July 4th Weekend Trip to Michigan

Photos by Dave Ingles

My only sibling, sister Janis, was born on July 4, 1945, and would spend her 70th birthday in Dearborn, Mich., where we lived from 1956 onward; our parents left Dearborn for Colorado in 1968 when Dad took what came to be known as "early retirement," with generous severance, from Detroit, Toledo & Ironton RR. By 1968 both Janis and I had long since "left home." She has maintained friendships in Dearborn, which I have not, and was staying at the home of her closest one, for the entire week up to her birthday. Ironically, this woman lives about 2 blocks from where we did. Janis and husband John were amidst a cross-continent, multi-week driving trip, and I told her Carol and I would drive over for a visit. Janis's son Jeff and his wife Alex, who live in London, England, flew over to join the festivities, and her daughter Jen, husband Rob, and their two kids flew to Chicago from San Francisco, so it would be a rare visit for me to see them all at once.

To ease driving, Carol and I left on Thursday, July 2nd, midday, reserving a motel in South Bend, Ind. Our first stop was south suburban Homewood, Ill., where we lived until moving to Michigan in 1956. Most of the relatively few digital images I made on this trip were non-railroad, so the file isn't big. My first rail photos were at the former Illinois Central depot area in Homewood, where I finally got close-up shots of the displayed IC GP10 No. 8408 and caboose. The site is just north of the stucco depot (now used by Amtrak and Metra) west of the Metra Electric and CN tracks.

While I was shooting 8408, a Metra Electric M.U. train in each direction came in, and I just missed getting a shot of the southbound, which would've been my first of the newer bilevel cars built in Rochelle, Ill. The northbound had gone first, with the older 1970s Highliners. Nothing was going on at the south end of Markham Yard, and when we cruised through the business district, I noticed a new-to-me railroad mural on a store on the north side of Ridge Road.

The rest of our time in Homewood was spent photographing the houses we, or our parents, had occupied, and having lunch at Culver's. We then headed into Indiana, exiting I-80-90 into Lake Station (formerly East Gary), where we shot this westbound NS train. Our intent was to stay off the expressways into southwestern Michigan.

We meandered up toward the South Shore Line, getting stuck in traffic at Ogden Dunes as a eastbound stack train on NS's Chicago Line went by at 3 p.m. (still Central Time here) behind BNSF 8091/7077.

The Ogden Dunes South Shore platform was full of people, so realizing a train was due, we pulled off into the parking spot at its east end, the only easily accessible spot. After a westbound NS coke train went by with units 2570/9153 at 3:05, along came Chicago-bound South Shore train #118, with 4 of new bilevels (302/308/309/303), my first photo of those! Time: 3:11

His departure had no longer occurred than Michigan City-bound train #109, an eight-car consist led by 101/18/20/16/207 plus 2 more we couldn't get and 24 on the rear, showed up at 3:17 and soon departed.

No. 109 had just vanished from sight when a westbound empty tank-car train came along on NS, led by 9082/1099 at 3:20.

We took old U.S. 12 into Michigan City, glimpsing no more South Shore action, but found this set of UP units on the power plant yard leads west of the city center. Time: 4:45, now Eastern Time. We saw nothing thru town as we followed the streets the South Shore track is in, and there was nothing shootable at the shops on the east end of the city. We took to I-94 so as to pass the Michigan Welcome Center so I could get a current road map, then exited onto U.S. 12 at New Buffalo, where as we did so we glimpsed a  Wolverine train zip by eastbound in the distance on Amtrak's high-speed line toward Niles. Our next stop was tiny Galien, where  my Dad's side of the Ingles clan is buried in the township cemetery, right by U.S. 12. He spent summers as a kid at his uncle's farm across the highway. From Galien we went on to our motel in South Bend, near Notre Dame, and dined at a nearby Steak n Shake.

