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Jan. 1, 1949 Ann Arbor Railroad leaves receivership without foreclosure. (Moody’s)

The Owosso Argus-Press March 14, 1949

Retired Engineer Recalls Worst Winter On the Road

While dramatic accounts of some of the most overwhelming problems in the history of railroading continue to come in from the storm-stricken West, old-timers on the Ann Arbor Railroad are quietly enjoying one of Michigan's most problem-free winters in years.

But they're not doing any crowing yet. With all due gratitude for the ease of operations thus far through the winter, they carefully knock wood when they recall that Sunday will be the 27th anniversary of the onset of probably the worst storm they ever had to battle on the line.

D. J. Gareau, general superintendent, characterizes this winter as “perhaps not exceptionally good – we had to have the snowplow out once, and that was all we needed to do last winter too.”

By contrast with the unprecedented conditions being met by western roads, however, he said,

there is no question that the line here has been exceedingly fortunate this winter.

Operations have met no heavy interference from weather so far, he said. He warned against premature self – congratulations, however, recalling that the worst storm of the year in early 1947 came late in March.

That storm, which brought the troublesome “sugar snow” to Owosso, bogged down trains for a few hours at various points along the line and slowed operations generally.

Compared to the record-breaker that started March 13, 1922, however, old-timers declare, it was hardly worth noticing.

John Downey, 210 North Oak street, who retired from service on the line eight years ago after 37 years as an engineer and four earlier years as an fireman, tells graphically the story of that storm.

He left Owosso March 13 on his regular run to Cadillac, he says, and didn't get back here for 16 days. It was snowing hard and getting harder as the freight rolled north, he recalls. There was some delay at Marion – and by the time the train reached Cadillac the storm had struck in full fury.

As an index of the volume of snow that had accumulated by the end of the storm, he says, some who took the trouble to notice observed that it had snowed at least some part of every day for 42 days before the siege was over.

The worst of it, he said, hit the 100-mile stretch between Frankfort and Lake George. Over some sections of the northern end of the line it was more than a week before passenger trains were able to get through.

He bucked through back to Mt. Pleasant behind a plow the following day, Downey says, driving the lead engine of a double-header with five passenger coaches on it.

Under the terrific strain of pulling through the snow, he says, the draw-bar on the passenger engine behind him, with Frank Clark at the throttle – gave way.

The smaller engine had to be shifted around ahead of its heavier brother. It was not long after the shopmen's strike, he says, and the equipment was in very poor condition.

When the crew tried to couple in the steam line from the freight locomotive to provide heat for the shivering passengers huddled in the heat-less cars for hours, he said, while he and others of the crew struggled to replace the outworn hose and get the balky fitting back into operating order. But the train finally got through.

Meanwhile the storm continued unabated, piling drifts across the line and bring operations near the point of complete impossibility.

That Saturday, the 16th, Downey was one of the engineers on a passenger train composed of four engines and four coaches headed for Frankfort from Mt. Pleasant, he said, and carrying among other things, two corpses bound for Frankfort, two insane men headed for commitment at Traverse City, a huge number of baby chicks and a couple of dogs.

Cadillac was as far as it could get after a terrific battle with snow, he said. It was late the following week before trainmen could get the bodies through to their final resting place – and the two maniacs had to be lodged for several days in the jail at Cadillac – where fuel for heating was such a problem that railroad men were requisitioning it from the yards to have heat in their rooming houses.

Somebody put most of the baby chicks atop a steam heater in a well-meaning effort to keep them from freezing, he said, and killed them all.

I never did find out what happened to the dogs,” he said, “Somebody told me they fed the dead chicks to them to keep them going.”

It was at the end of that trip, in Cadillac, he said, that he had one startling experience. He was trying to get some oil down into the bearings of his locomotive, he said, from atop what appeared to be a huge snowbank in the yards, hemming the engine between high white walls.

His foot went through the snow at one point, he declared, and he discovered to his amazement that he was standing on top of a car full of coal.

To punch through the stubborn drifts at various points on the line, he said, a snowplow was supported by three heavy freight locomotives behind.

The mammoth quadruple rig, he said, would drive through the drifts until stalled completely. Then the strange train would back a few hundred yards, take a flying start and hit the packed snow with throttle wide open, smashing into it with pile-driver blows that sent clouds of snow hurtling hundreds of feet to either side of the line.

