RAILFAN GUIDES of the U.S.



Todd's Railfan Guide to

KALAMAZOO MI

In General
How to get here
Maps
Sights
Pictures
Signals
Bridges
Grade Crossings
Cab Ride
Floobydust
USGS Map


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In General


Kalamazoo is a very worthwhile stop if you're in the area, mostly because of BO Tower, and the Amtrak/Grand Elk diamond.  If you time your visit right, you can catch trains on both lines.

Kalamazoo has an active tower, BO, staffed by five NS folks, an Amtrak station west of the tower, and an "attached" transit center for the Kalamazoo Metro Transit.... the bus depot is on the far side of Amtrak's tracks from the station, and if you're lucky, may have a garage door open on a nice day.

Searchlight signals prevail around here, as can be seen by the photos. 

One thing I have to do is give the city council credit for doing things right.... everything I saw, like the Veterans Memorial, the MLK Jr park sign, and even the info signs on the street tell me that they actually care about the things they do and how the public perceives them.

On my last trip through Kalamazoo, I didn't have the time to spend waiting for an Amtrak train to come thru, as I still had on my list for the day to stop in Albion, Battle Creek, Jackson for the Amtrak 40th Anniversary train, and another visit to Deshler.

Aerial pictures from Google maps, with GPS coordinates, have been added as of November 2013. 
Thanks to the suggestion from Denver Todd to include them!
The green arrows on the aerial photos point to the GPS coordinates shown.

Thanks to Mike Spencer for taking the time to take the pictures and letting me use them.

Websites and other additional information sources of interest for the area:
    
An excellent page for Kalamazoo is here, and has much more in the way of information about Kalamazoo's depots.
    
Click here for a link to the Grand Elk RR
     http://www.winkworth.us/railmisc/kazoo93/index2.htm
    

Aerial shots were taken from either Google Maps or www.bing.com/maps as noted, once in a great while maybe MapQuest.  The screen captures are made with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it! 

Maps

Click here for the map as a PDF.



Sights


   the Amtrak Station

GPS Coordinates: 42.295435, -85.584131

Kalamazoo has four trains a day in each direction, three of which are in daylight hours during the summer.... one of the eastbounds doesn't come thru till around 7:30pm.

         

         

  Looking east from the Amtrak station platform


   BO Tower and it's Signals

GPS Coordinates: 42.295821, -85.578065


 
We got into Kalamazoo just before sunrise, good time for great shots.....

             

  Old and new MP143 mileposts slightly east of the tower.

  Looking east across the two diamonds.


 


   the Kalamazoo Transit Center

GPS Coordinates: 42.295435, -85.584131

This is what every cities transit center should look like, very functional, well laid out, good signage, and co-located at the train station!

       
 


   ex Grand Rapids & Indiana Depot

GPS Coordinates: 42.292941, -85.578635

Very interesting structure.  It is on the SE corner of Michigan Ave and Pitcher St. 
A big thanks to Tim Shanahan, a local train historian, for letting me know this was a former Grand Rapids & Indiana depot.
It had a major renovation in 2004.

   

   
Looking north from the station, and one shot looking south.




   the Rose Park Veterans Memorial

GPS Coordinates: 42.294953, -85.572987

Most Impressive.  A must see!  This is one of the nicest Veterans Memorial, if not the best one, I have come across in my travels.  Pictures are hard to take during the day because of reflections tho.



           

         



Below is a shot from a Katz Studios video found here




   the Metro Transit Bus Shops

GPS Coordinates: 42.296147, -85.584338

   

     





   Botsford Yard

GPS Coordinates: 42.293995, -85.566227 (Access from Mills St)

Originally a Michigan Central yard, it is now operated by the Grand Elk RR.  I betcha they wish the roundhouse was still around :-)  Good public access off of Mills Street.










   North Kalamazoo Yard

GPS Coordinates: 42.306414, -85.576393 (center)



   Kilgore Yard and Wye

GPS Coordinates: 42.247409, -85.520224 (center)

A former Grand Trunk and Conrail yard, and when used in the 90's, they would share switching duties on an annual basis.... Doesn't look like it gets any use today.


