Sunday, September 5, 2010

Boys, toys, and railroads

There have been very few times in my life when I've envied other people their hobbies, but a day in August 1998 was one of them.  A question Lisa asked about the railroad tracks that cut through the Retirement Bunker acreage when I did the Rewilding post inspired me to go looking for these photos:

Lisa asked if there are still trains.  The answer is yes, but not every day -- and the fact trains weren't running run daily 12 years ago made it possible for Wisconsin Central to accomodate this group:  coming up the tracks from the direction of beautiful downtown Herman, Michigan, is a parade.

Motor cars.  Railroad motor cars lovingly restored and maintained by people who love one particular aspect of railroad history.  What an amazing hobby. 
And what a great way to spend a summer day in the Upper Peninsula, cruising along the (at that time) Wisconsin Central tracks.  I'm not sure just how many miles they were allowed to use that day, but they started over towards Marquette, drove to Baraga, and then drove back again.  Photo below is the back end of the parade as they head up the grade to Summit.  It's a 10 mile continuous uphill grade with a number of long stretches at 3%, which makes it, for a railroad, quite a hill.  It's one reason trains always go through our place really, really slowly, regardless of direction. 
All the cars were two-man, the type used by track inspectors, not section crews, the same general type my father used for many years as part of his job.  I did not, however, see any cars with Chicago & Northwestern decals in the parade. 

I'm not sure just when the railroads stopped using specialized motor cars and switched to pick-up trucks modified for use on either pavement or rail.  The Old Man retired around 1983, and was using a truck the last year or so that he worked.  From the viewpoint of the workers, the trucks were a huge improvement.  (Among other things, it's a heck of a lot warmer in a pickup in January than it is in an unheated motor car with canvas sides.)

Below is a early '50s photo of the same stretch of track shown above right about at the point where that last motor car is:

The fact they lost it right over the creek makes me wonder if an old wood culvert caved in.  Whatever happened, the passengers on that train were definitely going to be a little late getting to Houghton.

1 comment:

My space, my rules: play nice and keep it on topic.