What amazed me the most,” he said, “was that the plow was able to stand it without falling to pieces. It hung together until the way was cleared to Frankfort nearly a week later. Then it was another week – about the first of April – before the snow was down enough to allow operations to get back to normal.”

So the railroaders here, while grateful for the blessing so far granted in a mild winter, still have their fingers carefully crossed – and won't do any crowing over their less fortunate brothers in the West.

This will eliminate all passenger train service on the Ann Arbor Railroad for Milan. This move will take place in approximately two weeks.

At that time special mail buses will transport mail to Milan from Toledo daily, it is believed

The Owosso Argus-Press April 14, 1949

BYRON – A second grass fire caused excitement on the R. E. Sheldon farm at the wesy village limits, Tuesday afternoon. That morning, a spark from a pasing Ann Arbor train resulted in the burning off of one acre and menaced a hive of bees nearby before being extinguished. That afternoon, Sheldon attempted to burn off the rest of the field and the fire got out of control, again menacing the bees before the Byron Fire Department extinguished it.

The Owosso Argus-Press Sept. 13, 1949

Floyd Leffingwell, 46 Years With Ann Arbor Railroad Retires Today

Floyd Leffingwell, 629 East Comstock street, is not superstitious but he has had many 13's in his life.

On April 13, 1903, Leffingwell began working in the yards of the Ann Arbor Railroad at Durand. Four months later – August 13 to be exact – he became a member of a train crew. He was appointed as fireman on engine No. 13. To complicate matters, the appointment was on Friday the 13th.

Leffingwell was made a locomotive engineer in 1909, but this time the chain was broken. His promotion was made on Aug. 14. This did not alternate his life too much because he has at least one more 13. When he brought in passenger train No. 52 from Frankfort, it was his last run over 46 years of service.

The position of engineer suited Leffingwell perfectly because his hobby is traveling. He estimated that he traveled about 3,900 miles a month on his job. This would be 46,800 miles for one year. If his milage were added for his his 40 years as engineer, it would come to almost 75 trips around the world. His vacations are spent traveling throughout the country.

Leffingwell was born in Holt in 1884. His parents moved to Mt. Pleasant when he was only two years old. He grew up in Mt. Pleasant and attended the Crowley country school two and one-half miles south of Mt. Pleasant. Later, he attended the Mt. Pleasant High School.

He lived in Durand from 1903 to November, 1905, when the division was moved to Owosso. He was married to Grace Louise Smith in Mt. Pleasant, May 15, 1906, and they have resided in Owosso since. Leffingwell was engineer on freight trains until transferred to passenger trains three years ago. Runs were round trips from Owosso to Frankfort and Owosso to Toledo.

Only once in his work, did Leffingwell suffer injury. It was sent with and engine to clear for a regularly scheduled train. The tracks were covered with ice and snow. When he approached Lucas, Leffingwell thought his engine was tipping and jumped out. The engine remained upright but leffingwell suffered a broken left leg.

Leffingwell has not had too much time to think about activities after retirement. First, he would like to do some fishing. After that, Mr. and Mrs. Leffingwell will do some traveling.

Toledo Blade Sept. 16, 1949

Ann Arbor Railroad Plea Hearing Is Set

Another application of the Ann Arbor Railroad to end its passenger service between Toledo and Frankfort, Mich., will be heard Sept. 22 and 23 in Lansing, Mich., by the Michigan Public Service Commission, an official said today.

Frank G. Maxwell, traffic manager, said that the railroad's application last years was denied on the technical grounds the war was not over. This ruling has been waived for the new hearing, he added.

The Owosso Argus-Press Oct. 6, 1949

BANNISTER – Miss Betty Nixon is working at the Ann Arbor Railroad depot at Whitmore Lake this week.

Nov. 5, 1949 - Further interpreting the 1940 amendments to the Interstate Commerce Act's through-routes provisions, the Interstate Commerce Commission has decided a case in favor of an originating road thus according controlling weight to the requirement that it give "reasonable preference to the carrier by railroad which originates the traffic." The decision, embodied in a report on reconsideration in the No. 29741 proceeding, reversed a previous decision by the commission's Division 2, which had prescribed through routes and joint rates short-hauling the Ann Arbor on grain moving from points in Michigan through Toledo, Ohio, to destinations in central territory. Division 2's chairman, Commissioner Aitchison, filed a dissenting opinion, in which Commission Chairman Mahaffie and Commissioner Splawn joined.