 


Pictures



The above picture came from here: http://railroadfan.com/gallery/displayimage-189-6512.html, but had no name attached to it..... taken before the signal replacement


The above picture came from here: http://railroadfan.com/gallery/displayimage-189-6514.html#top_display_media


The above picture came from here: http://railroadfan.com/gallery/displayimage-189-6513.html#top_display_media


The above picture came from here: http://railroadfan.com/gallery/displayimage-189-6516.html#top_display_media

Below is a set of 4 pictures taken by Nathan who went to school in Kalamazoo and was lucky enough to catch these trains.... found here










Signals



Until I make it back to Kalamazoo again, the screen shots from Google Streetview will have to do.....
According to Jack P, a signal replacement project was completed sometime in early to mid 2015, prior to Google coming through with their cameras.


  Signals at MP145

West of the downtown area along Stadium Drive, adjacent to the Western Michigan Univ campus, is this set of intermediate color light signals on the Amtrak line.

 

 

  



  EB Amtrak Searchlight Signals

The lone high signal and a dwarf on the EB track at Pritcher Street were replaced by two color light signals adjacent to the Edwards Street grade crossing. A crossover between Pritcher and Edwards Streets was also added during the re-signaling.















  Grand Elk SB Dwarf

On the north side of the western diamond, a rare wooden equipment cabin, an unused ramp on an unused siding, and a dwarf signal.  The ramp is was used when the Johnson Howard lumber yard was around - it closed in the mid 90's.  With the re-signaling, it looks like this signal, originally a two aspect dwarf colorlight signal, has been replaced with a three aspect colorlight signal on a new base.  In looking at the 2015 street view, it appears that the wooden cabinet is still with us.

 

 

   





 


  Amtrak Three Head WB Searchlight Signal

During the signal upgrade and replacement, this signal was removed.

 



 



  Grand Elk Two Head SB Searchlight Signal

One of the Grand Elk signals by the tower.  The upper head WAS fixed, the lower one a GRS searchlight.  It is now a two head colorlight installation.

   

         



 


  Amtrak WB Three Head Searchlight Signal and Dwarf

The signals here were replaced by a pair of three head colorlight signals, one for both tracks where only one high signal had been before.  Even though the bottom head on the right looks like it is not red, it more than likely is due the the camera being overexposed due to the light being aimed "right on" into the camera.  It also appears that a single crossover was installed.

             
The WB signals before the diamond at the tower, a stack of three US&S searchlights... a dwarf searchlight protects the EB track for reverse movements.

  Looking from the other direction, from Pitcher Street


Looking west from Harrisdon St, "AFTER", notice the crossover has been relocated so the signals can control the movement across it.



 
Looking into the other direction, "AFTER", perfectly timed, notice the crossover is gone.





 


  Grand Elk Two Head SB Searchlight Signal for the Interchange

This signal was replaced by a two head colorlight signal, and placed the new signal to the right of the interchange track, instead of being on the left.
 
 





  Grand Elk Three Aspect NB Dwarf Colorlight Signal

They replaced a dwarf searchlight signal with a dwarf three aspect colorlight signal for NB traffic through the diamond.   I guess one could ask why a high signal was employed for the northern signal, and a dwarf on the southern side of the diamond?

  After

  Before

  Before

  Before, Looking south from E Kalamazoo Ave



  Grand Elk NB Dwarf Colorlight

Located on the south side of Water Street, it seems this signal too, has been replaced.





  Grand Elk Fixed Approach Semaphore

Located at Vine and Portage Streets.  A field check is needed to confirm the signal is still with us :-)  Anyone want to volunteer???



  From Mike Spencer's Cab Ride.







Bridges


   Amtrak Bridge

Nice small girder bridge for pictures of Amtrak.  If you happen to be at the Veterans Memorial when an Amtrak train comes, have no fear, for this bridge is adjacent to the memorial.  Morning sun looks like its best for EB's.

 


 


   Bridge

An abandoned bridge used to gain access to a metal scrap yard.









   Bridge

A pretty much abandoned bridge on an underused siding.  The bridge also sports a switch for yet another piece of abandoned track.  The track from here headed southeast and (probably) joined the track that is at the scrap yard.




 


Grade Crossings


Grade Crossing Amtrak at Rose

The grade crossing at Rose St, because of it's proximity to the transit center (I'm guessing) is protected with a set of pedestrian crossing gates.  It's also a good spot for morning bus pictures.

             



Michigan St Grade Crossing

 
 


Kalamazoo Ave and Porter St

    Grand Elk grade crossings on Kalamazoo St, looking west from Porter

 


Pritcher St Amtrak Grade Crossing






Edward Street Crossing

Notice that both crossing gates are on the same side of the tracks.... makes this installation kind of unique.....





