GRE Spurs on the East Side

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GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby MQT1223 » Wed Apr 15, 2020 7:24 pm

Was out chasing the GRE today and decided to catch them at a crossing I had never seen in action or ever explored, which was Ball Ave.

Noticed a spur to the west of the crossing with the switch stand still intact, but appears to be removed on Google Maps. Its on the South Side of the ROW and currently Vander Mill occupies this location, which appears to be a brewery of some kind.

A second spur with the switch removed is to the east of the crossing on the North Side of the row and the site is currently occupied by MTI Retreading.

This peaked my interest further and to Google Maps I went. Found another spur near Maryland Ave that looks to be in decent condition for Kent Manufacturing Company, which is just west of Precision Poly.

The one spur remnant I see the most frequently is what appears to be switch remains for a spur at the busy Fuller Ave Crossing, which appears to have crossed Fuller on the north side of the mainline? I can't imagine the traffic backups from when a customer had to be serviced here if that was the case.

When was the last time any of these places received rail at all? It amazes me how much business the GRE could potentially have on Grand Rapids' East Side. Do these businesses simply not want rail service or have any past experiences with the railroad ruined what could easily be a large customer base? I feel like King Milling basically carries the GRE with Amway and Precision Poly just little side jobs for the railroad.
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby Raildudes dad » Wed Apr 15, 2020 7:35 pm

West Side Beer
Rapidstan now Dematic went quite a ways toward Plymouth
A wholesale lumber company the name escapes me Hager maybe'
One at Fuller went to Corduroy Rubber.
The only one Ive seen traffic at was Hager
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby LansingRailFan » Thu Apr 16, 2020 1:01 am

Raildudes dad wrote:West Side Beer
Rapidstan now Dematic went quite a ways toward Plymouth
A wholesale lumber company the name escapes me Hager maybe'
One at Fuller went to Corduroy Rubber.
The only one Ive seen traffic at was Hager



Where VanderMill Cider is now (and also FullBar Cocktails) was B&B Distributing. They were the Miller Brewing distributor in Grand Rapids and merged with Kent Beverage to form Alliance Beverage, now out on M-6 near-ish both West Side Beer and Henry A Fox Sales. M-6 in the am is beer truck heaven.
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby SD80MAC » Thu Apr 16, 2020 9:17 am

Kent Manufacturing occupies the former Rosewood site. Rosewood got boxcars of lumber up until 8 or 9 years ago.
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby Raildudes dad » Thu Apr 16, 2020 1:56 pm

I got my beer companies mixed up (don't drink it, but I have some VanderMills in the house :) ).
Pretty sure Hager was there before Rosewood. Hager was originally on the NW corner of Wealthy and Front. The yard burned with only the small brick building saved. I think that's when they moved to Oak Industrial. The city aquired the property for traffic signal storage. Had impounded cars there for a while also. I think Hager is now located on Marquette SW.
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby chapmaja » Thu Apr 16, 2020 10:41 pm

I have also been looking at this line.

What I am wondering about is slightly west. The area around Clancy Ave. It appears that at one time there were at least 4 tracks between Clancy and Coldbrook. One was a siding south of the current main, while two were north of the main. One track appears to have been for a property on Clancy Ave. The main siding on the north side, and on the south side both appears to have crossed Coldbrook. The siding on the south side is cut prior to Coldbrook now. The north side has a crossover just west of Coldbrook and the siding joins the main near the Plainfield-Leonard intersection.

Was there a small yard at one time up there? Also, who used to be served from the switch to the north of Plainfield/Leonard which left the main on the west side. the siding still appears visible, but barely. Finally, the switch by Taylor was the switch to the line into GR that used to get paper for the GR Press. This line was accessed either from the east or west correct. When was the track on the west side of the wye removed? Wasn't there a second bridge over Monroe for the track down into GR?

Also, going west from GR. I know the track by the old St. Mary's Cement is used at the interchange between the C&M and GRE, but when was the last time St. Mary's Cement actually was used for their own cars?
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby SD80MAC » Fri Apr 17, 2020 1:09 am

Yes, GTW’s main yard in Grand Rapids occupied the space between Plainfield/Leonard and Coldbrook and the surrounding area. Directly across from the depot was a small 1800’s two stall engine house that stood until the end of steam in Grand Rapids on the GTW in 1959. It was so small that even a 2-8-0 or 2-8-2 could not fit fully inside of it. This was GTW’s main base of operations in Grand Rapids and is where all of the local crews went on duty, which included the yard jobs, a local that went east to Lowell and back, and the daily except Sunday mixed train to Grand Haven. All of GTW’s passenger trains stopped at the depot as well and would often pick up or set out a mail car, which was kept on a track south of the platform that branches off the main just south of Coldbrook. Most of the freight trains running from Durand to Muskegon and vice versa would also stop to pick up and set out Grand Rapids traffic and take on water as well. Grand Rapids did not have a mainline coaling facility, so coal was usually taken on in Ionia. The local engines assigned to GR were coaled with a crude loading belt and or a clamshell bucket crane. Most of the foundations for the engine house, water tower and associated facilities are still there in the weeds. I will have to see if I can scan some pictures from a few books that I have that detail the area nicely.

