Remember the early 1970's?

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Remember the early 1970's?
Posted by 3rd rail on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 10:28 PM

Sure, it was a rough time for the R.R.'s , but it was the last bastion for the "Low traffic, under-maintained, money-losing branch lines. After Conrail and De-Regulation, They all disappeared. Now just a faint trace on the landscape.  I remember those lines, Do you?   Let's talk about it. 

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Posted by 3rd rail on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 10:53 PM

I remember the old "G.R.& I. as they called it, ( the ex-PRR line from Ft. Wayne Ind. to Mackinaw City MI.) In the early '70's it was pretty much moribund from Ft. Wayne to Kalamazoo MI. North of there it was the route Penn Central chose to Grand Rapids. North Of G.R. it was also out of favor.  Another old favorite was the old "Valley" as they called it. The line from Jackson MI. to Grand Rapids MI. When I was a young kid, I recall seeing a local freight in Nashville MI. when we were up there for the annual Maple Syrup Festival.  A few years later, the track was gone. 

As a final observation, I'll mention the old "Air-Line"  That was an old moribund route origionally between Niles, MI. and Jackson MI. In the 1930's, the section between Niles and Three Rivers was torn up. The rest was a sleepy branch line until about 1957 when NYC under the control of Alfred Perlman, rebuilt the stretch of the airline between Three Rivers and Jackson with CTC and heavy rail. It was the Expressway from Detriot straight to the new NYC Elkhart yard.    Fast Forward to 1982........   Conrail dumped that perfect raceway, and today it is barely traceable in the tree lines of southern Michigan. BTW, I remember standing trackside in Union City with my Dad watching 100 car Auto hot-shots cooking by at 65 mph.  So, yes, I remember these old forgotten lines.. 

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 12:16 AM

The Putnam Division of the NYCentral between the Hudson Div. and Harlem Div. from The Bronx to Brewster.   Only the wye on the Harlem at Brewster remains.

 

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Posted by Backshop on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 7:14 PM

I remember seeing PC GP38 #7820 up in Mackinaw City, MI back in the mid 70's.  On an opposite view, I remember going to the old PC Shire Oak yard in the mid 70's when it had a decrepit roundhouse and was almost totally abandoned.  Years later, it was hopping due to the coal boom.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 9:34 PM

I grew up near the Putnam Division an saw the line before much of the North end was abandoned in 1962, and the Carmel stub about 1970.  The south end did not last much longer.

Most of my adult life I lived near the ex-GR&I.  First in Kalamazoo in the early 1970s, where I saw trains both north and south of town.  The line north of Kzoo to Grand Rapids is now the Grand Elk RR.  In the mid 1970s I moved to Cadillac, when the Michigan Northern ran Grand Rapids to Mackinaw City and the ferry.  I rode an excursion train from Cadillac to Mackinaw in the early 80s.  By the mid 80s the MN was out, and TSBY was given the consession from the state.  TSBY also had the Ann Arbor consession, and the ex-GR&I south of Cadillac to GR was abandoned.  The state started to build a tug-barge to replace the Straits ferry, but the project was caught up in the Wedtec scandel, and the ferry connection ended along with the line north of Petosky.  The ex-AA line also lost its carferry and rail service beyond the Yuma sand quarry about 20 miles west of Cadillac.  A bright spot is the occasional steam visit by NKP #765 and PM #1225.  The other line in the NW Lower Peninsular of Michigan was the C&O ex-PM line to Petosky.  In the early 80s the line was abandoned north of Manistee, except for a short segment that connects to the ex-GR&I Traverse City branch.

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Posted by Savage Tunnel on Thursday, May 31, 2018 5:10 PM

3rd rail

Sure, it was a rough time for the R.R.'s , but it was the last bastion for the "Low traffic, under-maintained, money-losing branch lines. After Conrail and De-Regulation, They all disappeared. Now just a faint trace on the landscape.  I remember those lines, Do you?   Let's talk about it. 