Friday, July 3, began as I searched out the old NYC depot in downtown Mishawaka, the town next to South Bend, and while I think I found the building -- which i'd seen from passing Amtrak trains a few times -- it had been modified more than what I remembered it looking like, so I did not shoot it. A couple of NS trains went by that I couldn't shoot, so this photo of a corner hobby shop, about to go ETTS, was my only "rail-related" photo of the day. From here, we went to the Indiana Toll Road, and took it and the Ohio Turnpike to Toledo, where we had lunch at a Wendy's in maneuvering from the Toll Road to Ohio 2 to the Toledo bypass Interstate. Once on I-75, we made straight for Dearborn and our motel. We had dinner at a Chili's with my sister and her kids and grandkids, and later, cruised around the neighborhood in Dearborn where we had lived.

Saturday, the 4th, was taken up until late afternoon with a gathering (I suppose you'd call it a party) at Janis's friend's home. In mid-afternoon, they all began getting ready to attend the annual July 4th fete at Greenfield Village, which has a symphony concert followed by fireworks, but it involves too much walking for Carol and me, so we took a pass, having had a terrific visit. We did some more prowling in late afternoon around Dearborn, and I did expose a few rail-related pixels. First, a few token family shots, though :-). First is Janis wearing appropriate garb for the day, on the front porch and then with me.

Carol, shown with my niece-in-law Alex, from London, also dressed for the holiday!

Our hostess, Betsy Cushman, and my nephew, Jeff Oatham, of London (they pronounce it "O-tum").

The best shot I could find of my brother-in-law, John Oatham (who is in his 80s), is this one sitting at left, with my niece Jennifer Jones, at the right and a friend of Janis's whose name escapes me in between.

From the Friday dinner, my nephew-in-law, Rob Jones (L), my niece Jennifer, and in the middle, their shy-at-the moment daughter Isobel. The second photo, taken by Jen, shows their son, Owen, in between me and Janis.

Before the Friday dinner, I shot in nice evening light the brand-new Amtrak station in Dearborn, across the main line from Greenfield Village, about 3/4 mile west of the former Amtrak depot.

Back to Saturday, in late afternoon we took a ride to Allen Park, where a local friend grew up, then went by Delray Tower, where I hung out in the early 1960s, when NYC, C&O, Wabash, and GTW crossed here. The tower is still staffed, now seeing NS, CSX, and CSA (Conrail Shared Assets) trains.

This building, at Schaeffer Road and Michigan Avenue in the heart of east Dearborn, is where, on the second floor, DT&I had its general offices, a mile or more from its nearest stretch of track (at the Ford Rouge Plant complex).

This is the recently abandoned 1970s Dearborn Amtrak station, on the grounds of the city's Civic Center.

Amtrak Wolverine train 355, with engine 33, 5 cars, and pusher 35, leaves the new Dearborn station at 6:42 p.m. Saturday, concluding my local photography.

Sunday morning, we headed out early via I-96, M-14, and I-94 to Jackson, where we picked up M-60, the pre-Interstate 2-lane that angles southwest to Niles, the road we used a lot in 1956 when "commuting" between Homewood and Dearborn. Not much traffic, small towns on a non-busy Sunday was a break from Interstates. But before Jackson, I was on the alert for this exit sign on I-94, shot thru the van's windshield.

For a while, M-60 shares the road with a north-south route, one of several "state 66s" I've traveled since I became a "Route 66" (the U.S. highway) devotee. This is in the hamlet of Leonidas.

We "highballed" Galien this day, but stopped at the next town, Three Oaks, home of noted sausage purveyor Dreier's, where we picked up some bologna. These photos show the Main St. storefront exterior and two interiors. "Prancer" is a children's Christmas film, the name being of a reindeer, much of which the location shooting was done in this town and surrounding countryside.

Once on i-94, we were nailed by an out-of-service lane and traffic backup, for a half hour, before we could exit at Michigan City for lunch at Steak n Shake. Afterward, we took back roads to avoid the continuing traffic backups, and lucked onto this westbound Amtrak Wolverine near Porter, Ind., engine 31, 5 cars, pusher 126, at 2:55 Central Time. This pretty much finished my photography, and we were home by suppertime.


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