Detroit & Oxford (D&OX)

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AARR
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Detroit & Oxford (D&OX)

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In 1976 Conrail abandoned its line north of Utica (Packard Yard) to Saginaw with several exceptions: a one mile spur south of Lapeer and the Vassar Cluster in Bay, Saginaw and Tuscola counties.

Oxford is home to once was the largest gravel operations in the U.S. By 1976 they had lost that title but still trucked a considerable amount of gravel. American Aggregates operated the larger of the two pits, and although it had not shipped by rail in several years due to poor service, did not want the railroad removed.

Several investors acquired the line from Packard Yard (Utica) through Rochester, Lake Orion, Oxford and to Metamora for a total of 26 miles. American Aggregates started using rail service again when they were confident about dependable service.

Soon AA was shipping 30-50 cars a day, five days a week during peak construction season. The stone went to several aggregate terminals around the Detroit area located on CR lines. In addition to AA they had a handful of smaller customers including Lombardi Foods in Shelby Twp., Rochester Farm Bureau and Dillman & Upton Lumber in Rochester, Church's Lumber in Oxford and Metamora Products in Metamora.

Interchange was with CR at Packard Yard. D&OX also interchanged with GTW in Rochester and Oxford.
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AARR
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Re: Detroit & Oxford (D&OX)

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D&OX acquired a pair of SD7's (the only SD7's on PC/CR roster) to begin service.

Owner: Detroit & Oxford 6998
Model: EMD SD7 Built As: PRR 8588 (SD7)
Serial Number: 18669 Order No: 5300
Frame Number: 5300-1 Built: 10/1953
Notes: Acquired from CR 1976
Other locos with this serial: CR 6998(SD7) PC 6998(SD7) PRR 8588(SD7)
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Owner: Detroit & Oxford 6999
Model: EMD SD7 Built As: PRR 8589 (SD7)
Serial Number: 18670 Order No: 5300
Frame Number: 5300-2 Built: 10/1953
Notes: Acquired from CR 1976
Other locos with this serial: CR 6999(SD7) PC 6999(SD7) PRR 8589 (SD7)
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AARR
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Re: Detroit & Oxford (D&OX)

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Since this line was not acquired by the state of MI, as some other abandoned CR lines were, D&OX had to come up with all their own financing. Even though CR was benefitting from over 11,000 cars annually of sand and stone traffic, they were not thrilled with the business. CR wanted to focus its resources on the very lucrative automotive business on their Detroit Lines. So there was not going to be any assistance financially from CR.

The rail was light and not in good shape but by operating slowly it was manageable. The bridges, on the other hand, were not. Prior to PC stopping coal traffic on this segment there had been several major derailments at Yates. There were also several bridges crossing Paint Creek that were questionable.

Derailments were frequent and due to bridge issues spacer cars were used. It frequently took an entire day to pick up in Oxford, space out the cars, haul over in several cuts to Packard, reassemble the block in a solid set of loads and return to Oxford with the empties and spacers.

An engine shed was built in Oxford at the north side of town for two engines. Light engine maintenance could be performed here but heavier service was contracted out.

As indicated service during the busy construction season was five days per week. Typically each train would haul 40-60 70-ton hopper cars with gravel and sand loads. Usually there would be a spacer car for every two loads (due to issues with Yates bridge). Usually they would take the cars over in two to three cuts. Once a week, usually Saturday, they would switch the non-stone customers including a short run to Metamora to switch the plastic plant. Church's was the largest non-stone customer receiving 4-6 cars a week during their busy season. There were less stone cars and less trains when the construction season slowed down during the winter.

The Staggers Act of 1980 hurt business on the D&OX. Much of the sand and stone went to trucks. Much of the loose car business also went to trucks. Fortunately, they had used the cash heavy prior years to shore up bridges and track. What had just a year earlier been a daily weekday 40-60 car train was now down to a three times per week 13-20 car train. Even less during the slow winter months.

By 1984 the only loose car customer left was Metamora Products which received 1-2 cars per week of plastic pellets.

D&OX in a several year period (1980-1984) went from immensely profitable to losing money.
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Re: Detroit & Oxford (D&OX)

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Without the aggregate business they could not remain open for business so their first move was to regain the sand and stone business. The older 70 ton cars were not attractive to customers because of MI's heavier truck load limits. So D&OX acquired 100 ex-CR 100 ton hopper cars from their immense storage fleet. These cars were in acceptable running condition but suffered from numerous holes and rust spots. So D&OX started repairing their own cars since their crews did not run every day. They patched them up and put them into service. They were able to get a solid customer along CR's Livernois Yard and were soon sending 60-90 cars per week of gravel here. They were shuttled to CR's Packard Yard three times per week in 20-30 car blocks. They were less busy during the winter slow periods. All sand was being trucked by now.

The employees, who were working for their jobs, were not only operating the trains but repairing the hopper cars as well as performing some track work so as not to defer maintenance.

Each hopper car was able to make a complete turn in about seven to 10 days. So another batch of 50 ex-CR 100 ton hoppers cars were acquired to avoid disruption in the supply chain during peak periods.
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Re: Detroit & Oxford (D&OX)

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The gravel business remained very steady during the 1990's at around 2,000-3,000 cars annually.

All the sand from American Aggregates was being trucked out. Most of the sand was used in smaller lot sizes at local redi-mix plants. However, there was one large user of sand in the Delray/Zug Island area at one of the steel mills. They consumed 1,300-1,900 carloads a year of sand at an average of 24-36 cars per week, 12 months a year, rather than the gravel business which peaked during the busy construction months and slowed down to a trickle during most of the winter.

