A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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David Collins
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A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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Can someone explain to me why Moterm was constructed in Ferndale and not somewhere down south (like Flat Rock, near Toledo, etc)? In my opinion, It's in a location that kinda makes no logistical sense. Being just outside of quite a sizeable city (Ferndale).

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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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Because Moterm is where Ferndale Yard was? And they didn't need Ferndale Yard anymore?

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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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It has good access to I75 and Woodward Ave.
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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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and is close to the center of the metro area

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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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DaveO wrote:
Sat Sep 17, 2022 3:38 pm
Because Moterm is where Ferndale Yard was? And they didn't need Ferndale Yard anymore?
If I recall, this was the reason.

Before, Ferndale Yard was pretty much an industrial holding yard for all the industries in Royal Oak up to Birmingham. There were a lot, including a huge chemical company on both sides of the tracks in Royal Oak. As you know, there is nothing now but the paper recycler at the north end of Moterm. D&M Yard at Holbrook in Detroit was still active and could take up the slack. And intermodel was becoming a big thing with Piggyback. Before Moterm GTW had a small intermodal facility at City Yard on the Detroit River where they loaded the trailers "circus" style that easily handled the small about of piggyback back then. Containers came much later.

Moterm was built on Ferndale Yard in the lat 1970's or early 1980's. Before it was converted I would stop by on the way home from college at U of D and park on the east side of the yard just off of 8 Mile. The afternoon engineer would let me ride with him as he did his work. They did make one WB (now NB) train in that yard back then and around 5 or 6 pm the power with some cars would arrive from Milwaukee Junction to couple on. There were five commuter trains running on the mainline through there in the early afternoon, one being a turn-around one to Birmingham that left Detroit first then came back empty and was the last to leave Detroit. It was a very busy place even then.

If I recall, when converted to Moterm, GTW did not own DT&I or DTSL yet. Maybe if they did or Moterm happened later they would have picked a different location for it as they had more choices. I think that for a while an intermodal train left Moterm each day to Cincinnati via the old DT&I route.

The first intermodal train running out of Moterm was a very short (ten cars?) one for Chicago. It ran daily each way. This was the first train on GTW with a two-man crew. So even though it probably wasn't making any money it was paving the way for crew reductions from five to two.

I guess the only problem with Moterm is its smaller size. For a while CN was renting space on the old Fair Grounds across 8 Mile and taking containers across the railroad bridge via their tractors for storing there. That location is now becoming an Amazon Distribution Center and I haven't seen containers there since. Moterm is close to I-75 and Woodward. And it may be the only reason for CN to keep operating the Holly Subdivision.

East Yard, now that it is pretty empty, may be another good location for a Moterm. Same with Pontiac Yard, though access to expressways are not as good at either of these locations.

I keep hearing now for 50 years how intermodal is so important for GTW/CN but it never really seemed to grow as much as expected as it did on other railroads. I guess because we are outside of the transcontinental route. Sure, I see containers go by every day (almost) behind my house but now they are on local trains doing other work.

So long response to your question but it was fun thinking about it.

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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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Thank you for your insights Manistique

I especially agree with you that intermodal has never taken off on CN like they forecasted or it has on other railroads. But, they seem to do fine with what they have.
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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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There is a chemical place beside Moterm on the east side, accessed via the trackage that used to go into the car repair place---and where AAARRR's favorite 8-axled tank car sits next to, rusting to the rail. Bond Plywood is still at the north end of the yard, east of Hilton Rd., but they haven't gotten a car in a long time and their switch is currently OOS....and All-American Plywood down just south of the yard just south of 7 Mile Rd. is active----there were 3 Rail-Box cars on their track this morning

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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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Buster Manning wrote:
Sun Sep 18, 2022 9:39 pm
... and All-American Plywood down just south of the yard just south of 7 Mile Rd. is active----there were 3 Rail-Box cars on their track this morning
The auto parts place just to the north is surrounded by those stackable concrete blocks.
The spur continued into it.
The google aerial shows the blocks have been slightly pushed into their auto parts place.
I'm guessing spotting 3 cars in there uses almost every inch of rail and somebody took and inch or two too many at some point.

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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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well, this time they had only one car spotted at the ramp and the other two were sitting south of there on the lead into the place....and yeah, I've noticed those blocks in their shifted position....thinkin' someone got a little too aggressive trying to get two cars on the property

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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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Thanks for the info guys!

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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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Early May was the last time I saw anything go into Bond Plywood. They had to use buffer cars to keep the six axle off it. The track is terrible and has a sharp turn inside the gate.

Gage Chemical is inaccessible to the general public. They don't want visitors anyway. Their signs along Wanda Street say trespassers will face felony charges.

513 works the remaining customers south of Pontiac. It was easier to get photos of everything when R950 worked in the morning.

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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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Manistique wrote:
Sun Sep 18, 2022 9:57 am
DaveO wrote:
Sat Sep 17, 2022 3:38 pm
Because Moterm is where Ferndale Yard was? And they didn't need Ferndale Yard anymore?
I keep hearing now for 50 years how intermodal is so important for GTW/CN but it never really seemed to grow as much as expected as it did on other railroads. I guess because we are outside of the transcontinental route. Sure, I see containers go by every day (almost) behind my house but now they are on local trains doing other work.
Do you recall the reason why routing 148/149 through Detroit and working Moterm never sustained?

As opposed to the favoring practice of setting the intermodal off in Port Huron / Flint / Durand and having the locals move the containers. Or, when the Mixed Freights in both directions would work Moterm.
GTW6401 wrote:
Mon Sep 19, 2022 7:38 pm
Early May was the last time I saw anything go into Bond Plywood. They had to use buffer cars to keep the six axle off it. The track is terrible and has a sharp turn inside the gate.
Early June.

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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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It was June 2 at 8:18pm if we need to exactly correct.

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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

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ConrailDetr​oit wrote:
Wed Sep 21, 2022 9:12 am
Manistique wrote:
Sun Sep 18, 2022 9:57 am
DaveO wrote:
Sat Sep 17, 2022 3:38 pm
Because Moterm is where Ferndale Yard was? And they didn't need Ferndale Yard anymore?
I keep hearing now for 50 years how intermodal is so important for GTW/CN but it never really seemed to grow as much as expected as it did on other railroads. I guess because we are outside of the transcontinental route. Sure, I see containers go by every day (almost) behind my house but now they are on local trains doing other work.
Do you recall the reason why routing 148/149 through Detroit and working Moterm never sustained?

As opposed to the favoring practice of setting the intermodal off in Port Huron / Flint / Durand and having the locals move the containers. Or, when the Mixed Freights in both directions would work Moterm.
Trains Q142 and Q143 were routed through Detroit to work Moterm and did so for some years, while Q148 and Q149 ran across the South Bend and Flint subs only. 142/143 were dropped when I/M traffic slacked (much due to CP's aggressiveness). CN has never been completely satisfied with how they are forced to handle Detroit I/M business which is off the beaten path, so it has been an ongoing experiment for 31 years now - and counting. The employee grapevine, comprised of many more than one local voice, seems to be seriously hinting at another 142/143 type train via the Holly and MTC subs in the crystal ball with I/M business considerably larger than the nadir years. Who know what may happen, but changes will come again and maybe sooner than later.

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Re: A question about Moterm yard on the CN Holly Subdivision

Unread post by GTW6401 »

Bond Plywood had a boxcar sitting on their spur this morning.

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