Rails in Mt. Vernon Ave in GR

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Rails in Mt. Vernon Ave in GR

Unread postby MQT1223 » Wed Feb 12, 2020 1:16 pm

It was confirmed today, that after 2 years of being officially closed to through traffic that Mt. Vernon Ave from Watson to Fulton in Grand Rapids will be removed and turned into a greenway this year.

I’ve always seen some rails in the pavement right at the corner of Watson and Mt. Vernon, what were these originally a part of? They seem to head towards the GR Terminal Sub but that’s about all I can tell off hand.
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Re: Rails in Mt. Vernon Ave in GR

Unread postby chapmaja » Wed Feb 12, 2020 1:40 pm

I'm not an expert, but IIRC from my time at GVSU, those tracks used to serve an industry that was located along the Grand River. IIRC a container place used to have a facility where the Mt. Vernon Lot of GVSU now sits.
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Re: Rails in Mt. Vernon Ave in GR

Unread postby Raildudes dad » Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:58 pm

General Electric was north of Fulton on the east side. I remember the rails but not GE getting any cars. They may have been Interurban tracks originally.
DeWitt Barrels was in the old interurban freight house
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Re: Rails in Mt. Vernon Ave in GR

Unread postby chapmaja » Thu Feb 13, 2020 2:47 am

Raildudes dad wrote:General Electric was north of Fulton on the east side. I remember the rails but not GE getting any cars. They may have been Interurban tracks originally.
DeWitt Barrels was in the old interurban freight house



DeWitt Barrels, that was it. I remember the tracks going into the property. I think they were long disconnected from anything when I was in GR.
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Re: Rails in Mt. Vernon Ave in GR

Unread postby GP30M4216 » Thu Feb 13, 2020 10:31 pm

It's always good to cite your sources: https://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/2020/02/grand-rapids-street-to-be-removed-transformed-by-grand-valley-state.html :D

It looks likes there were two tracks, the rails to the right in this photo, and then another track to the left with its outer rail running along the long diag of street brick. I'll have to try to find a Sanborn map of this area to see the exact layout.

Mt Vernon brick and rail.jpg


It would be cool if they preserved some of the brick street and the rail along with improved greenway as a nod to the heritage of the GVSU downtown campus cite. Millenials like authenticity,and there's not much more authentic than that!
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Re: Rails in Mt. Vernon Ave in GR

Unread postby MQT1223 » Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:40 am

GP30M4216 wrote:It's always good to cite your sources: https://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/2020/02/grand-rapids-street-to-be-removed-transformed-by-grand-valley-state.html :D

It looks likes there were two tracks, the rails to the right in this photo, and then another track to the left with its outer rail running along the long diag of street brick. I'll have to try to find a Sanborn map of this area to see the exact layout.

Mt Vernon brick and rail.jpg


It would be cool if they preserved some of the brick street and the rail along with improved greenway as a nod to the heritage of the GVSU downtown campus cite. Millenials like authenticity,and there's not much more authentic than that!


By the time I posted the thread I wasn't able to find the article again. Thank you!

Hopefully that short stretch of Watson gets redone, with all of those new GVSU buildings over there you'd think more of those streets would get redone. A couple of them sure have seen better days.
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Re: Rails in Mt. Vernon Ave in GR

Unread postby GP30M4216 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:58 pm

Here's a page from a Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the area in question. This map is dated 1913 but corrections and changes apparently were made up till 1950 - literally someone took the master map and pasted in changes as they happened to reflect the actual landscape. You can see some pasted in changes on this sheet:

Mt Vernon Sanborn.jpg
Sanborn Map from Library of Congess


Here's the link: https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4114gm.g04023195004/?sp=89

Weird thing is, the next page over, which shows the blocks immediately to the west, doesn't show any spurs heading that direction. But again, because changes were being made, it may not be perfectly reflective of actuality. Railroads mattered, but because Sanborn's job was to look at fire suppression in buildings, the tracks may not always have mattered. There may be other Sanborns to look at.
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Re: Rails in Mt. Vernon Ave in GR

Unread postby Steve B » Tue Feb 18, 2020 4:05 pm

If you squint at the rendering on Mlive, one spot says "Historic brick patio areas with tables and benches." That sounds promising, but I half expect GVSU to rip up the street, pile up all the bricks, then throw some down in a different pattern, maybe even not exactly where the street was. Often with these projects there's a wholesale obliteration, then an attempt at a facsimile of what was there before.

Another line on the rendering says "Railroad track display." However, it's pointing to an area on the street where there appears to be no track (it's hard to tell definitively from Street View). It wouldn't surprise me if the existing rails are moved to an entirely different spot and then put on display.

Not trying to be overly picky, it's just that well-meaning projects often tend to have odd results.
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Re: Rails in Mt. Vernon Ave in GR

Unread postby Michael » Tue Feb 18, 2020 7:50 pm

Steve B wrote:Another line on the rendering says "Railroad track display." However, it's pointing to an area on the street where there appears to be no track (it's hard to tell definitively from Street View). It wouldn't surprise me if the existing rails are moved to an entirely different spot and then put on display.


The future Railroad track display appears to be in the area where there are no tracks and part of Mt Vernon currently with embedded rails will still continue to be a road leading just to the parking lot entrance
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Re: Rails in Mt. Vernon Ave in GR

Unread postby MQT1223 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 9:56 pm

So its safe to assume that the brick and the rails at this end of the road will be removed and repurposed for something.

Would be awesome if something like a caboose was brought in but I wouldn't hold your breath on something like that.
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