The line that went to the GR Press was later called the Bond St. spur. The old GR Press building and current US Post Office sat/sit on the sight of the original GTW depot in Grand Rapids, which is the reason for the line’s existence in the first place. The wye over Monroe was installed so that trains from either direction would be able to access the depot by backing in. This process still took up a lot of time, so in the 1940’s they built the current depot at Plainfield and Leonard at their yard and sold the old depot to the city, which tore it down and built the Post Office. After the GR Press moved out of downtown GR, the line was abandoned gradually. The south bride over Monroe was part of the wye and was removed when the wye was.

I don’t think St. Mary’s has gotten anything by rail since the mid 90’s.
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby MQT1223 » Fri Apr 17, 2020 2:35 am

SD80MAC wrote:Yes, GTW’s main yard in Grand Rapids occupied the space between Plainfield/Leonard and Coldbrook and the surrounding area. Directly across from the depot was a small 1800’s two stall engine house that stood until the end of steam in Grand Rapids on the GTW in 1959. It was so small that even a 2-8-0 or 2-8-2 could not fit fully inside of it. This was GTW’s main base of operations in Grand Rapids and is where all of the local crews went on duty, which included the yard jobs, a local that went east to Lowell and back, and the daily except Sunday mixed train to Grand Haven. All of GTW’s passenger trains stopped at the depot as well and would often pick up or set out a mail car, which was kept on a track south of the platform that branches off the main just south of Coldbrook. Most of the freight trains running from Durand to Muskegon and vice versa would also stop to pick up and set out Grand Rapids traffic and take on water as well. Grand Rapids did not have a mainline coaling facility, so coal was usually taken on in Ionia. The local engines assigned to GR were coaled with a crude loading belt and or a clamshell bucket crane. Most of the foundations for the engine house, water tower and associated facilities are still there in the weeds. I will have to see if I can scan some pictures from a few books that I have that detail the area nicely.

The line that went to the GR Press was later called the Bond St. spur. The old GR Press building and current US Post Office sat/sit on the sight of the original GTW depot in Grand Rapids, which is the reason for the line’s existence in the first place. The wye over Monroe was installed so that trains from either direction would be able to access the depot by backing in. This process still took up a lot of time, so in the 1940’s they built the current depot at Plainfield and Leonard at their yard and sold the old depot to the city, which tore it down and built the Post Office. After the GR Press moved out of downtown GR, the line was abandoned gradually. The south bride over Monroe was part of the wye and was removed when the wye was.

I don’t think St. Mary’s has gotten anything by rail since the mid 90’s.


The brush in the area of the engine house and whatnot was recently cut down by the power company, making it easier to see and explore if desired.
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby chapmaja » Fri Apr 17, 2020 8:30 am

What locals would the GTW have hard running out of Grand Rapids? In fact, what trains would have run on the line during the time from the end of passenger traffic until the line was sold off? From what I recall there used to be a through train from Durand to Muskegon. Did this run daily? I assume this also would have done setouts and pickups enroute. Muskegon would have had a local serving their customers, plus another train to switch the ferry correct. Was there enough customers near Grand Rapids to run a local each direction from Grand Rapids daily, or would they have run east one day and west the other? Did they run a local west from Durand as well. From what I recall one would have been needed to service customers as far as St. John's, unless the entire Durand to GR was served by the same local.

All of this was before my time in the GR area, which is why I am wondering.

Also, I know the GRE's yard is near Ann St. What was their area before the GRE took over in terms of GTW and CMGN operations.
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby AARR » Fri Apr 17, 2020 9:18 am

While GTW's ferry was in operation the train schedule was stable. A manifest between Detroit and Muskegon each way with work at Pontiac, Durand and Grand Rapids enroute. A local that ran Durand to Grand Rapids day one and back day two, three round trips per week. Grand Rapids had a daily yard job (maybe two) that covered Grand Rapids and the Grand Haven branch three days per week. Muskegon had several yard jobs around the clock. I'm not sure how local traffic between GR and Muskegon was handled.

