May 05-03

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2003: May: May 05-03
Railroad Crossing, Escanaba    ...scroll down to share comments
Photo by Donn de Yampert

Toivo, near Raleigh, NC on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 12:50 am:

Hope you had a weekend as nice as mine. It's back on the road, headed north to the last few states before we run out of 'em.

Donn de Yampert is back, with a few shots in the old inbox. Though I've been to Escanaba many times, I don't recall this intersection. Wonder if trains do the same at 4-way stops?? Does the one on the right go first? I'll be worryin' about that all night.
G'night from North Carolina, and g'morning from da U.P. trip notes nc

By Kevin K. Lodi,Ca on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 01:31 am:

Can't say that i have ever seen a Railroad intersection like that before.
Only in da U.P.!

By Mike-Transplanted Yooper-Redford, Mi. on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 06:55 am:

Being somewhat of a railroad buff myself, Toivo, you needn't worry about a collision. It's very rare that two trains will collide at an intersection ("diamond" as we railroaders call it)
such as this one. The railroad dispatchers will "hold" one train, while the other crosses. Have you ever heard a train cross an intersection like this? Gotta try it once. A sound you'll never forget.

By Alex Tiensivu, Georgia on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 08:29 am:

Weird-A-Rama! I can barely imagine the sound this would make. I am a train buff, and I have NEVER seen anything like this before! Is this line even used anymore?

By D from Lake Linden, MI on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 08:47 am:

What does this scene remind you of? For me, it invokes memories of walking the rails and balancing on the ties with summertime friends on
school vacation...the great movie, "Stand By Me".
...waiting for the train to flatten our pennies we placed on the railroad ties......or, placing our ears to the rails to listen for the hum from the distant train approaching......nestled in my cozy warm bed, and hearing the early morning train's lonely whistle.

By yooperspud, coeur d alene, id on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 09:21 am:

i read one time about a strange laws that are still on the books, one said about a crossing like this, "if two tranins me at a train crossing, one cannot go until the other has preceded." i wonder how many abandonded trains there are out in the u.s. at railroad crossings?

By TALLPAUL, Southgate & Kearsarge on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 09:42 am:

I work on the railroad in Detroit and we have one of these not far from the Ford Rouge Plant. It's where the NS railroad crosses our ConRail tracks. There are no signals, just stop signs in each direction. First come, first serve. The picture above looks like a track for servicing some industry. When a train pulls up to this he stops and makes sure the other track is clear. Then pushes that gate across the other track so the "Stop" sign is on that track while they're working.

By NJ shore Clamdigger on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 10:25 am:

There was a similar "diamond" in the Keweenaw at Mine Mill Junction. The Junction was North and West of South Range. I've seen a photo of this place, with three trains idling at the junction. Can't recall where I saw the photo tho'

By yooperwannabe, IN on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 11:17 am:

D from Lake Linden---"Stand By ME" is my favorite--may I add--worrying that your bike tires just might get stuck as you cross the tracks OR snug in your bed hearing the whistle amplified through the fog just as you drift off to sleep for the night!

By jack, coeur d alene, id on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 11:48 am:

"stand by me", great movie. i was about the same age as those kids at that time. a bit of trivia, did anybody know that the "fat kid", went on to be in two other tv series?, one was a scientific one called "sliders" as main character quinn mallory, and now he has an occuring role on that medical examiner show, "crossing jordan" as det. woody hoyt.

By Tex in Michigan on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 11:56 am:

Neat Donn, if there is only one in the area, I think I know where it is. Good job!

By Scott, MI on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 12:07 pm:

He is actually.......the suspense....

By old miner on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 12:23 pm:

Seeing rairoard track reminds me of all the headaches i got working in the drift underground picking out room to put in ties and rails when you ran out of slide rail with powder from missed holes in the dirt an a thumping headache

By djb-mi. on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 12:39 pm:

miners; do you know any Tommy Nucker { gremlins in the mines} stories? I'll tell one when I have more time.

By Martha K., Pinckney, MI on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 02:08 pm:

Not being a railroad buff, I'm curious. There doesn't seem to be any switching mechanism there. Do the wheels of the train that would be going crosswise in the picture just sort of rise up over the rails like going over speed bumps? If the train were going too fast would it derail?

By Karen P, MN on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 03:35 pm:

I only know that it is always a good idea to leave the crimped crust part of your pasty behind for the Tommy Knockers. If they are unhappy, bad fortunes may come to the mine.

