It takes a Silver Mine to make a Gold Mine.

Mexican Proverb

A Passing Train

On This Date: Photo taken 12/14/2014

We were getting pictures of the Ken Boothe Sr/Lakes Contender tug/barge pair when we got distracted by this train, and its still painted Grand Trunk locomotive.

On Port Huron’s waterfront. That’s the Michigan Culinary Institute in the background.

The Boothe/Contender tug/barge has (have?) been renamed to Clyde S. VanEnkevort & Erie Trader. They’re still one of the most attractive “boats” on the Great Lakes.

Number of pix taken on various December 14ths: 835
Year of oldest photo: 1971

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 14
  • 2 Stars: 80
  • 3 Stars: 549
  • 4 Stars: 172
  • 5 Stars: 20


On This Date: Photo taken 11/15/2015

The CSX Bridge across the Grand River in Grand Ledge, near the ledges that give the town its name.

Some folks call this the “High Bridge.” I take that to mean they’ve never seen an actual high bridge.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

We walk the trail along the river a couple times a year; it’s not long, and it’s nearby, and it gets us out of the house. Two years back the light had unusually sharp edges.

The bridge was built by/for the Pere Marquette Railway in 1904, replacing an earlier bridge built for a PM predecessor in the late 1880s. Nathan Hoth’s Historic Bridges website has a nice writeup.

Number of pix taken on various November 15ths: 112
Year of oldest photo: 2006

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 0
  • 2 Stars: 2
  • 3 Stars: 70
  • 4 Stars: 38
  • 5 Stars: 2


On This Date: Photo taken 9/30/2014

This gate, on Bunker Highway north of Eaton Rapids, blocks access to the remnant right-of-way of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway (aka New York Central) branch that ran between Jonesville and North Lansing. It’s across the road from the factory/warehouse complex that was built by the Michigan Peat Company in, I think, 1904.

About 30 years back I got curious about the diagonal boundary of my apartment complex. This led to a personal research project to trace the LS & MS branch to North Lansing. I discovered obvious remnants all along the line. Bridge abutments in Dimondale. An old depot in Springport. Still active rail lines in south Lansing. Property lines here and there that made no obvious sense. And an odd complex of large buildings north of Eaton Rapids.

I eventually found an explanation for the large buildings on Bunker in W. Scott Munn’s delightful The Only Eaton Rapids on Earth. Munn considered the Peat Company a fraudulent enterprise; others considered it a failed experiment. At this distance it’s hard to tell. Both interpretations may well be true.

I’ve discussed this before, and have posted a number of photographs of the Peat Company complex.

Number of pix taken on various September 30ths: 97
Year of oldest photo: 2007

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 2
  • 2 Stars: 9
  • 3 Stars: 68
  • 4 Stars: 18
  • 5 Stars: 0

Lake Odessa Depot

On This Date: Photo taken 7/2/2012

Lake O’s tiny little passenger depot used to live downtown, where it was dwarfed by the neighboring grain silos when I first saw it in the early 1980s. For most of the depot’s career it was on the Pere Marquette and C&O mainline through Michigan. In 1988 the community moved the building north to the edge of the local fairground, where it now serves as a historical museum.

A new camera note: On 7/2/2009 I purchased a Fujifilm Finepix F200 to replace my Finepix F10, which had failed. It seemed like a logical replacement, but I soon came to dislike the F200. The colors were different and the menu system was intricate enough to be confusing.

I only took a few hundred photographs with the camera, the first of which was of the planters on our porch. When the sensor developed a dead spot I replaced the camera rather than getting a warranty repair.

Number of pix taken on various July 2nds: 248
Year of oldest photo: 1988

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 1
  • 2 Stars: 21
  • 3 Stars: 158
  • 4 Stars: 51
  • 5 Stars: 14


On This Date: Photo taken 4/2/2012.

There’s something about this photograph….

This is the CSX mid-Michigan mainline, shot from Dow Road between Sunfield and Mulliken.

The camera–a Fujifilm Finepix F200–had a damaged sensor, which you needed to make allowances for while composing images. And the pic’s overexposed because I hadn’t yet dialed in the settings on an unfamiliar camera. But I really like this into-the-sun photograph.

My 2012 photo-a-day project, 366 Snaps, had basically three rules–shoot monochrome, change cameras every month, and no captions or commentaries with the pix (those showed up the next year as 366 Snaps Outtakes). In early April of 2012 I was learning that you need to practice with the device before it becomes your primary camera. Up to that point I was apparently expecting things would just come back to me when I dug out an old machine. Didn’t work well.

Still: I like this one. Despite the day’s problems.

Number of pix taken on various April 2nds: 860
Year of oldest photo: 2007

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 7
  • 2 Stars: 27
  • 3 Stars: 750
  • 4 Stars: 71
  • 5 Stars: 5

Cory Yard

On This Date: Photo taken 3/16/2012.

This Canadian National Railway yard services GM’s Delta Assembly plant, so mostly you see auto racks lined up here.

Shot from the Nixon Road end of the yard. Many of my friends are more familiar with the Windsor Highway end, which is near our (former) workplace and which we crossed on our way to and from work.

