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While scanning an archive of some 1400 negatives I found an interesting image of a switch tower. 

John Taylor at MN Tower

A switch tower is a building where railroad personnel monitor track switches.  Towers were placed near switch locations into order for the railroad personnel to manually “throw” the switch to direct trains to a different track.  A switchman possessed keys to unlock/lock a switch so that someone just walking along could not “throw” the switch and cause an accident.  These towers also served as a communication points along the rails passing along information to trains as to the status of the tracks ahead.

The MN switch tower in this collection was near a passing siding.  Passing sidings utilized switches in order to allow two trains on the same track to pass one another.  As these opposing trains approach one another, one train is switched from the main line onto a passing siding to wait for the other train to pass. Once the train with the right of way has passed, the train waiting can move back onto the main line and go on its way.  The average freight train can be one to one and a quarter miles in length or 90 to 120 rail cars and therefore this passing siding must be long enough to accommodate these large trains. 

The photographs in this large archive were shot by amateur photographer William Ward Lowery in the early twentieth century. Mr. Lowery worked for the Canton City Water Department where he retired in 1955 having served the City of Canton for forty-two years.

William Ward Lowery

While cleaning the history galleries in our museum last Friday I noticed a tower in the model train set up we have in our Street of Shops. This tower looked like the switch tower in Mr. Lowey’s photographs.  As I walked around the set up I noticed more towers in more cities in Stark County. 

The two towers we feature today are the MN Tower, and the Wandle Tower.  We have found evidence that the MN Tower was East of Massillon, Ohio. The Wandle Tower in the model represents a tower that once stood in Canton, Ohio. The word Wandle is an amalgamation of the initials of the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad Company W. and L.E. Wandle.

Stay tuned to our museum’s Facebook, YouTube Channel, and our blog Archivist’s Attic for more Tales from the Negatives…

McKinley Presidential Library & Museum