KBE Connecting

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KBE Connecting

Unread postby MQT1223 » Mon Mar 16, 2015 3:22 pm

So the past few days I have been trying to find anything on this railroad. Hardly anything on RRfan about this line or the internet. All I know is it used a couple of leased Ann Arbor locos and that it folded after less then 10 years of operation after a lot of promise when it first opened. Even Governor Milliken was excited about it due to the ownership of the railroad. It was historically significant as it was the first minority owned rail line and ran on the former NYC from Grand Rapids to Vermontville, a little over 40 miles on track excluded from Conrail. The entire KBE ROW is being developed into the Thornapple Trail from Kzoo/44th to Vermontville. All I can find are a few photographs of the locomotive used on the line sitting in Owosso, and the poor management of the company led to its demise. What kind of industries were served on the line and do any photographs of the line exist? Why was the track excluded from Conrail, abandonment fears? The line from Vermontville to Jackson was not as fortunate early on. Any other miscellaneous info is welcome as well.
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby Raildudes dad » Mon Mar 16, 2015 7:34 pm

search Kent Barry Eaton Connecting on this site. There's plenty to read
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby MQT1223 » Mon Mar 16, 2015 7:42 pm

Raildudes dad wrote:search Kent Barry Eaton Connecting on this site. There's plenty to read

Very little... I already read it and thats why I still put this up. If it was more substancial this thread would not exist. While SOME information does exist, very little of what I was curious about in my initial post was addressed, and I made sure of it before I posted this so this wasn't just another duplicate thread.
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby Saturnalia » Mon Mar 16, 2015 10:13 pm

Please provide links to what you have searched and found. Then can then Be used as context for further discussion ;)
Thornapple River Rail Series - YouTube
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby Raildudes dad » Mon Mar 16, 2015 11:15 pm

I stand corrected Doctor No HAD a good posting about the history. It appears his posts are gone:(
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby Tim » Tue Mar 17, 2015 3:46 am

by wyrickj on Sun Mar 18, 2012 4:41 pm
Hey I have a few questions on the old Jackson to GR branch line.
1st - Why was most of the line that's no longer rail not been put into the rail trail program? I've noticed buildings in Bing maps built on the right of way near Middleville. Also there's an old bridge that crosses the Thornapple river between Middleville and airport rd in Hastings and from what I saw is at the other side of the bridge is blocked off. I'm sure it's private property but I guess I'm confused as to why most of it was never made into the rail trail system. Were people greedy in that they wanted the land? I'd like to see Paul Henry expanded as it's my favorite trail.
2nd - Was there business left just before they took the line out? Was Bradford white in Middleville ever a shipper? Was there businesses there that no longer exist today like grain elevators because they tore it out?
3rd - What do you think will become of the northwest side of the line at 44th and Kalamazoo ave? I've kinda checked it out and there's not much there left other than some small pieces of rail and ties. Do you think it could be a good starting point for some future commuter train to go downtown? I see a lot of people taking the bus around there so maybe in the future it might work. Also who owns the rail bed currently up to Steelcase?

Here is all I could find on the KBE, might be a duplicate of what you already have.

by GrandTrunkFan on Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:57 pm
I can answer #2 for you. Yes Bradford White was a customer. They'd ship out water heaters by rail for years but stopped in the early 80s because they were having too many get damaged. This was right before Kent Barry Eaton Connecting Railroad went belly up. Other customers around Hastings were Hasting Manufacturing, there was a Kent Feeds Elevator, and I've heard Consumers Power unloaded power poles on the same line as Hastings Mfg. They used part of the old CK&S line to serve Hastings Mfg and Consumers, the old bridge over the river is still there. EW Bliss Manufacturing shipped by rail too. There was also a grain elevator in Vermontville that was on the end of the line. I'm sure there's more but that's just off the top of my head.

by Mark F on Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:50 pm
The state was interested in purchasing the entire line from GR to Rives Jct after KBEC went belly up in the mid 80's. Unfortunately this was in the infancy of the Rails-to-Trails movement and a few well organized NIMBYs convinced the state and local governments that a trail was a bad idea. A local resident in the Middleville area bought up as much of the corridor as possible to preserve it for trail use. The Thornapple Trail Association has been trying to connect these preserved sections ever since. NIMBYs also successfully stopped any future extension of Kent Trails from Byron Center down to Allegan on the old NYC.

