MCRR BRIDGE

This post is dedicated to my friend Gerard Fitzgerald, Fillmore’s BIGGEST fan and, more importantly for me, someone who understands my railroad modeling ramblings….

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Gerry lives far away, but I had recently “ceremonially” invited him to join us on our yearly Niagara Falls Excursion.  I promised to let him know all about it – I brought my point-n-click camera (I ALWAYS forget to bring a camera), bought new batteries for it on the way, made sure I didn’t forget it in my truck, and started clicking away right when I got to GO Port Credit station.  But I made a bloody mess of the photos, starting with trying to take a picture of Amtrak’s “Maple Leaf” (daily Toronto-New York City) – I had arrived at the station early to see this passenger train (there ain’t many left, for a long time).

It all went down hill from there.  I did take photos along the way, either I was too early, too late, shaky, or missed the subject altogether.  Oh, and there was some good stuff too…the yard and RIP track at the Ford Oakville automobile manufacturing plant, Aldershot freight yard, Hamilton freight yard (with unusual locomotives present, although I couldn’t say what they were – you know, I’m lost after 1945).  There were lots of interesting views of what’s left of Hamilton’s steel industry, the fruit orchards of the Niagara Escarpment, St Catherines Station, crossing the Welland Canal on the lift bridge and, of course, Niagara Falls station and surrounding area that once had a coaling dock, coach yard, roundhouse etc.  All long gone, Gerry.  We even saw some trains coming the other way; a VIA in the new Canada 150 paint scheme, a freight train made up of auto racks, CN motive power waiting wayside.  All these pictures botched, sorry Pal.

Our journey started at 9:18 when the GO Niagara Falls Special arrived at Port Credit station from Toronto’s Union Station.  The usual suspects were there too – Bill, Bill, Phil, Steve, Naresh, Damon, and Paul.  I organize these little spring/summer rail excursions to see different parts of the lines that GO Transit serves (GO is Government of Ontario – here is a link for more info).  Essentially, on the rail side of GO, they provide commuter service from various parts into the “Big Smoke” (Toronto).  We are very lucky to have this service available to us, especially on weekends, for convenient railfan travel.  Every summer they offer a special to Niagara Falls and every year the gang gets together for this trip on Canada Day, except this year which was the day after (July 2nd).

This trip is open to anyone who wants to join us.  I send notices to my friends, but then word of mouth may snag another or two for the trip.  We welcome anyone who wants to tag along and besides the scenery there is plenty of train talk.  I am VERY lucky to be part of this group – gentlemen all.  First Class.  Thank You, my Friends.

When we got to Niagara Falls we had only about 25 minutes before our train would make it’s way back toward Toronto.  Pictured below is the old station, looking good, trackside.  And I had nothin’ for you Gerry…

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My nature is to go off on my own.  So I let the boys know I was going off the find the Michigan Central Railroad and the bridge by that same name across the Niagara River into the United States of America.  The old steam era relic still stands click here to find a short history .  I wanted to approach the bridge along where the rails once were – they’re all gone now.  In the Google Maps oblique image below, we see the area in question:

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Our train station is at upper left, the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge is the upper bridge on the right – the “Maple Leaf” crosses this into the U.S., which is on the far right (Niagara Falls, NY).  Michigan Central Bridge is the lower one and, of course since there are no tracks, is no longer used.

In the birds-eye Google image below, I made my way from the station and headed down to the grassy area at the middle bottom of the picture.  The old MCRR right-of-way can be seen curving up from the middle bottom, up to the right to the bridge.

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My journey crossed over three roadway overpasses along that ROW arc.  Having seen the results of my camera work and being totally disappointed in myself, I took the following pictures approaching the Michigan Central Railroad Bridge with my iPhone.  So, Gerry, this is the best I could do……

When I turned into the grassy clearing, looking down the old ROW, this was the view (below).

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This looks really rural, but behind me and to the sides we are in urban Niagara Falls!  As I made my way, those roadway overpasses became more recognizable.  Here’s the first one…

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…a close-up of the concrete structure….

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…continuing along, I approach the second overpass…

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…I thought that the railings were interesting (don’t know why)…

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…I swung over 90 degrees to my left where this stunning building stands, and, well, took a picture of it….

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…moving along on my quest, I get to the third overpass…

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…the overgrowth was significant, but easily traversable and I get closer to MCRR Bridge…

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…and, below, I arrive.  There is a black barrier wall with barbed wire on top.  Niagara Falls, NY lies beyond, the Niagara River deep below.

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As cool as this was, and I can’t help imagining awesome steam powered passenger and freight trains of eighty years ago making their way between these two great countries, the neatest thing was yet to come…

When I retraced my steps back, at the second overpass I had the notion to see what that bridge looked like from street level.  There was a trail, muddy, damp, steep on the embankment and in a stellar moment of mis-judgement I decided to descend it.  Now I’m only 52, not old nor young, but I don’t go “off road ” much anymore and luckily I had just enough tree branches to grab onto even though I landed hard on my feet on the sidewalk.  No damage.  Then I saw it, as if the entrance to King Tut’s Tomb…

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“MICHIGAN CENTRAL”.  Some of the locomotives represented at Fillmore are MCRR and no doubt their prototypes had passed here many times.  A neat feeling!

I was, however, cognizant of the time and not wanting to miss my friends, and the train, I left immediately for the station where Bill was loyally waiting for me by the cab car (in this case, the rear of the train).  I think there was some worry about my wandering off, but then, I had an adventure to tell!

Well, Gerry, we had a great day topped off with a very late lunch at The Brogue pub back in Port Credit.  I think you would have enjoyed this.  Above all, thanks so very much for your friendship!

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