Posts Tagged ‘Great Lakes Central Railroad’

Great Lakes Central Acquires 3 SD35s

August 19, 2020

Michigan short line Great Lakes Central has acquired all three SD35 locomotives that recently worked for Montana Rail Link.

The SD35s will be a new motive power type to the largely GP35 fleet that GLC operates. Most of those GP35s once ran on the Ann Arbor.

The latest addition to the GLC roster are MRL Nos. 701, 702 and 705, which are the last three SD35s the western carrier had.

The units were last reported to be in the Chicago area being interchanged from BNSF to Canadian National en route to Michigan.

GLC had indicated it plans to renumber the SD35s as 383, 384 and 380. No. 383 is expected to enter revenue service in short order but Nos. 384 and 386 need light repairs.

The three units were built in 1965 for Norfolk & Western.

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.

Train Crew Alert Michigan Authorities to Whereabouts of Murder Suspect

March 12, 2018

Police say the crew of a Michigan short line railroad helped them apprehend a suspect wanted in the killing of his parents.

A Great Lake Central Railroad conductor and conductor trainee spotted the suspect, James Eric Davis Jr., standing near the company’s tracks in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, late at night.

They contacted the railroad’s dispatcher who in turn notified police. Davis was arrested about a half-hour later.

Authorities believe that Davis was planning to jump aboard the GLCR train, which was moving at 17 mph at the time.

Davis has been charged in connection with the killing of James and Diva Davis of Chicago. The elder Davis was a police officer in suburban Bellwood, Illinois, while the younger Davis was a student at Central Michigan University.

News stories have reported that Davis couple had come to Mt. Pleasant to pick up their son after he had been hospitalized following what authorities have termed erratic behavior.

The shooting occurred in the residence hall room of the younger Davis, who has been charged in Michigan with two counts of murder.

SRI Restoring ex-C&NW 4-6-0 Locomotive

January 22, 2018

The Michigan-based Steam Railroading Institute plans to restore another steam locomotive to operating condition.

The group in Owosso has acquired former Chicago & North Western 4-6-0 No. 175 from the Mineral Range Railroad of Ishpeming, Michigan.

The R-1 class Ten-Wheeler locomotive will join a fleet that includes Pere Marquette 2-8-4 No. 1225 in pulling excursions on the Great Lakes Central Railroad.

No. 175 was built by Alco in Schenectady, New York, in 1908 and worked in Upper Michigan. It is one of three R-1s still in existence

“We’re very excited about a project that’s actually doable,” said SRI executive director Kimberly Springsdorf. “The 175 will be able to go places we can’t go with [No. 1225].”
Kevin Mayer, SRI’s chief mechanical officer, told Trains magazine that the organization decided to buy No. 175 after inspecting it last summer.

The inspection team, which included institute board member Preston Claytor and steam contractor Dan Pluta, determined during an ultrasound test of the boiler and a review of the running gear that restoration was feasible.
“This fits what we’re all about and helps fulfill our mission statement,” Mayer said.

No. 175 could potentially operate on the Great Lakes Central to Petoskey, Michigan, over a 71-stretch of track has bridges that cannot support the weight of the 1225.

SRI officials said they are now exploring fund-raising opportunities to pay for restoration of No. 175, which will be moved by truck to Owosso in June

 

MDOT Seeking to Rework Rail Cars Lease

June 4, 2015

The Michigan Department of Transportation is expected to end its lease of idle commuter rail cars in Michigan.

In doing so, MDOT will continue to have access to the cars for commuter railroad service in southeast Michigan for up to five years.

The 23 bi-level galley cars that once ran in Chicago are owned by Great Lakes Central Railroad, which is storing them in Owosso, Michigan.

Great Lakes would have the ability to use the cars for other uses, including subleasing them to other commuter agencies. MDOT would no longer lease the cars after Sept. 30.

MDOT and Great Lakes are currently negotiating contract terms and conditions for the agency’s continued ability to use the cars when commuter rail operations in Michigan begin in 2019 as projected.