The case involved a complaint filed by operators of grain mills located on lines of the New York Central at three Michigan points -- Clinton, Tecumseh, and Adrain. They by some of their grain from points on the Ann Arbor, and they sought for this grain through-route and joint rate arrangements over and NYC - Ann Arbor route. This would end the latter's haul at Pittsfield Junction, Mich., 40 miles short of Toledo, the point to which it carries grain of like origin and destination under its present joint-rate arrangements.

Previously, the report had discussed the potential effect on the Ann Arbor of the loss of grain traffic. That road, it said, "in a short line, 293.3 miles," which "does not serve any large industrial cities," and which operated at deficits in 1946 and a portion of 1947, "the latest periods for which results are of record." The report went on to note that the road restricts the routing on other commodities as well as grain, so that it will perform the entire haul from points on its line through Toledo, particularly as its line constitutes the direct route."

"Diversion of the grain over the route through complainants' milling points," the commission continued, "would reduce substantially the earnings of the Ann Arbor on such traffic. For example, on an 80,000-pound shipment of grain from Vernon, Michigan shipping point on the Ann Arbor railroad. To Cleveland, Ohio, over the direct route of the Ann Arbor, through Toledo, that carrier would receive $84.48 as its division of the aggregate charges, as compared with only $38.02 over the route through complainants' milling points."

Two trains a day passenger service was reinstated Tuesday by the Ann Arbor Railroad Company, following a curtailment February 12 of the trains, the cause being the coal strike. This return of another train eliminates the need for a bus service from Toledo daily with mail for the local post office. However, the return of the full service will be temporary. The road has been granted permission by the Michigan Public Service Commission to curtail passenger service north of Durand.

Toledo Blade Nov. 21, 1949

Late Arrival In Ann Arbor Laid To Rail Tie-Up At Toledo

Railroad Official Explains 7 special Trains Converged At Alexis Junction

A tie-up of special football trains on the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks just outside Toledo was blamed today for the late arrival of the Junior Chamber of Commerce excursion at the Ohio State – Michigan game Saturday afternoon.

The Junior Chamber's special, with 780 fans aboard, got into the parking yard beside the University of Michigan stadium after the kick-off, according to spokesmen for the railroad and the organization. Passengers complained that they got into the stadium too late for Michigan's touchdown.

Jack Hayes, JayCee official, said the train arrived at 2:07, or seven minutes after game time. The railroad, however, reported that its superintendent, D. J. Gareau, had clocked the train in at 2:01.

F. G. Maxwell, traffic manager of the Ann Arbor, explained today that seven special trains, including the Junior Chamber's, were using the Ann Arbor tracks through Toledo – were from Columbus, one from Akron and one from Cleveland.

The Toledo train, next to the last, was held up at Alexis Junction, just outside Toledo, while three of the Columbus trains moved in ahead, Mr. Maxwell declared. A road block apparently prevented the Toledo special from moving right ahead instead of waiting, he said, and the the first Columbus train was 30 minutes late.

The Owosso Argus-Press Dec. 31, 1949

1100 Employes Required to Keep Road Operating

Prospects for New Year Bright, Despite Strikes of 1949

Many factors, including strikes in major industries have during the year contributed to a general and quite substantial decline in total tonnage and volume by railroads. And The Ann Arbor Railroad, in common with most of the railroads in the nation, felt the effects of the lower level of traffic.

The peace overtures” now in motion in the coal industry, the last major industrial disturbance remaining to be settled, augurs improved prospects for general business and increased volume of goods for the railroads to move at the beginning of the new year, according to D. J. Gareau, superintendent.

The operations of a railroad entails literally “perpetual motion.” Transportation is movement, and the constant stream of goods from one place to another keeps wheels rolling day in and day out in all kinds of weather and under all varieties of conditions.

A railroad such as the Ann Arbor, operating in addition to it conventional land line of railroad, about equal mileage of water routes from Frankfort to four ports – Manitowoc and Kewaunee in Wisconsin and Menominee and Manistique, Michigan, – across Lake Michigan, has a fleet of five steel car ferries operating on fixed schedules daily between ports of call, to meet establish through “Manifest” freight schedules making connections with fixed schedules of connecting railroads at Eastern and Western junctions, providing integrated “through service” competing with and even bettering service available via all rail routes on which freight must move through oft congested terminals.

