Posts Tagged ‘CN in Durand Michigan’

Remembering the Owosso Train Festival of July 2009

July 28, 2019

Southern Pacific Daylight 4449 returns to Owosso in late afternoon after an day trip to Alma and back on the former Ann Arbor Railroad.

It was 10 years ago this month that 36,000 people flocked to Train Festival 2009 held in Owosso, Michigan.

There was something for everyone, ranging from three mainline steam locomotives in steam to excursions to a Lego model railroad layout.

The event, held at the home of the Steam Railroading Institute, had its share of glitches, including rain, long lines to tour the steam locomotive cabs and a mechanical breakdown of SRI’s own steamer, Pere Marquette No. 1225.

Aside from Railfair 1999 in Sacramento, California, it was one of the most comprehensive railfan-oriented events I’ve ever attended.

A number of Akron Railroad Club members attended the event, which was held July 23-26.

I originally wasn’t going to attend the festival until I figured out a way to do it on the cheap.

My wife had a cousin who lived near Flint, Michigan, which is about 30 to 45 minutes from Owosso.

Dan was agreeable to going with me to the festival and I could stay at his house, thus avoiding lodging expenses.

The festival officially opened on July 24, but everything was up and running on July 23, a Thursday, and the day I was there.

After parking, Dan and I walked to a location north of the festival so I could photograph the day excursion being pulled by former Southern Pacific Daylight 4-8-4 No. 4449.

Getting open view of the Daylight and its train wasn’t a problem, but rain and overcast skies were.

I was still using slide film and I didn’t have enough film speed to make good images. My photographs turned out dark and a little blurry.

Then it was on to the festival itself, which featured the 1225, Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765, Leviathan 4-4-0  No. 63, three 0-4-0T switchers (Flagg Coal Company 75, Little River Railroad No. 1 and Viscose Company No. 6), and Little River Railroad 4-6-2 No. 110.

The latter provided motive power at one end of the one-hour excursion trains that operated throughout the day while the tank engines took turns taking a spin on the SRI turntable.

You could also purchase throttle time behind some of the tank engines and look inside their cabs.

The Leviathan had just been completed and was making its “world premier” at the festival.

Another notable visitor was Southern Railway FP-7 No. 6133, which traveled from the North Carolina Transportation Museum. It did not operate during the festival but you could visit its cab.

There was a large-scale model of Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 on static display and a few live steamers taking passengers for rides on temporary track.

There were diesels pulling the 7.5-inch gauge trains and I spotted Akron Railroad Club member Paul Emch at the throttle of one of those.

Also on display was a Great Lakes Central freight locomotive and various pieces of rolling stock from the SRI collection.

I wanted to maximize my time seeing the exhibits and steam locomotives so I didn’t chase any of the excursions.

Another factor was that I didn’t know the territory where the excursions were operating and didn’t want to try to learn it on the fly.

But ARRC members Peter Bowler and Paul Woodring did chase. Peter, in particular, was all-in on the festival, chasing multiple trips and taking part in the night photo shoot.

Another ARRC member on hand for the festival was the late Richard Jacobs.

For some reason, the line to see the cab of the 1225 was far shorter than that of the 765, so I focused on it.

That turned out to be a good thing because the 1225 later in the day developed a problem with a flue and had to be shut down. It missed its assigned turn pulling the day excursion on Saturday.

By late afternoon the clouds had begun to break and sunlight began peeking through.

That meant the SP Daylight and its train would return in sunlight and I could, at last, get decent images of it.

The challenge, though, was the sun angle. The 4449 and its train would be coming almost directly out of the sun. At best I could get good light on the side of the locomotive.

On the flip side of that equation, it meant good light for the pair of former Milwaukee Road passengers, including a Skytop lounge-observation car, in their striking traditional passenger livery.

I hung around a little while longer to get more photographs of the 4449 after it had cut off from its train and returned to the festival grounds.

The next morning I had a long drive ahead of me. The ARRC was meeting that night and I planned to get back in time to preside at the meeting.

But I spent time that morning photographing Canadian National trains in Durand and Amtrak trains in Ann Arbor before driving home to Ohio.

