“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Harrisburg in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Harris Switch Tower

Harris Switch Tower Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Pfingsten, March 30, 2008
1. Harris Switch Tower Marker
Inscription. By 1929, Harrisburg's growth as a freight and passenger rail hub in the eastern United States necessitated the introduction of new rail interlocking technologies to guide the convergence of high volume locomotive traffic through the city. At that time, over 100 passenger and 20 freight trains per day passed through the yards of the Pennsylvania Railroad here on fifteen tracks. The widening of the Market Street subway in 1926 and completion of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Bridge in 1930 resulted in the re-working of tract alignments requiring a more advanced facility that could monitor and activate track switching, train directions and speed. Thus in 1929 was erected the Harris Switch Tower, a Colonial and Tudor Revival-styled structure complete with Flemish bond brickwork and keystone window trim, giving architectural distinction to what otherwise would be strictly a utilitarian structure. From the time it opened, the Tower was technologically advanced in signal control and circuitry to allow for remote track switching at railroad junctions. Because Harrisburg was the hub from which six major rail routes emanated like spokes on a wheel, this technology was essential in maintaining the smooth movement of people and goods as well as to aid in the prevention of train collisions. now individually listed in the National Register of Historic
Harris Switch Tower image. Click for full size.
By William Pfingsten, March 30, 2008
2. Harris Switch Tower
Places, the Tower is one of only several that still stands on the main line railroad from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, although the Tower ceased operations in the early 1990's. Purchased from Amtrak in 1992 by the Harrisburg Chapter of the National Railways Historical Society, the Switch Tower is a landmark to the golden age of the Pennsylvania Railroad's operations in the capital city.
1955 view showing the abundance of railroad tracks with Harris Switch Tower in right foreground and old Reading Railroad Station in distance.

Erected by The Harrisburg History Project Commissioned by Mayor Stephen R. Reed.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Pennsylvania Railroad, and the Pennsylvania, The Harrisburg History Project marker series.
Location. 40° 15.912′ N, 76° 52.753′ W. Marker is in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in Dauphin County. Marker is at the intersection of Walnut Street and N. Seventh Street, on the right when traveling east on Walnut Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Harrisburg PA 17101, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Pennsylvania Canal (a few steps from this marker); U.S. Colored Troops Grand Review (within shouting distance of this
Harris Switch Tower image. Click for full size.
By John K. Robinson, October 22, 2008
3. Harris Switch Tower
marker); a different marker also named Pennsylvania Canal (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Sylvan Heights Mansion (about 500 feet away); Soldiers Grove (about 800 feet away); Original Capitol Complex (about 800 feet away); Technical High School & Old City Hall (approx. 0.2 miles away); Trailblazers (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Harrisburg.
Also see . . .
1. Railroads of Pennsylvania: Fragments of the Past in the Keystone Landscape. Book by Lorette Treese available on (Submitted on May 7, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.) 

2. Triumph II: Philadelphia to Harrisburg 1828 - 1998. Book by David W. Messer available on (Submitted on May 7, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.) 

3. Triumph IV: Harrisburg to Altoona 1846 - 2001. Book by David W. Messer available on (Submitted on May 7, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.) 

4. The Story of the Northern Central Railway: From Baltimore to Lake Ontario. Book by Robert L. Gunnarsson available on (Submitted on May 7, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.) 

5. Pennsylvania Railroad's Broadway Limited (Great Passenger Trains). Book by Joe Welsh available on (Submitted on May 7, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.) 

6. The Broadway Limited. Book by Joel Rosenbaum and Tom Gallo available on (Submitted on May 7, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.) 
Additional comments.
1. Railroading Around Harrisburg PA
As the marker indicates, railroading around Harrisburg is a complicated business involving several branches and railroad companies.

The dominant railroad in Harrisburg was the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). Harrisburg was on PRR's main line midway between Philadelphia and Pittsburg. PRR's famous Broadway Limited stopped here on its way between New York and Chicago. Two additional PRR lines originated at Harrisburg. One headed south to Hagerstown MD and Winchester VA. The other headed southeast to Port Deposit MD and Perryville MD where it joined the Northeast Corridor between New York City and Washington DC.

PRR's main freight yard near here was Enola Yard. During its heyday, Enola Yard was one of the major classification yards in the eastern United States. Enola was closed for several years due to a decline in freight traffic and changes in traffic patterns. Mergers consolidated lines and trains were rerouted. PRR became Penn Central (PC) in 1968 which in turn became Conrail (CR) in 1976. This section of CR was purchased by Norfolk Southern (NS) in 1999. NS reopened Enola Yards, although as a much smaller operation capable of handling 600 cars per day.

Another railroad that went to Harrisburg was the Reading Railway System (RDG). There were two RDG lines that came here. One was its main line between Philadelphia, Reading and Harrisburg. The other line was a branch that headed south to Shippensburg PA. This branch was nicknamed the "Bee Line." It went from Jersey City, NJ to Hagerstown, MD and used the tracks of the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey (CNJ), RDG and Western Maryland Railway (WM).

RDG's major yard was named Rutherford and is located northeast of Harrisburg. Rutherford is now used by NS for intermodal freights.

Finally, Harrisburg was served by the Northern Central (NC). The NC went from Buffalo NY to Baltimore MD. The NC was abandoned between Harrisburg and Baltimore. The right of way was converted to a trail.

NC's main yard was in Marysville, PA on the south shore of the Susquehanna just west of the Rockville Bridge. The Marysville Yard lost its significance early in the twentieth century when NC and PRR teamed up to create Enola Yard. By 1954, the Marysville Yard became largely a storage yard for rolling stock and retired steam locomotives. The tracks have since been torn up. What was Marysville Yard is now vacant land and a memory.

Amtrak remains a major presence in Harrisburg, which is the western terminal for its Keystone Service. The Keystone Corridor was combined with Clocker service to create a line going between New York, Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Harrisburg is also served by Amtrak's Pennsylvanian, which goes from New York to Pittsburg. Through service to the Mid West no longer exists. Passengers must transfer to the Capitol Limited to continue their trip to Chicago.
    — Submitted April 18, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.

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Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 2, 2008, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,343 times since then and 52 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on April 2, 2008, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.   3. submitted on April 18, 2010, by John K. Robinson of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
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