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SEPTA Control Center

Posted by Fulton Frank on Sun Apr 29 13:32:16 2012

I am a member of the Philadelphia Section of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). Yesterday they ran an invitational tour of SEPTA Control Center. Of course, they didn't have to ask me twice......

Our first stop was an all glass enclosed board type room that is their crisis center. Here, on the table with the phones would, sit crisis managers in case of a bad storm, terror attack, etc and coordinate with external agencies such as police and fire and Homeland Security.

The monitors can show any part of the system they care to. Right now it's showing the Center City portion of regional rail on top and the MFL below. (More about reading the model board later)

Our next stops were the bus and SEPTA police suites. Needless to say I took no pictures there. But, in case you didn't know or realize it, on SEPTA - and presumably NYCT too - you are under almost continuous surveillance.

Here we are at BSS / MFL control center. The BSS is on top. The bulge on the right is Fern Rock with its yard. The woman at right is the "Towerman" for the yard. Below is the MFL - two tracks all the way with the 69th St loop seen at left.

Next up was surface/high speed rail. Top: Norristown High Speed. Below: trollies.

A view showing the other end ...

There is also a power center. Here you can see that the BSS and the MFL are totally powered up with red third rails... It also shows the feeders and sub-stations

And then finally.... finally.. we were brought to Regional Rail! It is hard for me to capture the relative scale for you. But, if the other operational suites were like tug boats, the Regional Rail operation was like the Queen Mary!
There were some interesting demographic differences as well. Whereas the other systems were maned by young, very cool, hip, mostly african american men and women; regional rail was handled by older white guys. Probably ex towermen and block operators form the Pennsy and Reading?

Get a feeling for the size here.... model board as far as the eye can see.

The skinny part in the middle is the Center City Connector. So everything to the left of it is former PRR; everything to the right is Reading.

Here's a part of the system whose PC's (physical characteristics) I'm familiar with - Cane interlocking to Media on the R3 (which, I think you know is still referred to as the West Chester Branch). This will also serve as your lesson to reading the board.

Lets start with the blue vertical line. That's the Crum Creek Trestle. We see Train 3724 as a red arrow. It's the 4:05 out of Elwyn and has entered the block just north of Swarthmore Station. The change between green and red track behind it is the automatic signal just past the station (automatic signals do not show on the board). That block is occupied, so it's red. 3724 is about to enter Cane interlocking and its home signal is set clear - green as you can see. Of course home signals are controlled by the operators here. The white sections of track are not aligned. You can see that in the lower track diagram: Train 845 has been lined up out of Chestnut Hill West in normal direction of traffic.

Here's a zoomed out view of that section of the board. You see Arsenal interlocking in the upper right and proceeding out on the R3 you see Cobbs and Darby Creek trestles. Cane interlocking. Then Crum Creek bridge and you can see a train coming out of Media yard. Behind Media yard is Ridley Creek Trestle and south of that the line goes single track at Elwyn and not in service.

A great 2.5 hrs on a Saturday afternoon....


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