Willow Run Yard

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Willow Run Yard

Unread postby 1TrackMind » Sat Dec 01, 2018 1:58 am

Does anybody know much on the history of this yard? Can't find much online, other than it was owned by conrail and also use to be be a Triple Crown trailer area.
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Re: Willow Run Yard

Unread postby DaveO » Sat Dec 01, 2018 10:18 am

World War 2, Ford and the B-24 bomber plant created a need for rail service. That rail service needed a yard.
Start by searching the historical topographic maps http://historicalmaps.arcgis.com/usgs/
Don't limit yourself to just a railroad search if you want a true picture of the history of that yard.
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Re: Willow Run Yard

Unread postby Steve B » Sat Dec 01, 2018 7:27 pm

After WWII, the bomber plant was used by Kaiser-Frazer Corp. to build cars. In 1953 GM took it over to build transmissions. This lasted until 2010.

Another major user of the railroad yard, probably ultimately the biggest, was GM's adjacent car assembly plant, built in the mid-'50s to originally make Chevrolet trucks. It closed in 1993, but remains in at least partial use as a warehouse.

There was also GMC Truck's "Master Parts Center" opened in 1971 just past the east end of the yard, with a spur going into it. It's still a GM warehouse, but looks like no rail service in many years.
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Re: Willow Run Yard

Unread postby Ben Higdon » Mon Dec 03, 2018 9:00 am

DaveO wrote:World War 2, Ford and the B-24 bomber plant created a need for rail service. That rail service needed a yard.
Start by searching the historical topographic maps http://historicalmaps.arcgis.com/usgs/
Don't limit yourself to just a railroad search if you want a true picture of the history of that yard.


Not quite right. The yard wasn't built until well after WWII.
It was not present on the 1955 USGS topographic map, and was present on the 1974 map as an update.
The 1965 aerial on historicaaerials.com gives an appearance of being somewhat recently built (ground around the yard looks more freshly graded than a 20 year old yard would)
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Re: Willow Run Yard

Unread postby DaveO » Mon Dec 03, 2018 6:16 pm

Ben Higdon wrote:
DaveO wrote:World War 2, Ford and the B-24 bomber plant created a need for rail service. That rail service needed a yard.
Start by searching the historical topographic maps http://historicalmaps.arcgis.com/usgs/
Don't limit yourself to just a railroad search if you want a true picture of the history of that yard.


Not quite right. The yard wasn't built until well after WWII.
It was not present on the 1955 USGS topographic map, and was present on the 1974 map as an update.
The 1965 aerial on historicaaerials.com gives an appearance of being somewhat recently built (ground around the yard looks more freshly graded than a 20 year old yard would)


The large yard was of course later. A yard can also just be a couple of tracks. Prior to WW2, there wasn't much at Willow Run to warrant a couple of extra tracks.
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Re: Willow Run Yard

Unread postby Steve B » Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:21 pm

I've stitched together some views from files I found at earthexplorer.usgs.gov (the scales varied widely). In 1952 the yard had at most two tracks. In 1956 it looks like it had a couple more, but still far from its ultimate size. By 1963 it had grown some more, with the big increase in traffic from the new car assembly plant. But more tracks were still to be added.
Attachments
willow run yd 4-21-63.jpg
4-21-63
willow run yard 8-10-56.png
8-10-56
willow run yard 5-1-52.jpg
5-1-52
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Re: Willow Run Yard

Unread postby Steve B » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:13 pm

By 1965 it had gotten bigger. In 1973 it's a very busy looking yard.
Attachments
willow run yard 10-6-73.png
10-6-73
willow run yd 11-2-65.jpg
11-2-65
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Re: Willow Run Yard

Unread postby bctrainfan » Tue Dec 04, 2018 1:37 am

Was there a different yard servicing the bomber plant, etc, during WW2?
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Re: Willow Run Yard

Unread postby Ben Higdon » Tue Dec 04, 2018 7:21 am

Those are great images Steve B, I haven't seen that website before.
Looks like there was just a north pass and south pass and a set of crossovers there in 52. Also appears to be an engine switching some cars where the spur to the bomber plant leaves the south pass. Thanks for putting these images together!
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Re: Willow Run Yard

Unread postby Steve B » Tue Dec 04, 2018 9:19 am

It was a fun little project, Ben Higdon. The earthexplorer site is a little tricky to use at first-- large amounts of raw imagery to choose from. You have to create a login first. It's all free. I select from the "Aerial photos single frames" dataset. You need to download a program to de-compress the files into Tiff format. I use 7-Zip, it's free. The uncompressed images typically push 80-100 MB in size. I took screenshots of small areas of them, then patched them together in Paint.

There wasn't any other yard at Willow Run. In the beginning there were just a few spurs into the plant, and the traffic was staged along the main on the couple of sidings. The traffic only really took off once GM started building the Corvair there in 1959.
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Re: Willow Run Yard

Unread postby adams_aj » Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:01 pm

Nice work!



Steve B wrote:It was a fun little project, Ben Higdon. The earthexplorer site is a little tricky to use at first-- large amounts of raw imagery to choose from. You have to create a login first. It's all free. I select from the "Aerial photos single frames" dataset. You need to download a program to de-compress the files into Tiff format. I use 7-Zip, it's free. The uncompressed images typically push 80-100 MB in size. I took screenshots of small areas of them, then patched them together in Paint.

There wasn't any other yard at Willow Run. In the beginning there were just a few spurs into the plant, and the traffic was staged along the main on the couple of sidings. The traffic only really took off once GM started building the Corvair there in 1959.
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Re: Willow Run Yard

Unread postby CAT345C » Sun Dec 16, 2018 7:36 pm

Did the yard have anything to do with the ford plant just to the west in Ypsi that had a spur down to it?
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