As far as I remember, most ARRC members who attended the festival stayed around a few more days.

Paul tells the story of how he spent most of his time chasing the excursion trains and making video, but he did visit the festival grounds on the last day.

At one point during a chase, he became annoyed at an airplane that was circling the excursion train and making a lot of noise in doing so.

If the festival were being held today, he noted, the party that chartered the plane to get overhead video would use a less noisy drone.

“I’m glad I got to go,” Paul wrote “It will probably be the only time I’ll ever get to see the SP Daylight.”

He said a prominent memory of the festival was arriving at the motel in Owosso at which he had made a reservation months earlier and upon arriving to check in being told he didn’t have a room.

Paul said he had been quoted a great rate when he made the reservation, but the motel didn’t give him a confirmation number and he had not asked the name of the man who took his reservation.

He thinks that what happened was that once the motel owners found out about the train festival they jacked up their rates.

“So, I staged a sit-in in the lobby loudly complaining to anyone who would listen what they did to me, until they gave me a room not normally given out because it really wasn’t in very good shape.

“However, I didn’t have much choice at that point because there weren’t any other rooms available all the way to Lansing.

Paul said he learned a lesson about doing everything possible to confirm room and rate when making motel reservations.

Memories, photographs and video of the Owosso train festival were the focus of the January 2010 ARRC program.

Four of us were to present with Paul showing video of his steam train chases, Peter showing still images of the steam excursions and night photo shoot, and Jake and myself showing images of the festival displays.

The program went off as scheduled, but I never got to show my images. Two weeks before the ARRC meeting I tore the retina in my left eye in three places and had to have surgery.

I was still recovering from that surgery and couldn’t attend the ARRC meeting. So Jake, Peter and Paul presented their segments in what was the first use of the tag team program format during an ARRC program.

So with this post I am finally showing, nearly 10 years later some of the images I would have shown on that cold January night had I been able to attend the ARRC meeting.

A view of the engineer’s seat inside Pere Marquette 1225. A mechanical problem later that day would mean the Berkshire would only be in steam for just one day during the festival.

A view from cab level of Pere Marquette 1225.

The former Milwaukee Road passengers cars on the rear of the long steam excursions was a most pleasing sight.

At one end of the hour-long excursions that operated throughout the day was this Great Lakes Central GP35 while . . .

. . . Little River Railroad provided the motive power for the other end of the train.

The newly completed Leviathan made its “world premier” at the Owosso train festival.

Viscose Company No. 6 takes a spin on the turntable as seen from the cab of the Leviathan.

The 2009 train festival has proved thus far to be my only encounter with Flagg Coal Company No. 75. Ahead of it is Little River Railroad No. 1

A Southern FP7 from the North Carolina Railroad Museum made the trip to Michigan to be among the displays of railroad equipment.

Norfolk & Western 611 made an appearance in Owosso — well, at least a model of it.

Two CN trains meet on the double track in front of Durand Union Station on Friday morning.

An Amtrak Wolverine Service train arrives in Ann Arbor on July 24. It was my last railfanning experience during my visit to the 2009 train festival in Owosso.

Looking For the Dead in Durand

July 7, 2018

A westbound Canadian National auto rack train takes the Chicago connection in Durand, Michigan. This line once hosted Grand Trunk Western Steam into 1960 among other ghosts.

Author Roland Barthes wrote in Camera Lucida a short book of essays published in 1980 about the essence of photography that making photographs “is a kind of primitive theatre, a kind of Tableau Vivant, a figuration of the motionless and made-up face beneath which we see the dead.”

Photographs are a way of freezing people and moments in time and keeping them alive long after they have passed away.

Writing in The New Yorker, author Louis Menand expounded on that thought by saying that as we look at photographs, “we imagine one day looking at them when the people in them are no longer alive. Even when you look at a photo of some random person, anyone, taken years ago, somewhere in your mind the thought creeps in: ‘And that person is probably now dead.’ ”

Menand was writing about a photo exhibit of an event that occurred 50 years ago and many of those who were there probably are deceased.

I thought about that as I stood around in Durand, Michigan, early last month on a warm afternoon waiting for Canadian National to come back to life.

