An evening westbound commuter train arriving at the Royal Oak train station late in the summer of 1977. He'd be pulling hard against the grade coming out of Ferndale, then drop it into idle around Washington Street and glide to a stop. In the Autumn of 1980 I'd come here and spend a few hours re-reading Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums and On The Road, or maybe doing college homework. It was a great place to get away to and just be left alone. Photograph © 1977-2002 Jeff Knorek.
I grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan, within earshot of the Grand Trunk Western Holly Subdivision. Long before the days of NAFTA, and back when CNR still ran their transcontinental traffic north around the Great Lakes, the Holly sub was a sleepy (albeit well-built double track CTC) mainline from Detroit through Pontiac to Durand. We saw virtually no daytime freight trains, or at least, very few that came by before our evening curfew. While my affection for railroads blossomed elsewhere, the seed was planted here.
The railroad tracks were our favorite playground, On the rare occasion when I actually saw a train in daylight, it was almost always one of the commuter runs between Pontiac and Detroit (which were discontinued in the 1980's). The pictures I took of those trains, in addition to the audio cassette recordings I made of them, were discarded.
The images here were among the very first I recorded after the purchase of my first 35mm camera, and long before I started taking photography classes in college. This time around, I may have discarded the prints but I saved the negatives, which I printed myself in 1981. These, too, were very nearly thrown out but for a protocol that I had in place at the time I started working in the darkroom: KEEP EVERYTHING, NO MATTER HOW TRIVIAL IT SEEMS TODAY. Tomorrow it may be the only tether that you have to something that you rediscover your passion for.
Royal Oak and Pontiac, MI, as seen on the Southeast Michigan portion of the Chicago and Grand Trunk RR route map from The 1891 Grain Dealers and Shippers Gazetteer © 1999 Pam Rietsch
GTW Historical Society Website
Kindschy, Brad; email describing D&TSL 50's disposition (1.13.99)
Kuhl, Wayne; email describing colors used on early GTW diesels (1.13.99)
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