Posted by Don Simon on 8/17/2010, 8:23 am, in reply to "KBEC and TRAINS magazine"
Interesting picture. Those look like small covered hoppers. KBEC tried a movement of aggregate/sand from a pit in Irving. Someone forgot to do something with the brakes and they dragged the cars to Grand Rapids with the brakes on ruining the brakes, axles, wheels, etc. I'm wondering if those are the cars involved in the incident.
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby MQT1223 » Tue Mar 17, 2015 4:37 am

Tim wrote:by wyrickj on Sun Mar 18, 2012 4:41 pm
Hey I have a few questions on the old Jackson to GR branch line.
1st - Why was most of the line that's no longer rail not been put into the rail trail program? I've noticed buildings in Bing maps built on the right of way near Middleville. Also there's an old bridge that crosses the Thornapple river between Middleville and airport rd in Hastings and from what I saw is at the other side of the bridge is blocked off. I'm sure it's private property but I guess I'm confused as to why most of it was never made into the rail trail system. Were people greedy in that they wanted the land? I'd like to see Paul Henry expanded as it's my favorite trail.
2nd - Was there business left just before they took the line out? Was Bradford white in Middleville ever a shipper? Was there businesses there that no longer exist today like grain elevators because they tore it out?
3rd - What do you think will become of the northwest side of the line at 44th and Kalamazoo ave? I've kinda checked it out and there's not much there left other than some small pieces of rail and ties. Do you think it could be a good starting point for some future commuter train to go downtown? I see a lot of people taking the bus around there so maybe in the future it might work. Also who owns the rail bed currently up to Steelcase?

Here is all I could find on the KBE, might be a duplicate of what you already have.

by GrandTrunkFan on Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:57 pm
I can answer #2 for you. Yes Bradford White was a customer. They'd ship out water heaters by rail for years but stopped in the early 80s because they were having too many get damaged. This was right before Kent Barry Eaton Connecting Railroad went belly up. Other customers around Hastings were Hasting Manufacturing, there was a Kent Feeds Elevator, and I've heard Consumers Power unloaded power poles on the same line as Hastings Mfg. They used part of the old CK&S line to serve Hastings Mfg and Consumers, the old bridge over the river is still there. EW Bliss Manufacturing shipped by rail too. There was also a grain elevator in Vermontville that was on the end of the line. I'm sure there's more but that's just off the top of my head.

by Mark F on Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:50 pm
The state was interested in purchasing the entire line from GR to Rives Jct after KBEC went belly up in the mid 80's. Unfortunately this was in the infancy of the Rails-to-Trails movement and a few well organized NIMBYs convinced the state and local governments that a trail was a bad idea. A local resident in the Middleville area bought up as much of the corridor as possible to preserve it for trail use. The Thornapple Trail Association has been trying to connect these preserved sections ever since. NIMBYs also successfully stopped any future extension of Kent Trails from Byron Center down to Allegan on the old NYC.

Posted by Don Simon on 8/17/2010, 8:23 am, in reply to "KBEC and TRAINS magazine"
Interesting picture. Those look like small covered hoppers. KBEC tried a movement of aggregate/sand from a pit in Irving. Someone forgot to do something with the brakes and they dragged the cars to Grand Rapids with the brakes on ruining the brakes, axles, wheels, etc. I'm wondering if those are the cars involved in the incident.


Slowly but surely the Thornapple Trail continues to grow. I can see it connecting GR to Jackson one day easily, albeit not very soon. I think that an extension of the Kent Trail to Allegan would be awesome what would make someone against such a great idea? It would bring people to Allegan, and as crazy as it sounds those trails DO bring people to those towns. The little ice cream shop next to the trailhead in Byron Center gets bikers all the time in the summer. The only hurdle I see is making an alternate route around Byron Center since a housing development grew on top of the ROW in town. No houses were built directly on the ROW, but I'm not sure if people want a walking trail going between their houses. Outside of town South to Allegan there should be hardly any obstacles until you get to Allegan when it comes to placing a trailhead. Don't count on any plans to go to Otsego from there, most of the ROW has been obliterated thanks to farmers east of Allegan and is next to impossible to follow. If you want to find where the tracks went you have to start in Otsego where the tracks served by Grand Elk end. Could Always go up the line towards Hamilton too.