I was spending time at the restored Durand Union Station, which once served passenger trains of the Grand Trunk Western and the Ann Arbor.

It was not difficult to imagine people standing on these platforms waiting for a train to take them far away.

Given that the last Grand Trunk passenger train halted here 47 years ago, it is easy to conclude that many who boarded those trains from these concrete platforms are now deceased.

But my thoughts went beyond long-ago passengers. Much railroad history has been made in Durand.

The Grand Trunk was the last railroad in Chicago to assign steam locomotives to intercity passenger trains and those would have served Durand through 1957.

But steam powered-varnish through Durand lasted even longer.

The last daily steam-powered passenger trains ran between Durand and Detroit’s Brush Street station until steam bowed out after pulling Nos. 21/56 on March 27, 1960.

That event was celebrated in the Spring 2018 issue of Classic Trains magazine.

As I studied the photographs on Page 28 of that issue I thought about how many of those with cameras or just the merely curious who lined the tracks to witness the last of steam in revenue service must now be just as gone as the trains they watched and rode.

What happened to their photographs? Do people still tell stories about how grandpa used to talk about the last GTW steam trip?

In the late 1960s, the GTW sought to fight back against the decline of intercity rail passenger service by launching a fast Chicago-Detroit passenger train named the Mohawk.

Durand was the first stop westbound and last stop eastbound of Nos. 164 and 165, stopping at 5:06 p.m. en route to Chicago and 8:24 p.m. en route to Detroit.

Durand also saw the Maple Leaf, a Chicago-Toronto train jointly operated by the GTW and parent Canadian National. What was it like in Durand when these trains still ran?

Durand had no passenger trains between May 1971 and September 1974. With the help of the State of Michigan Amtrak started the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water, a train that still runs.

But I have enough of a history of being at Durand to remember when this train was known as the Chicago-Toronto International and had VIA Rail Canada F40 locomotives on the point.

I liked the International because it arrived in Durand in mid-afternoon in both directions.

But I wasn’t around in the early years of the International when it operated with VIA LRC coaches.

Nor was I around in the early years of the Blue Water when Amtrak’s Midwest corridor trains had a variety of equipment and E units to pull it.

Because Durand can be dead for long periods of time, you have plenty of time to imagine the past and what used to look like here.

It was late afternoon by the time the Holly Subdivision to Pontiac and Detroit came back to life.

The headlight coming westward wasn’t a steam-powered commuter train or the Mohawk or even a hot GTW freight train.

It was a CN auto rack train with a cut of general merchandise cars.

I photographed it and watched it go around the Chicago connection to the Flint Sub. What would who stood on this platform 50 years ago, 60 years or 70 years ago think about what they would see today?

Will someone 40 years from now be just as interested in Durand in 2018 as I was of Durand in 1960 or 1970?

Working on the Railroad, Literally

January 14, 2017
Crossing the diamonds of in Durand while testing the rails.

Crossing the diamonds of in Durand while testing the rails.

One in a periodic series of images I made last summer.

Shown is a series of images that I made at Durand Union Station last July. A Herzog Rail Testing Truck arrived at the diamonds of the Holly and Flint subdivisions of Canadian National.

The crew members got out to check by hand the rail in the diamonds. Then they reboarded the truck and off they went on the Holly Sub toward Detroit.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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A closeup of a testing shoe, or is it testing wheels?

Back aboard the truck and off we go. The guy with the white helmet is a CN employee.

Back aboard the truck and off they go. The guy with the white helmet is a CN employee.

Day in Durand: 2

November 17, 2016

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One in a periodic series of images that I made last summer

Shortly before the crew that had taken the coal train into the yard in Durand, Michigan, finished its work, an eastbound Canadian National manifest freight rumbled through town.

Then the coal train crew left for Flint with a cut of cars it had picked up in Durand in tow of its BNSF motive power set and things got rather quiet.

A Great Lakes Central yard job was chattering on the radio, but otherwise there was no sign of activity. Some railfans came and went, but that was about all that was happening.

At one point a member of the Michigan Railroad Museum staff came out and said that the Port Huron connection wye was lined for a movement.

