Visiting Holland

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Pixl
Grand Traverse Dinner Train 1996
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Location: Traverse City, Michigan

Visiting Holland

Unread post by Pixl »

I'm camping in Holland for the next few days. Can anyone suggest any RR stuff to see or do? Really nice around here!

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SD80MAC
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Re: Visiting Holland

Unread post by SD80MAC »

The best place to sit is probably at the depot. They have a small RR display there on the north side that features a former Pere Marquette caboose and a train order signal. The Pere Marquette arrives in Holland a 6:47 am and 10:33 pm. During the day, you'd see Q327 in the morning, usually in the 1-3 hours after Amtrak time block. Q326 rolls through in the early afternoon. D702 spends its days working around the Holland area on the mainline and various branch lines. D700 runs at night and is on duty at 8 pm, sometimes they head west between 9 and 10 pm ahead of Amtrak. Coal loads and empties are random but generally at least 1 of the 2 will run on any given day.
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GP30M4216
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Re: Visiting Holland

Unread post by GP30M4216 »

Got a car? As long as you have some wheels here are some things to consider:

There isn't a great volume of individual trains, but collectively, during weekdays, there is a fair amount of daylight action. Weekends are much slower.

Waverly Yard is the centerpoint of freight ops in Holland, it's triangular in nature, where the mainline curves from north-south to east-west, and the Fremont Sub joins from the north. The signals at the east and west ends of the Fremont Sub wye are appropriately named "WEST WYE" and "EAST WYE." The Holland depot at 8th Street and the tracks at the east end of downtown makes a good watching spot, it's free and open to the public, and most, but not all trains pass the depot.

CSX locals D702 (daytime) and D700 (nighttime) work out of Waverly. D702 switches in four directions from the yard during its shift: East on the main track to Zeeland (and sometimes Grand Rapids), southeast on the Hamilton Branch to Waverly Road and once a week to Hamilton), west on the Dock Track (which passes downtown Holland to the north heading to Padnos and Heinz) and north up the Fremont Subdivision as far as the Harlem elevator or west on the old Ottawa Beach spur. Sometimes, they run with a CSX bay window caboose for shove moves, currently CSXT 904091. D700 typically runs west (south) on the mainline to Hartford, sometimes Riverside, sometimes Sawyer, at night. 700 and 702 use the same power set (currently a CSXT RD Slug set).

Amtrak's Pere Marquette runs on a schedule. Q327, the CSX mixed freight out of GR, tends to follow Amtrak in the morning and typically makes a pickup (and often setoff) at Waverly Yard. Q326, the eastbound counterpart, is usually early to late afternoon, unless they get recrewed somewhere. CSX coal trains, typically with BNSF power, come up from Chicago and then diverge onto the Fremont Sub to continue up to the powerplant at West Olive. Empties come back south. They seem to run about one roundtrip per day, but time of day totally varies. Check the CSX monthly updates thread for when trains might be running.

Lastly is the Michigan Shore RR interchange job, which comes down from their trackage from Muskegon along US-31. They tend to get to Holland in the mid morning, do their interchange from the east end of the Waverly Yard, and then head back north up the Fremont Sub. Their trains vary in length from just a few cars to 30-40 or more. This is weekdays only and sometimes they skip a day. They use symbol Z627 if you listen to the radio.

So, almost everything passes the Holland depot, except D702 heading in its various directions, and the Michigan Shore job. It's a good spot with outdoor benches and shade, and the signal for eastbounds is clearly visible. Other decent railfanning locations:

The new walking path around the Holland Energy Center, to the immediate northeast of the depot, includes a walking trail right along the tracks and long range view north to the wye area beside the yard. In addition to what you'll see from the depot, you would see D702 working to Hamilton and the Dock Track but not the other directions. NO SHADE.

120th Street/Waverly Crossing: This is just east of Waverly Yard. There's not a great place to view down the tracks from your car but a walking path on the east side provides a good shady viewpoint. View into the east end of the yard from here, and see the westbound signals for the crossover between the crossing and the yard. You'll see MSRR's interchange work from here, but you won't see any coal trains.

Saugatuck Hill: If you've never seen it before and the timing works out, a short drive south of Holland to Saugatuck Hill is worth it to catch a train, especially to see an eastbound. Loaded coal trains and Q326 normally run with DPU helper sets mid train or on the tail end which provide some extra muscle to get tonnage over the windy hill. New Richmond Park, at the base, gives a nice view of the train rolling over the Kalamazoo River in the valley. 55th Street crossing provides a good mid-point on the ruling grade and is very rural and woodsy. 136th Avenue is at the top of the hill in the farms where trains crest the grade.

I hope this is helpful. The CSX Train Location Updates thread often provides details west Michigan info. Good luck and let us know what you see!

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Pixl
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Re: Visiting Holland

Unread post by Pixl »

Thanks for the guided tour GP30 and SD80. I do have a car (Lincoln Town Car) that I tow my RV with. Problem is I also have my non rail fan wife in tow. I did manage to see a very long coal train near West Olive. Wow they have mountains of coal that go up and on forever. I'll try to hang at the train station tomorrow if she cooperates. Jim, Traverse city.

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Pixl
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Re: Visiting Holland

Unread post by Pixl »

Well Friday morning my wife let me take the car, I went over to the Holland train station and hung out for an hour or so. My timing was off, all I got was a horn in the distance but he never came through. I could see the tracks are shiny with regular use unlike the rusted rails we have in Traverse City. Thanks to all for the tips, I'll try again next time down here.

G-Root Liska
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Re: Visiting Holland

Unread post by G-Root Liska »

I used to live in Holland before the Pandemic. What has been shared in here is accurate. Usually if I'm up to chasing Amtrak along Chicago Drive I start in Holland get ahead of him and stop in Hudsonville before he gets there. Have to be quick though because once Amtrak clears Waverly Yard he high tails it. If you catch him in Hudsonville the best place I find to get footage and watch is School Ave. The crossing there used to have a really healthy mechanical bell but sadly CSX replaced it with an E-Bell. After he leaves I high tail it to Grandville and catch him there. Amtrak slows down a lot because he slowly is approaching Wyoming Yard. I can't remember the name of the street I typically spot him at. I then head out to Grand Rapids and right by the bridge for US-131 is where Amtrak does his switching to get into the train station. There is a decent dirt like field right along the bridge that you will see some semi trailers at to watch this train. His maneuver after passengers have left to change the train direction is pretty cool to watch as well. This is of course the evening train on its way from Chicago. I believe to be P370 or 371 I mix up the numbers. Working second shift this is really the only action I can get.

Now for freight. This has always been hit and miss for me. Q327 is in the morning after Amtrak but that varies in time and I see someone stated that already. The Coal trains can be strange. You can have one in the morning and then later at night another one shows up. I've seen about 2 coal trains a day coming from Chicago.

It can be some awesome action and recently during the Pandemic it seems trains have been way longer. One morning Q327 was extremely long heading South to Chicago. I think I was spotting him for a good 10 minutes or more.

All in all best thing to say is patience. Activity is slow over the years now. However, I've seen CSX doing some upgrades on some of the tracks before the mainline in downtown Holland. Not sure the name of this branch but it seems like that has even seen activity.

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SD80MAC
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Re: Visiting Holland

Unread post by SD80MAC »

The trains are "longer" because CSX currently runs all of their traffic to Chicago on Q327/Q326. Nothing runs east of Grand Rapids to Detroit anymore.
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