Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Dearborn Industrial Track

Let's take a look at perhaps the shortest portion of my modern day Detroit Terminal Railroad, the Dearborn Industrial Track.

On the map to the left, the Dearborn Industrial Track (DIT) is the short, curved line on the bottom left.

To the right is a closer view using Google Maps satellite imagery. The route begins with a switch off the Conrail Michigan line, called CP Lou. For reference, the wye at the northern end of the Junction Yard Secondary (covered in the last post) is a couple miles to the west of here, diverging off the same rails. The switch at CP Lou provides a connection to the CSX Detroit Subdivision which Conrail uses - via trackage rights - to access the DIT. A few miles north, another switch provides access to the DIT proper. Dearborn Steel is just after the right-of-way curves eastward, and Kenwal Steel is at the end of the line.

Everything north of the switch off the CSX Detroit Sub was once the main line of the original Detroit Terminal Railroad. North of Kenwal Steel, the line continued directly north until it reached Lyndon St./Livernois Ave., where it veered northeast toward Highland Park.

Where the DIT joins CSX rails today, there used to be crossing at grade and the DTRR continued south to Rougemere yard. In the image below, the red line represents the DTRR's abandoned right-of-way:

This rail line was torn up after Conrail purchased the DTRR, and from a modeling perspective, I can easily live without it. There aren't any industries off this portion of the DTRR, and while the interchange with CSX at Rougemere Yard would be interesting to model, it would also take a lot of space. 

This is CP Lou, the Conrail interchange with CSX. The switch near the top right of the photo is what provides access to CSX rails via the curved spur.  Twin truss bridges carry the CSX right-of-way over the Conrail Michigan Line, and immediately west of them is a plate girder bridge which used to carry the DTRR. I have seen this area firsthand driving along Southern Street, and those bridges are a favored target for graffiti taggers:

The Google camera vehicle is between the CSX bridges on the left and the abandoned DTRR bridge on the right. We're looking south here.

Here we have XCEL Steel Processing, the first industry served by the DIT. A web search produces a website, but not much info. Judging from the photos on their site and the satellite images from Bing and Google, it's pretty clear that they ship steel coils, and that's just about all we need to know.

A closeup of the rail spur reveals empty gondolas and coil cars being loaded by a traveling crane. Litter some steel coils around, throw an image of the XCEL building onto the backdrop, and I think we have a model!

Here's where the Conrail spur joins the CSX Detroit Sub on a bridge over I-94. The bridge just to the south used to carry the original DTRR.

In the picture to the right, I've rotated the image so that we're looking east along Michigan Ave. I-94 is to the south, off-picture to the right.  That's CSX running from top right to bottom left, and you can see the switch where the DIT begins in the top right corner.  You can also see the old, abandoned DTRR right-of-way and the bridge where it used to pass over Michigan Ave. before crossing the CSX line.

Here's a picture courtesy of Google Streetview, taken from between the abandoned DTRR bridge on the left and the CSX bridge on the right.

Just north of Michigan Ave. is this old tank farm. You can see the switch on the left side of the photo, and the spur that goes a full 180 degrees to serve some long-gone industry. This spur may very well have served the tank farm.

For modeling purposes, I think this could be an interesting scene to model as an abandoned industry, especially since the switch still exists in real life. It would be great backdrop fodder, if nothing else.

There's not much more of interest until the right-of-way curves 90 degrees due east and we get to Dearborn Steel on Wyoming Avenue. The company's LinkedIn profile indicates they specialize in steel coils, break bulk metals, aluminum and packaging.

What you see here is a runaround track and two storage tracks along the DIT right-of-way. The Bing Maps images show coil cars exclusively, but Google Maps shows some 50' boxcars:

Conrail crews shuffle cars here before switching the in-plant trackage which you can see in the photos above. I would only plan to model the small yard, using the tall grass just to the north to hide the spur going behind the backdrop.

This was once the Chrysler Brant Street plant. It hasn't been rail served for many, many years, but might be interesting backdrop fodder. The DIT is actually double-track past here, or more accurately, one big runaround track.

Just east of the Chrysler Brant Street plant - just across Lonyo St. as a matter of fact - is Kenwal Steel.  The plant occupies the area where the DTRR's Lonyo Yard used to be. That yard was used to serve Chrysler's West Warren Plant. That building still stands today, and in fact you can just see it in the top left corner of the image at right.