That would turn out to be the Huron & Eastern job that comes down to Durand and sets off and picks up cars for interchange to CN and the GLC.

The lull was finally broken at 2:17 p.m. when the H&E job showed up and backed into the yard, using the Port Huron connection.

About 15 minutes later, CN sprang to life but not without some complications. A Pontiac-bound train had stopped west of Durand to await yarding instructions from the CN RTC (rail traffic controller).

The RTC had two challenges. With the H&E job working in the yard, the tracks available to CN to set out cars was limited, lest the CN crew set out cars on a track the H&E crew needed to get out of the yard.

The other challenge was that not all of the Durand set out cars on the CN train were located in a single block within the train.

If the H&E job wasn’t working in the yard, the CN train could take the two blocks of Durand cars along with the cars between them, set out the latter on a yard track, and then pick them up and take them back to its train.

The RTC decided that the CN crew would take the second block of Durand cars to Pontiac and a westbound would take them to Durand that evening and set them off.

The CN crew dutifully set off its Durand cars and came out of the yard running light.

It got back onto its train and told the RTC it was ready to head for Pontiac. Instead, it wound up sitting for more than hour waiting for other CN traffic to clear.

That included another eastbound manifest freight heading toward Flint and a train that came up from Pontiac on the Holly Subdivision and would turn west onto the Flint Sub in Durand.

By the time all of this got sorted out, it was about 4:15 p.m. and I had seen my last CN train for the day.

I stayed around to watch the H&E job back out of the yard and then head onto its home rails to leave town.

I had to get back to the home of my wife’s cousin for dinner so I left Durand not long after the H&E job left.

On the day, I had seen 12 movements involving three railroads, counting Amtrak. That is probably a good day for Durand lulls and all.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

A nearly two-hour lull was broken by the arrival of a Huron & Eastern train from the Saginaw-Bay City region.

A nearly two-hour lull was broken by the arrival of a Huron & Eastern train from the Saginaw-Bay City region.

 

GP40-2LW was built  for CN in 1976 but now works for the Huron & Eastern.

GP40-2LW was built for CN in 1976 but now works for the Huron & Eastern.

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Getting a close up look at the trailing unit, which features a different livery than the leader.

Getting a close up look at the trailing unit, which features a different livery than the leader. The GP30AC was built in 1971 for the Louisville & Nashville.

Next stop is the yard in Durand.

Next stop is the yard in Durand.

The CN train to Pontiac had a long cut of cars to set off in Durand.

The CN train to Pontiac had a long cut of cars to set off in Durand.

The conductor is on the point and the CN job is ready to back into the yard in Durand.

The conductor is on the point and the CN job is ready to back into the yard in Durand.

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Two generations of owners in Durand. The Grand Trunk Western caboose is on static display.

Two generations of owners in Durand. The Grand Trunk Western caboose is on static display.

Backing around the Port Huron wye to make a set out in the yard in Durand.

Backing around the Port Huron wye to make a set out in the yard in Durand.

After making a set out in the yard in Durand, the CN job came out light.

After making a set out in the yard in Durand, the CN job came out light.

The light power move passes Durand Union Station.

The light power move passes Durand Union Station.

An eastbound manifest freight clatters across the diamonds in Durand.

An eastbound manifest freight clatters across the diamonds in Durand.

Coming up the Holly Sub from Pontiac and Detroit.

Coming up the Holly Sub from Pontiac and Detroit.

Someone had fun drawing in the dirt on the nose of CN No. 2338.

Someone had fun drawing in the dirt on the nose of CN No. 2338.

A cut of auto racks clears the signals on the Chicago wye in Durand.

A cut of auto racks clears the signals on the Chicago wye in Durand.

Moving from the Flint Sub to the Holly Sub on the Chicago wye.

Moving from the Flint Sub to the Holly Sub on the Chicago wye.

With opposing traffic having cleared, the CN train for Pontiac gets underway and heads to the Holly Sub. The Durand depot is on the left.

With opposing traffic having cleared, the CN train for Pontiac gets underway and heads to the Holly Sub. The Durand depot is on the left.

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A Huron & Eastern crew member guides his train out of the yard in Durand and onto the CN Port Huron wye as it prepares to leave town.