James Klar Photograph of the Old Saybrook switch tower

Old Saybrook, Connecticut, switch tower, on the New Haven Railroad. Photograph taken by James S. Klar, 1975.

James S. Klar spent his working life as a city planner, but his first love was photography. After he retired he indulged in his passion full-time, and received training in photography techniques. In 1975 he received a grant from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts to photograph 75 railroad stations in southern New England for an exhibition. This photograph of the Old Saybrook Interlocking, or switch, tower, was taken on June 10, 1975, for the exhibition.

James Klar died in 1985 and in 1990 his wife Marjorie donated the photographs from the exhibition to the Railroad History Archives. The photographs show exquisite details of old railroad stations and structures, many of them dilapidated.

The interlocking tower in Old Saybrook was built in 1912, for the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. An interlocking, or switch, tower was an important feature for railroad safety. It allowed the tower operator to communicate with railroad personnel about train movements, and to control junction switches and signals with a bank of levers on the second floor. In the 1920s the mechanical interlocking was replaced by banks of electrical relays, which were replaced by pneumatic assists. By the 1970s changes in dispatching technology rendered the tower obsolete and it was closed. The tower was razed in June 1998.

This photograph of the switching levers on the second floor of the tower was taken in 1997 by Robert Brewster when it was recorded for a Historic American Buildings Survey, which you can find in the Connecticut Historic Preservation Collection.