I once parked just south of the DIT track at the Lonyo Ave. crossing, hoping to get some photos of Kenwal Steel. Imagine my delight when I suddenly heard a telltale diesel thrum and then air horns!  Lo and behold, a Conrail train emerged from Kenwal Steel with a CSX and a Norfolk Southern locomotive on point. Those engines proceeded to pull an alarmingly long train out of the Kenwal Steel plant - those tracks must run the entire length of the building!

The Kenwal Steel spur diverges off the runaround track, which merges with the main line immediately after the Kenwal Steel switch. A few hundred yards north, the tracks end.

Modeling Kenwal Steel could present a challenge since it sits a relatively long way from the main right-of-way, and there's a lot of vacant real estate in between. Some selective compression could shrink that distance, however, and otherwise this is a very straightforward scene.

In the next post, we'll take a look at the Conrail Union Branch. Now that the majority of the DTRR's west end has been abandoned and pulled up, the Union Branch effectively serves as the new west end of my modern-day DTRR.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Junction Yard Secondary

In the last post, I started a detailed look at the routes that would make up a modern day Detroit Terminal Railroad. I started with the Conrail Marsh Track, and in this post, we'll continue moving clockwise and look at the Conrail Junction Yard Secondary. Once again, here's an overview:

The Junction Yard Secondary (JYS) starts at CP-YD, just north of Conrail River Rouge Yard. On the map to the left, the River Rouge label is right on top of CP-YD. Where the Marsh Track branches to the east, the JYS branches west, winding through Melvindale and into Dearborn.

There is really only one major customer along the JYS, the Ford Motor Company's massive Rouge Factory.

Here's a closer look at the overall route. Once again, just north of the River Rouge label is CP-YD and the switch on the Conrail Detroit Line where the JYS branches off. It then crosses the Canadian National Shoreline Subdivision and passes through Ecorse Junction under I-75. There, it connects with the Conrail Lincoln Secondary and crosses the Norfolk Southern Detroit District.

From Ecorse Junction, the right-of-way heads northward, crossing the Rouge River and skirting the massive Ford Rouge factory. It then crosses the CN Flat Rock Subdivision before passing over I-94. The line then diverges into a wye, connecting to the Conrail/Norfolk Southern Michigan Line.

Here's Bing's Bird's Eye view of CP-YD, which is just north of River Rouge Yard on the Conrail Detroit Line. The track branching off to the east (right) is the Conrail Marsh Track, covered in the previous post. The track branching off to the west (left) near the top of the photo is the Junction Yard Secondary.

 Just to the north of CP-YD is the Rock Dock. In the image to the right, we are looking east, and CP-YD is to the right. The Rock Dock switch is at the top right corner of the photo, and the spur parallels the JYS.

This looks like an exceptionally easy industry to model - just a spur with a gravel road/lot for transloading. Everything else can go on the backdrop.

Next is the Conrail crossing with the CN Shoreline Subdivision, just to the south of I-75, and then Ecorse Junction. The switch for the connection to the Conrail Lincoln Secondary is hidden under I-75, then the right-of-way crosses the Norfolk Southern Detroit District. There's a spur off the JYS winding to the top left corner of the photo, which serves a Marathon Oil facility. Norfolk Southern actually switches Marathon Oil, as well as the Salt Mine in the next photo.

Michigan - and specifically the Detroit area - is extremely rich in salt deposits. What you see in the photo to the right is only the surface facility. Below the surface is a gigantic cavern extending thousands of yards in every direction, where gigantic machines continually expand the cavern as they mine the salt.  Just like the Marathon Oil plant above, the salt mine spur diverges from Conrail-owned trackage, but is actually served by Norfolk Southern. We're back to looking north in this photo - Ecorse Junction is to right.

Here's a closeup of the loadout, a very simple conveyor affair. As such, this could be a very easy industry to model. The gigantic mound of salt would be an excellent view block, and the conveyor is interesting without being a massive challenge to replicate in HO scale.  The switch lead passes some gritty industrial debris and some grimy outbuildings...very Detroit.

Next, the JYS passes a huge refinery. I've driven past here on Oakwood Boulevard, and it is truly massive. This plant isn't served by the JYS, but makes for interesting backdrop fodder.

This is the bridge that carries the JYS over the Rouge River. This could be an interesting scene to model, since the contrast between the industrial and natural elements is so stark here.

This is the Ford Motor Company Rouge Complex. The scale is so huge that you can barely make out the JYS right-of-way squeezed between The Rouge and South Schaefer Highway. At any rate, there are interchanges with Ford's in-plant trackage at both the south and north ends of the complex. There is a grade crossing at Schaefer Road, and then the JYS crosses the Canadian National Flat Rock Subdivision. The CN also serves The Rouge.

