476: CSX's Historic St. Joseph Swingbridge

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476: CSX's Historic St. Joseph Swingbridge

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Ep. 476: CSX's Historic St. Joseph Swingbridge

July 2016, ST. JOSEPH, MI -- The lakeside cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph are split by the St. Joseph River, a significant obstacle for any surface transportation. For the rails of the Pere Marquette, the solution was this swing bridge, still in operation today, well over a century after its first crossing.

Rewinding the clock to 1904, the Pere Marquette railroad was only a handful of years old, following the merger of several smaller roads into a regional conglomerate that encompassed nearly all of the lower peninsula of Michigan. Many infrastructure projects were planned and completed in this era, one of the first here in St. Joseph, where this through-truss moveable bridge is a testament to forward-thinking in engineering.

Originally carrying smaller steam engines, the bridge has continued to serve the railroad well, up to an including today's 286,000 pound railcars with ease - a significant step-up from small 4-4-0 and 2-8-0 steam engines.

Our first scene is from July 2nd, when the LaFarge Cement Barge Integrity was docked for offload, and Amtrak #371, the aptly named Pere Marquette, became just another train to use the 112-year old bridge.

Two weeks later, we return for #370, as they stop at the equally elderly and historic St. Joseph Station, now serving primarily as a bustling beachside pizza parlor. The chaotic scene is not at all unusual, as the engineer utilizes the horn in a liberal fashion to herd everybody off the tracks and in the clear.

As #370 departs, they take their approach medium signal, letting them know the bridge is clear, and that they'll be heading onto track two at Benton Harbor a short distance beyond the bridge.

Waiting for #370 in Benton Harbor was CSX empty coal train E800, who was quickly underway towards the bridge, much to the dismay of the boaters trapped on either side, particularly those foiled in their attempt at viewing the sunset from the wide open waters of Lake Michigan. But, CSX has a train to run, and run it will.

Looking down the bridge, the crew eases the empties over the river, before making a brief pause to pickup their Norfolk Southern bulletins from the bridgetender, for their upcoming trackage rights run on the Chicago Line between Porter, Indiana, CP 482, and Chicago, at CP 509.

Once they're back underway, we move back down to the river, as the rear end of the train clears. Then we watch, as the bridge reopens to river traffic, much to the delight of the pleasure-boaters who waited nearly an hour for both trains to cross.

Jul 2: Amtrak #371
- AMTK 30 [P42DC]
- 5 cars [Horizons/Amfleets/Great Dome]
- AMTK 24 [P42DC]
- CSX Grand Rapids Sub, St. Joseph, St. Joseph River Bridge, on 7-2-16 at 08:11 EDT

Jul 16: Amtrak #370
- AMTK 74 [P42DC]
- 3 cars [Amfleets/Horizons]
- Amtrak Great Dome Car
- AMTK 31 [P42DC]
- CSX GR Sub, St. Joseph, MI, Amtrak Station/Silver Beach, on 7-16-16 at 21:15 EDT

Jul 16: CSX E800
- BNSF 9217 [SD70ACe]
- BNSF 8453 [SD70ACe]
- 130 cars [Empty Coal Gons]
- CSX GR Sub, St. Joseph, St. Joseph River Bridge, on 7-16-16 at 21:22 EDT

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Recorded with a Sony PJ790 Camcorder
Edited with Cyberlink PowerDirector 13

Copyright 2016 Thornapple River Rail Series

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