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A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Wed May 15, 2019 10:43 pm
by SchoolcraftSignal
Hello everyone, I'm new here on the forum but I thought to start out by sharing some information about the BO tower in Kalamazoo.

First of all, the BO tower is scheduled for demolition this September, but I've been working on a plan to save it. As most of you most likely know the tower was decommissioned in October of 2016. After this, the future of the tower was up to a decision by MDOT. After talking to several people from Lansing, MDOT has been looking for a future home for the BO since they knew it was going to be decommissioned. Now, here is where I need to clear a couple of things up. For a brief period of time the Henry Ford was looking at the building, but they did not show much interest after discovering the cost of transporting the building. Also, Henry Ford did not take and parts from the interior of the building but they were donated to the Vicksburg Historical Society. For those of you who don't know, Vicksburg sits about 20 minutes south of Kalamazoo and has a small historical village centered around their GT Depot. The parts from the interior were given to them when they expressed interest in the building because MDOT was worried about the possibility of theft or vandalism. While they did look into the building, they were deterred in the same was as Henry Ford.

So, now is the part where I come in. The building has been sitting for around a year with no real interest expressed in it. MDOT wants it gone before this year is over through one method of another. As it sits now, I have been in contact with MDOT who says that the building will be free to a non-profit and I've also been in contact with a house mover. Currently the price tag to move the building sits around $60,000 dollars, or at least that's what was quoted to Vicksburg. My plan is slightly different in that rather than transporting by truck I have contacted GDLK and they are willing to transport the building on a flatcar.

Now you're probably asking where is the tower being moved to? The plan right now is to relocate it to the Northeast corner of the diamond in Schoolcraft. This is the original location of Schoolcraft's interlocking tower which was built almost identically to the BO tower, just smaller. The plan for the building is to convert it to a train watching spot here in Schoolcraft. It will hopefully have a small seating area in the upper story with some type of Coffee shop located in the lower story to provide refreshments. The interlocking machine will be restored and all 360 degrees of windows returned.

Currently I am working with Dietz Movers out of Muskegon, MI to disassemble the building and load it onto the GDLK flatcar. It will be transported in the same way as the Miller tower in Martinsburg, West Virginia where the tower is separated into four pieces: the roof, second floor, first floor, and then interlocking machine. Unfortunately the exterior of the building is presenting a problem because it is covered in asbestos siding which has been on it since the 50s. GDLK wants the asbestos removed before the building is transported so I'm working on hiring a contractor to do that. Another difficulty is that Amtrak requires specific permits in order to visit and a flagger to be onsite which totals to about $2,000 per visit to the building. The most expensive part of this process is going to be moving the building to its new location.

This is about where the project is at at the moment. The tower is secured, transportation methods are in place, and a future property is secured but funding is going to become an issue. Beginning in June I am starting a campaign through a site called Patronicity. Through this site, I am able to have any donated funds matched by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation which is a great help. I wanted to get his out now to raise as much support as possible so people are ready when the campaign starts.

I'm reaching out to you, the railfan community, because I know how important the history of the railroad is to all of you (and to me!). If the funding can't be raised to move the tower by this fall, I have been told that MDOT plans to demolish it. Please reach out to anyone else you feel might be interested or anybody who may be able to make this project become a reality. So, I hope that you all find it encouraging knowing that the tower can have a future in Kalamazoo and may not go to a landfill!

If anyone has any questions, comments, of information that may be useful to this project you can either post it here or email me at doornjager@gmail.com

Thank you all in advance!

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 8:19 am
by Ben Higdon
Good luck, I hope this is successful. I would hate to see the tower demolished. I like the idea of moving it to the diamond at Schoolcraft but its hard to imagine there being enough visitors to support a cafe, or even someone to just be there. I could see if working if the town of Schoolcraft considered it as a park and they locked/unlocked it each morning and evening.

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 4:04 pm
by NS3322
I have shared this to various railroading groups on Facebook. If I were you I would start a Facebook page to get this going!

This all sounds a little far fetched, but I hope this can become a reality! BO Tower is a railroading icon on this side of the state.

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 9:45 pm
by SchoolcraftSignal
NS3322 - I am working on a Facebook page at the moment, it doesn't have much but here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/Schoolcraft-Switch-Tower-178729423035451

Ben Higdon- I've thought about the problem of enough visitors to support the cafe part and the goal right now is not to have a train tower that supports a cafe, but rather a cafe that supports a train tower if that makes any sense. My goal is that this tower does not only cater towards the railfan group, but also to the general population. My hope is that I can bring in an outside group of people and spark an interest in trains or history outside of the railfan community.

Also, another update. I got a call from MDOT today and they are holding a meeting next Thursday about the tower. In the meeting the final decision is going to be made about what happens to the tower and they are going to go over my action plan. Hopefully I'll be told that everything is good to go with the tower and it can be moved!

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Fri May 17, 2019 8:20 am
by kd_1014
SchoolcraftSignal wrote:NS3322 - I am working on a Facebook page at the moment, it doesn't have much but here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/Schoolcraft-Switch-Tower-178729423035451

Ben Higdon- I've thought about the problem of enough visitors to support the cafe part and the goal right now is not to have a train tower that supports a cafe, but rather a cafe that supports a train tower if that makes any sense. My goal is that this tower does not only cater towards the railfan group, but also to the general population. My hope is that I can bring in an outside group of people and spark an interest in trains or history outside of the railfan community.

