|Karl Zumwait posted|
Otto tower circa 1947
Rich Westerman Still there. No stairs, windows boarded up. I've heard that it contains signal electronics which is why its not been razed.
Jon Roma Yes, it still stands. Until both the Otto and Ashkum control points were upgraded a couple years ago by CN, the structures housed the signal hardware to run the plants. This may affect their future now that they no longer contain equipment.
Jon RomaBoth Otto and Ashkum ceased to be manned towers when the CTC machine controlling Otto-Gilman was installed in Gilman in 1950.
Trent Blasco Jon Roma what exactly did OTTO control. it does not look like a busy branch that connects to the main....
Erik Coleman Otto was the Junction of the Chicago District with the Bloomington District or "Bloomer" as it's called locally. The namesake shortline operates a large remnant of that branch, though CN still operates (for now) a small stretch from Otto to Herscher.
Nikki Burgess The Bloomington District also provided access to the Pontiac line at Saxony, south of Kempton. So when the tower was constructed there was far more traffic on and off the main at that point.
Jon Roma Otto's importance as an interlocking went far beyond the connection to the Bloomington District. It was the south end of three main tracks which happened to be the busiest stretch of the entire IC system. On the two-track portion to the south, IC instituted an early (1920s) example of bidirectional running on signal indication instead of train orders to handle the heavy traffic, which included everything from local freights and coal drags to banana trains and fast passenger trains.
Skip Luke Trent Blasco .... I have train sheets from the 1920s ..... Lot of trains back then. ..... Just figuring it in my head, though, in the 60s we had about 35 or 40 trains a day through there, depending somewhat on whether the lakes were iced over or not. That includes 13 passenger trains, 2 locals on the Bloomer, local roundtrip KKK to Gilman and back, 6 freights to and from Gilman Line (including hot auto parts,) through frts to and fro m down south, and coal trains and coal empties....
Of course, that was before W. B. Johnson, Illinois Central Goof and HamTrak.
If I feel.motivated I might drag out those old trainsheets.
Jon Roma I have digitized some old IC train sheets, and they can be found on my website at https://www.jonroma.net/rail/movement/train-sheets/. These files are downloadable high-resolution PDFs.
Sadly, I have not yet gotten around to digitizing a lot of Chicago District sheets, but there are a couple old ones featured there. The oldest one is from 1919, and lists 74 trains in 24 hour's time.
Jon Roma Trent Blasco, it's important to remember that today's trains are longer and carry more tonnage than the 80-car standard of yesteryear. It's absolutely true that the IC and other railroads lost a lot of traffic over the years, but comparing number of trains does not tell the whole story. The measure that matters is tonnage.
Trent Blasco Jon Roma yes very true however i suspect dispatching back then was much harder with all the traffic and no radios or computers to assist
Jon Roma Trent Blasco, a good dispatcher in that era didn't need a radio or computer or even a CTC board. All they needed was a train sheet, the block telephone or telegraph, and a lot of nicotine and caffeine.
Bear in mind that on double track with automatic block signals and passing tracks, the rule book and timetable pre-ordained that inferior trains got in the clear for superior ones, so the dispatcher didn't have to spoon-feed instructions to these trains. On top of that, the dispatcher had telegraphers in every depot five or ten miles apart (at least on day trick) giving "OS" reports.
So the dispatcher in the old days had plenty of eyes and ears from one end of his territory to the other, but he also had less technology (like CTC and radio) to help him out. So it's hard to compare then vs. now either.
One thing I can add is that old-time dispatchers had a relatively short life expectancy after retirement. The heavy smoking may have had a part, but the stress of the job was probably the most significant factor. Not only did we not understand the causes back then, the treatment options were pretty primitive too.
Trent Blasco Jon Roma oh i can see that. i move oversized equipment for a living and i am stressed just about all day. you dont feel it until you realize you are gripping things hard and not breathing right. holding your breath....etc
|Jon Roma commented on Karl's post|
Here's a builder's photo of northernmost portion of the CTC machine that replaced the interlocking machines at Otto, Chebanse, Cifton, Ashkum, and North Gilman. This photo was taken on July 21, 1950 in the Union Switch & Signal factory at Swissvale, PA before being shipped to the IC. From paperwork in my files, the territory controlled by the individual towers mentioned was cut over to the new machines in stages.
Skip Luke Jon Roma ...... I spent a lot of time looking at that board.
Jon Roma I remember hearing a story about a CTC operator at Gilman who accidentally ran No. 53 through the Ashkum pass because he'd forgotten to check the switch before giving a lineup. He said that, when the delayed train was rolling through Gilman, he avoided going out to the platform to accept the nasty glares from the engine crew.
Skip Luke Jon Roma ..... Can't verify that one, but could happen. Would have to have been pre-radio or they'd have been turning the airwaves blue when they got that diverging signal.
Jon Roma Oh, the operator himself admitted to me his error (long after the "statute of limitations"). He didn't wind up in the doghouse because 53 made up all the lost time between Gilman and Champaign, back when speed limits were winked at more than they are today.
|Jon Roma commented on Karl's post|
This scene is from the camera of railroad executive John W. Barriger III, and depicts a view looking north at Otto from the rear observation car of a southbound train.
The presence of the old depot/tower on the west (left) side of the track suggests an early date, but appears to me to be at odds with the vintage of automobile parked at the tower on the right, which is the one that still stands.
The Barriger library can be accessed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/barrigerlibrary/.
Paul Jaenicke Jon Roma Road to the right of the tower must of been a local county or township road. Route 45 and 54 was further east from here. I 57 didn't come till late 1960's.
Mark Weg they call the road next to the tower Old 45....runs between Chebanse to the north and Clifton to the south ....and further.
Mark Rickert One on the left looks to be wood and the one on the right brick.
Skip Luke Mark Rickert ... Seems I remember the wooden structure was a combination tower/depot and survived for a while as a section house.
Jon Roma Mark, yes. Brick towers did not become a thing for the IC till the big modernization during the Markham presidency in the Twenties.
|Sam Carlson posted|
Death Stars through Otto, IL in June, 1997. Strange to say, 20 years later, the tower still stood.
When driving south down I-57, I normally see at least some cars parked in the yard. Sometimes I would even see the CN caboose that is in the area. Of course, it is easier to see what is in the yard during the Winter.
|Street View, note the code poll still standing on the left side of this capture.|
|Sam Carlson commented on his post|
Brian Voss I have to wonder how many hundred times NS wished they had never disposed of the Wabash main...
Sam Carlson When I was hauling crews, sometimes I'd have to go down to Otto (from Chicago) to dogcatch NS crews. Yeah, most of them bitched up a storm. But some liked it, because they could collect tow-in time, extra hours, final terminal time, and a host of other paycheck enhancing add ons. "If I was on the Wabash, I'd be running an engine now. Instead I'm getting paid big-time to sleep in the back of this van!"
Mark Egebrecht Sam Carlson
You mean Otto Junction where the IC Bloomer Line merged up with the IC New Orleans Main?
Sam Carlson Yup. Sometimes the NS trains just parked on the siding; other times they'd shove around the wye to get in the clear.
[Wabash got trackage rights to Decatur over the IC and then tore up their tracks.]
Harold J. Krewer Wasn't a branch, this was the Wabash's Chicago-Decatur main line. Crossed the Tip-Up at Forrest, then ran trackage rights over TP&W to Fairbury to reach the branch up to Pontiac and Streator.