing the insight!
brick tower was
railroad went to
those stupid one
and two syllable
calls, in the
was in the
foot of the
plane of the
was a shop
(They had it
at least by
3/4 mile or
so east of
depot in the
I have been
out to the
area of the
and is still
by (I think)
was built in
of the PRR's
"CD" was the
call for the
Low Grade at
out of it.
there was a
was a Train
All it did
the A&S Low
and it had
of the base,
so it was an
by the St
It was set
back on its
got the new
a year or so
Middle map - from a 1902 USGS map of the Lancaster Quadrangle,
it's been "squeezed" to fit on this page,
it'll be much bigger if
you choose to download it.
Darn if Columbia wasn't right on the line between two adjacent Quadrangle maps!
The bottom map
also comes from the Middletown Quadrangle.....
I found these maps and more at the
University of Texas library website here
I love trains, and I love signals. I am not an
expert. My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page.
This is something I have fun with while trying to help others. My
webpages are an attempt at putting everything I can find of the subject in
one convenient place. There are plenty of other good websites to help
me in this effort, and they are listed in the links section on my indexa
page, or as needed on individual pages. Please do not write to me
about something that may be incorrect, and then hound the heck out of me if
I do not respond to you in the manner you would like. I operate on the
"Golden Rule Principle", and if you are not familiar with it, please
acquaint yourself with how to treat people by reading Mathew 7:12 (among
others, the principle exists in almost every religion). If you contact
me (like some do, hi Paul) and try to make it a "non-fun" thing and start
with the name calling, your name will go into my spambox list! :-)
Note: Since the main focus of my two
websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the
signal fan being able to locate them. For those of you into the
modeling aspect of our hobby, my
indexa page has a
list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you
with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.
If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made
to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan
guide is correct. Once in a while, an error may creep in, especially
if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names. Most of
my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these locations.
I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words", and I feel
annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the
railfan over a simple text description of the area. Since the main
focus of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented
towards the signal fan being able to locate them. Since most of us
railheads don't have just trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out
where other interesting sites of the area are.... things like fire stations,
neat bridges, or other significant historical or geographical feature.
While some may feel they shouldn't be included, these other things tend to
make MY trips a lot more interesting.... stuff like where the C&O
Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point
of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to realize this bridge to
support a water "road" over a river was built in the 1830's!!!
My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand
words, especially for railfanning. Text descriptions only get you so
far, especially if you get lost or disoriented. Take along good
maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get
lost! I belong to AAA, which allows you to get local maps for free
when you visit the local branches. ADC puts out a nice series of
county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the
railroads on them. If you can find em, I like the National Geographic
map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a
really good job of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although
they too lack the railroads. Other notes about specific areas will
show up on that page if known.
Pictures and additional information is
always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em,
or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! BE
NICE!!! Contact info is here
Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from
must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.