Elkhart-E&W-NS-GER-MSO-INER Day!

Give us a run down of what you saw, post pictures if you'd like...any info is welcome.

Elkhart-E&W-NS-GER-MSO-INER Day!

Unread postby GP30M4216 » Sat Mar 14, 2009 12:41 pm

I decided yesterday (3-13) would be a great day to spend putting miles on my car and jaunting around a fair portion of southern Michigan with a side trip to Elkhart:

My aim was to get to Elkhart just in time to see the morning Lake Shore Limited off at the depot, then spend a few hours there before zig zagging my way back toward Ann Arbor through the rest of the day. The first light of day appeared behind me as I was on M-60 around Burlington, and the sun rose above the horizon more or less as I was crossing the Indiana state line on M-103. I figured I should have just beat the almost-on-time Amtrak to the station, yes as I pulled into the parking lot at 8:25, the last car was just pulling away. Looks like they made up a few minutes! I'd estimate they had about 12 cars, with the Sleepers to the rear.

I took a good look around the station, noting some work had been done, including removal of the ancient copper gutters and some masonry repairs to the front bay window. Also, Amtrak installed a new sign in front of the station on the platform, and the information on it nicely compliments the wealth of Amtrak information inside the 1900-built station building. Also, a contractor was at work later in the morning reinstalling authentic 100 year old street pavers (platform bricks) to fill in some areas where they had become uneven or missing (a project I also worked on in the Fall of 2007 here). It should look better when it is complete.
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NS ran several freights right after Amtrak, then things cooled down. The Goshen local came back into the yard with a single covered hopper, with a pair of ex-Conrail NS painted GP40-2s. I noted that NS pulled up the Willard St. crossing east of Main Street. They also have not done any signal improvements since last summer that I could tell, for now, all the old NYC signal bridges and bracket signals remain standing. Down by the intermediate brackets at MP417 and the Yellow River bridge, they took down a lot of trees between the tracks and US33, allowing for a better view and what may become a decent photo spot of eastbounds in the afternoon.

I drove over by the yard, and noted an eastbound mixed freight at the fuel pad. A pair of SD40-2s were switching around the east end, one of them in Conrail paint, the only blue guy I saw all day! At the west end, a congregation of 4 stored cabooses are parked: two Conrail bay windows (one of which is #21274 in good shape, the other has no legible number and looks pretty bad), a N&W cupula red caboose, and a Conrail transfer. I wonder if any of those Blue guys were from Grand Rapids?

I went back over near the station again to a spot I like to watch from on Middlebury Street, where I saw the two engines from the local go back east, and the mixed freight I saw at the fuel pad go east, too. On the local, the eastward leading locomotive was NS 3031 - what's the story of this locomotive? It has it's hornset mounted on the slanted part of the cab roof over the Conductor's side... kind of Erie Lackawanna Style! I've never seen another ex Conrail GP40-2 like that! I also drove over to see the Elkhart and Western, who simply moved a single boxcar from one side of the Jackson Street crossing to the other, then tied back down. They made a nice still photo, however. They do have a nice pair of chop nosed GP9s, #1000 and #911.

I was hoping to see something move for Grand Elk today, and as the NS had gotten very quiet by 11:45, I struck out east again, paralleling their line as close as I could to see if I might run into them. I had no luck in Indiana (other than finding another Mail Pouch Tobacco barn along SR-120 near Bristol). Just over the border into Michigan, I spotted two NS Geeps idling away at the Andersons Vistula elevator and gravel place. They made for nice roster shots in the sun, but no Grand Elk here.

I continued to listen for Grand Elk as I wandered my way around White Pigeon, also looking for the Michigan Southern. A series of 11 stored ALAB former CN and WP boxcars are on the old north wye, tied down with the MSO freshly painted bay window caboose. Their engine house was empty. Out-of-service Alcos S2 #66 and former D&M RS2 #466 were in the dead line, but they pulled the yellow RS3m #7804 out and it was nowhere to be found. Neither was the MSO Geep #908, OR their RS3 #977! Lots of tankcars in storage it looked like around White Pigeon. With out a peep from the Grand Elk and with shiny rails heading east, I chose to pursue the MSO toward Sturgis...