By azyooper on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 04:29 pm:

A good ol'summer memory...Once upon a summer day my kids found a turtle on the railroad rails when they were looking for pennies they had placed there and brought the turtle home to show us (and all of our dinner guests) with a shell the size of a dinner plate. They said someone had put it on the rails and they saved it by putting it back in the creek. (pronounced "crick" for non yoopers)

By Steve Brimm on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 05:28 pm:

Welcome to NC Toivo- give me a holler if you get down to Wilmington.

Best of travels


By Paul in Illinois on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 06:57 pm:

The sign at the crossing is called a smash board - for obvious reasons. If a train approaches the crossing and the smash board or gate is set in its path, it must stop and a trainman with a key would unlock it and set it against the other track. Most often,in the days before two-way radios on trains,there would be phone booth at the crossing for the crew to call to ask permission to open the smash board. If they failed to stop in time, the board would offer evidence that someone had violated the rules. Usually one of the tracks was "superior" to the other and the smash board would always be set against the "inferior" line except when a train was actually using the crossing. This arrangement is not rare on little used lines. Where the traffic is denser, the crossing is signaled much like a street intersection (that's a simplistic view , but close enough for non-railfans). At really busy crossings, example very busy single and multiple track main line, a signal tower and interlocking plant would be built, these were manned by the railroad equivilant of a traffic cop. They were called inlocking plant because there were mechanical or electrical interlocks to prevent more than one train being signalled through at a time. There was one in near Osceola where the H&C crossed the Mineral Range. These crossings still exist but they are automated or remotely controlled.
As to the noise, most crossings do not have any sort of movable parts (some high speed locations do), there are flangeways (grooves) in the rails that allow the flanges on the wheels to pass through the rails being crossed. There are, of course similar grooves in the rails being used. When the wheels pass over the grooves, there is a loud metallic bang (industrial heavy metal?) that is very distinctive. On mainlines, there is usually some sort of speed restriction over a crossing, but sometimes, not much of one. 45-50 miles per hour is OK on a good crossing. On the ones with the movable parts to eliminate the flangeways there might be no speed restrictions. One of my most memorable rail experiences is seeing and hearing mainline steam locomotives going over a crossing at speed.

By rtt mi on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 07:12 pm:

It appears there are two sets of rails going East to West if North is at the top. Is this the way it really is?

By Jus me in da U.P. on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 10:22 pm:

Hey..It's Steve Brimm. Can't wait to see some new photos here and on Brimmages! You are so gifted and I wish I had an eye like yours!

By Jus me again on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 10:25 pm:

I wish Toivo would give us one word a day instead of ONE letter. The suspense is killin me.

By Ken from da UP on Tuesday, May 6, 2003 - 12:26 am:

These crossings are near the old Harnischfeger Corp. (P&H) parking lot and Chicago and Northwestern yard. Like Paul/IL says there is a groove where the rails actually cross for the flanges to fit in. The rail traffic here is very slow. One of the tracks ends up at the ore terminal. I worked almost 20 years at P&H on various jobs. Welded for 10 of them. Laid off in May of '82. We built truck cranes, crawler cranes and construction equipment. Parts for the big P&H mining shovels, hydraulic backhoes, etc.

By Martha K., Pinckney, MI on Tuesday, May 6, 2003 - 12:40 am:

Paul in Illinois: Thanks for the explanation!

By Bob Lowney, Jr. NC on Tuesday, May 6, 2003 - 10:50 am:

I'm a transplanted Yooper that used to by the project director at the Michigan Railroad History Museum in the Durand Union Station. To see a very dramatic picture of this busy station and the diamonds on both sides visit

Toivo, if you're headed to the Outer Banks, give me a call in Elizabeth City.

By Chris, Livonia MI on Wednesday, May 7, 2003 - 07:45 pm:

Very good explanation of a diamond crossing by TALLPAUL (is that Melvindale?) and Paul in Illinois. Only thing I might add to help enlighten those not into trains & railroading is that these crossings do not have to be at right angles like shown here, and frequently are not. The farther divergent from 90 degrees, the more they take on a "diamond" shape...hence the term.

By Ray Albuquerque NM. on Sunday, May 11, 2003 - 09:34 am:

Great pic. Brought back many memories. Grew up in Lake Linden and was somewhat of a railroad buff myself. As soon as I saw the double line I felt it was the main C&NW line. The industrial spur could have been a South shore local service line. Must admit I had never seen or heard a direct crossing like that.

By Pastor Robert Sutherland, Negaunee on Monday, November 24, 2003 - 04:18 pm:

I enjoyed reading your website. I have served as a Lutheran pastor in towns along rr sites. Baraga, Negaunee, Munising and when in Wisconsin along the Soo Line tracks at Unity. Just south of Unity at Spencer the Soo Line split one going toward Mpls, and the other to Ashland.

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