As for MQT's question here are some links:

http://www.railroadmichigan.com/kentbarryeaton.html
http://donsdepot.donrossgroup.net/dr404.htm
https://books.google.com/books?id=a78DAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA6&lpg=PA6&dq=kent+barry+eaton+connecting+railway&source=bl&ots=J1jbcjYh3a&sig=dV02SbkzXJLY514ZXKkFAwUexzs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=HfQHVZfELI-GyATdroGYDw&ved=0CDYQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=kent%20barry%20eaton%20connecting%20railway&f=false
http://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC4PBAR_sws-bowen-station-on-the-grv-pc?guid=e2582deb-a8fb-460f-b8d1-057dfc365082

Most of the links use recycled information, that is information that is constantly repeated due to the lack of any fresh info. The last link I found just this morning so that was new to me. The google books link is interesting because Governor Milliken seemed very interested in the KBEC and thought it could serve as a role model to get more minorities to own businesses of their own.
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby GreatLakesRailfan » Tue Mar 17, 2015 5:57 am

This probably isn't going to be of much help with your questions, but may speak to the character (or lack thereof) of the group who owned the line. One of the older gentlemen in our local railroad historical society loaned the KBEC an Alco manual, expecting to get it back when they were more familiar with their equipment. As far as I am aware, to this day, it has not been returned. It would appear as though that was the way they treated the property of others though, as illustrated in the numerous examples that have been posted- the damage to the Alco, the overloaded cars, the loaded grain cars parked in a siding and left to rot, etc. In fact, I don't recall ever reading or hearing one thing they did right.
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby Fred » Tue Mar 17, 2015 8:23 am

The ex AA Alco they used was painted up nicely.
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby Doktor No » Tue Mar 17, 2015 1:17 pm

The ALCO was painted by the railfan community for KBEC if I remember rightly. KBEC then proceeded to let it freeze up and crack the engine block making it a nicely painted paper weight.
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby J T » Tue Mar 17, 2015 3:25 pm

MQT1223 wrote:Outside of town South to Allegan there should be hardly any obstacles until you get to Allegan when it comes to placing a trailhead. Don't count on any plans to go to Otsego from there, most of the ROW has been obliterated thanks to farmers east of Allegan and is next to impossible to follow. If you want to find where the tracks went you have to start in Otsego where the tracks served by Grand Elk end. Could Always go up the line towards Hamilton too.

Actually, there are large sections of the ROW south of Byron Center that have been erased from the earth by farmland. In those areas, a bike path would have to detour along nearby country roads.
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby MQT1223 » Tue Mar 17, 2015 4:27 pm

J T wrote:
MQT1223 wrote:Outside of town South to Allegan there should be hardly any obstacles until you get to Allegan when it comes to placing a trailhead. Don't count on any plans to go to Otsego from there, most of the ROW has been obliterated thanks to farmers east of Allegan and is next to impossible to follow. If you want to find where the tracks went you have to start in Otsego where the tracks served by Grand Elk end. Could Always go up the line towards Hamilton too.

Actually, there are large sections of the ROW south of Byron Center that have been erased from the earth by farmland. In those areas, a bike path would have to detour along nearby country roads.


This is true I forgot there are a few sections, unless the farmers were willing to divide their land again.
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby wyrickj » Thu Mar 19, 2015 12:28 am

MQT1223 wrote:So the past few days I have been trying to find anything on this railroad. Hardly anything on RRfan about this line or the internet. All I know is it used a couple of leased Ann Arbor locos and that it folded after less then 10 years of operation after a lot of promise when it first opened. Even Governor Milliken was excited about it due to the ownership of the railroad. It was historically significant as it was the first minority owned rail line and ran on the former NYC from Grand Rapids to Vermontville, a little over 40 miles on track excluded from Conrail. The entire KBE ROW is being developed into the Thornapple Trail from Kzoo/44th to Vermontville. All I can find are a few photographs of the locomotive used on the line sitting in Owosso, and the poor management of the company led to its demise. What kind of industries were served on the line and do any photographs of the line exist? Why was the track excluded from Conrail, abandonment fears? The line from Vermontville to Jackson was not as fortunate early on. Any other miscellaneous info is welcome as well.


