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Centralized Electric and Traffic Control on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor

There are three Amtrak dispatching centers on the NEC. In a few years, once all the interlockings are cut in and the towers closed, they will control all the Amtrak owned trackage in the NEC. Philadelphia was the first center to go on line, followed by Boston. The New York center has yet to go on line.

This posting is organized as if you are traveling from Boston to Washington, which the railroad considers from east to west, even though geographically many of us think of it as north to south.


Boston center is located on the 5th floor of South Station. This center controls the line between "Boston" (Boston South station) and "Shoreline Jct." (Just east of New Haven). It also controls several MBTA branches off the corridor in the Boston area as well as the "Springfield" line between New Haven and Springfield. All railroad dispatched from this center is controlled CETC dispatchers (no "paper" railroad or towers left).


The stretch from New Haven to "Shell" is controlled by the MTA Metro-North dispatcher at Grand Central Station, not Amtrak. Shell is the interlocking in New Rochelle where Metro-North peels off the Northeast Corridor (Metro-North's New Haven Line) toward the Harlem Line in Mount Vernon while Amtrak continues west toward the Hell Gate Bridge.

New York

The New York City center is located two blocks west of Penn Station. In this center there will be actually two "centers:" CETC "New Jersey," which will run on a Tandem computer, and the Penn Station Control Center (PSCC).

Penn Station Control Center

The PSCC will be run on a UNIX machine (Telnet to CETC...just joking). The Long Island RR which funded the PSCC did not like the CETC setup or the computer it ran on. Rather than wait for computer development and software writing to catchup with CETC, the decision was made to go with CETC for New York "west," the first part of which was supposed to go on line in October 1994, though it will be a year late, and let the PSCC part come on-line in spring of 1996.

Penn Station will start to be run from a "hard panel" board located in the basement of the New York CETC/PSCC building in October 1994. The LIRR required that a huge emergency hard panel board be near by to run Penn station and "Harold" in the event of massive computer failure.

New Rochelle to Penn Station

The eastern most interlocking that the PSCC will control is "Pelham." This interlocking controls a moveable bridge and three switches and is controlled by a "tower" that is a trailer located up in the bridge structure. The next interlocking heading west, towards NY, is "Gate" which is now controlled by the PSCC. After that comes "Harold" which is still (I think) controlled by the tower at that location. This interlocking is/will be controlled by the PSCC.

Sunnyside Yard

The interlocking controlling the entrance to Sunnyside yard is "F" interlocking and is now controlled by the PSCC. There is another interlocking in Sunnyside Yard called "R" which is controlled by the tower of the same name. This interlocking will remain under the control of this tower which answers to the Sunnyside Yard master.

Penn Station to the Kearny Connection

As you go west from New York, the first interlocking you hit after leaving the tunnel is "Bergen." The next is "Portal," which consists of two switches and a moveable bridge. The two switches will soon be removed but the signals will remain to guard the moveable bridge. The next interlocking after "Portal" is "Swift" (aka Kearny Connection). This interlocking will go into service shortly and will be the westernmost interlocking controlled by the PSCC.

New Jersey

CETC "New Jersey" will have control over trackage from "Hudson" to "Morris." Hudson is the yard just east of Newark and Morris is in Pennsylvania just west of Trenton. The cut over from tower control to CETC control will begin in October/November 1995 with the "Fair" tower in Trenton. The cut over work will gradually continue its way east from there with Hudson tower being the last to go.


Hudson        Hudson
Dock          Dock (Newark station)
Hunter        Hunter, Lane.
Union         Elmora, Union.
Lincoln       Menlo, Islin, Lincoln, Edison.
Fair          County, Midway, Ham, East Fair, West Fair, Morris.

CTEC-7 controls--------morris , west fair , east fair , ham 
CTEC-8 controls--------midway , county , edison , lincoln , menlo , iselin

Dock now controls----------east dock , west dock , cliff , hunter , lane

Some quick notes on the above list...

Next towers to close are Pelham Bay and Harold. Pelham Bay will be handled by Section A and Harold will become part of the PSCC.

Hudson will be split into two interlockings by CETC.

Hunter will be moved about half a mile to the east to get it off the curve. In addition to this, a high speed connection will be constructed (45 MPH) to the Raritan Valley Line.

Union will be split into two interlockings named Union and Merk (?). Merk will be a single switch off of track "A" about a mile east of Union.


Located on the 8th floor of 30th street station, the Philadelphia center controls all interlockings from "Grundy" (Just west of Trenton) to "Avenue" (Washington).

This center also controls the Atlantic City branch between "Shore" (Philadelphia) and "Atlantic" (Atlantic City). This line however will be transferred to the NJ Transit dispatchers in Hoboken on September 28th [1995] as part of Amtrak withdrawal from the A.C. line. The Harrisburg line between "Zoo" (Philadelphia) and "State" (Harrisburg) is still dispatched by a "paper" dispatcher through operators located in towers. While there are long range plans to convert this line to CETC, I wouldn't look for it to happen soon.

Future Changes

Right now the New York dispatchers are on the second floor of the new CETC/PSCC building. Word has it that the LIRR wants the entire center for themselves and wants CETC out. Because of this we (Philadelphia) have been told that the New York CETC dispatchers will be moved into our office sometime in the next two years. This would place the corridor between Washington ("Avenue") and New York ("Bergen") under the control of one center.

This information was written/provided by Erich S. Houchens and Eric G. The material was edited by Daniel Convissor, primarily to allow the text to flow from Boston to Washington and flush out the information.


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Last updated: 8 April 1999