Rails & Trails Pages

Sunday, September 1, 2013

New York Trip 2013 Part 1

In August, 2013 I took a 'vacation' to New York with Dick Johnson of Onalaska.  We rented a car in LaCrosse and headed east.  First stop, first day was Michigan City, Indiana where we would spend the night.  With extra time before nightfall, we explored Michigan City.  The South Shore Electric Railroad runs through Michigan City on its route from Chicago to South Bend, Indiana--and does STREET RUNNING in Michigan City.  Street running is where the train tracks are laid right down the street so automobiles must watch out for the train!  Checking the schedule, the westbound to Chicago was due in a few minutes--and here she comes!
Joe Lewis and I had ridden this train to South Bend and back about 3 years ago when we visited Chicago.  Here is the abandoned depot across the street which must have seen thousands of passengers in by-gone days.  Now they just have a little shelter--gets pretty cold in the winter!
We needed a bite to eat but wanted to find the Amtrak depot.  We found this train depot which has now been converted into a restaurant, with outside seating right next to the tracks.  Guess where we ate!!
We just got to our outdoor table when Amtrak's "Wolverine" train came through.
We did a little sight-seeing but night was fast approaching.  There is this neat swing bridge which opens to let all the high-masted sailing vessels out onto Lake Michigan (but no trains came through).
And we found this abandoned coaling tower at the east end of town.
The next day was Museum Day.  We were near South Bend and we headed for the much-talked about Studebaker Museum.  We arrived before it opened and discovered this Union Depot nearby.  A Union Depot is a depot that serves more than one railroad.  New York Central and Grand Trunk Western are names on this beautiful depot.  (The tracks are behind the depot, second level, and I would pass through here in exactly one week on the "Lake Shore Limited" on my way back to Wisconsin.
There are business offices in here and the Grand Hall has been preserved for parties, weddings, etc.  The building was locked but here are pictures taken through the windows.
Right across the street is a beautiful baseball stadium, home of the Class A Midwest League team, a farm team of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  There would be a game later in the afternoon, but we didn't stick around (this is a train trip).
The Studebaker Museum is a great place to visit--and only $6.  It was hard to get good pictures but here are a couple.  (And yes, Studebaker did start out by making buggies and sleighs).  And the massive car building factory was located right behind Union Station.  I wasn't a Studebaker fan previously but now have a new-found appreciation for these vehicles.  If you ever get to South Bend, skip the Notre Dame football game and visit the Museum!!!
We drove up to Elkhart, Indiana to visit the National New York Central Railroad Museum.  I had seen this place previously when passing through on trains but never guessed that it housed so much railroad history and memorabilia.
The curator said that Elkhart is the site of the largest rail yard east of the Mississippi River and 120-135 trains pass through here daily, including 2 passenger trains each day (including the "Lake Shore Limited")  As we were about to pass over the tracks, we caught our first train.
A few minutes later this coal drag came east, headed for Wisconsin and the Pleasant Prairie Power Plant.
Besides all the neat displays inside including a large 'O' Scale layout with 4 trains running at the same time, there were great outdoor displays.  Here are some of my favorites.  This E8 diesel, built in 1952, was the last diesel to pull the famed "20th Century Limited" passenger train.
Here's the engineer's view.  Passing by on the right is a Mohawk steam engine and we'll have to wait for that GG1 to get out of the way before we head our train out.
This crack passenger train had classic round end tail-end cars.
How would you like to ride in here from New York City to Chicago????
This large electric locomotive (electric pickup pantographs are folded down on top of the engine) is from the Pennsylvania Railroad and was built in 1939.
Inside the GG1.
The steam engine is a L3a "Mohawk" 4-8-2 and is the largest surviving NYC steam engine and one of two Mohawks in existence (the other is in St. Louis).  That's Dick Johnson posing.
Inside the Mohawk.
We're in the engineer's seat prepared to haul our train to New York.  On the track on the right is one of those new-fangled diesels that they say are going to replace our steam engine.  
This South Shore passenger car was the first steel car built for the railroad.  In WWII there was so much rail passenger traffic (shortage of gas and tires for cars) that the railroads needed more passenger cars.  But the war effort prevented that so the railroad cut this car in half and added 17 1/2 feet in the middle to lengthen it and change it from a 60-passenger coach to an 80-passenger coach.
I didn't ride this "excursion" train but the engineer stopped part way around the loop and gave riders an oral history of the Museum and cars--a neat touch.
Across the street is the Amtrak depot, where we will stop in a week.
If you are ever near Elkhart, Indiana, make sure you stop in for a visit--and only $4!!!

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