GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

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SD80MAC
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GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

Unread post by SD80MAC »

Hello all, I am looking for any information anyone might have on the operations of GTW's Grand Rapids Subdivision from the late 70s into the early 80s. I understand that when the car ferries were still running there were 2 pairs of Detroit to Muskegon freights, which I have listed as 511/512 and 513/514. After the ferries quit running, it went down to a pair of trains, which I have been told were 450/451, and later 650/651. My understanding is that crews for these trains were called out of Durand, and ran west to Muskegon on one train, laid over and took the eastbound back.

I assume that Muskegon had at least 1 crew based there to switch the ferry and do any local work in the area. Nugent Sand I believe was the biggest customer. I know that Grand Rapids had its own crew and engine that would work industries around town and handled the interchange with C&O and Conrail. What I'm not sure of is if there was a local that ran east out of Grand Rapids to work various customers as far as say, Ionia, and if there was a westbound counterpart that did the same thing from Durand, or if any switching between Grand Rapids and Owosso was handled by the road trains.

Does any of this sound accurate? Does anyone have anything to add? I'd also be interested to know what customers existed on the GR Sub during this time frame, and if anyone has any other memories they'd like to share. In my research, it seems like this line was often overlooked by railfans. There are plenty of pictures from the mainline and the east side of the state from this time period, but almost nothing from north/west of Durand. Thank you!
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AARR
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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

Unread post by AARR »

Time Table from April 25, 1976 shows a single train each way between Detroit and Muskegon numbered 450-451.

My Uncle Francis worked for GTW in the late 50's/early 60's and said around 1960 GTW eliminated one of the two trains that ran between Durand and Muskegon. He said the single manifest that remained was massive averaging over 100 cars.

Just before ferry service ended the local between Durand and Grand Rapids would run one way one day then return the next making three turns per week. Grand Haven was serviced by the Grand Rapids switcher as needed usually three trips per week. Each town had an elevator and other small customers but Owosso and Ada/Ionia is where most of the switching occurred.
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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

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I spent quite a few hours with the agent at St Johns back in the mid-60's, so can't attest to very much in your particular timeframe. The train numbers you mention sound correct, but in the 60's those road freights were in the 400 series and locals were in the 500 series. Besides the road trains there was a local (583) that ran Durand to Grand Haven on M-W-F and returned as (584) on Tu-Th-Sa. The street crossings in St Johns were once only circuited to activate the flashers on the main track. When the local was in town, the clerk would go up into the crossing watchman's tower there and operate the flashers as the train was switching. I got to go up there with him one day. St Johns had both an agent and a clerk. The agent used to let me handle the levers for the train order signal when required! They also had Western Union service back in the 60's. I used to sit and listen in on the dispatcher's line and learned a lot that way. Had no idea back then that I would one day work for a railroad. When I worked at Mershon back in the 70's, I could listen in on the dispatcher in Durand issuing train orders and it sounded like that 451/450 operated some days as a turn. His running order was "Eng XXXX run extra Durand to Muskegon and return to Fuller." The he'd get another order at Fuller (or Grand Rapids) to run back to Durand. Lots of good memories of that line!

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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

Unread post by R Bedell »

"in the 60's those road freights were in the 400 series and locals were in the 500 series"

I worked for the GTW in 1969-1970 out of Durand and I agree. IIRC, there was 433/434 was part of that Detroit to Muskegon run. All 500 series trains out of Durand were locals.

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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

Unread post by C&O Dispatcher »

R Bedell wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 7:49 am
"in the 60's those road freights were in the 400 series and locals were in the 500 series"

I worked for the GTW in 1969-1970 out of Durand and I agree. IIRC, there was 433/434 was part of that Detroit to Muskegon run. All 500 series trains out of Durand were locals.
Did you know agent Ed Wells? I presume he was retiring around that time. I think the last time I visited him at the depot was in 1965. One of the GTW Timetables I have has his personalized date stamp with "O. E. Wells" on it.

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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

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Doug:

NO....I did not know that gentleman.

