Lapeer, MI Rail History

Any historical questions can be posted here. Answers would certainly help as well :)
Clutch62
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Lapeer, MI Rail History

Unread post by Clutch62 »

Hello everyone, new rail enthusiast here and bit of a history buff.

I'm posting because I've been trying to find info and photos of the old New York Central line that ran through Lapeer once upon a time but unfortunately I haven't been able to find much other than that the only remnants of the line in town is the old station just west of downtown, the Lapeer Industrial Railroad, and some photos of the GT Bicentennial locomotive heading to Columbiaville in the late 1970s for Independence Day just before the track was removed. If anyone has more info or can point me in the right direction that'd be greatly appreciated. Thanks and have a great day!

Manistique
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Re: Lapeer, MI Rail History

Unread post by Manistique »

Not sure what kind of information you are looking for. I am not the expert but here is what I know about this NYC line.

Part of the Detroit to Bay City secondary mainline, which continued to Mackinaw City. Very busy for years with automotive and related traffic from Saginaw (reached via a track at DenMark Junction north of Vassar) and Bay City plants. You probably already know of this. It is covered in many books.

I don't think Lapeer was ever that important of a town for NYC, though it was a larger town. I don't think the GTW interchange there was ever that important for either railroad.

NYC ran steam on this line until the middle 1950's, often big Berkshires, as the trains were long and heavy. Passenger trains ran into the 1960's though downgraded to a Budd RDC unit at the end. As you mentioned, the NYC depot was north of the GTW diamond a bit.

Penn Central years were, well, Penn Central years. And the fact that Conrail didn't want this line north of Utica just reflects the beginning of the decline of the automotive industry in 1976. Plus GTW and C&O had lines still to Saginaw and Bay City (GTW bought part of the PC line in Saginaw and abandoned part of theirs, if I recall) and so automotive stuff still had rails to run on and there was competition. Plus the track was in bad shape and there was a lot of miles through farmland to get there. Also the agriculture business so important in the Thumb area was switching over to trucks around then and GTW then C&O would get rid of their Thumb trackage by the early 1980's (Huron & Eastern buying most of the C&O lines there).

As to specifics about Lapeer, NYC then PC had some light industries that they switched there, I think most being south of town on what is now the Lapeer Industrial Railroad. Plus a grain elevator in Lapeer. Remember that this mile of track south of GTW was busy enough still that GTW purchased it when CR came about. But from there to the gravel pits in Oxford was all rural through Metamora, just like it was pretty rural until Vassar going north. The gravel pits must have been something less than before as CR wasn't interested in going that far north. Probably all changing over to trucking around that time.

So, that is my recollections and theories about Lapeer. It must have been a great place to trainwatch at the tower there with all the NYC and GTW action on their lines back then. NYC engineer Ernie Novak worked that line and took a lot of photographs back then as he always brought his camera to work. There is no book of his photographs yet that I know of though they have appeared here and there over the years. There are a few Morning Sun books of Emery Gulash photographs in Michigan that contain some shots of this line. There are probably more shots of GTW in Lapeer published than NYC ones.

Clutch62
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Re: Lapeer, MI Rail History

Unread post by Clutch62 »

I was looking for any information I could get, which you provided quite a bit of and I thank you very much for it!

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Re: Lapeer, MI Rail History

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When GTW acquired the one mile segment in Lapeer from PC in 1976 they were also offered the line to Metamora to service the plastic plant but they declined it for reasons I don’t recall
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jimnorthwood
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Re: Lapeer, MI Rail History

Unread post by jimnorthwood »

Some additional points:

PC beat the devil out of their line via a combination of heavy coal trains and deferred maintenance. If you walk the now rail trail north of Lapeer you can probably still find coal on the ground from a derailment that took place in I forget exactly which year.

A bad bridge, perhaps the result of another derailment but I can't recall for certain, sealed the fate of the PC north of Utica.

When the decision was made to not include this line in CR, the plastics plant in Metamora protested (ultimately, to no avail) account they had recently installed equipment to receive and unload plastic pellets via rail.

Not sure if this played an role, but keep in mind that I-69 ended at M-24 in those years. The extension of I-69 to Port Huron didn't open until about 1984. Had the former PC line been kept in operation south of its current end, either a bridge or an underpass would have been needed, as by that point I don't think additional grade crossings of Interstate highways were being built. More $$$, and it is possible that was not in the cards.

After GTW acquired the bit of former PC line in Lapeer, they did make either one or two trips north of the diamond to service the lumber yard there. For reasons unknown to me, that was the only time that happened. The PC north of the diamond was pulled shortly thereafter, and GTW serviced the handful of customers on the southern segment, until selling that track to LIRR. Several years ago the bridge located near the south end of that segment was taken out of service. Barring the location of a significant customer that required service south of that bridge, said bridge will not be repaired. I believe LIRR is down to one customer now, that gets plastic pellets.

