Posts Tagged ‘Durand Michigan’

Grand Trunk Memories

December 1, 2020
A Grand Trunk Western train crosses the Conrail Chicago line at Vickers in Toledo on April 29, 1984

With the recent debut of the Canadian National Heritage schemes, I looked back in my photo collection knowing I had examples from years ago.

I found from several photographs of Grand Trunk Western motive power that I made while railfanning with Marty Surdyk in Toledo and Durand, Michigan.

There are, of course several locomotives still wearing Grand Trunk and Illinois Central liveries that are in pretty good condition. 

In this post are some photographs from 1984 and 1985, including images made during a railfan outing on April 29, 1984, to Toledo.

Also shown are excursions sponsored by the Bluewater Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society from Toledo to Durand for the May 5, 1985, Durand Railroad Days.

During that event a caboose train offered train rides.

In addition to Toledo and Durand, some photographs were made in Michigan at Luna, Monroe, Wyandotte and Corunna.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

The caboose of the GTW train at Vickers
A Bluewater Michigan NRHS chapter excursion at Toledo on May 5, 1985.
At Luna, Michigan
At Monroe, Michigan
At Wyandotte, Michigan
At Durand, Michigan
The caboose train at Durand
At Corunna, Michigan

Bringing Daylight to Michigan

August 12, 2020

Southern Pacific Daylight 4449 bangs the diamonds in Durand, Michigan, as it arrives during a ferry move down from Owosso where it appeared at Train Festival 2009.

Southern Pacific 4-8-4 No. 4449 was one of the three headliner steam locomotives that appeared at Train Festival 2009 held in Owosso, Michigan.

Also appearing were a pair of Berkshires, Nickel Plate Road 765 and Pere Marquette 1225.

The 1225 didn’t have far to travel given that the Steam Railroading Institute of Michigan in Owosso is its home base.

But the 4449 had to travel several thousand miles from its home in Portland, Oregon.

The striking locomotive in its bright red and orange colors turns heads wherever it appears.

This photo essay features images of the GA-4 class Daylight leaving to return to Oregon.

The consist of the train included an Amtrak P42DC, and passengers cars painted in the orange livery of The Milwaukee Road. On the rear of the the train was former Milwaukee Road Skytop Lounge Cedar Rapids.

The photographs were made on July 30 leaving Owosso and on July 31 in and west of Durand, Michigan, on former Grand Trunk Western tracks.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

Durand Railroad Festival Canceled

April 10, 2020

The annual railroad festival in Durand, Michigan, has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event was to have been held May 14-17 by Durand Railroad Days, Inc.

The announcement was made on the group’s Facebook page and it would have been the 44th festival.

The event is held in part at the restored Durand Union Station, which houses the Michigan Railroad History Museum and serves as an Amtrak station for the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water.

The museum is also closed through at least April 30 due to the pandemic.

Durand sees trains of Canadian National, Huron & Eastern and Great Lakes Central.

That 70s Look in Durand

October 22, 2019

Amtrak’s Blue Water has ground to a stop in Durand, Michigan, right on the money. Actually, Train 365 arrived a little early.

The daily boarding ritual that plays out countless times every day in cities and towns or all sizes is underway.

This image was made in July 2019, but there are two throwbacks to the 1970s.

The station sign in the foreground was hung in the 1970s and Amfleet coaches were built in that era.

Amtrak is undertaking a process of replacing its Amfleet fleet and maybe someday it will hang a new sign in Durand.

But for now that 70s look continues on Amtrak if you pay attention to it.

The Art of Black and White Photography

October 19, 2019

Digital photograph has many advantages but one of most underused one is the ability to transform an image from color to black and white.

I seldom see this done and I’m just as guilty as anyone else in not thinking about doing it.

What I have learned, though, is that recognizing when to convert an image from color to black and white is an art in itself.

It works well in situations in which the colors are subdued, often to the point of the image virtually being black and white anyway.

When I was processing this image of Amtrak’s westbound Blue Water at Durand, Michigan, it all but called out for conversion to black and white.

There is strong back lighting from the sun that washed out the color.

Making the image black and white helped to draw out the contrast and enhance the mood.