 

 

I was a young teenager, living in Frostburg,MD. close to the Western Maryland's Connellsville Subdivision. The "New Line" not built until 1912, made a large horseshoe around the north side of town. This main line of the WM still saw up to 15 or so trains/day then, with a fleet of hotshots running on the "Alphabet Route", along with coal,grain, and ore extras, and local freights. There were also numerous helper movements as the line westbound from Cumberland, MD. had a 1.75% grade for 22 miles. 
Through the 1970s, Chessie System gradually made the lines of the Western Maryland a memory. The end for the Connellsville Sub. came in early 1976, as the last through train was switched over to the B&O.
18 miles of the main was kept in place, serving a coal loader at Borden Tunnel, and 2 brick yards at Zihlman and MT. Savage on the former Cumberland & Pennsylvania (C&PA) trackage.
Today, this line is the Western MD. Scenic, which uses 14 miles of the former WM main, along with 2 miles of the next line I'll mention.

By 1972, the 2-mile stub of the former C&PA into Frostburg was about to die. This line had been cut 1/4 mile south of the Frostburg tunnel in 1954, and there were only 3 customers left by the 1970s. The cement plant closed, the lumber yard stopped rail service, and the WM converted a siding down the hill at the mainline station site so the city could get its road salt/sand.
The tracks were taken up and for over 15 years, the roadbed slept. Then in 1988 the tracks were relaid,  a turntable was installed at the north end of the Frostburg Tunnel, and in 1989, the Allegany Central started hauling tourists and rail enthusiasts to the restored 1892 C&PA depot in Frostburg. Today, the WMSR uses these tracks which were originally laid in 1852. 
While this partial rebirth of these hometown lines is gratifying, I feel 2 opportunities were lost:
1. Retention of the C&PA switchback line down to MT. Savage, this old shop town has been virtually ignored. The rails were removed in 1983, and parts have moldered back to nature since.

2. Reinstallation of the main line up to the east portal of Savage Tunnel. The view looking east from this point is awe-inspiring, but look out for the rattlesnakes.

Users of the GAP Rail-trail can experience the Connellsville Sub for its entire length, and for the first 14 miles share the roadbed with WMSR trains. There is even a connecting trail at Frostburg to go 500ft. up the hill and check out the C&PA depot. Yes

The westernmost counties in Maryland are crisscrossed by empty roadbeds of the B&O, WM, PRR, C&PA, and at least 6 other shortlines. When the coal mining died here, so did the shortlines, and the other roads' coal branches.

 

 

 

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Posted by 3rd rail on Saturday, June 23, 2018 11:26 PM

I wish I was more adept at moving picture files around in this thing. I recall my early teenage years spent at "Nichols Tower" In Battle Creek MI. With an operator named Walt Wilson. What a great guy he was!  Nichols controlled what was then the crossing of the Grand Trunk Western, and the Penn Central. Walt was the first trick operator, and had been with NYC/PC for about 30 years at that time. (more on that later)..  Anyway, I used to ride my Schwinn Stingray 20" bike about 5 miles from my house, downtown to "Nichols" on summer days and just "hang-out" by the tower. One day Walt leaned out the window and said "Come on up!"  Well, He didn't have to ask twice! Next thing I knew I was sitting there in the tower listening to the dispatchers of both R.R.'s and had a front seat to everything going on with Battle Creek railroads. I spent several hours that day with Walt, and returned many times after. I recall one time, I showed up as usual, with my cheap old Kodak 126 instamatic that my dad had handed down to me. I was taking pictures of trains going by, and Walt sat me down and started showing me this old Sears 35mm SLR camera. He said that he collected old cameras, and he wanted me to have this one. That was the nicest thing anyone had ever done...... I really LOVED Walt!!! Well, I hung out with Walt until about 1980 when Nichols tower was closed, and Walt had to bump into a different tower. At first it was MA in Lansing, then when that closed, he went to BO in Kalamazoo. That was about the time I went into the Army. ...............So, Fast forward to 1990..  I'm back home, and I stop by BO. HELLO WALT!!!!!!!!   We spent a couple more years , then he retired. My cousin and I were there at BO on Walts last night. About 15 minutes before the end of his trick the DS issued Walt's final form 19. Unfortunately, it was via FAX machine because actual train orders were about 10 years history. But, there wasn't a dry eye in the tower!!!! 

I heard Walt passed away about 6 years ago. He is a guy that I will NEVER forget..

 

Todd 

 

Next time I'll talk about the "Gas Toilet" in Nichols Tower.. 