...No luck here either! After driving around for well over a half hour and finding no trace, things were getting kind of distressing. There was nothing spotted at International Paper's loading docks along the Old Road, but their spur off the former PRR side was shiny. Also, the line into the Abbott place north of the diamond was shiny, and they may have been in there working. Lots more tankcars in storage here, including on the south leg of the wye and around the old depot. The PRR rails going south of town were rusty :(

I got a tip that the INER was running a Coldwater turn which was just departing at that time, so rather than hunt more for the perhaps non-existent MSO, I made my way east on good ol' US-12. I had no luck finding them amongst the industries in Coldwater, but I did locate a rare set of Eagle type M pre-WWII 4-way traffic lights at the corner of Clay and Pearl Streets. Unfortunately, even as I paralleled the Old Road as closely as I could between Coldwater and Jonesville, I somehow missed the Coldwater Turn's passage! I'm not doing too well! I spotted three ATSF/BNSF covered hoppers on the siding at Sun Gro in Quincy. What I did find, though, at long last, was not the Coldwater turn, but the IN GP30 #2185 sitting tied down at the Litchfield Switch on the north side of Jonesville. Time for some more roster shots!

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A quick jaunt to Hillsdale revealed no other road units or trains there (just the same four classic units in the dead line: IN GP9 #1603, former CSXT GP30M #4216 parts unit, PGRY GP7 #47, and INER GP9 #1770). I retraced my steps hoping to see something interesting on the Coldwater turn and found them... heading east near Ridge Road (between Coldwater & Quincy), with every photographer's favorite - - GP7u #1500 in maroon and black! This engine will look great in IN colors, I hope they find the time to paint it up pretty this summer! They had one BNSF covered hopper (for Sun Gro) and 4 tankcars from Coldwater. Anyhow, not optimal conditions for photos now of an eastbound thanks to the sun, so I leisurely made my way to Sun Gro to watch them switch cars (set off the BNSF one, pick up one ATSF one), and proceed east.

Turns out, the 2185 was sitting at the Jonesville Switch waiting for the 1500 crew to return from Coldwater. I beat the 1500 here and watched them arrive. They tied down the train and jumped on the 2185, firing it up for a trip up the Litchfield Branch! I found out they were going to switch coal cars around at the power plant. So I caught them a couple times on the way up the branch, a longtime goal and looking FINE in the beautiful evening sunlight. The 2185 pulled a cut of 14 cars off the powerhouse track, and was going to shove 16 more into the plant. I decided I best get a move on, and headed up M-99 to find M-60 which would take me toward home.

I detoured for a minute near Homer to see if I could find the old coal tower in Clarendon from the NYC Air Line, with no luck... anyone know specifically where it is? I called Julie on my way through Spring Arbor to see if Amtrak 355 would be on time to Jackson (about 6 minutes late), so I detoured off to watch them come in at the Jackson station (to make up for missing the Lake Shore earlier). They were just a few minutes late, on track 2, with Amtrak #28, standard single level 4 car consist, and Genesis #33 on the rear. No more Superliners! You can really tell they never use that track 1 anymore.... the rails are really rusty!

Thus concludes my trip report... 427 miles later! Hope you enjoyed!
Last edited by GP30M4216 on Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Elkhart-E&W-NS-GER-MSO-INER Day!

Unread postby AARR » Sun Mar 15, 2009 10:51 am

I sure did, Nathan. Thanks.

Please post pictures when you have a chance. Sounds like the power plant in Litchfield has a long spur to it. It's been around 15 years since I was last there and they've changed the track around there to accomodate the 30 or so coal cars they deliver there.
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Re: Elkhart-E&W-NS-GER-MSO-INER Day!

Unread postby GP30M4216 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:13 pm

Hi Don and others:

Below is a link to the same report over at indianarailroads.org, which includes photos. All the way at the bottom is a diagram I quickly sketched of the layout of the powerplant and end of track at Litchfield.

http://indianarailroads.org/board/index.php?topic=2672.0
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Re: Elkhart-E&W-NS-GER-MSO-INER Day!

Unread postby AARR » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:11 pm

Thanks, Nathan. I think that siding is new and was built when IN picked up some of the coal for the power plant. Prior to that they'd have to go all the way into Litchfield to use a passing siding.
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Re: Elkhart-E&W-NS-GER-MSO-INER Day!

