Kalamazoo report 1/25/2017 - new opportunities

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

Kalamazoo report 1/25/2017 - new opportunities

Unread postby GP30M4216 » Thu Jan 26, 2017 11:42 pm

Business took me to Kalamazoo on Wednesday and the convenient timing allowed me a few free hours before and after my appointments - darn! The weather was not at all ideal for photos, but it was worth recording these scenes anyhow.

First up, I just caught Amtrak 365 rolling west into the Kalamazoo Station about 20 minutes late, Genesis 29 leading, 6 cars, and Genesis 27 trailing. No photo. They passed eastbound 350 in the neighborhood of West Main Street, which made an on-time arrival in at the depot. I set up to try to get an artsy side-photo of Heritage Baggage #1751 which has been running on the 350/355 consist for axle count as of late. As it turns out, I missed the baggage car completely, but the shot of the locomotive (P42 #31) was perfectly timed. Kalamazoo offers several opportunities for profiles at the downtown diamonds which can be captured from public crossings.

"Amtrak 350 clear BO Track 2 east, out"

With the morning Amtraks cleared up, Grand Elk freight traffic began to move. First, the GDLK 105 Kalamazoo local job came out of Gearhart Yard and got a restricting signal at BO to work south of town. I got ahead of them at Gibson Street and saw them with the following consist:
GP40-2W #4017
GP40-2W #4002
6 empty gons
2 tankcars
1 boxcar
4 tankcars (ADMX....and corn syrup?)
3 covered hoppers
= 16 total

It's been years since I've really been able to follow Kalamazoo traffic closely, but corn syrup? Is the GDLK/CN interchange at Kilgore back in business?

Conductor throws the switch at Gibson. 1 boxcar is on Arvco's spur.

Passing the old crossing protection of PRR vintage.
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Re: Kalamazoo report 1/25/2017 - new opportunities

Unread postby GP30M4216 » Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:01 am

Not long after, GDLK 303, the Grand Rapids turn, began backing out of Gearhart for their slow trip down to Gibson. At the same time, NS 5823 was sighted near the west end of Gearhart - what NS local serves Kalamazoo from the east?

A video of their backup move is coming soon. In the meantime, I'm glad I'm not the conductor who has to ride on an end ladder through all of downtown - I guess they didn't want to deal with using their faded caboose!

GDLK 303 rounding the wye in their backup move to Gibson Street.

The power for the Grand Rapids train was elephant-style WAMX #4225 (recently arrived?) and WAMX #4209. They had 13 cars. I caught them backing around the wye at BO, and then a few minutes later rolling north behind the Water Street Coffee joint accelerating for Grand Rapids.

GDLK 303, the Grand Rapids Turn, rolls north.

There were other places I could have caught this train, but I wanted to get my photo at this specific spot, behind Water Street Coffee Joint, as this is the same place where I photographed one of the first freight trains I saw in Kalamazoo, when I was in college back in 2004. Even on a sunny day, it's not a great spot for a photo, but this gives a little time-warp perspective as NS 46E rolls north in early 2004.

NS 9083 Kalamazoo 46E.jpg
NS 46E in 2004.
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Re: Kalamazoo report 1/25/2017 - new opportunities

Unread postby GP30M4216 » Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:16 am

With 105 and 303 heading out of town, the GDLK 501 job was able to get a route into Gearhart Yard from Three Rivers. I discovered a new venue for train watching - a newly-paved little parking lot just east of the former LS&MS on Michigan Avenue, right beside the switch into the Junkyard. Now all we need is a good boy scout railfan to pick up some of the litter and it'll be a great venue to keep an eye on passing freight traffic. This was the first new photo opportunity I discovered.

GDLK comes north past Arvco Containers, as viewed from the new parking lot. I always like how this train tends to be so boxcar-heavy.

Wide angle showing just how close the new pavement comes to the rails, with the switch into the Junkyard Spur.

