Delray, Great Lakes Steel and nearby vicinity 6-12-2020

Give us a run down of what you saw, post pictures if you'd like...any info is welcome.
GP30M4216
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Delray, Great Lakes Steel and nearby vicinity 6-12-2020

Unread post by GP30M4216 »

It's been a while, like a loooong while, since I've been able to spend any time in the heart of Detroit industrial and interlocking tower territory: Delray and vicinity.

Inspired by Eric Blasko's Delray posts on Facebook, I wanted to capture Delray at the beginning of this decade, likely to be its last decade of service. Of course, last decade was supposed to be its last. Or was it supposed to be the 2000's? Whatever. In addition to Delray, I swung down to River Rouge to glimpse some of the remaining operations around USS Great Lakes Works, crossed numerous drawbridges over the Rouge River (my old haunt from the tourboat) and headed easy chasing action on the Boat Yard Line. It was a sunny adventure!
I've wanted to capture this view for a long time, preferably with an eastbound passing the tower, but I'll take it without. Looking west down Dearborn Ave from the I-75 SB ramp.
I've wanted to capture this view for a long time, preferably with an eastbound passing the tower, but I'll take it without. Looking west down Dearborn Ave from the I-75 SB ramp.
A wider view with the Conrail mainline in the foreground.
A wider view with the Conrail mainline in the foreground.
Industrial diamonds fascinate me. They tend to exist in complicated factory setups, such as older auto plants or steel mills. In this case, these are the spurs into Nicholson Terminal & Dock, being crossed by -- a USS track with stopsign, I think. It's not the DCRR mainline. This was just a quick moment to snap a photo out the car window before turning around. No lingering near active port facilities!
Industrial diamonds fascinate me. They tend to exist in complicated factory setups, such as older auto plants or steel mills. In this case, these are the spurs into Nicholson Terminal & Dock, being crossed by -- a USS track with stopsign, I think. It's not the DCRR mainline. This was just a quick moment to snap a photo out the car window before turning around. No lingering near active port facilities!
Last edited by GP30M4216 on Tue Jun 16, 2020 11:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Delray and nearby vicinity 6-12-2020

Unread post by GP30M4216 »

I wanted to take a look around the USS Great Lakes Works to see what's what since the primary side of the mill shut down on Zug Island in early April. According to the press release announcing the idlings: "The hot strip mill will continue to operate but will idle before the end of 2020. Other areas at the complex — including the Pickle Line, Cold Mill, Sheet Temper Mill, Continuous Galvanizing Line, Annealing, and warehouses — are expected to continue operating “in line with customer demand." I know these are operations all in either River Rouge or Ecorse, but I'm not sure where within the complex each take place. The famed bottle trains used to run from the blast furnaces on Zug Island down to the BOP Shop in Ecorse for casting, and the slabs made could be processed using various processes for customers.

The 80" Strip Mill is one of the finishing facilities and is located in River Rouge, visible from Bellanger Park Road. You can't park on the road but I've been successful putting the flashers on and sitting on the side of the road for a couple minutes if I knew something was coming. USS security is notorious so stick to public right of way if you ever want photos. It looked like a lineup of empty slab cars were positioned outside the mill. A pleasant burbling sound echoed off the building and a switcher presented itself, heading east around the north end of the plant along Bellanger Road. USS 73 is a rebuilt SW1000. It was freshly painted and modified in 2008. I can't recommend a sunroof enough! It;'s a useful feature if you want a couple extra feet of elevation over a chain link fence. I'm not sure how much longer the 80" mill will continue to operate. Slabs are now being sourced from USS Gary Works.
2020-06-12 D USS 73 at 80 inch mill.jpg
2020-06-12 E USS 73 at 80 inch mill.jpg
2020-06-12 F USS 73 at 80 inch mill.jpg

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Re: Delray and nearby vicinity 6-12-2020

Unread post by GP30M4216 »

I had just missed a train with tankcars crossing the Shortcut Bridge onto Zug Island. Not wanting to linger any longer and tempt security, I headed back across the Rouge to Delray, and got caught halfway through the consist of a northbound autorack train on the Conrail. I looped around and headed over to West End Street, to take a look in the Reserve Yard, and found the NS Boat Yard Line local. High hood power! Classic former N&W SD40-2 #1628 was looking fine with 7 hi-cube RBOX boxcars. It made a good photo opt.
2020-06-12 G NS 1628 at Reserve Yard Detroit.jpg
Otherwise, the Reserve was empty. The container terminal right beside it seems to still be open but spines and containers were parked all over the two loading tracks - does this not receive or ship containers by rail any longer?