Photo taken with my then-new Nikon 1 V1. I spent much of the day experimenting with settings, taking photographs in–well, interesting places. It’s also the day I learned the camera’s Electronic View Finder didn’t get along with my sunglasses.

An oddity: Of the 93 “photographs” I took five years ago today, 34 were 3 second movies (and another 34 were stills from those movies–likely the photos I was actually trying to take). Apparently I’d found a setting which did this, though I don’t recall such a thing. For the record, all are boring. Several were of flowers, presumably growing.

Number of pix taken on various March 16ths: 124 [includes 34 videos; see above]
Year of oldest photo: 2003

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 0
  • 2 Stars: 10
  • 3 Stars: 75
  • 4 Stars: 30
  • 5 Stars: 9

Southbound Train

On This Date: Photo taken 1/9/2008.

Took a late lunch on January 9, 2008, and evidently drove to Potterville, looking for photographs. This one found me at the Windsor Highway railroad crossing.

I’m a horrible photographer on January 9. I say things like “Fifteen daily pix is both enough and necessary for a photo-a-day of project” because it’s generally true. But it’s not always true. Some days are just wasted.

To be sure, the January weather in mid-Michigan certainly doesn’t help. On January 9 I mostly photograph snow, in my yard.

Number of pix taken on various January 9ths: 168
Year of oldest photo: 2008

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 5
  • 2 Stars: 61
  • 3 Stars: 94
  • 4 Stars: 8
  • 5 Stars: 0

Excellent picture book, with a fine narrative history of the Missabe Road, its predecessors, and their clients. I know this material fairly well, but Leopard managed to occasionally surprise me.

This short review was originally posted on LibraryThing.

Drawings of old mining–mostly railroad, actually–equipment. Really quite a wonderful thing. Seems to contain everything blue-print like they had around the office when it was compiled; a few of the pages really don’t fit.

Also posted on LibraryThing.

Andy McFarlane has been recreating/interpreting a set of color tours originally mapped by Michigan Travel on his Michigan in Pictures blog. Today’s entry runs the tour right by my house, which of course means I’m pretty familiar with most of the places he mentions. This item was provoked by that entry, which mentions the Paul Henry-Thornapple Trail, but mostly it’s unrelated to the tour.

I returned to Macalester College as a 31-year-old senior in January of 1981. One reason for the mid-winter start was Mac’s January term, which would let me get my feet wet in a differently-demanding fashion than a fall start would have entailed. I signed up for Jim Stewart‘s one-off course titled 1877; the course description amounted to “1877 was an interesting year. We’ll read newspapers from the time on microfilm, and will make presentations about what we learn.”

For some reason the 1877 microfilm wasn’t available, so Jim fell back to a set of early 1869 newspaper films Ernie Sandeen had acquired for some other project. This changed the focus just a bit, but the main class objective was unchanged: We were learning a particular set of research tools, and practices. We were set to exploring for the first week; the class sessions began with observations about the mechanics of reading microfilm, then moved to discussions of such things as evolving newspaper layout, editorial emphases, and advertising practices. For the second week, Jim assigned us stories to track down without consulting modern sources; we talked in class about how the story-as-reported differed from the story as we recalled it from history textbooks, and what those differences might mean.

The third and fourth weeks were self-assigned projects. My third week project was about newspaper organization; specifically, I compared the layout of the Detroit Free Press as of 1869 with three other papers, and speculated a bit about why they differed. My final week’s project was about Railroad Fever.

The entire nation had the Railroad Fever in 1869. Most newspapers in the collection routinely included notes and articles under that rubric, clearly because everyone recognized the symptoms. Michigan was nursing two outbreaks: Promoters were raising money to build a more direct line (an “air line”) between Detroit and Chicago which would roughly follow the route of the Chicago Road, and actual construction was occurring for a line connecting Jackson and Grand Rapids. Both remain interesting, for different reasons.

The Air-Line promoters touted their project as a competitor to the Michigan Central line which already connected the terminal cities; MC was widely seen as a monopolist and therefore widely despised. When the microfilm ran out, the project was unsettled–but the fund-raising effort worked. Jackson and Niles were connected by rail in 1871, and an existing line was purchased to complete the Chicago connection. Worth noting: The promoters promptly leased the new line to the Central; indeed, it seems quite likely that they were Michigan Central agents from the start. (I’ve left out a lot of detail; see Wikipedia’s account of the railroad for those.) I gather this rail has been pulled up, but that’s a relatively recent occurrence; it still had regular traffic a couple decades ago.

The 1869 news about the Grand River Valley Railroad was always about celebrations. The line reached Morgan, on Thornapple Lake, early in January; by the time our newspapers ran out there were parades and parties in Hastings. GVRR was already a Central captive, but these towns were pleased just to find themselves on the map. It may be that they later learned to hate the monster.

The Valley branch remained in use under the Michigan Central/New York Central/Penn Central/Conrail succession into the 1970s, with CR ceding the line to the State of Michigan in 1979. The State leased the line to the Kent, Barry, and Eaton Connecting Railway until that road failed in 1983, at which time the line was abandoned. The track would soon be pulled up, but obvious remnants of the right of way were left along the entire route. Those remnants are the basis of the Paul Henry-Thornapple Trail.

Which takes me back to Andy’s color tour. Life is often circular, as are my tales.