Also, another update. I got a call from MDOT today and they are holding a meeting next Thursday about the tower. In the meeting the final decision is going to be made about what happens to the tower and they are going to go over my action plan. Hopefully I'll be told that everything is good to go with the tower and it can be moved!


Good luck man! Hope everything goes good with the meeting and the entire plan. Also, thank you for doing this!

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Fri May 17, 2019 8:54 am
by Ben Higdon
If the goal is a cafe that supports a tower, at the crossing of the GTW with 131 might be a better bet. Of course I have no idea on availability of a parcel etc., and it would need to be moved from the Grand Elk ROW by truck.

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Fri May 17, 2019 12:23 pm
by Steve B
Mr. Doorn- just curious, is this an official Village of Schoolcraft project, or are you doing it as an individual?

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Fri May 17, 2019 5:21 pm
by SchoolcraftSignal
Ben - I hadn't thought about that before and there is a parcel next to the tracks there that is currently unoccupied, but the thought with the location next to the diamond is that it holds some historical value since there was a similarly built tower located there up until the early sixties. Also, I talked to a GT employee a while ago and at that time they were considering abandoning the Schoolcraft depot and moving all operations to Vicksburg. I don't know if this is still happening, but if it is then it would be possible to include the depot in the switch tower group. There's also a siding there that could possibly hold a train car or two located next to the depot. Right now that's just a future dream, but it may be possible. Also, Schoolcraft is planning to put in a trail that runs along the GDLK up to Portage and down to Three Rivers. Vicksburg is also working on a trail right no that follows GT over to Schoolcraft. With this in mind the tower could be on the intersection of a couple of trails which would pull in more traffic. Plus, the industrial complex to the North of the towers proposed location has also been recently converted into an event center which would pull more traffic in as well. All of these things seem to be coming together to work for the best and I can hope they keep going that way.

Steve - It is being done in part with the Village of Schoolcraft, mainly because MDOT requires the building to be donated to a non-profit.

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Fri May 17, 2019 5:43 pm
by Jetlink
I love the idea of a legal safe acceptable train watching spot at the diamond. Best wishes with your vision. I will visit the coffee shop as soon as it gets moved and opened up.

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Fri May 17, 2019 6:19 pm
by AARR
Same here. I'll visit have a donut and watch the trains.
Jetlink wrote:I love the idea of a legal safe acceptable train watching spot at the diamond. Best wishes with your vision. I visited the coffee shop as soon as it gets moved and opened up.

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Fri May 31, 2019 6:00 pm
by SchoolcraftSignal
Quick Update:

Asbestos/lead testing is scheduled to be done around the end of June or start of July. Also planning to grab some pictures of the interior at this time.

Fundraising will start sometime in the next week or two. I'll post a link when that is up and running.

Glad to hear from everyone who's interested in this project!

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2019 11:49 pm
by MQT1223
SchoolcraftSignal wrote:Quick Update:

Asbestos/lead testing is scheduled to be done around the end of June or start of July. Also planning to grab some pictures of the interior at this time.

Fundraising will start sometime in the next week or two. I'll post a link when that is up and running.

Glad to hear from everyone who's interested in this project!


Curious to see the interior. A railfan park in Schoolcraft would be a definite attraction. Kinda like West Michigan's own "Durand".

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 10:37 pm
by GTW
Just wondering why the tower would not be better located in the southwest corner. A better angle for pictures and road access.

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 07, 2019 5:16 am
by justalurker66
The properties at the diamond are owned by:
NE: Clark Logistics Group (extends north to Eliza St and east to Lee Ave, except the I&M property on Lee Ave
SE: St Mary's Cement
SW: Samuel D Andres
NW: Railroad ROW (Parcel ID: 14-19-212-RR)

At US131 the State of Michigan owns the SE property. The owner of the SW property is not listed.

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 07, 2019 12:06 pm
by GTW
Thank you for the information. We will see how things progress.

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 08, 2019 11:03 am
by SchoolcraftSignal
The reason for having the tower located on the SW corner of the diamond is that it has some historical significance as Schoolcraft's CF tower used to sit on that spot. You can see it in the picture below:
1913 Grand Trunk Depot.jpg

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:58 pm
by justalurker66
SchoolcraftSignal wrote:The plan right now is to relocate it to the Northeast corner of the diamond in Schoolcraft. This is the original location of Schoolcraft's interlocking tower which was built almost identically to the BO tower, just smaller.

SchoolcraftSignal wrote:The reason for having the tower located on the SW corner of the diamond is that it has some historical significance as Schoolcraft's CF tower used to sit on that spot. You can see it in the picture below:

NE or SW? SW would be the easiest to reach, but you would need parking. The photo supports NE (it looks like it is on the far side of the diamond). The depot should be the remaining building in the NW corner.

I expect that neither CN or Grand Elk would want people crossing their tracks at the diamond. Where are you expecting people to park?

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 08, 2019 3:01 pm
by SchoolcraftSignal
Sorry, meant NE.

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 8:15 am
by kd_1014
Is there a plan? Or did it fall through?

Re: A Future for the BO Tower

Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2019 8:51 am
by PatAzo
Go Fund Me raised $30. Doesn't look good.