Todd's Railfan Guide to

In General
Getting Here



In General

Lansing is kinda in the center of the state, and is the capitol of Michigan. 

Lansing is lucky to have two noteworthy structures still standing, depots from the Grand Trunk Western on Washington Ave, and the Michigan Central depot on East Michigan Ave.  In addition, Lansing has an Amtrak station and plenty of yards to keep one busy.

I breezed thru Lansing about 8 years ago, and was given a bang-up tour of the sites Lansing has to offer by two local railfans, but I can't locate my notes or names of the guys from that tour, but I thank them immenseley.  The CN and CSX yards are the busiest, and from looking at the birds eye view on bing.com/maps, it doesn't appear that NS uses the yard on the southside of town for much of anything - a couple of tracks have had their south leads taken out. 

I took the easy way out on my map and used "4t" to denote the number of tracks instead of showing them separately....

Grand Rapids is approximately 70 miles downtown to downtown, and Durand is about 35mi from downtown.  Detroit is about 90 miles away.

Aerial shots are from www.bing.com/maps

When I blew thru town on 10/7/2011, one of the electronic billboards was running this series of "pictures".  We have lost a true genius that has changed the world for the better probably more than anyone else of our time!!  (I know, I'm not suppose to express my personal opinions :-)


Getting Here

Lansing is at the crossroads of interstates I-96 and I-69. 

I-69 runs heads SW out of Flint, and then kinda south once passing thru Lansing heading to Fort Wayne IN.

I-96 runs east and west from Detroit to Grand Rapids and the west coast of Michigan.

You also have US127 which north-south, splitting off from I-75 just south of Grayling (where you would head west to go to Traverse City) in upper Michigan (not the U.P.), Hits I-94 at Jackson MI, and continues on south as a real back road.

In looking at the above map, you will notice that there is a "beltway", or loop of sorts made up of the two interstates and US127.  Getting around to the various places in Lansing is an easy task, with nothing really too far away from anything else.

You also have I-496 which cuts through the center of town going east-west, and provides quick access to most of the sites to check out other than the yards.

The above snag is from Google's Maps


PDF version


    1        the Amtrak Station

And speaking of Amtrak, here is their depot in East Lansing.

The station sign, and a billboard with an ad for the Blue Water train.

We missed the Amtrak train by 10 minutes, so this is the only thing we caught while at the station.

    2        The CN-CSX Trowbridge Diamond

The diamond is just west of the Amtrak station.

A couple of shots looking across the diamond from the Amtrak station.  The one on the right is "all the way" on the camera at x80.  This is a good study in the signaling here, as it looks like they replaced the most used signals, leaving the signals for the reverse traffic to do at a later time.  I guess they run left hand traffic like the CNW and the RF&P.  The left photo gives you a good view of the four GTW/CN signals, and in the photo on the right, you can make out a signal on the far side of the elevator.

(L) Looking west on the Grand Trunk, (R) Close-up of the color light signal.

(L) The "tri-light" protecting the GT WB reverse traffic track, (R) 3 color color light dwarf on the SB CSX track - notice the green (or lunar) is in the middle...

(L) A 2 head GRS searchlight signal on the SB CSX track, (R) a close-up of one of the tri-light heads.

    3        the Grand Trunk depot

The Grand Trunk depot, and a nearby girder bridge.

The other side of the GT depot, showing a caboose on the lot.  The last time I was here, someone was going to turn it into a restaurant.  They should look to the success of the restaurants in Northumberland PA, Berea OH, Oakland NY, Sykesville MD for examples on how to do it right!  Well, I guess I have to take the Berea depot out of the mix, as they apparently closed up in 2009... darn... If you want, it's up for sale! 

The signals are looking east from the depot.

    4        the Michigan Central depot, now known as Clara's restaurant

Above is an aerial view of the depot ex Michigan Central depot on Michigan Ave.  This one houses Clara's restaurant.  Plan your visit so you can have lunch or dinner here, the food is great, and the prices are very reasonable. 

I've now had dinner here three times, and every time I have been more than happy with the food and service.  On my most recent visit on 10/7/2011, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the owners, Cindy.  She and her brother now own the restaurant, having taken over it's operation when their father passed on in 2005.  She is a most wonderful host, so if you get a chance, please tell her how much you enjoyed the experience.

They also have another restaurant in Battle Creek... for more info: http://www.claras.com/index_html.html

The set of pictures above is from JUL2009, and below, from OCT2011.  Thanks to Cindy for taking my pix.

The picture next to the last on the right (bottom) is an interior shot of the diner car... very cool!

    5        CN's Lansing Yard

First row, two aerial shots of the CN yard, the southern end is the bottom of the two. The 6 pictures above the aerial views are from the crossing at the north end of the yard.... The 4 pix below are from the south end.



    6        NS's South Yard

The north and south end of the NS yard on the south side of town.


    7        CSX's Ensel Yard

Two shots of the west end of the CSX yard, mid view on the right.


    8        NS's Saginaw Yard

Southern end of the NS yard by the GM assembly plant.

    9        State Capitol Building

    10        Coaling Tower 

A "larger than most structure", with at one time, four main line tracks rolling underneath it.....


    11        CN Yard

Not sure of the name of this yard - I have seen the name "Holland Yard" mentioned.... Can anyone help me out here?  The picture is a composite from Bing Maps.


I'm sure there are a whole lot more signals to be found in Lansing, I just didn't have the time to hunt them down.  If you have pictures of them, please submit them to me here

          Colorlight Signals adjacent to Clara's Restaurant

A few signal shots from the depot.... first is one looking south towards an approach signal, showing the split between the CSX (to the left) and the NS line.... on the right is looking north... Just not enough time to get pictures of everything.


A color light signal, grade crossing gate and CATA bus crossing the tracks, all adjacent to the depot,

This picture shows a couple of the interlocking signals. 

Looking north from Clara's.

If you're into them, busses pass right on by Clara's.

          Half a mile south of Clara's

About a half a mile south of Clara's is this lonely approach signal, we didn't have time to see what the signal was an approach for.  Although the signal is a searchlight and capable of three aspects, my guess is that the signal is fixed at approach.  You can just barely make it out in the first picture under the depot pix, it's the little spec of light over the right rail!   The right photo is looking back towards the depot from the approach signal, you can easily see the mainline signal for CSX where the NS joins up with it.


          At CN's Lansing Yard



On the CN main, just east of Aurelius, stands this great old coaling tower.

The CN-NS diamond.  The track bearing off to the left does not interchange with the CN, instead, it curves back around as shown on the map to serve local business'..... Maybe at one time there was an interchange?

An eastbound CN freight slides along the waterfront getting ready to pass under the MLK.

They're not there any more, but at one time, the CN was using this siding for the storage of older GTW rolling stock.

Bridge on the NS, just south of Hazel St.

The Footpath/trail going under the CN line.

NEW 07/07/2009
Last Modified 08-Aug-2015