I heard that they did not pass the interchange fees to other railroads and just pocketed it when they collected it from customers. I also read somewhere the operating cost was around $900k a year nearly 5x that of Conrail's operating cost. I am really surprised there was no criminal charges filed considering from what I have read/heard that it almost seems criminal in nature. I have studied this line a lot considering it's one of my favorite trails in the area and I always wondered if there was hope business would have picked up if KBEC was not poorly ran and had been maintained during the penn central era.
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby MQT1223 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 10:23 am

wyrickj wrote:
MQT1223 wrote:So the past few days I have been trying to find anything on this railroad. Hardly anything on RRfan about this line or the internet. All I know is it used a couple of leased Ann Arbor locos and that it folded after less then 10 years of operation after a lot of promise when it first opened. Even Governor Milliken was excited about it due to the ownership of the railroad. It was historically significant as it was the first minority owned rail line and ran on the former NYC from Grand Rapids to Vermontville, a little over 40 miles on track excluded from Conrail. The entire KBE ROW is being developed into the Thornapple Trail from Kzoo/44th to Vermontville. All I can find are a few photographs of the locomotive used on the line sitting in Owosso, and the poor management of the company led to its demise. What kind of industries were served on the line and do any photographs of the line exist? Why was the track excluded from Conrail, abandonment fears? The line from Vermontville to Jackson was not as fortunate early on. Any other miscellaneous info is welcome as well.


I heard that they did not pass the interchange fees to other railroads and just pocketed it when they collected it from customers. I also read somewhere the operating cost was around $900k a year nearly 5x that of Conrail's operating cost. I am really surprised there was no criminal charges filed considering from what I have read/heard that it almost seems criminal in nature. I have studied this line a lot considering it's one of my favorite trails in the area and I always wondered if there was hope business would have picked up if KBEC was not poorly ran and had been maintained during the penn central era.


Yikes...
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby jimnorthwood » Sat Mar 21, 2015 2:50 pm

My recollection is that one of the principals in the KBEC venture was originally a motorman for the DSR, then a bus driver after streetcar operations were terminated. How this qualified him to be a shortline railroad owner/operator is unclear to me. Perhaps one of the other company officers knew something about railroading, although if you study the scant amount of information that is available about the operation you would probably come to believe that was NOT the case.
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby rob » Sat Mar 21, 2015 5:03 pm

KittyLitter wrote:The ALCO was painted by the railfan community for KBEC if I remember rightly. KBEC then proceeded to let it freeze up and crack the engine block making it a nicely painted paper weight.


it didn't freeze. one of the layoff chessie worker went to start it and didn't open the blowout cocks. with the water in the motor, it bent the connecting rods. I heard this from the guy that did it.

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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby Raildudes dad » Sat Mar 21, 2015 6:23 pm

jimnorthwood wrote:My recollection is that one of the principals in the KBEC venture was originally a motorman for the DSR, then a bus driver after streetcar operations were terminated. How this qualified him to be a shortline railroad owner/operator is unclear to me. Perhaps one of the other company officers knew something about railroading, although if you study the scant amount of information that is available about the operation you would probably come to believe that was NOT the case.


The former streetcar conductor was a minority so Michigan could proudly say they had a minority owned short line railroad. I do remember he did drive a stylin luxury car (can't remember if it was a Caddy or a Lincoln). Saw it parked at the depot a number of times.
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby Bulby » Sat Mar 21, 2015 11:51 pm

rob wrote:
KittyLitter wrote:The ALCO was painted by the railfan community for KBEC if I remember rightly. KBEC then proceeded to let it freeze up and crack the engine block making it a nicely painted paper weight.


it didn't freeze. one of the layoff chessie worker went to start it and didn't open the blowout cocks. with the water in the motor, it bent the connecting rods. I heard this from the guy that did it.

Rob Brown


Hydro lock is definitely something that will take a loco out of service... Sad that something that preventable happened.
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Re: KBE Connecting

Unread postby Doktor No » Mon Mar 23, 2015 8:52 am

Thats a new one Rob, never heard it before. Did Paul do it? 8-)
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