Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Belt Line Industrial Track

In the last post, I covered the Detroit Terminal East Industrial Track, the eastern end of the railroad. In this post, we'll backtrack a bit and look at the Belt Line Industrial Track. In the Google Maps image at right, the Belt Line snakes southward just east of Hamtramck.

Here's a closer view of the Belt Line from Google satellite imagery. Just like the Detroit Terminal East Industrial Track and the Highland Park Industrial Track, we start near North Yard in Hamtramck. Just south of CP Bonita, a switch on the Detroit Terminal East Industrial Track provides access to the Belt Line just north of Lynch Road.

Almost immediately, the right-of-way enters Huber Yard, a small six-track yard near Chrysler's Lynch Road and West Warren plants. Continuing due south, two opposing switches serve Monarch Steel and Exel Distribution.  The main line continues slightly more than a half mile before going through an S-curve, with spurs serving Ferrous Processing & Trading paralleling the right-of-way on the east side of the curve.

The line then continues to the south-southeast past the abandoned Packard Factory, which is possibly the poster child for what Detroiters call "Ruin Porn." Somewhat surprisingly, Integrated Packaging occupies space in a former Packard building on the west side of the tracks.

The line ends at Lagrasso Brothers Produce, which has buildings on both sides of the right-of-way.

In the image above, we're looking westward at the switch where the Belt Line diverges from the Detroit Terminal East Industrial Track. The switch in question is in the bottom left corner of this image, and the Belt Line continues straight to the south (to the left, from this perspective) while the Detroit Terminal line begins curving to the east.  Just to the north is the Canadian National Crossing, and just to the west you can see North Yard.

Here is Huber Yard, a small six-track affair.  The yard is essentially split down the middle, with the three tracks to the west providing storage and classification. Judging by the paved areas on each end of the three eastern tracks, autoracks are loaded here. This would be simple to model, since it is so compact.

Just across Huber Street (just visible at the right-hand edge of this image) are Exel Distribution and Monarch Steel. The large, nondescript building in the lower right-hand corner is Exel, while the building in the top left corner with the patchwork roof is Monarch Steel.

Here's how the switches serving Exel and Monarch are arranged, with the facing-point switch serving Monarch, and the trailing-point switch serving Exel. Georgia street poses one additional obstacle for crews switching Exel Distribution, requiring them to pull clear of the street before lining the switch, then laying on the horn while reversing up the spur. Also note the dilapidated fuel oil dealer just west of the Monarch spur, completed with rusty tanks just next to the building. Though not rail served, it would add a lot of character.

This is the business end of the spur serving Exel Distribution, a pair of rails disappearing through a roll-up door into the warehouse.

This would be a relatively easy industry to model, except that the Exel spur strays relatively far from the right-of-way for a shelf layout like I'm thinking about. A little selective compression could take care of that.
This is Monarch Steel. The building is run down, there are vacant lots surrounding the building, and it's not entirely clear that the place is still open. But, this is Detroit, and none of that means a thing.

I'm planning to model this scene, and it's a toss-up whether I'll model this as an active industry or not. The difference is that, as an active industry, Monarch Steel would add complexity to operations by requiring a run-around move to pull and spot cars. Any time I have the choice between having simpler or more complex operations, I'll choose complexity every time.

This is Ferrous Processing & Trading, a few blocks south of Monarch Steel. This operation is obviously alive and well, as you can see in the image to the right.  Loads of scrap steel are delivered by gondola, shredded, melted down and turned into smaller, uniform-sized nuggets for use in the steel industry.

Here's a closer view, rotated 90 degrees from the image above, showing more detail of the track arrangment, and highlighting some interesting details. There's the main building, housing the furnace and other various heavy machinery, and just to the right, you can see some of the details of the shredding machinery.  I also find some of the smaller details interesting, such as the small elevated structure between the two rail spurs that looks like a guard tower. Also, it looks like the operation has its own switcher, an Also S1 if you believe That image was taken in 2008, and I'm not sure which paint scheme is more up-to-date, but the plain yellow seems easier to do!

This is Integrated Packaging Corporation, which occupies this large, fairly nondescript warehouse right across the tracks from the old Packard Motors Plant.  This is the holy grail of ruin porn in the Detroit area. The Detroit Free Press just ran a large feature piece about this monstrous abandoned property. Having this hulking monument to urban decay as a backdrop would be one heck of a conversation piece.  Integrated Packaging is just south of FP&T, across I-94.

A closer view of the main warehouse building shows a few 50' boxcars spotted on the rail spur, as well as some other interesting details, such as the large billboard just beyond the edge of the spur, and the large tank on the roof.

Continuing south across Grand Ave., the tracks continue past more of the old Packard plant, and there is a long passing siding here.

At the end of the passing siding, the rails cross Theodore St. and terminate at LaGrasso Brothers Produce. In the image to the left, you can see that LaGrasso Bros. occupies two buildings straddling the tracks, with a walkway connecting the buildings.

Here's a closer view, showing a white refrigerator car spotted at the loading dock.

Here we are, at the end of the line, both literally and figuratively. This image is from Google Street View, showing the LaGrasso Bros. spur as seen from Warren Ave.

This is the last of my series touring the Detroit Terminal, and I hope readers have enjoyed the ride. Those who know about the Contrail Detroit Shared Assets, or who have delved into Jeff Knorek's extensive website on the subject, will note that I have excluded the North Yard Branch/Sterling Secondary. I could make reasoned arguments about the fact that this was never part of the original DTRR's right-of-way, or the fact that it is so much longer than all of the other areas I've covered in previous posts. The fact of the matter is that these are just excuses, and I make no apologies other than to consider covering that portion in a later post.

The fact of the matter is that I started this project 10 months ago, and I'm itching to start turning all this information into an actual, working layout. So, in my next post, I'm planning to start narrowing down some choices and come up with a place to start. See you next time!

1 comment:

  1. HI Rich! have you started building the model for the Beltline? I'm interested in seeing pics.