I don’t know much about the Bridge Street tower. I was hoping that Raildudes dad would have chimed in here since he is the train buff here. I can remember that years ago Tom Rademacher (or maybe it was his predecessor, Tom LaBelle) wrote a column in the Press about this old African American man who worked for the railroad and sat up there and watched for trains. When one came he’d throw the switch to activate the crossing gates. This was long after all the other crossings had been automated. The reason this one hadn’t been was because at the time there were still two sets of tracks each belonging to a different railroad and one was going to be torn out and both railroads were to share the remaining track, so they didn’t want to invest in automating tracks that were going to be replaced. And like most things involving railroads it took years before this project was even started let alone completed. The old guy would sit up there all day and wasn’t allowed to read or have a radio or TV, and I believe his restroom facilities consisted of a jar or something similar.
Around the same time, further to the north the two parallel railroads crossed the east-west Grand Trunk Railroad tracks. The predecessor railroad to the Grand Trunk Railroad was the original railroad in Grand Rapids and being the first one, it controlled that junction. I remember there was a ground level shack there where a guy would sit all day and when occasionally a train on one of the other railroads had to cross the Grand Trunk tracks he’d get out and manually throw the switch. Apparently it was a good paying job because mostly I remember his new Corvette parked nearby. This was back in the sixties. Maybe Raildudes dad can stop by and add some detail or correct my possibly faulty memory.
Regarding the Hall Street Tower, Raildudes dad and I had a discussion here about it that you might be thinking of, starting down at post #244:
So what’s the reason for this absurd change? The reason the news releases claim is because the crews will now be based in Grand Rapids instead of Chicago. That is not the reason but does explain why it is possible to do it since a Chicago crew coming in the night before, as they do now, wouldn't be able to do the return trip the next morning that early because of sleep requirements. The real reason is because train buffs have been pushing for a second train which is fine. Since there is no extra equipment for a second train, the idea is that the same train set will do a fast turn around and leave Chicago around 10 AM CSD and arrive in Holland in the afternoon then turn around again and leave Holland around 3 PM to go back to Chicago (not enough time to go all the way to Grand Rapids.) The train after turning again would leave Chicago for the night trip to Grand Rapids leaving Chicago at 6:30 PM.
The problems with this are probably obvious but I’ll list them anyway:
1. Getting up at four or five in the morning in order to catch a train at six is not going to appeal to many people; there are many alternate ways to get to Chicago. I suspect that any schedule earlier than seven is going to result in a big drop-off in customers.
2. Returning around midnight isn't a great idea either.
3. Even though the schedule for the single train is being changed May 1, the second train hasn't even been announced and it possibly may never happen.
4. When and if it starts, the second train has the same time problem but in reverse, it will leave Chicago too late to be very practical not to mention it will only go as far as Holland.
5. As long as the Pere Marquette trains have to use the Norfolk Railroad's tracks along the bottom of Lake Michigan, it is unlikely that they will be able to adhere to the tight schedules they would need for two trains using one train-set. After all, the existing train has a bad on time record as it is without having to turn.
I know this is heresy that could get me banned but I wouldn't mind if Olds/Rowe Hotel would just go away. It's ugly on two sides and it doesn't fit the location anymore and I can't think of anything that could be done to it or the surrounding properties to make it fit much better. Maybe someone can move it brick by brick down somewhere on Commerce where it might fit in better.
Wow, you sound like a Mlive commenter. I never thought of Heartwell as not being pro-business, although sometimes he was perhaps a little naive. Remember, he was the one that lapped up to the mystery project guy so much. I don’t think his predecessor, John Logie, would have been so naive.
Off topic I suppose - As the Fox17 story mentions before it was Reynolds and Sons, it was Reynolds and Brown and before that Goebel and Brown. It’s kind of an obscure store now but the original owner, Paul Goebel, was a pivotal figure in Grand Rapids and Republican politics. He had been an all-American football player at the University of Michigan in 1922 and later was a professional football player. He was a friend of the Ford family and he recommended the young Jerry Ford as a prospect to the U of M football coach who was a former teammate of his. In 1940 he was part of a group that worked to overthrow the political boss Frank McKay who pretty much controlled the Republican Party in Michigan back then. Goebel was instrumental in helping get Ford elected to congress after WW II and he himself ran for mayor in 1950 and was elected three times.
Goebel was also elected to the U of M Board of Regents. I don’t know if the store has a relationship anymore but at one time it was a major supplier to U of M of athletic uniforms and equipment as far back as the 1940’s.
Wikipedia has a pretty good biography of Goebel if you are interested:
My father took me to the store in the mid-fifties to buy me my first pair of ice skates. I can remember my father pointing out the mayor who was standing nearby.
I'd guess no. I suspect that this was part of an old canal bridge that went under Michigan Street before the Rowe Hotel was built. Here's a link to a Press photo that shows the remnants of the bridge when Michigan Street was redone in 2001(?):
It kind of matches. Back before urban renewal I remember there was some kind of parking garage for the hotel on the south side of Michigan. Don't know for sure but I suspect there might have been a ramp down to the old bridge.
EDIT: Gerret Ellison at Mlive just a little while ago dug through the Press archives in response to a commenter (not me) and pulled up this old clipping from 1949 that confirms my guesses:
Probably not important but what are those square things on the front lawn of the house on James? I don't recall seeing them when I drove by the other day. Maybe that's where they're going to store the trash I was so worried about last spring but as far as I know the house isn't owned by 619 Wealthy LLC.