Monday, May 1, 2017

Michigan Central Railroad's Detroit River Tunnel

Peter Dudley shared his photo
An original monochromatic Detroit Publishing Company (DPC) photograph shows the Detroit portal of Michigan Central Railroad’s Detroit River Tunnel, c. May 1910. The project was rapidly nearing completion – the official completion date was July 1.
The comment on his photo:
An original monochromatic Detroit Publishing Company (DPC) photograph shows the Detroit portal of Michigan Central Railroad’s Detroit River Tunnel, c. May 1910. The project was rapidly nearing completion – the official completion date was July 1.
The Detroit portal was in the shadow of the Vermont Street truss bridge, which was built years earlier. The tunnel approach, M.C.R.R.’s lengthy Third Street Yard (right), and the double-track branch line to the riverfront (left), were carefully inserted under the bridge, without disturbing it.
The branch line provided access to M.C.R.R.’s red-brick 1884 depot on Third Street, as well as three railroad car ferry slips, which were abandoned and filled-in, after the tunnel opened. After the new (now century-old) Michigan Central Station (MCS) opened on 15th Street on December 26,1913, the burned-out, blackened remains of M.C.R.R.'s previous depot on Third Street were transformed into New York Central Railroad’s Third Street Freight Terminal. The soon-to-be-renamed Detroit People Mover / Joe Louis Arena station currently occupies the site where the old depot's clock tower once stood.
The diagonal route to the riverfront was actually laid through the streambed of May’s Creek c. 1847, when recently-privatized M.C.R.R. moved its terminus to the riverfront from Campus Martius. The former creek bed became a naturally-occurring, depressed railroad right-of-way.
All of the relatively-surface-level trackage southeast of the tunnel portal has been abandoned, but the route still has some potential – as part of a rapid transit line, connecting downtown Detroit with Metro Airport, and / or another pedestrian / cyclist limited-access rail-trail, like The Dequindre Cut Greenway on Detroit's east side. Canadian Pacific Railway freight trains still make their way across the river, far below.
The bottom edge of the photograph shows the top of a reinforced-concrete signal bridge, built over the double-track tunnel approach. Four bolts embedded in the concrete (left) awaited the installation of a semaphore signal over the north / upstream / westbound track. Later, single-lens searchlight signals replaced the semaphores – later still, the sagging signal bridge was removed.
An out-of-focus part of the truss bridge carrying Porter Street over the tracks (lower-left corner) is also visible.
DPC shopped and hand-tinted this photograph – it became the basis for several photo-postcards. A version of this image is the centerpiece of a “Souvenir of Detroit” plate, currently on display in the window of the A.C. Dietsch Souvenir Shop, located in Detroit Historical Museum’s Streets of Old Detroit exhibit (photo retrieved from www.Shorpy.com, also available as DPC Collection photo det 4a23701, accessible from www.LOC.gov).
West Portal
East Portal 

This route also used to serve the Michigan Central Station.

Update:
Benjamin Gravel shared Detroit Historical Society's post
On July 1, 1910, the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel was completed under the Detroit River. This postcard notes that it was constructed at a cost of $8,500,000 and is 1 3/8 miles in length.
Peter Dudley added eight photos as comments
Stephen Phillips the tunnel was powered by electric locomotives from its being built ...... Diesel electrics replaced them when steam was retired ...

(new window) I recommend you skip to about 2:50. You can see the notches they put in the left tunnel to clear autoracks. I wonder if it can also handle double-stacks.


Detroit Daley has an article on the tunnel. The link for this article was shared by Peter Dudley.
Ross Gray commented on Peter's share
Tunnel section being floated down the St. Clair River
Peter Dudley posted
A "Pesha" photograph (no. 783) shows the Detroit portal and descending approach to the Michigan Central Railroad Detroit River Tunnel as it neared completion, c. 1910. The Detroit tunnel entrance was inserted directly under the long-gone Vermont Street Overpass, without disturbing the truss span.
Mr. Pesha's numbered images provide an excellent chronology of tunnel construction, from c. 1906 through July 1, 1910 (when the tunnel was completed).

Dave Beach caught a ferry of tall autoracks being unloaded on the Windsor side.

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