I'll upload the rest of the videos and story tomorrow!
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Re: Kalamazoo report 1/25/2017 - new opportunities

Unread postby AARR » Fri Jan 27, 2017 4:57 am

Looks like you had a nice day, GP30M. Thanks for sharing your pictures and looking forward to the videos :D .
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Re: Kalamazoo report 1/25/2017 - new opportunities

Unread postby GP30M4216 » Mon Jan 30, 2017 12:28 am

With 501 now arrived at the yard, it seemed like the action had calmed down for a little while. I found a place to park and went to the former Triangle Service for lunch - known as the Water Street Coffee Joint today. Good food, yummy coffee and easy to keep an eye on everything passing through the BO diamond area.

Across Water Street sits this old streetcar body. I'm ashamed to admit I lived in Kalamazoo and hung out in this neighborhood probably more than anyone else I knew at that time and I don't recall ever noticing the obvious traction outline alongside this building. I'd love to know the history of this car. It looks like it got paint in the past few years (it used to be maroon), and the main building might be being renovated. Anyone know anything about this car?

Traction history lives on in downtown Kalamazoo with this mystery streetcar.

After lunch, I headed back for Gearhart before my afternoon appointment. I found 4 AMTK ballast hoppers and a track crew doing some work on what remains of the north pass near LC Howard's warehouse. The switch is still in although I don't think this facility gets service any longer.

Around 1pm, I found the 501 power tied onto a new train at the west end of Gearhart and was taking their signal to depart the yard and head for BO and then south. I went back to Gibson Street to see them pass through the former diamond site. They now had the GMTX rental leading with the GDLK GP40-2L behind. The train consisted of 28 cars: 26 boxcars and two lumber loads. Lots of the boxcars were CN (or affiliates), as seen in the video below.
Grand Elk train 501 heads into the switches at block station Gibson on its southbound run.

For the record, here's a photo of old BO. All windows and doors are now boarded over and every exterior security light was shining away brightly.

BO Tower, still standing but silent.
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Re: Kalamazoo report 1/25/2017 - new opportunities

Unread postby GP30M4216 » Mon Jan 30, 2017 12:47 am

I came out of my meeting in downtown Kalamazoo to more train horns, and headed back east toward the tracks. From my newly-found parking lot on East Michigan Avenue, I found the second new railfan opportunity - the Kalamazoo Urban Nature Park. This newly paved walking path begins at E. Michigan between the former GR&I and LS&MS across from the HopCat former GTW freighthouse and goes south, ending at a river overlook overlooking Portage Creek atop what I believe are the old piers of the former GTW alignment between Gibson Street and BO. This area was all largely overgrown while I was in Kzoo 2003-2008.

While waiting for what turned out to be the GDLK 105 job returning north, Amtrak 353 sailed westbound over the BO diamonds - from a distance I saw their single unit #34 and 5 cars slowing to stop at the Kalamazoo station. I began walking down the Urban Nature Trail as 105 arrived and prepared to switch out the Junkyard Spur. Standing on the sidewalk along E. Michigan, here is what the view now looks like looking southeast showing the trail paralleling the tracks with the 105 job in the Junkyard Spur.

105 switches the Junkyard as seen from the entrance to the new Urban Nature Trail.

This now affords an easy view into the "junkyard" facility (a transload from one of the local salvage yards I believe), where the 105 job pulled 6 loads and spotted the 6 empties they had been towing around since the morning. This photo doesn't clearly depict it, but there is a lot of renovation/new construction work going on at the first industrial site just east of here. I'm not sure what it's being turned into. It was hard to tell, the spur may have been cut back to just beyond the last gondola seen below, but I can't be positive.....

A new view of the Junkyard Spur. Was it recently trimmed back?

As 105 switched the spur, I walked to explore the end of the trail. As I said, it ends here, with this river overlookover Portage Creek. This view shows the newly-public visible access to both active lines here, the former BO Secondary on the left (that's 105's boxcars), and the former Kalamazoo Secondary/GR&I on the right which is the main line to Grand Rapids. New vantage points! Cool!