I looped back to Delray to start my photo documentation of the historic interlocking tower built in 1944. Enjoy this survey of photos.
2020-06-12 H Delray Tower Detroit.jpg
2020-06-12 I Delray Tower Detroit.jpg
The windows were replaced about 5 years back. It still looks a little goofy to me with the high-tint security windows now, but I'll take it because I know there's a 45 lever machine still functioning inside!

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Re: Delray and nearby vicinity 6-12-2020

Unread post by GP30M4216 »

Around 1997, this DELRAY sign was added to the east end of the tower facing Dearborn Avenue, painted in Conrail Blue with white lettering. Apparently this didn't sit well with CSX management, as CSX signage starting showing up on the tower over the next couple years. ALL of the signage is now slowly fading. I like the weathered look of this sign now. I didn't realize it was wood. Time for a touch up!
Around 1997, this DELRAY sign was added to the east end of the tower facing Dearborn Avenue, painted in Conrail Blue with white lettering. Apparently this didn't sit well with CSX management, as CSX signage starting showing up on the tower over the next couple years. ALL of the signage is now slowly fading. I like the weathered look of this sign now. I didn't realize it was wood. Time for a touch up!
View looking north of the west and south elevations of the tower.
View looking north of the west and south elevations of the tower.
John DeAngelis was a personal friend. He hired out with the C&O in 1966 at the 6th Street Tower in Detroit but most of his career was at Delray. He was a social guy who knew several local railfans. I enjoyed his company. He retired in 2008 and sadly passed away a few years ago. I'm not sure whose idea it was, but they "reserved" his usual parking place with this signage on the side of the tower. The white Ford Probe had preferred parking! After he retired, the spot was "reassigned" to Heather - another operator!
John DeAngelis was a personal friend. He hired out with the C&O in 1966 at the 6th Street Tower in Detroit but most of his career was at Delray. He was a social guy who knew several local railfans. I enjoyed his company. He retired in 2008 and sadly passed away a few years ago. I'm not sure whose idea it was, but they "reserved" his usual parking place with this signage on the side of the tower. The white Ford Probe had preferred parking! After he retired, the spot was "reassigned" to Heather - another operator!

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Re: Delray and nearby vicinity 6-12-2020

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After my tower photography, I waited a while for the next train movement - quite a while. With no headlights in sight, I buzzed back over to West End to find NS 1628 had backed down on its short consist of boxcars and uncoupled the last car. What symbol is this local? The real bell nicely sets off the high hood!
2020-06-12 M NS 1628 at Reserve Yard Detroit.jpg
I also noticed that the CSX Boat Yard local (Y194?) was setting off a couple cars for the Delray Connecting on the connector track near Melville Street. Does CSX regularly take cars all the way onto Zug Island instead of leaving them on the siding north of Jefferson for DCRR interchange? The two CSX units and tankcars disappeared for quite a while, and eventually returned light to their short train.

You may have thought Conrail was dead, but you'd be wrong! It may not be true Imron, but Conrail Blue lives on in the yard sign at River Rouge Yard on Coolidge Hwy.
2020-06-12 N Conrail River Rouge Yard sign.jpg
Returning again to Delray Tower, I came up to the crossing just as the gates went down. A lengthy freight led by NS D9-40CW 9507 LHF slowly proceeded over the crossing and into Rougemere Yard. The consist was mostly covered hoppers, tankcars, and gondolas. Was this a transfer job from a Conrail yard? You will notice the Chevy at left. As the pilot of the locomotive was entering the pavement, this car was flying between the gates from Woodmere over the tracks. But it took the wrong side of the lowered left-hand gate and ended up on the gravel in front of the tower, narrowly missing a telephone pole and banging over the curb before reentering the road as shown - just a normal day in the 'hood!
2020-06-12 O NS 9507 WB crossing Dearborn Ave-1.jpg

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Re: Delray and nearby vicinity 6-12-2020

Unread post by GP30M4216 »