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Posted by 3rd rail on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 2:32 AM

So, we have on the table the infamous "Gas Toilet" at Nichols tower.  Nichols was constructed in the 1800's, and thus never was hooked up to city utilities. No water, no gas, no sewer. Until 1975, it still had an outhouse for thr "facilities"  The city forced Penn Central to do away with the outhouse. There being no running water to the tower, PC installed a propane-fired incinerating toilet in the lower floor of Nichols Tower. Not sure if there was any "Ill-Will" between the tower operators and the local management, but when the aforementioned toilet was installed, the exhaust stack from such was terminated at window level for the second-story operators. So, the unwritten rule was, If you have to urinate, you just let it fly off the steps. If you had to take a dump, you had to clean out the ashes from the gas toilet. One time I had ridden down to Nichols on my bicycle(Iwas about 12), and I stopped at Taco-Bell on my way. Well, After a few hours sitting with Walt, I had to unload. It was a hot summer day and all the windows of the tower were wide open. I caught hell from him as soon as I got back upstairs!!! I paid for it too, It took about an hour before that stink left the tower.  but through it all, Walt Wilson was a VERY good friend. A guy that I will never forget. 

It's too bad that kids growing up today will never have the opportunity to hang out at a tower,or roundhouse, or depot and experience railroading like we used to.  I savor all my memories. And I like to share them with you all when I get the urge to ply the keyboard. And I am glad to share them with you all.  I think more of us old-timers should do that.  So, Please do!

 

Todd 

 

I think I might like to discuss old abandoned railroads that we might explore from time to time.. I have a few favorites. I'm sure you do as well.  Stay tuned. 

 

Todd 

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 4:53 PM

As is often the case, your view of the period depends on where you are. Eastern railroads had a rough time in the 1970's, while many western railroads were doing quite well. Here in Minnesota, the 1970's were a boom time for iron ore / taconite production, with the mines at full employment and BN and DMIR hauling all the pellets they could manage.

I grew up across the street from the Minneapolis Northfield and Southern, a terminal / switching railroad connecting the yards of most of the railroads serving Minneapolis and it's suburbs. They were very busy during that time; as I recall, even on our branch line (the "high line" now operated by Progressive Rail) we saw two trains a day every day into the early-mid 1970's.

Stix
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Posted by seppburgh2 on Thursday, June 28, 2018 6:49 PM

You are sooo right.  Between the security drons, rental cops, see something say something, aq kid today would be luck to just take a picture from a public right away without the SWAT team coming in.  No, wait, wasn't a kid taken down because he was standing next to a crossing gate a few years ago?  

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Posted by 3rd rail on Saturday, June 30, 2018 12:29 AM

Yup, sadly I agree...... Pretty difficult for a kid to become a railfan these days..  It is akin to airport TSA security anymore. In the 1970's, I could pretty much have the run of the place as long as I didn't get stupid. 

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Posted by 3rd rail on Saturday, June 30, 2018 12:48 AM

Anyway, getting back to my original topic here, My favorite old defunct railroad line in my area has always been the Battle Creek to Goshen M.C. line. The grade passed within about 2 miles of my house, and I was always interested in it. I did some rsearch in the Library, made some photocopies of what they had, and on occasion, Ihave followed that line from B.C. to Athens. Not a whole lot to see. Just some relics in farmland pretty much. There is a bridge visable on Google earth south of Athens, but looks to be well imbeded on private property.  There is, last time I knew, a short stretch of track still in Sturgis MI. When I was a kid , The tower in Sturgis was still there. I believe it was  called "RK" tower. It was where the NYC "Old-Road" crossed the old "G.R.&I" and the old M.C. Goshen Branch. It's been a long time since I have been there. Not sure if there is anything left.

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Posted by Fr.Al on Thursday, July 05, 2018 4:28 PM

I started to lose interest in railfanning back in the 70's. Amtrak, First Generation diesels going, all the mergers. I do remember traces of the O&W in Carbondale,PA. I went to Seminary in South Canaan, not too far away. At that time, the D&H still ran through my wife's hometown of Simpson, right next to Carbondale.

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Posted by BLS53 on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 8:04 PM

My main recollection is a 2 week visit to Moline IL, and seeing the sad state the RI had turned into, compared to a visit 10 years earlier.

The IC venturing away from the solid black Geeps, into a scheme involving orange and white.

The last presence of F units in far southern IL, as the GM&O St. Louis-Cairo line gradually declined into abandonment.

Demise of the CB&Q, into the BN.

Advent of Amtrak.

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