The Hagerstown Conundrum, Again: HJ "Hager" Tower

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Wed May 11 22:15:07 EDT 2016


                The SVRR track charts from 1885 show a single track CVRR with the SVRR diverging at MP H-0.5. There was a SVRR office on Walnut street at the passenger station, and what appears to be a  watchman’s shanty at the switch. This shanty was located on the west side of the Shenandoah Valley line as there was originally no connection with Western Maryland, hence no diamond. I read the contract for the installation of a diamond across the CVRR to reach WM, and at that time it was in the Shenandoah Valley scrapbook, located in the Library there at VPI.  Where it is now, since the N&W material was moved, I do not know. The next chart I have dates from 1912 and shows a structure to the north and east of the diamond. This is not the location of HJ tower, or what we know as Hager Tower. The PRR coach yard located to the east of the diamond was installed by then. I then have a chart for the planned construction of Vardo yard dated September 1, 1921, which shows Hager tower (as we know it), in place. I always thought this was a Pennsylvania, rather than N&W design.   

Mason Cooper


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Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 9:02 PM
To: NW Mailing List
Subject: Re: The Hagerstown Conundrum, Again: HJ "Hager" Tower



C.D. Potts, of the N&W Signal Department, in an article titled "When Signals Were New," published in N&W Magazine in February 1932, states, "The oldest [interlocking] plant on record is that at Hagerstown Junction, which is mechanically operated. It was installed in 1883, was enlarged to accommodate additional tracks in 1903, and was overhauled in 1930 by the Pennsylvania."

Okay, so we had an N&W interlocking at Hagerstown Jct in 1883. But >> WHERE << was it located ? Was this the interlocking we remember as the "Hager" of our time ?


A Google search turned up a collection of Sanborn maps that cover Hagerstown from the late 1800s into the early 1900s, in the Library of Congress with no restrictions. It wasn't until after the turn of the century that the junction area of the city showed up on the maps, but the two attached from 1910 and 1926 might help. They show a signal tower in the southeast quadrant of the crossing of the N&W and Cumberland Valley, with a connection track running behind the tower.


I don't know if this is the 1883 tower or a later version. Digging out these details is what makes all of this fun.


Bruce in Blacksburg



Sanborn Insurance Maps

1885-1963, Library of Congress, 

MSA SC 2907


1885 -1963 SANBORN MAP COMPANY (Fire Insurance Maps of Maryland Towns and Cities). Hagerstown, WA - Kitzmillerville, GA. (includes Funkstown, Halethorpe, Hampstead, Hancock, Havre de Grace, Hurlock, Hyattsville, Kensingtown)


This is the direct link to the microfilmed images of the maps, which can be downloaded (individually) as PDF files:


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