“This agreement remove’s MDOT’s lease expense and protects the state’s investment in the commuter rail cars,” Michigan State Transportation Director Kirk Steudle said.

Steudle had set a June 1 target date to finish a new agreement for the cars. If the railroad and state cannot reach an agreement, MDOT has the option to terminate the lease 30 days after issuing a letter to the railroad.

The cars have been rehabilitated in expectation of being used for commuter rail demonstration projects between Dearborn and Detroit, and Howell and Ann Arbor.

Great Lakes Central Names new GM

August 24, 2014

Great Lakes Central Railroad has named Chris Bagwell as its general manager. Bagwell has managed maintenance-of-way, transportation, passenger and mechanical operations since joining the railroad as transportation manager in 2007.

He later served as project manager.  Bagwell served in the U.S. Army as a squad leader and staff sergeant.

GLC  operates 400 miles of track from the northern lower peninsula of Michigan to Ann Arbor. The railroad interchanges with CN, CSX, Norfolk Southern (through the Ann Arbor Railroad) and the Huron & Eastern Railway.

Excursions Set for Michigan Melon Festival

August 2, 2014

Equipment originally purchased for a commuter rail operation in Michigan that has yet to launch will be pressed into excursion service Aug. 16-17.

The Steam Railroading Institute, in partnership with the Great Lakes Central Railroad, will offer hour-long rides during the Howell Melon Festival.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children. For more information, or to reserve seats, go to www.howellmelonfestival.com/train-rides.

The former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy bi-level coaches are owned by the Great Lakes Central and were acquired to be used in the proposed “Wally” commuter train service between Howell and Ann Arbor.

Now known as Mi-Train, a car will be displayed starting on Aug. 15 at 4 p.m. in front of the depot and museum in Howell.

Ann Arbor Route May be Reunited

November 20, 2013
An Ann Arbor locomotive switches at a Jeep plant in Toledo in March 2013. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

An Ann Arbor locomotive switches at a Jeep plant in Toledo in March 2013. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

Disparate routes of the former Ann Arbor Railroad may be reunited under the “Annie” name after Watco Transportation Services acquired a stake in the Great Lakes Railroad.

Watco agreed to execute a “preferred equity investment” in Federated Capital Holdings, which owns the Great Lakes Central.

GLC extends from Ann Arbor to Cadillac on the former Ann Arbor main line with branches to Thompsonville, Traverse City and Petoskey.

Its primary freight business includes grain, sand and plastics. GLC interchanges with Canadian National and Huron Eastern in Durand, CSX at Anne Pere and Howell, the Watco-owned Ann Arbor Railroad at Ann Arbor, and the Mid-Michigan Railroad at Alma.

The Ann Arbor Railroad has not operated as a single railroad in more than 30 years. It also includes Federated Railcars, owner of a fleet of refurbished passenger cars.

“This partnership between two entrepreneurial companies will help insure the long-term success of local rail service in Michigan and also provides a mechanism for the continual growth and improvement of our transportation assets to help grow Michigan’s manufacturing and agricultural interests,” Federated Capital President Louis Ferris said in a news release. “We also believe that this partnership provides significant benefits to the Michigan Department of Transportation’s passenger efforts.”

Federated Railcars, which is based in Owosso, has been rebuilding passenger cars expected to be used in the Michigan Department of Transportation’s proposed Ann Arbor commuter service.

Watco acquired the Ann Arbor Railroad in late 2012. In 1977, the state of Michigan contracted with the newly formed Michigan Interstate Railway to operate the Ann Arbor, which had entered into bankruptcy proceedings.

Michigan Interstate ceased operation north of Ann Arbor in 1982, forcing the state to split the lease of the line with the Tuscola & Saginaw Bay, which later became Great Lakes Central. Michigan Interstate filed for bankruptcy in 1983 emerged under the Ann Arbor Railroad name in in 1987.