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Re: Lapeer, MI Rail History

Unread post by Manistique »

jimnorthwood wrote:
Thu Oct 06, 2022 1:07 pm
Some additional points:

PC beat the devil out of their line via a combination of heavy coal trains and deferred maintenance. If you walk the now rail trail north of Lapeer you can probably still find coal on the ground from a derailment that took place in I forget exactly which year.

A bad bridge, perhaps the result of another derailment but I can't recall for certain, sealed the fate of the PC north of Utica.

When the decision was made to not include this line in CR, the plastics plant in Metamora protested (ultimately, to no avail) account they had recently installed equipment to receive and unload plastic pellets via rail.

Not sure if this played an role, but keep in mind that I-69 ended at M-24 in those years. The extension of I-69 to Port Huron didn't open until about 1984. Had the former PC line been kept in operation south of its current end, either a bridge or an underpass would have been needed, as by that point I don't think additional grade crossings of Interstate highways were being built. More $$$, and it is possible that was not in the cards.

After GTW acquired the bit of former PC line in Lapeer, they did make either one or two trips north of the diamond to service the lumber yard there. For reasons unknown to me, that was the only time that happened. The PC north of the diamond was pulled shortly thereafter, and GTW serviced the handful of customers on the southern segment, until selling that track to LIRR. Several years ago the bridge located near the south end of that segment was taken out of service. Barring the location of a significant customer that required service south of that bridge, said bridge will not be repaired. I believe LIRR is down to one customer now, that gets plastic pellets.
I wonder if the "bad bridge" was the one by the Yates cider mill SE of Rochester? I heard of a derailment there once.

The many coal trains on this line were to Dow Chemical in Midland, west of Bay City on that NYC branch line to there. Dow had some of the first aluminum bathtub gondolas made for these trains and ran them in unit trains. Maybe the power plant in Essexville, north of Bay City, also got PC coal trains?

These coal trains took a number of different routes when they were taken off this line. One was on the Ann Arbor from Toledo to Durand until it started tearing apart that track. Later they ran on the GTW on the Holly Sub from Detroit to Durand. They always ran with PC/CR power. I occasionally saw these trains on the Holly Subdivision in Bloomfield Hills and once coming off GTW in Durand. These unit coal trains ran into the Conrail era and the returning empty trains often had their power seen at GTW's Milwaukee Junction in Detroit for some reason. Usually it was three or four six-axle Alcos and GE's.

Clutch62
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Re: Lapeer, MI Rail History

Unread post by Clutch62 »

Very interesting, especially with the line being taken out before they finished I-69. Kinda sucks maintenance of the line was lacking but given the financial issues that doomed PC not really surprising. Still interesting to think about what the line would look like today if it had survived.

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Re: Lapeer, MI Rail History

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Clutch62 wrote:
Fri Oct 07, 2022 6:25 pm
Very interesting, especially with the line being taken out before they finished I-69. Kinda sucks maintenance of the line was lacking but given the financial issues that doomed PC not really surprising. Still interesting to think about what the line would look like today if it had survived.
Detroit & Oxford is how I see it in current times: http://railroadfan.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=38761
PatC created a monster, 'cause nobody wants to see Don Simon no more they want AARR I'm chopped liver, well if you want AARR this is what I'll give ya, bad humor mixed with irrelevant info that'll make you roll your eyes quicker than a ~Z~ banhammer...

Clutch62
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Re: Lapeer, MI Rail History

Unread post by Clutch62 »

AARR wrote:
Fri Oct 07, 2022 6:31 pm

Detroit & Oxford is how I see it in current times: http://railroadfan.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=38761
Unfortunately I'm not allowed to view your link 😪

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Re: Lapeer, MI Rail History

Unread post by AARR »

Clutch62 wrote:
Fri Oct 07, 2022 6:40 pm
AARR wrote:
Fri Oct 07, 2022 6:31 pm
Detroit & Oxford is how I see it in current times: http://railroadfan.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=38761
Unfortunately I'm not allowed to view your link 😪
Go to http://railroadfan.com/phpbb/ucp.php?i=167

Click on the radio button for "Paper" under Groups.

Click Submit in the bottom right corner to "Join Selected."

You are now a member of the paper railroads forum and can see and post in this forum while logged in.

While you are there you can read the Lapeer Industrial too: http://railroadfan.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=38338
PatC created a monster, 'cause nobody wants to see Don Simon no more they want AARR I'm chopped liver, well if you want AARR this is what I'll give ya, bad humor mixed with irrelevant info that'll make you roll your eyes quicker than a ~Z~ banhammer...

Clutch62
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Re: Lapeer, MI Rail History

Unread post by Clutch62 »

Thanks for the help! I love the stories you posted!

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