Aug 22-06

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2006: August: Aug 22-06
Conrail 401    ...scroll down to share comments
Photos by Tom Cook
ELS 1201    ...scroll down to share comments
Photos by Tom Cook
Trains, trains, trains    ...scroll down to share comments
Photos by Tom Cook

Mary Drew at Pasty Central (Mdrew) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 07:04 am:

Travel around the U.P. now-a-days is mostly by automobile and transport of goods by 18-wheelers. Gone are the days (for the most part) when you'd be driving along the highway and have a train chugging along the tracks adjacent to the road. If you're wondering where all the engines have gone, then today's Pasty Cam from Tom Cook will interest you. A bit of geocaching recently brought Tom to the North Shore Boat Launch on the Escanaba River in Wells, MI. Here's what he had to say about his encounter with the train yard:
" I don't even know how many engines were in the row, but it did look like all engines. It looked like a graveyard, until I saw the little one running. Maybe they restore them."
I bet those engines, blue, red, green and even yellow, were all beauties in their day!

By Jim (Jimattica) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 07:31 am:

In the middle of the lower peninsula, trains are alive and well, We live fairly near a CN track and get 50 to 60 trains a day.

By Eddyfitz (Eddyfitz) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 07:41 am:

Ditto here in Monroe county..we have 3 sets of tracks going thru town and are busy 24/7.
Gone are the glory days of interurban (electric)and passenger travel except for a few routes operated by Amtrak in lower Michigan.
This spring I sold copies of some 200 Upper Peninsula depots on E-Bay. If anyone is interested in a jpeg n/c contact me at

By Richard L. Barclay (Notroll) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 08:07 am:

Same here east of Flint, I think they are moving Canada to Mexico by rail. I thought most locomotives were owned by banks and leased to the different rail lines, anybody know for sure?

By Inwis (Inwis) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 09:02 am: The E&LS yard in Wells had some old C&H diesel engines there well into the 80's. I think they were the C&H 101 and 102.

By eugenia r. thompson (Ert) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 10:31 am:

All those rusting trains are so sad! I love trains, and it seems they would be an efficient way of moving goods. I still haven't gotten over the removal of cabooses on the few remaining trains; the end of the train comes and there's a puny little red light! What an insult!

By Carole (Carole) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 10:48 am:

We live in Holly and a train track is right behind the condo complex. There must be at least a half a dozen trains that go by everyday. What a wonderful sound, especially in the middle of the night in winter.

By Julia (Julia) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 11:20 am:

My cousins live in Fowlerville, MI and they have a train track that runs right by the house, and everytime a train came by stuff on the shelves and elsewhere would vibrate. I don't know if trains still go through there or not.

By k j (Kathiscc) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 12:05 pm:

We live very close to the Illinois Railway Museum. It's very interesting to go by there and see all the old trains (although it's a pain in the neck when Thomas the Train comes to town- then you just have to avoid the area completely). There are also regular trains that use the tracks because they come from the Chrysler Plant in Belvidere and go to Chicago and points beyond. They have web cams at the website.

By derek tuoriniemi (Derek) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 01:31 pm:

most of those engines that the e&ls owns will rust away into nothing

By paul (Pungvait) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 02:22 pm:

if not for rail transportation, the celotex plant in L'anse and the Ontonagon paper mill would both be closed.

By Scott (Scott_mn) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 02:36 pm:

The engines in the photos (except for the 401 and the running switcher) are model RS12s, built by the long defunct Baldwin Locomotive Company in the 1940s. The E&LS still has one operating RS12 (#300) used in freight service and the rest are used as a parts source, as Baldwin replacement parts become more difficult to find.
They also have a few S12s, which are a smaller yard switcher version of the RS12, including #202 which is an ex C&H unit. The last I knew, the 202 was operating at the Smurfit-Stone plant in Ontanogan, still wearing its C&H orange paint scheme.
The E&LS still provides regular freight service from Channing, MI with lines running south to Green Bay, and north to Ontanogan. The line from Channing east to Escanaba was abandoned, leaving the Wells shop isolated and accessed by trackage rights over Canadian National.

By Paul H. Meier (Paul) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 06:34 pm:

The steel wheel on the steel rail beats the rubber tire on asphalt or concrete for fuel efficiency. Especially for bulk commodities. The trucks won out on convienence and the availability of a highly subsidized highway system. (yes, I know truckers pay high taxes and tolls - but those don't come near paying for the highway system!) Rails on the other hand, did get land grants in certain cases, but for the most part they financed and built their own right of ways and then paid taxes on them. On smaller and high value shipments, the ability of the truck to deliver faster has been worth the premium despite the higher unit cost. As to passengers, well we like the freedom that the automobile provides and are willing to build the roads. The rails started losing that business as soon as anything ressembling an all weather road was built. The airlines once offered speed, status, and luxury. (That is now a dubious description of air travel.) That spelled the end of long distance train travel. Today, if you count time to, from, and in airports, a train can often beat the airlines at the short and middle distances. In urban areas, a well signaled single track commuter railroad can carry the same number of people as 4-6 lanes of highway.
Baldwin used to build very good steam locomotives and some of its diesel-electrics were excellent, however, it was overwhelmed by General Motor's EMD division based in LaGrange, Illinois. GM's EMD became the dominate manufacturer. True to form in the past decade or so, GM closed the LaGrange Plant and moved all production to London, Ont. and then let that go too. General Electric is now the only major manufacturer to build locomotives in the US. Kinda serves GM right. After WWII, GM bought control of the Los Angeles area interuban system and managed it to fail so that the government would build roads and GM could sell more cars and buses. It worked, and I'm sure all the folks driving in the constant "rush hour" out there are thankful for GM.
The Copper Country was laced with rails during the boom years and as late as the 1960's logs and lumber could be loaded on railcars as far up as Mohawk and Gay. These would leave the area on the lower level of the bridge and not via the streets of Hancock and Houghton. First Gay was abandoned, then Mohawk, the Lake Linden etc. etc. Next time you are caught behind a big load of logs grinding up a hill while you hope those chains don't have a weak link and those stakes are strong enough, or when one is behind you going down a hill and you're hoping his brakes are in good shape, think about the days when the logs went out on rails.
We are one crazy MiddleEast disaster or government away from a real energy shortage. We need to keep our most energy efficient means of moving things and people.

By John Preisler (Jpreisler) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 07:28 pm:

Not to be a negative nelly, but rs whatever are alco products and
not baldwin/lima/halmilton

By John Preisler (Jpreisler) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 07:29 pm:

If you're going to view the spot where the lakers load the taconite
pellets at esky, you would have turned right. going staight would
take you to this locomotive salvage yard.

By Paul H. Meier (Paul) on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 08:10 pm:

RS was a designator that both Alco and Baldwin used. The E&LS locos pictured are Baldwin built with the exception of the blue ex-Conrail unit (EMD) and the E&LS 1201, also EMD.

By Dan Cunningham (Uporbust) on Wednesday, August 23, 2006 - 12:50 am:

With the cost of fuel going up like it is and the trucking industry paying lower wages I expect to see a resurection of the railroads.
It will never be like it was in their glory days but is seems to be making a comeback and I am glad of that.

By Charles Pomazal (Cpomazal) on Wednesday, August 23, 2006 - 01:43 pm:

Woo Woo! Choo Choo! Yeah, I like trains. Yeah definitely! I like trains. They're big. Shhh! Here come the nurse. I have to go now.

By Russell E. Emmons (Russemmons) on Thursday, August 24, 2006 - 02:08 am:

Paul: A very concise, comprehensive, to the point, and informative post regards the situation in those brief few paragraphs!
I've heard of the Los Angeles situation in the past. Plus there was an excellent documentary on this on PBS some time back. Seems Firestone Tires were in on this also for the bus tires. Also shortly after the changeover from the interurban to the (mostly) diesel buses the now famous LA "Smog" was obviously present and established!

We here are just a scant 3 miles north of the remnants of the old once popular and prosperous Detroit Interurban Railway that ran from Detroit (maybe Toledo?) to Port Huron Michigan in the 1920s. This railway carried travelers, workers and mostly tourists along Lake St. Clair, Anchor Bay, thru the vast St. Clair Flats marshes and along the St. Clair River. One can still find the old concrete bridge abutements crumbling and hidden in the weeds and shrubs where the rails crossed the local small rivers and creeks in this area.

To the north of us just a few miles runs the main Grand Trunk Western Rail track that runs from Detroit to Port Huron. I think at least 6 or 7 trains run thru every day. I hear that several of these runs now have no engineer or crew, being a drone run by a dispatcher somewhere by computer!
This is the route made famous by Thomas Edison who as a boy rode this daily selling papers etc. As the story goes he and his sister saved the train one day from going over the washed out trestle over the Belle River (not far from us!) by tooting morse code on another trains whistle. Some time later young Tom caught the train on fire fooling with his chemistry set and got thrown off at Smiths Creek. Later he bought the whole Smiths Creek depot where it is to this day in Greenfield Village!
So you see, we have some exciting old historic tales down here in Troll-land too!

By Mary Lou Curtin (Marylou) on Thursday, August 24, 2006 - 07:54 am:

Paul..It seems that we were a kinder more civil society when we had trains........We had great depots in most small towns and kids waited for the trains to go through. Travel was simple...Copper Country to major mid-west cities and beyond. My friends tell of their regular shopping trips from Escanaba to we are lucky to be able to drive to Green Bay....I took a train from Chicago to New Mexico in the 50s and loved the old stations along ther way....Albuquerque's station was a work of art.....and our Houghton station was one of the best. How was it allowed to happen??...:o(

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