Unread postby Big Frank » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:28 pm

Don Simon wrote:Thanks, Nathan. I think that siding is new and was built when IN picked up some of the coal for the power plant. Prior to that they'd have to go all the way into Litchfield to use a passing siding.


I grew up in Litchfield Watching the Hillsdale county and now INE they used to have a siding on the west side of town and a small spur to the grain elevator that the HCRC used to switch in the late 80's early 90's . In mid to late 90's they lost the contract to the power plant to a trucking company thus dooming the HCRC . The city got the ok to have the tracks ripped up to make a nature trail but they could not go any farther than the power plant after the INE took over they got the contract to the power plant back and they built the siding where it is today.
Last edited by Big Frank on Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Elkhart-E&W-NS-GER-MSO-INER Day!

Unread postby AARR » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:48 pm

Thanks for the info, 1225hubbard. I must have railfanned HCRC shortly after they lost the contract to the power plant because they track still went all the way to the elevator. But the rails to the plant and into town were very rusty and from the plant into town the rails were overgrown with weeds.
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Re: Elkhart-E&W-NS-GER-MSO-INER Day!

Unread postby GreatLakesRailfan » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:52 pm

Nathan, I saw your trip report on the Indiana board (the version with pictures) first. Sounds like you had a good day for a trip like that, even if you didn't see as much as you wanted to...

A couple comments on your trip report...
When I moved out here (Chicago area) back in the middle of November, that yellow Alco was already gone from White Pigeon. I never did hear when it was pulled out of the deadline there, nor where it went to. I hope it wasn't scrapped.

I thought the MSO 908 had been sent up to the other line, west of K-zoo.

Which engine house in White Pigeon did you check? I could see the 907 sitting in the building over on the west side of the wye back in November, but didn't see the 977 anywhere around that day either. Do they still use the building across the street from the elevator in town (to the east of the elevator)? In November they had a caboose on the track that went into the gated area (not the track that went into the building with the Michigan Southern sign on it.

From what's been posted about the Little River group on the Michigan Railroads boards, I've gotten the impression that the LRR doesn't use the white pole barn across the tracks and west of the elevator in WP. I have seen the 101 (before it was sent away) sitting down by that building, with a couple of those ALAB boxcars in the past. I wonder if the MSO could be using it as a shop facility now or to store power in?

One other note regarding WP- when I was there in November, I got the impression that the MSO crew was operating out of the station, or that some part of their activities in town were tied into the station somehow.
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Re: Elkhart-E&W-NS-GER-MSO-INER Day!

Unread postby GP30M4216 » Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:42 am

Going through some old files I just came across some videos from this trip of the late-in-the-day Indiana Northeastern action, including the Coldwater Turn heading east from Coldwater to Litchfield Jct. behind the now repainted and renumbered #1500, and GP30 #2185 rolling up the Litchfield Branch to fetch coal empties from the Endicott Generating Station, a run discontinued for the past several years. Enjoy the sights and sounds of vintage Geeps in south Michigan!


Not ideal lighting, but we catch Indiana Northeastern GP7u #1500 hauling the Coldwater Turn east from Coldwater. The BNSF hopper would soon be setoff at Sun-Gro Industries near Quincy. March 13, 2009.


Indiana Northeastern GP7u #1500 leads the Coldwater Turn east at Litchfield Jct., where it ties down so the crew can jump on the waiting GP30 #2185 to take it north to Litchfield to switch coal hoppers. The Santa Fe hopper was just picked up from Sun-Gro in Quincy. March 13, 2009.


Venerable Indiana Northeastern Railroad GP30 #2185, a Reading Railroad product built in 1962, heads north lite unit whistling for crossings on the Litchfield Branch north of Jonesville, MI. They will switch cuts of NS coal hoppers at the Endicott Generating Station powerplant in Litchfield. March 13, 2009.


Indiana Northeastern GP30 #2185, a former Reading RR unit, brings a cut of empty NS coal hoppers south from the Endicott Generating Station in Litchfield, MI down the Litchfield Branch toward Jonesville. March 13, 2009.
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Re: Elkhart-E&W-NS-GER-MSO-INER Day!

Unread postby AARR » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:36 pm

I like your videos, GP30. :)
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