Ransom Street Crossings

  Western Grand Elk Grade Crossing, looking west

  Eastern Grand Elk Grade Crossing, looking west



Cab Ride Through Kalamazoo


           All Pictures by Mike Spencer unless noted.
About BO Tower, Mike tells me:  NS owns and operates BO Tower, yet they don't run any trains!  Amtrak owns up to the Eastward Signals at BO, then it changes to NS.  Grand Elk leases the north-south lines from NS, while running trackage rights 1 mile east to Botsford Yard.

 

  
A Grand Elk freight.

       
A few more pix of Grand Elk equipment.  The Grand Elk runs from Elkhart IN to Grand Rapids MI over leased Norfolk Southern trackage.

  
4449 passing through town on it's way to Durand before the train festival in July 2009.

 
A fixed semaphore south of Kalamazoo on the Grand Elk.

 
This shot from the cab is in Schoolcraft MI, one interlocking south of BO.  The Grand Elk main crosses the CN (ex-GTW main) from Detroit to Chicago.


Vintage USGS Maps


USGS Topo Map from 1916 - Kalamazoo Quadrangle - The picture gets a little grainy when you zoom in, as the source is a ~4meg JPEG






The snippet above comes from the 1917 Galesburg Quadrangle
It shows the Michigan Central and Michigan Electric leaving town on parallel tracks heading over to Galesburg



Too bad the close-up detail of the downtown is so "fuzzy"


 



History


Kalamazoo at one time had seven or so railroads coming into town.  Here are some of the dates I have been able to find:

February 2, 1846     Michigan Central - State of Michigan, Detroit to Kalamazoo
December 1, 1848    Michigan Central, Kalamazoo to Niles
May 28, 1852           Michigan Central/Kalamazoo & South Haven to South Haven
May 3, 1867             Lake Shore & Michigan Southern/Kalamazoo & White Pigeon, Kalamazoo to White Pigeon
March 1, 1869          Lake Shore & Michigan Southern/Kalamazoo, Allegan & Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids
October, 1870          Pennsylvania RR/Grand Rapids & Indiana, Fort Wayne to Grand Rapids
1899                         Michigan Traction, Kalamazoo to Battle Creek
September 1, 1889   Chicago, Kalamazoo & Saginaw (CK&S), Kalamazoo to Woodbury
December 1, 1901    Chicago, Kalamazoo & Saginaw, Kalamazoo to Pavilion - (leased to GTW on August 1, 1910)
1906                         Kalamazoo, Lake Shore & Chicago, Leased discontinued line from MCRR
August 8, 1910         Grand Trunk Western/Chicago & Kalamazoo Terminal line
May 17, 1915           Michigan Traction, Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids



Floobydust


Kalamazoo Stuff

 
Seen entering Kalamazoo from the east side


Very nice signs tell you where things are in Kalamazoo, and they are all over the place!


Across from the Metro Transit depot is the MLK Jr Park, and a very nicely done sign.

     
Kalamazoo has a wide variety of fire hydrants, the one on the right was located next to the Amtrak mainline, not near much of anything but the tracks.


A manhole cover from the Western Union Telegraph Co?

   
Really nice stone mural of the Great Lakes adorns the side of the Peoples Food Co-op building.  The building was built in 2010.  I previously had this noted as being a former Grand Trunk warehouse, but an anonymous contributor informed me it was a new building.  Whomever you are, thanks for the correction and for taking the time to let me know!


In this picture from Tim Shanahan, is an old street sweeper trolley being used as an add-on to a building being built, next to the one pictured above with the artwork on it.  Tim believes the trolley may have come from Jackson MI.


From Google Street view along East Water Street.


Also found while trolling on the street view, a handicap bus in front of the GR&I depot.

 


Disclaimers:

Every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct.  Once in a while, an error may creep in, especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names.  Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these locations.  I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words", and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the railfan over a simple text description of the area.  Since the main focus of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  Since most of us railheads don't have just trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other significant historical or geographical feature.  While some may feel they shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the 1830's!!!  

Please Note:  Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.

My RSUS philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning.  Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented.  Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost!  I belong to AAA, which allows you to get local maps for free when you visit the local branches.  ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the railroads on them.  If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.
 

Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! Contact info is here

Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.

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NEW 08/25/2009, 5/23/2010
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