This elderly crossing protection has been in thousands of railfan photos over the years. It deserves its own moment in the spotlight.
2020-06-12 P Dearborn Ave crossbuck.jpg
I caught the NS Boat Yard Line local on the move eastbound. The locomotive dropped the 6 cars outside of the spur into Evans Distribution Systems, just west of Livernois. This is a facing point switch requiring a run around to properly switch it out. SD40-2 1628 set off light power for the crossover near Scotten, where it crossed over to the former eastbound main track for a westbound move.
NS 1628 slowly makes its way westbound near McKinstry Street as viewed from the crossing at Junction Avenue. Detroit landmarks in the distance set the scene. Once upon a time, this was where the Pere Marquettes, Sportsman, Red Arrow and Wabash Cannonball clicked off their final couple miles before arriving at Fort Street Union Depot.
NS 1628 slowly makes its way westbound near McKinstry Street as viewed from the crossing at Junction Avenue. Detroit landmarks in the distance set the scene. Once upon a time, this was where the Pere Marquettes, Sportsman, Red Arrow and Wabash Cannonball clicked off their final couple miles before arriving at Fort Street Union Depot.
Recent reports indicate the Boat Yard Line will be soon be single tracked east of Vinewood in a track consolidation project. NS is giving up the former Boat Yard property for riverfront development. CSX will continue to serve their 12th Street Transflo facility. Apparently, the crossing will be reinstalled at 24th Street near the J.W. Westcott Company offices.

The Junction crossing features an antique cantilever crossing signal on the southbound side. The lighting wasn't great for that shot, but I wanted to incorporate it anyway as 1628 continues slowly west.
2020-06-12 R NS 1628 WB at Junction on Boat Yard Line.jpg

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Re: Delray and nearby vicinity 6-12-2020

Unread post by GP30M4216 »

Chasing a train on the Boat Yard Line is significantly easier with so much property cleared out from Post Street and Livernois east to Campbell for the Gordie Howe International Crossing. You can easily pace a train on Fort Street even if you hit every traffic light red! 1628 crossed back over to the westbound track at Green Street, as the CSX local held just west of the crossover on the eastbound track. 1628 then reversed east to switch the boxcars at Evans. Once upon a time, I think this was a storage location for aluminum billet. Is that what is carried in these boxcars, too?

With NS clear of the eastbound track, the CSX local proceeded east heading for the 12th Street transflo. GP40-3s 6522 and 6513 provide the power for just two tankcars, seen here at the Post Street crossing. More vintage crossing protection for your enjoyment.
CSX local at Post Street.
CSX local at Post Street.
The CSX local passed the NS local between Post and Livernois. You can clearly see the cleared property for the Gordie Howe Bridge project and how it has changed the landscape. Many sidestreets and some crossings are already closed. As construction begins, this scene will change forever. But the tracks will endure.
2020-06-12 T CSX local passing NS from Post Street.jpg
Does the Detroit Produce Terminal still get service? About 10 years ago, they were switched by CSX, usually receiving Union Pacific type reefers. I remember it tended to be a seasonal business, heavier in the fall and winter and pretty light in spring and summer. Does anyone know if they were active over the past several months?

This concludes my report. It was a fun morning! Not a large number of trains, but it was fun to visit some old haunts and capture some remaining pieces of railroad history.

BONUS photo: Later in the day, I ended up in Mount Clemens. Here's a photo of the 1859-built Grand Trunk Western Mount Clemens Depot. It is among the oldest railroad stations standing in Michigan. It has been largely restored by the Michigan Transit Museum and today serves as a railroad museum operated by MTM. Worth a visit when they reopen post-COVID! Enjoy!
2020-06-12 U GTW Mount Clemens Depot.jpg

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Re: Delray, Great Lakes Steel and nearby vicinity 6-12-2020

Unread post by AARR »

Thank you for posting your trip, GP30M.
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Re: Delray, Great Lakes Steel and nearby vicinity 6-12-2020

Unread post by ConrailDetr​oit »

It does not appear that the Produce Terminal has received reefers in 5 years.

CSX leaves cars on the siding, if they are going onto Zug Island it would be for a Coke Train.

The intermodal at the Reserve Yard appears to be switched very sporadically.

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Re: Delray, Great Lakes Steel and nearby vicinity 6-12-2020

Unread post by GP30M4216 »

Thanks for the updates Conrail Detroit! I know you’ve also posted a bunch of photos from this territory and I reference them periodically. To bad the Produce Terminal is no longer a customer nor is the intermodal yard regular. Thanks.

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