By the mid 1990's D&OX was delivery sand to CR from AA 24-36 cars per week using 75 former CR gondolas of various backgrounds:
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As with the hopper cars, the gondolas, while in adequate running condition, needed repair work to plug the holes so sand would not lead out. The employees, who had experience plugging holes in the fleet of 150 ex-CR hopper cars, went to work to patch up the gondolas. Just like the gravel business, which CR shuttled from Packard Yard/Sterling Yard to Livernois Yard, the gondolas of sand took the same route. From Livernois Yard they were taken to River Rouge.

AA was now shipping up to 5,000 cars a year of gravel (about 60%) and sand (about 40%). The only other customer was Metamora Products which received 1-2 cars of plastic pellets once a week.
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Re: Detroit & Oxford (D&OX)

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Around the year 2010 CSX and NS were selling off the SD38's is had acquired in their acquisition of CR. Other local short lines were buying them and reported to be very happy (GRE had 1, GRSE had 1, MIGN had 2 and TOAD 2).

D&OX was happy with the SD7's but recognized that it would become difficult to buy parts for eventually, so decided to acquire a pair of SD38's while the price was good. They went to both CSX and NS and it was CSX that gave them the better deal.

Both units were overhauled but left as standard 38's for now.

Owner: Detroit & Oxford 2455
Model: EMD SD38 Built As: PC 6931 (SD38)
Serial Number: 36412 Order No: 7264
Frame Number: 7264-7 Built: 5/1970
Notes: Acquired around 2010. Continues to be operated in its CR colors.
Other locos with this serial: CSX 2455(SD38) CR 6931(SD38) PC 6931(SD38)
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Owner: Detroit & Oxford 2467
Model: EMD SD38 Built As: PC 6931 (SD38)
Serial Number: 36412 Order No: 7264
Frame Number: 7264-7 Built: 5/1970
Notes: Acquired around 2010. Continues to be operated in its CSX colors.
Other locos with this serial: CSX 2467(SD38) CR 6958(SD38) PC 6958(SD38)
Image
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Re: Detroit & Oxford (D&OX)

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Interchange from the beginning (1976) took place in Packard Yard (about one mile north of Utica). CR left the track in place here to service the large Ford Utica sewing plant (formerly a Packard assembly plant) which was switched twice a day handling 9-12 hi-cube 86' boxcars per switch. They also received coal. By 2006 the sewing operations was moved to Mexico and a plastics line replaced it. Carloads were down to several inbound plastic pellet cars per week and 2-3 outbound 86' hi-cube boxcars of components per day. By 2009 it was closed.

CR pulled its operations back one mile ending at M59. This left D&OX with a one mile separation so they acquired the one mile of track as well as the one mile spur into the ex-Ford Utica property. There was a long siding on the south side of M59 where D&OX exchanged cars with CR. CR also serviced a few customers in the area. The one mile spur into the ex-Ford Utica plant did not have any customers but D&OX was betting that it could get some business in there.

There was a rumor that Amazon was looking at the ex-Ford property for a distribution center. Amazon would not require rail service as they receive all their product by trucks and intermodal containers. By 2017 Amazon was open for business.

However, there was some space on the east side of the property available and D&OX recruited two rail-served customers to build there. One was a plastics plant called Plastic Trends who manufactured plastic tools. Several years later John's Lumber Wholesale located there too. Both customers received 1-2 cars per week which required about two trips per week to spot loads and pick up empties. Those two, along with Metamora Products (receives 1-2 cars per week also), remain the only three non-sand and stone customers.

There have been talks to move the CR interchange from the siding in Utica to the yard in Sterling Heights, an event that happens occasionally, but not officially. Most interchange continues to take place at the Utica Siding.
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Re: Detroit & Oxford (D&OX)

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Fast forward to 2022 and not much has changed with one exception that the sand business dropped by around half when the Great Lakes Steel Works shut down its steel production operations (although it still processes steel made from other mills).

American Aggregates still ships about 2,000-3,000 cars annually of gravel (three 20-30 car blocks per week during the busy season) to the Edward C. Levy Distribution Yard next to CR's Livernois Yard in Dearborn.

AA also still ships 12-18 cars per week of industrial sand, usually in blocks of 4-18 cars, one to three times per week year round, to the Edward C. Levy Aggregate Yard in Detroit along the Rouge River.

Plastic Trends, now owned by Napco, in the Amazon Utica Industrial Park, still receives 1-2 cars per week and gets switched once every one to two weeks.

John's Lumber Wholesale (John's sold their two retail locations but continue to operate the wholesale distributor), also located in the Amazon Utica Industrial Park, receives 1-2 cars per week and is switched twice per week, once to set out and the other to pick up.

Metamora Products, now owned by Tapco Group, in Metamora (end of the line), still receives 1-2 cars per week and gets switched once every one to two weeks.

The GTW connections at Oxford (1984) and Rochester (1999) have been gone for many years. CR is its sole connection to the outside world which give it the option to use CSX or NS. The last time D&OX interchanged cars with GTW was in 1983 when they handled some lumber for Church's in Oxford from their connection in Rochester.

2,890-4,340 cars are forecasted for 2022. 2,085-3,130 is gravel. 625-940 is industrial sand.

The SD38's operate well, handle the loads with ease and are liked by the crews. When they come up of heavy maintenance in the next year or two D&OX will decide whether to leave them straight 38's or upgrade them.

D&OX is very profitable. Due to the shuttle business (short distance) there is always the threat of trucks. For now AA, ECL, D&OX and CR like the gravel business so it is safe.
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