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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

Unread post by Tom Train »

In the 70's, the boat train ran westbound between 10:00p and 11.00p.
Some area customers were: Miller-Zeilstra Lumber(they had a siding behind there store just east of Eastern Ave. In later years, they unloaded at a short siding just west of College Ave.)
Meijer's had a grocery store at the corner of Michigan and Fuller ave. that received cars, as did Decker Appliance across Fuller Ave from Meijers.
Another half mile or so east at Plymouth Ave. was Rapidstan, a conveyor manufacturer, which had a track into the building.
Adjacent to Rapidstan was B&B Beer Dist.(Millers and others.) They often had two or three cars at a time at the dock,but quit rail in the early 80's due to poor service.
Across the street was Westside Beer Dist.(Budweiser).
Downtown was The Grand Rapids Press which always had cars of newsprint on hand. It lasted well into the 90's? for GRE.
West of GRR was Klein Fertilizer in Marne and at Fruit Ridge Ave, east of Marne was Wickes Lumber which received cars(now Standale Lumber IIRC. Next door was Werner Lehara (mfgr of commercial baking equipment, not sure if they used rail) and across street was another facility that had a track into it that I do not not the name of.
There were more in the GR area that I do not recall. RDD will know more.

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SD80MAC
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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

Unread post by SD80MAC »

Thanks for the info so far guys, great stuff! On a related note, does anyone know what kind of traffic moved on the ferries? Did they only go to Milwaukee? I would imagine that it would've been MILW and maybe CNW traffic?
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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

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Only went to Milwaukee as far as I know. I do recall that they handled beer! I don't know the make up of the other traffic. I do recall the agent at St Johns telling me the dispatcher liked to get the night run back into Durand before he had to fix up the local west or the Greenville job (as far as Owosso Jct) out of Durand.

I also noticed by listening in that if the local west was running against the manifest east, instead of a straight meet order, the dispatcher would give the eastward manifest right over the local the entire distance with a series of wait times at certain sidings for the local. The times were such that the eastbound didn't actually have to stop, but the local ran against those times and would clear up (make his own meet, so to speak) where required. We used similar orders on the C&O sometimes.

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AARR
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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

Unread post by AARR »

Correct on Milwaukee. Didn't got any other ports that I know of.

In addition to beer lots of auto related traffic.
C&O Dispatcher wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:03 am
Only went to Milwaukee as far as I know. I do recall that they handled beer!
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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

Unread post by ns8401 »

AARR wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 12:43 pm
Correct on Milwaukee. Didn't got any other ports that I know of.

In addition to beer lots of auto related traffic.
C&O Dispatcher wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:03 am
Only went to Milwaukee as far as I know. I do recall that they handled beer!
Do you know when they were taken off?
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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

Unread post by C&O Dispatcher »

I found on the RRHX timeline that the track leading to the ferry dock in Muskegon was abandoned in 1985, but didn't see when the service actually ended.

OK-found this entry: October 1978: Grand Trunk Western's Muskegon-Milwaukee car ferry service is abandoned. The state acquires the car ferry "City of Milwaukee" for remaining Ann Arbor RR routes. [MDOT]

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SD80MAC
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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

Unread post by SD80MAC »

October 31, 1978 was the last day for the GTW ferries. To add on to what Doug said, Michigan leased the City of Milwaukee for the Michigan Interstate/Ann Arbor for a couple of years before the Arthur K Atkinson was repaired in 1979-1980. After the Atkinson was repaired, the City of Milwaukee returned to the ferry dock in Muskegon where it was laid up along with sister GTW ship Grand Rapids, until at least 1985. I believe the City of Milwaukee was moved to Manistee around 1990-1991, while the Grand Rapids was scrapped, I would assume.
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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

Unread post by C&O Dispatcher »

That cross-lake business for GTW, C&O and AA was an interesting era for sure. I know even when I worked the several times over at the yard office in Port Huron which was right next to the ferry slip, it had a whole different "marine" feeling about it -- different than other places I had worked on the railroad.

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Re: GTW Grand Rapids Sub Operations

Unread post by Tom Train »

Yes,AARR and C&O Dispatcher, they did haul beer,at least some of it in piggyback trailers on the head end. One time the train derailed the first few cars eb just after crossing the Grand River and spilled beer all over between the river and Monroe Ave.

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