Big Four Branch Elkhart IN to Benton Harbor MI

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Big Four Branch Elkhart IN to Benton Harbor MI

Unread postby jrgerber » Thu Apr 04, 2019 6:03 pm

I lived in the Twin Cities from 1969 to 1979. I can remember the Big Four crossing Main Street in Benton Harbor at grade and running into the CSX. I also thought there was a viaduct over one of the streets in downtown Benton Harbor and then the line threaded through the neighborhood along Napier until it crossed under I-94 on its way to Sodus and Eau Claire. I don't recall seeing alot of traffic on the line. My understanding is that Whirlpool got coal for its plants. Here's a rare picture of a SW1 in 1969 in Benton Harbor, pictures of this operation are rare.
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benton harbor sw1 1969.jpg
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Re: Big Four Branch Elkhart IN to Benton Harbor MI

Unread postby Jochs » Fri Apr 05, 2019 11:40 pm

The Big-Four followed Ox Creek out of Benton Harbor, and I don't recall there being a viaduct. Ox Creek (or at least the Yore Drain of it) goes under Meadowbrook now by the Comfort Inn, and just east of that is the old Big 4 right-of way.
The C&O line also followed Ox Creek and the Big-Four out of Benton Harbor, and went over the Big Four after going over Empire Ave on a wooden trestle.
The C&O wooden trestle is the only viaduct I remember in Benton Harbor, down in the Ox Creek Valley on Empire Ave in Benton Harbor between Pipestone and M-139.

I remember in the late 70's when Napier Ave was widened from I-94 to Plaza Drive, new overhead crossing signals were put in on Napier Ave. By then, the line was hardly ever used, and was eventually removed in 1982.

I also remember the C&O line being removed in the early 1980's (it only went to Napier in the late 1970's.) and the Pipestone Rd. crossing was left intact for years after that, with crossbucks, so school buses had to stop at it, even though there were no rails on either side of the crossing. (It was not marked as exempt.)
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Re: Big Four Branch Elkhart IN to Benton Harbor MI

Unread postby jrgerber » Sat Apr 06, 2019 7:07 am

Thanks great information
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Re: Big Four Branch Elkhart IN to Benton Harbor MI

Unread postby jrgerber » Wed Apr 10, 2019 12:43 pm

Here are some photos from the Larry Lewman collection on the line between Niles and Benton Harbor. One is the watchman tower in Benton Harbor and the second is the Big Four station.
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tower bh.jpg
big four station.jpg
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Re: Big Four Branch Elkhart IN to Benton Harbor MI

Unread postby Firemedic Mike » Wed Apr 10, 2019 5:32 pm

I believe the tracks went UNDER East Britain, if that is what you are referring to
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Re: Big Four Branch Elkhart IN to Benton Harbor MI

Unread postby chapmaja » Tue Apr 30, 2019 1:34 am

So this is what I was able to find.


https://nara.getarchive.net/media/1950- ... ?zoom=true

It appears, based on this map, that the tracks crossed the Paw Paw River where the remaining part of the ship canal goes east and the Paw Paw River goes north. The tracks then ran alongside the Ship Canal, which is now filled in until reaching the end of the ship canal at where it turn northeast, following the Pere Marquette for a very short distance before it, and the Pere Marquette branch to Berrien Springs and Buchannan split off to heard southeasterly. The line split off roughly where 5th street and Shore driver meet, and went through several small streets before heading south-southeast. Per the map I looked at the PM branch was the eastern of the two lines and the Big Four line was the western of the two lines. The alignment continued south - southeasterly until the tracks reached a point about halfway between Pipestone and Fair St. along Empire. At this point the PM crossed the Big Four at grade (called Napier on the Michigan railroads site). The PM then heads almost due south while the Big Four turns to head southeast. M139 does appear to cross over the tracks at a bridge just SE of the crossing of the two lines.
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Re: Big Four Branch Elkhart IN to Benton Harbor MI

Unread postby chapmaja » Tue Apr 30, 2019 1:37 am

Firemedic Mike wrote:I believe the tracks went UNDER East Britain, if that is what you are referring to


It appears you are correct. The map I found seems to show a bridge over the tracks in that location.
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Re: Big Four Branch Elkhart IN to Benton Harbor MI

Unread postby Doktor No » Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:53 pm

Google The Railroads Of Madison County. Covers the Big4 Michigan Branch rather well. Benton Harbor down to near the Ohio River.
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Re: Big Four Branch Elkhart IN to Benton Harbor MI

Unread postby Doktor No » Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:26 pm

Doktor No wrote:Google The Railroads Of Madison County. Covers the Big4 Michigan Branch rather well. Benton Harbor down to near the Ohio River.

http://madisonrails.railfan.net/
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Re: Big Four Branch Elkhart IN to Benton Harbor MI

Unread postby Ben Higdon » Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:32 am

Try searching "benton harbor" here: https://historicalcharts.noaa.gov/
After selecting Benton Harbor, MI, you have to scroll down to see the charts.
Lots of detail on the rail lines across a variety of years in the early-mid 1900s
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Re: Big Four Branch Elkhart IN to Benton Harbor MI

Unread postby Jochs » Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:53 pm

BTW, if you drive on Townline Rd. East of Pipestone, the road has been covered with layers of tar and gravel, and the old road markings for the railroad still show through after a year or so after the road is resurfaced. They are starting to show through again. This road marks the dividing line between Benton Harbor and Sodus.

There were two wooden trestles in Benton Harbor on the C&O. One crossed over Empire Ave, then the other went over Ox Creek and the Big 4 Line before crossing Pipestone Rd. in Benton Harbor. The two rail lines ran side by side through downtown Benton Harbor and underneath Britain Ave.
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