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For the Love of Towers

Photography of Henry Wilhelm

Henry Theodore Wilhelm (1905 – 1986) never worked for a railroad, but had a deep interest in railroad interlockings, such as Signal Station 44 (SoNo Switch Tower Museum), and railroad signaling.  He developed an extensive knowledge and understanding of interlocking and signaling principles as he crisscrossed the country visiting towers, beginning with New York Central’s Van Cortland Park Tower in 1919.  When he was done, Mr. Wilhelm visited 2600 interlocking towers!  He often photographed and made detailed layout drawings of the towers visited.


The SoNo Switch Tower Museum maintains the Henry Wilhelm Negative collection, which contains approximately 4,000 black & white images.  The collection was donated by museum member Richard (Dick) Carpenter, who was a close friend of Mr. Wilhelm.  Dick met Mr. Wilhelm in 1947, while on a New Haven Railroad steam excursion over the Maybrook line.


Mr. Wilhelm inspired a young Dick Carpenter to start drawing railroad interlocking installations.  Both men became well-known for making detailed drawings of complex railroad interlockings.  Their drawings have been studied by railroad employees, enthusiasts and students of railroad interlockings and signaling.  The Wilhelm and Carpenter collections of interlocking drawings are preserved at the University of Connecticut Archives in Storrs, Connecticut.

Enjoy a small sampling of Mr. Wilhelm's work in this section.  Images will be rotated periodically.


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Henry Wilhelm catches a Milwaukee Road train passing the station and AD tower in Fulton, IL - 1928


Looking north on the Milwaukee Road in Rondout, IL.  Bridge in the distance is the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad (interurban) - 1928.  The tower at the right remained in service until 2015.  


Not only did railroads cross one another at grade, but on occasion, they crossed interurban or electric traction lines.  Here, a Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee interurban car is about to cross the Chicago & North Western at SU Tower in South Upton, IL – 1928


CO tower controlled the movement of Pittsburgh & Lake Erie trains on the four track main line in College, PA - 1928

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New York Central Advance 20th Century Limited displays green flags as it rolls by the tower in Whiting, IN - 1928

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Two locomotives bring a Chicago & North Western train past the tower in Clinton, IA - 1928


It's train time at Central Station in Chicago, IL.  Illinois Central trains are being readied for departure - 1928

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