After ferry service ended I'm not sure how local traffic was handled. The manifests were annulled of course. GTW may have sent one large local from Durand to Muskegon day one and back day two with three turns per week. I recall in the early 1980's the local switching in Fowler and it would have a long consist including short covered hoppers from Muskegon. Prior to that (mid to late 1970's) the local was a much shorter train.

chapmaja wrote:What locals would the GTW have hard running out of Grand Rapids? In fact, what trains would have run on the line during the time from the end of passenger traffic until the line was sold off? From what I recall there used to be a through train from Durand to Muskegon.
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby SD80MAC » Fri Apr 17, 2020 10:09 am

I think from the end of the steam era to the sale to CMGN, the operations were scaled back, like everything else. As far as I know, GTW had a yard job/local based out of Grand Rapids until the end that would switch industries around town and interchanged with Chessie and Conrail. I am not sure how far east or west that job would’ve gone but I’m guessing probably Ada eastbound and Walker or Coopersville westbound. I believe the road train from Durand to Muskegon and back was daily but after the car ferry ceased operations I’m not sure if that stayed that way or if it was westbound one day and eastbound the next. Muskegon would’ve had its own job too. I’m not sure if a local out of Durand handled St. John’s or if that was done by the road train.

I think by the mid 80s GTW had moved what local operations in GR they had left to the present yard at Ann St. Central Michigan operated out of there as well. I think even into the CMGN era they had an engine based in Grand Rapids that would handle the switching in the area along with a Durand-Grand Rapids turn.
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby AARR » Fri Apr 17, 2020 10:47 am

SD80 makes a good point. During the steam era there were two manifests daily between Detroit (Durand) and Muskegon. They were combined into one massive train after dieselization.

During the diesel era a crew would take the manifest from Durand to Detroit where they would set off and pick up then head back to Durand. They might work Pontiac both ways. After a couple hours of switching in Durand a new crew would take the train from Durand to Muskegon working GR enroute. After arriving in Muskegon the manifest would set out and pick up then depart Muskegon with a new crew working Grand Rapids enroute to Durand.

SD80 is also correct about CMGN operations. They stationed a local in Grand Rapids (and Muskegon too for a year or two). The GR local would meet a train from Durand usually in Ionia although the meeting location may have changed occasionally.
SD80MAC wrote:I think from the end of the steam era to the sale to CMGN, the operations were scaled back, like everything else.

I think even into the CMGN era they had an engine based in Grand Rapids that would handle the switching in the area along with a Durand-Grand Rapids turn.
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby DLM » Fri Apr 17, 2020 12:32 pm

Did Miller Zylstra Lumber on Michigan Ave have a spur at one time off the GTW? Near the Houseman Ave NE grade crossing?
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby SD80MAC » Fri Apr 17, 2020 1:32 pm

Even after CMGN removed the rail between Muskegon and Penn Junction, they continued to operate Muskegon as an island for a few years until the sale to Railtex in 1990 or 1991.
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby ~Z~ » Fri Apr 17, 2020 1:33 pm

Has Precision Poly received any cars as of late? Last mention here on the forums of GRE stopping there was April 2019. I don't head by there often, but last time I was by there on my bike, no cars around.
2nd - is there an easy way to tell which covered hoppers go to Amway vs ones to King Milling? I thought it might be 3 bay hoppers going to Lowell and 4 bay to Amway, but I've seen 4bay ones going to Lowell as well. I'm sure I'm missing something easy, just unknown.
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby SD80MAC » Fri Apr 17, 2020 1:37 pm

Precision Poly still gets probably 10ish cars a month, the GRE had 1 for them this morning on their eastbound trip. Drove by there last week and there were 4 cars in the spur.

Typically Amway gets smooth-side centerflow covered hoppers that are always private owner cars (ACFX, CGLX, DOWX etc) that are all white, gray or blue. They'll be on the head end EB if they have any for Amway. King gets 3 bay covered grain hoppers and are usually from a mix of roads like BNSF, UP, CP, Iowa Interstate, Nebraska Northwestern and a few other random leased cars thrown in. Lately they've been getting NS cars as well.
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby fmilhaupt » Sat Apr 18, 2020 9:15 am

The GTW yard arrangement between Plainfield/Leonard and Lafayette Streets can be seen on the Sanborn maps in the Library of Congress online collection, specifically at https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4114gm.g0 ... 201/?sp=56

This is the arrangement as of 1912, but from what I'm seeing, I don't think that it changed much for several decades after that.

This is maps 56-57 from the Grand Rapids/Kent County gallery at https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4114gm.g0 ... st=gallery
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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby SD80MAC » Tue Apr 21, 2020 2:21 pm

Here's some great GTW footage of the Grand Rapids area from 1958 and 1959. The depot at Leonard & Plainfield is shown a few times along with the yard.

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Re: GRE Spurs on the East Side

Unread postby Plannerdad » Wed Apr 22, 2020 5:26 pm

Nice videos! Thanks
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