West Michigan Steam Power

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West Michigan Steam Power

Unread postby SD80MAC » Mon Nov 11, 2019 7:46 pm

About a year ago, I began collecting HO scale brass models of steam locomotives. To avoid going "too crazy", I told myself that I would limit my collection to locomotives that would've been seen in Grand Rapids towards the end of the steam era (late 1940s-early 1950s), with a few exceptions of course, as someday I would very much like to model the GR area during this time period. This has led me to researching the operations of the Pere Marquette, Grand Trunk Western, New York Central and Pennsylvania in the area. I have a pretty good grasp on the PM and GTW, thanks in part to the excellent books "Pere Marquette Power" and "Evening Before The Diesel". But I find my knowledge lacking on the PRR and NYC.

The Pere Marquette is pretty straight-forward. The N class 2-8-4 Berkshires handled most of the freight runs along with 2-8-2s and PM's small (for a 2-10-2) 2-10-2s. PM also had a pair of large ex Hocking Valley 2-10-2s that were usually based out of Waverly yard in Holland as pushers for Saugatuck Hill. In later years, some of the Berkshires also worked as pushers. North of Grand Rapids could see anything but a Berkshire as they were too heavy for the bridges. Locals and switching duties were handled by 2-8-0s, 0-6-0s and 0-8-0s. Passenger trains were hauled by PM's small but fast 4-6-2s until enough E7s arrived to bump them. PM steam was done by December 1951 and a few of the best engines in some of the classes (2-8-4s, 2-8-2s, and 4-6-2s) were sent south to the "old C&O" where they would remain until they were retired and scrapped.

The Grand Trunk Western ran steam into Grand Rapids as late as 1959. Passenger trains were hauled by the K4a and K4b class 4-6-2s, U1c class 4-8-2s and the streamlined U4b class 4-8-4s. Interestingly enough, the U3b 4-8-4s never ran north/west of Durand on the GR sub. GTWs S class 2-8-2s could also occasionally be seen hauling passenger trains as fast as their 63" driving wheels could go. Freight trains were handled primarily by 2-8-2s and 2-8-0s, though the 4-8-2s and even the streamlined 4-8-4s could be seen hauling freight later in the decade. Local switching was handled primarily by 2-8-0s, as I believe by that point GTWs 0-6-0s and 0-8-0s were used elsewhere.

From what I gather, the PRR passenger trains in the area were handled mostly by G class 4-6-0s and the occasional K4 class 4-6-2 before the Pennsy dieselized everything north of Ft. Wayne in 1952-1953. On the freight side, it sounds like H class 2-8-0s and the large, WWI era N class 2-10-2s were the main power. I was told here that an M class 4-8-2 ran to Grand Rapids on occasion from Ft. Wayne and would have to be turned on the wye by Union Station because they were too big for the turntable at Hugart. I've never been able to find anything definitive as to if an L class 2-8-2 ever called on Grand Rapids, either. I would assume switching chores were handled by 0-6-0s or 2-8-0s.

I know even less about the NYC in Grand Rapids. I have seen photos of L1, L2 and L3 4-8-2 Mohawks hauling freight trains in and around the city, and I have read accounts of H5, H7 and H10 class 2-8-2s working the GR-Jackson line regularly as well. I don't think a 4-8-4 Niagara ever ran north of Jackson, if they even ventured into Michigan at all. Local switch jobs must've been handled by 2-8-0s and perhaps the older classes of 2-8-2s. I believe that even back then the line from Plainwell via Allegan was more or less a low-density secondary route and I would be surprised if it ever saw anything much bigger than a 2-8-0. On the passenger side of things, I know K class 4-6-2s and 4-6-4 Hudsons ruled the roost, as the Michigan Central originally had owned one of the first groups of NYC-family Hudsons built in the late 1920s. J1 class 4-6-4s are for sure, but I don't know if a J3 "Super Hudson" made it to Grand Rapids or not, but it doesn't seem improbable. I don't know when NYC steam operations in Michigan ended, but I would guess around 1955.

Does any of this sound accurate? I would love to hear from someone with some knowledge on the subject!
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Re: West Michigan Steam Power

Unread postby Doktor No » Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:34 am

You need to join the New York Central Historical Society and the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society. (if you already havn't) The GR articles by the PRRT&HS would give you most of not all the answers you need. The NYC society has bits and pieces here and there. Back issues are available that cover GR&I dieselization...amongst others.
Both are well worth the admission price. Heck this quarters PRRT&HS article about the Northern Arrow is worth a few years admission.
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Re: West Michigan Steam Power

Unread postby MQT1223 » Wed Nov 13, 2019 9:44 pm

I don't recall seeing a photo of a Niagara in GR either and I don't think anything bigger then an L4 Mohawk could come up this way. Plenty of photos of them in Mackinaw City and throughout Michigan as well.

I think Niagaras did appear on the Michigan Line a couple times, and I don't think any of the streamlined J class 4-6-4's ever came up here.
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Re: West Michigan Steam Power

Unread postby Standard Railfan » Mon Nov 18, 2019 11:25 am

I have found a document that may help with your PRR locomotive collection.
PRR frequently published (monthly I believe) form M.P. 229- Assignment of Locomotives.

I found a copy of the November 1944 MP 229 for the Grand Rapids division. A link to the page is here: http://www.wsbcos.com/mp229/page34.jpg

For the most part Grand Rapids was home to G5 4-6-0, H10 2-8-0, and N2 2-10-2 (USRA design) locomotives at that point in time. I would not expect much change in the type of locomotives assigned to Grand Rapids between the late 1930s and dieselization in the 1950s simply because PRR didn’t build much new power following electrification of the Northeast Corridor.
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Re: West Michigan Steam Power

Unread postby SD80MAC » Mon Nov 18, 2019 11:48 am

Absolutely invaluable information, thanks Standard! I've also read that the 5 ex GR&I L2 class 2-8-2s would've frequented the former GR&I trackage during this time as well.
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