End of the trail looking southeast.
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Re: Kalamazoo report 1/25/2017 - new opportunities

Unread postby GP30M4216 » Mon Jan 30, 2017 1:02 am

The former LS&MS bridge over Portage Creek is surprisingly short compared to the other two bridges here. This photo shows the new angle which might be quite photogenic with some sun and greenery:

New view!

With the Junkyard now switched out and downtown Kalamazoo traffic quite screwed up, 105's consist now included:
6 scrap loads
1 tankcar
6 boxcars
1 lumber load
2 boxcars
2 tankcars
=18 total

I assume the lumber load and some of the other cars may be interchange traffic from Kilgore/CN?

Here's a photo of 105 ready to head for Gearhart after a busy day of southside switching:

GDLK 105 with train ready to head for the yard.

My final stop, on the pretense of trying to get to 10,000 on my fitbit, was a quick visit to Mayor's Riverfront Parking, where I used to go walking and watching Conrail painted GP40-2s kick cars and build trains a decade ago. The old riverpier has been removed, but I was pleased to see the Kalamazoo River trail now continues east and crosses the river onto the old Georgia-Pacific papermill site. I watched 105 yard their train and then explored the new bridge, which opens up this new view of the former GTW bridge which once served the G-P mill from their own line. It truly amazes me how much effort railroads sometimes went to just to serve a single (lucrative) customer. This bridge still had rails despite long being disconnected from any active track.

Former GTW Bridge

The lack of sun in the end didn't matter to me. I'm glad I was able to check up on some of my old haunts and see plenty of freight and passenger action in my late morning and afternoon. Between the new vantage points I mentioned here and others such as new parking lots in the SW and NE quadrants of BO's diamonds, more photo opportunities are opening up for future visits!

As a final note, I counted 4 boxcars on the leads and dock at USG in Otsego on my way home, including that relettered KCS boxcar the 303 brought north earlier in the day. Completely separate, I counted 4 covered hoppers at the elevator in Hamilton, MI, including a Canadian Wheat Board car, (like this: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/The_Canadian_Wheat_Board_hopper_car.jpg), a type of which I've never seen there before.

Hope you enjoyed!
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Re: Kalamazoo report 1/25/2017 - new opportunities

Unread postby SD80MAC » Mon Jan 30, 2017 7:33 am

From what I understand the caboose is unusable, something about the frame. 2 NS jobs interchange with the Elk from the east, the Battle Creek job during the day and the road local from Jackson at night. From what I understand, most if not all of the NS traffic for the Jackson area and west of there comes up on the Elk from Elkhart, along with their engines.
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Re: Kalamazoo report 1/25/2017 - new opportunities

Unread postby NSSD70ACe » Tue Feb 14, 2017 9:24 am

The Jackson-Kalamazoo "local" is B33. Recently it's had a couple of SD40s for power, one of them a snoot-nose. Unfortunately, it arrives at about 1 in the morning. The only time I ever caught it was when the crew died on the law and had their train parked on the east yard lead with a -9W, SD40, and a -8W.

I believe the Battle Creek-Kalamazoo turn is B34. Originates and terminates at Hinman, gets to Kalamazoo in the afternoon. Last time I caught them it was out of pure dumb luck and they were running light with a couple of geeps.

The CN turn has been operational for quite some time now. Every so often I'll catch them headed down that way from I-94 to set down and pick up cars, although it's been a little while since I've seen them. Speaking of the CN, I'm pretty sure their own local is powered with an SD60 currently, which goes against the chatter than the AZO Branch can't handle heavy six-axles. CN frequently changes out the power though, so it may be something else now.

With school going on I haven't been able to go out much and explore the railfanning opportunities in my own city. I'm glad to see some new areas have opened up. I'd love to actually get some pictures of the Elk in action.

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