The JYS then crosses I-94 on an overpass, and immediately north of Rotunda Dr., diverges into a wye that connects to the Conrail/Norfolk Southern Michigan Line. Technically, Conrail territory ends at CP-TOWNLINE, where the west leg of this wye connects to the Michigan Line. The west leg therefore interchanges with the Norfolk Southern.

As far as modeling the Junction Yard Secondary goes, I have the same issues as I had with the Marsh Track. It's not a former Detroit Terminal property, and is something of an outpost from the core of the DTRR that I envision. In addition, even more than the Marsh Track, the JYS does not hold much operational interest for me. My preference is for this layout to be a shelf-style switching layout where relatively short mixed freight trains switch a variety of industries. The only true customer along the JYS is The Rouge, which is primarily a destination for unit coal trains.  While Marathon Oil and the salt mine provide some additional variety, those industries aren't actually served by Conrail; it would be a stretch to have Norfolk Southern give up those customers to my DTRR.

In my next post, we'll look at what used to be the west end of the original Detroit Terminal Railroad. In my modern-day DTRR, this is the Dearborn Industrial track. This is the only location along the DTRR that I have actually seen firsthand, and the first portion of what I consider to be the core of my Detroit Terminal.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I previously posted a Google Map highlighting the route of the proto-freelanced, modern day Detroit Terminal Railroad as it (nebulously) exists in my head. Here begins a more detailed explanation of the real-world components that make up my DTRR, as well as some revisionist history to go along with it all.

First, a quick overview of the whole, before considering the parts. Starting in the bottom left and moving clockwise(ish), Tecumseh Yard at the end of the Conrail Marsh Track forms the southernmost end of the line. From there, the Marsh track heads northeast and curves around to enter Conrail's River Rouge Yard. From there, the Conrail Junction Yard Secondary meanders northwest into Dearborn. Just north of that is a short industrial track serving two Dearborn steel mills, and just beyond that, the Conrail Union Branch. Where the blue line representing the DTRR right-of-way curves eastward begins a stretch of now-abandoned ex-DTRR rails that eventually connect with what Conrail now calls the Highland Park Industrial Track. Turning south once more, the rail line connects to Conrail's North Yard, and splits into the Belt Line Industrial Track heading due south and the Detroit Terminal East Industrial Track meandering to the east/southeast.

Let's start our tour of my proposed DTRR with the Marsh Track, which Jeff Knorek describes well at his site. We begin at Conrail River Rouge Yard, which you can see in the map to left just below the River Rouge label. It's at the northern end of the Conrail Detroit Line, which went to Norfolk Southern when Conrail was dissolved.

As you can tell from the overview map above, River Rouge Yard would represent an outpost for the modern Detroit Terminal. I envision a few dilapidated tracks on the margins of River Rouge Yard where the DTRR sorts cars set out by NS yard crews, along with the bare minimum for a yard office and engine servicing. A trailer or a decommissioned caboose with a rusty old fuel tank sounds about right. A single switcher based here would serve the smaller Marsh Track industries, while NS road power would handle the power plant traffic. More on that shortly...

The first industry along the line is U.S. Gypsum, which ships drywall in 50' boxcars. The image to the right is a Bird's Eye view courtesy of Bing Maps, and in the closeup below, you can just make out the tracks running in the cement. Coincidentally, Google's imagery seems to indicate this industry is no longer rail served. Since I'm not focusing on a particular year, but rather a generalized "modern day," I'd model this industry as being rail served. It's a pretty large industry, but much of the factory could be be part of a backdrop, with only the brick building where the tracks enter actually modeled in three dimensions. The trailers and stacks of building materials would make a good view block.
Next we have Peerless Cement, which you can see to the left in another Bing Maps Bird's Eye image. I've rotated the view to show the rail spur, so we're looking South here and U.S. Gypsum is to the right. You can just make out the end of a cylindrical hopper peeking out of the loading area.

There's a lot of complexity here to try and model, and this is on the opposite side of the tracks from U.S. Gypsum. The best approach might be to put most of the plant "into the aisle," and once again only model the loading areas. Later on, it might be a challenging project to model all that craziness beyond the tracks.

