Hello from Detroit and the new Hostel Detroit that is a nice small youth hostel!
I arrived in the city yesterday evening on a real railroad adventure. It started off on the Metra Union Pacific North Line (an unusual left-handed railroad) down to the Ogilvie Transportation Center at 9:03am on the one departure that originates at the Highland Park Station. From there I hiked across the loop (took me about 25 minutes) to the Millennium Park Station where I bought my South Shore Line ticket, that looked like a theater ticket with that type of ticket stub (your receipt though is the smaller, not bigger half) and took the 10:45 departure to Michigan City. The South Shore Line is the last real interurban railroad left and it was a fun, somewhat scenic ride to where I was dropped off in the center of 11 Street at 12:19. This comment is quite literal, the train runs down the middle of the street and this stop is right in the middle of it with a special traffic light to stop traffic so passengers can get off without getting run over. My midday train had just two cars that reminded me of Septa Silverliners or NJT Arrows except they had a center door in addition to the door traps in the vestibules at each end of the cars, and only 2 by 2 instead of 3 by 2 seating.
From there I thought I had only an hour and bought a terribly bland sandwich from a local restaurant before getting a few more South Shore Line photos of a westbound train. At that point I went up to the AmShak station with just a bus shelter for waiting passengers. The original station has been turned into a restaurant and I did wander inside to see about waiting there but they were strictly a restaurant and made it clear I couldn’t just sit and wait for the train inside on the first cold day I’ve been in in fall. They did though have an old New York Central Michigan City sign and other railroad memorabilia.I checked my iPhone as the train got later and later upon its departure from Chicago, getting cold with just a bus shelter, with two other passengers joining me to take the train. Eventually the train came in at 2:05pm CDT a consist of six cars, 4 Horizon Coaches, a Horizon Cafe-Buisiness and 1 Amfleet-I Coach sandwiched between two P42s.
I got on and was directed to a familiar place a seat in an Amfleet-I where I was immediately struck with the lack of legroom (this happens every time I’ve gotten used to SuperLiners or Amfleet-IIs) and a quite dirty window so I did not take too many photos. The train reminded me of the Vermonter with the seats in a split facing direction layout (half forwards, half backwards) even though the train had no directional changes (like the Keystone and Vermonter) en-route but I guess the staff at the terminuses don’t want to rotate them. It was quite crowded as we went down Amtrak owned track going extremely fast to Kalamazoo where the speed and smoothness of the ride deteriorated on NS-owned track for a slower ride to Detroit. After Battle Creek, the one crew change point and quick fresh air stop at an intermodal station under construction, my car emptied out significantly and at least for the few getting on at stations like Albion, MI got a bit of a commuter train feeling with the conductors knowing the regular riders.
Eventually with the onset of darkness we finally got to Detriot at 7:53pm EDT, and for the first time in my travels wished I had taken a taxi to my nice and safe feeling youth hostel and not the two decrepit buses on which I was convinced I was going to be mugged but did arrive safely and was just asked for money by about 5 panhandlers.
Today Detroit (and its transit system) redeemed itself for me. It feels perfectly fine and safe during the daytime. I spent my one full day here (the hostel was full on Saturday night) doing a station to station of the 13 stop, 3 mile unidirectional people mover that uses Mark-I Cars around downtown (the same cars are used by the original Vancouver Sky Train Line and Toronto’s Scarborough RT). The line was supposed to be a circulator for other transit projects that never happened and is now an expensive white elephant. All the stations though do have artwork and many are inside buildings so it was an interesting system to railfan. I also went on the free GM Renaissance Center Tour which got me up to the restaurant on the 70-something floor. I ended the day with a bus ride out to Dearborn to photograph the Amtrak Station there and also got lost trying to see if I could get a few photos of the special events Greenfield Village Station at the Henry Ford. My quest was unsuccessful.