Train No. 365 is waiting for time. It arrived in Durand a little early and all of the passengers have boarded.

A few onlookers are gathered along the fence waiting to see of a Boy Scout troop that boarded.

The conductor is standing by a vestibule waiting to give a highball and accommodate any late arriving passengers.

Note also the contrast in shapes of the Amfleet and Horizon coaches in the train’s consist, a testament to competing philosophies of passenger car design.

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.

Charging Through Michigan

July 26, 2019

A recent visit to Durand, Michigan, netted the information that SC-44 Chargers are now operating on the Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan, Blue Water.

The Chargers, which the Michigan Department of Transportation helped to buy for Amtrak Midwest corridor services, were slow to be assigned to Michigan trains that use Amtrak-owned track west of Kalamazoo, due to the need to upgrade the software on the locomotives to be compatible with the line’s positive train control system.

Apparently those upgrades have been made.

Nos. 364 and 365 operate with locomotives in each end to avoid having to turn the train in Port Huron during its nightly layover.

No. 365 is shown leaving Durand for its next stop of East Lansing before continuing on to Chicago.

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?

Train Time in Durand

June 23, 2018

We recently made a trip to Flint, Michigan, to visit Mary Ann’s cousins. That gave me an opportunity to get over to Durand for some railfanning, something I had not done there in nearly two years.

I scheduled my visit to coincide with the arrival of Amtrak’s Blue Water, a state-funded train linking Chicago and Port Huron, Michigan.

No. 365 is scheduled into Durand at 8:04 a.m. The good news is that it arrives in daylight. The bad news is that it arrives in daylight.

Say what? At 8 a.m. in the summer the sunlight in Durand does not favor a westbound train on the former Grand Trunk Western’s Flint Subdivision. It’s not even all that favorable for a glint shot.

But I worked with what I had and converted the image to black and white, which often is a good move to make with a digital image if the color is less than spectacular.

No. 365 operates with a locomotive on each end so it doesn’t have to be turned in Port Huron. That made for a nice going away image in good light.

As the Blue Water came into view, I thought for a few moments that it might have one of those new Charger locomotives that Amtrak is using on Midwest corridor service.

But that was not the case. The Blue Water and Wolverine Service trains that serve Detroit use a stretch of Amtrak-owned track between Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Porter, Indiana, that is equipped with a positive train control system that is not yet compatible with the Chargers.

The issue is getting the PTC software of the Siemens-built Chargers to talk with the Wabtec PTC software.

That is not likely to happen until at least fall, so P42DC units are pulling  Amtrak trains in Michigan except the Pere Marquette, which doesn’t use the Amtrak-owned track.

No. 365 was followed by less than a half-hour two CN westbounds, a stack train and a manifest freight, but still arrived in Durand on time.

There is a fence that separates Durand Union Station from the passenger platform and a station caretaker must unlock and open it.

Despite being a town of 2,500, Durand has good passenger loads based on my experience.

The Blue Water had the standard Midwest Corridor consist of mostly Horizon Fleet coaches with a couple of Amfleet cars, one of them a cafe car with a herald for Illinois high-speed rail service.

Amtrak would prefer the trains be three or four cars, but CN imposes a minimum axle count on Amtrak trains using its tracks to ensure that the trains will activate grade crossing signals.

In Illinois, some Chicago-Carbondale trains run with retired baggage cars, but I’ve never seen that done on the Blue Water.

The train halted and the conductor and assistant conductor both opened doors and put down step boxes.

It didn’t take long for the boarding to be completed, so the conductor radioed a highball and No. 365 was on its way. Next stop, East Lansing.

Anyone Want to Board Here?

June 13, 2018

An Amtrak conductor stands by an open vestibule of the westbound Blue Water in Durand, Michigan, but all of the passengers are lined up at another vestibule father down.

That’s because the far vestibule aligned with the gate allowing passengers through a fence that separates the tracks of Canadian National (former Grand Trunk Western) and Durand Union Station.

Eventually, a few passengers were directed to board here, perhaps because they were holding business class tickets. The cafe car on Train No. 365 was located toward the rear.

The Blue Water departed Durand on time en route to Chicago.