The tracks then run through a large Amoco Tank Farm (in the picture to the right, we're back to a North=Up orientation, Peerless Cement is to the left), with sidings on each side of the line. The tracks diverge here, forming one point of what used to be a wye. The northern leg now forms the lead to an asphalt plant and terminates there, while the southern leg connects with Canadian National (ex-Grand Trunk Western) tracks that share the right-of-way with Conrail along the rest of the line.

Here's a closeup of the loading area, and (please accept my apologies), we're facing the opposite way again - the wye is now to the left.  The loading area to the north, where the bulk of the tank cars are spotted, seems pretty conventional. The south loading area, however, is actually two separate spurs with switches oriented in opposite directions. This would definitely be a challenge for train crews - both real and modeled. I'd relegate much of the tank farm to the backdrop/aisle, but I'd like to model both loading areas for an operational challenge.

This is the aforementioned asphalt plant (we're back to north-is-up), which looks pretty lonely with four completely empty tracks, though there is a hopper hiding next to the main plant building. At the bottom of the picture is the northern leg of the wye, which is now just a stub-end siding.

A closeup of the plant shows some interesting details like the metal silo and what looks like an old steam-era water tank next to the tracks. I don't think I'd model the four-track loading area - at least not in its entirety - but the main plant and its two loading areas would be easy to fit into a compact space.

Plus the pipwork arches around Short Cut Bridge would make a great backdrop. By the way, that's the Delray Connecting Railroad going across Short Cut Bridge, which Jeff Knorek also mentions on his site. Doesn't that water look inviting!

Next along the line is Detroit Edison's Belanger Park Power Plant. That's a big 'ol pile of coal heaped out back, so no second guesses as to how DTE generates juice there. That's our one-legged wye just to the west.

Luckily for my modeling purposes, the main route of the Marsh Track never actually comes too close to the Belanger Park plant. Unit trains exit the wye, cross over the CN (ex-GTW) and then reverse into the receiving yard just north of Belanger Park Dr. So, that's an entire industry I'd shuffle to the backdrop.  There's even a handy berm separating the railroad right-of-way from DTE property where the tracks can magically disappear.

Right next door is a large steel plant, but Mr. Knorek's website is silent about all the industries south of Belanger Park, so from this point forward I'm operating on scientific wild ass guesses. Judging from the nearby street names, I'd say this is the Great Lakes Works' finishing plant in River Rouge. A quick Google search indicates that the Delray Connecting Railroad serves this plant, as well as the other Great Lakes Works facilities to the south. There's clearly a switch connecting the Conrail/CN trackage to DCR rails just to the south of the Belanger Park power plant switch, and Belanger Park Dr. separates the Great Lakes Steel receiving yard from its DTE equivalent.

An industry this large pretty much demands to be put onto the backdrop, but the only trick will be hiding the tracks, though the small white building next to Belanger Park Dr. - together with some creative landscaping - might do the trick. It seems worth the hassle because of the possibility of interchange traffic with the DCR and its steel industry traffic - bottle trains, finished steel products, and coke from Zug Island.

The DCR parallels the Marsh Track through an S-curve and into the Great Lakes Works in Ecorse. There's another interchange with the DCR at the top right of this photo, and then the Marsh Track diverges to the west while the DCR enters a maze of industries. None of this is served by Conrail, but would make some interesting backdrop fodder.

Slightly further south, the DCR emerges from the Great Lakes Works once again for yet another point of interchange. There's also a series of crossovers that connects the DCR to CN's South Yard, just out of the picture to the left.

We've reached the end of the line, Conrail's Tecumseh Yard. The picture to the left is rotated 90 degrees, so that north is to the right. That's Tecumseh Yard smack dab in the middle, with CN's South Yard just to the west. There's a switch on the Marsh Track line just north of Tecumseh Yard that provides an interchange with the CN. You may also notice another spur off the yard ladder that swings eastward around the southern edge of Great Lakes Works. I'd suspect this is yet another point of interchange with the DCR.

This would be a relatively painless yard to model - it's relatively small and selective compression should be pretty easy. From an operational perspective, it's got the potential for lots of interchange traffic from the DCR and CN.

So that's it! Everything you ever wanted to know about the Conrail Marsh Track and my thoughts on modeling it. It's quite remote from the rest of the railroad, however, and strays a little bit from my basic premise - original DTRR territory, taken over by Conrail, and returned to a reincarnated Detroit Terminal. So, I probably wouldn't include this area initially, but it's something to keep filed away for future reference.

In my next post, I'll consider the Conrail Junction Yard Secondary, which would connect the Marsh Track to the rest of the Detroit Terminal.