To operate and maintain this line of railroad over land and lake Michigan regularly requires the services of about 1100 employes, of whom between 300 and 400 are located in or work out of the Owosso Terminal, where the operating, dispatching headquarters are maintained.

Completion of heavy repairs to cabin structure of Streamer AA No. 5 involving entire rebuilding of cabins and bridge and pilot house, which work was started in 1948 at Manitowoc Shipbuilding Yards and completed with company forces during the winter months, after the vessel returned to service. These repairs have fitted the ship for a long time for carrying its share of across lake freight traffic and vacationing passengers with their autos and equipment to Northern Michigan and Wisconsin's increasing popular vacation land.

Eighteen track miles of new heavier steel rail was laid, replacing lighter rail. An interesting note in the laying of the rail was the employment of highly mechanized rail laying gang, which accomplished the whole job in 14 days, averaging better than one mile per day, the best day's performance being 451 39 foot rails or 1.7 track miles.

Forty thousand cubic yards, nearly 1,000 carloads, of washed gravel ballast were placed in the main track, and 300 carloads – 15,000 cubic yards – of cinders were used in re-ballasting and repairs. A new multiple power ballast tamping machine purchased this year was used with good results in carrying out the ballast program, the machine producing more uniform result than shovel tamping by manual labor or individual power tampers heretofore used.

Among other quantity materials used in 1949 track repairs program, were 48,000 creosoted ties; 18,000 angle (splice) bars; 35,000 tie plates; used between rail rails and ties to prevent excessive wear and cutting of ties; 24,000 rail anchors, to anchor rails and prevent creepage; plus large quantities of track spikes; track bolts and other track material.

New construction by company forces include: New water tank at Milan; new fireproof interlocking tower at Hallet (Toledo); toilet and shower and locker room at Ottawa Yard Toledo; new steel wheel shop at Owosso; new and larger water supply line to serve Owosso shops and facilities; new and larger water supply line to serve car ferries at Frankfort; underpass on relocated highway US 23 was constructed near Azalia in conjunction with the State Highway Department.

New equipment obtained to facilitate maintenance of way department includes: one Jeep with snow removal scoop and hoist; one concrete mixer; one weed mower; one discing machine; one multiple power tamper.

In the Owosso repair shops, where the heavy repairs to the to the road's motive power and car equipment is done, the improvement program completed this year included an new Universal tool grinder; a new car wheel press installed in the new and larger wheel shop, and an axle lathe was replaced. Coal conveyor equipment was installed in the stationary plant to handle coal from cars to the stoker, which feeds it into the fire boxes of the furnaces.

Sixty new covered hopper cars were acquired by the Ann Arbor Railroad in 1949 to fill the need for this type equipment in hauling of commodities in bulk that must be protected from weather, such as cement. Lime, soda products, etc. permitting The Ann Arbor to furnish cars for such movements to a greater extent than heretofore, thereby being in position to obtain greater volume of such traffic.

Ways and means of maintaining and improving service and developing traffic are constantly being sought by the road's Traffic Department, whose headquarters are located in Toledo. The Ann Arbor Railroad Traffic Department, with representatives in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Seattle, Minneapolis and Green Bay, is constantly on the alert to point out available sites for industries in the communities along its line and work in close cooperation with the Chambers of Commerce to that end.

H. P. Trieger, commercial agent in charge of the Owosso traffic office, and his assistant, G. E. Stange, as well as the officers and agents of the operating Department, are always glad to lend their best efforts and the facilities of the road's entire traffic organization in developing industrial projects. In this work The Ann Arbor officers gratefully acknowledge the cooperation and assistance of the Owosso Chamber of Commerce, through its active Industrial Committee and hard working secretary, Lawrence Bannan.

Railroading perhaps to a greater extent than any other large industry is actually performed by individual employes and “crews” scattered from one end of the road to the other performing their respective jobs day and night, indoors according to “rules and recommended practices” with a minium of direct supervision, and to these hundreds of people who keep the railroad running the officers wish to acknowledge their appreciation.

To its patrons and neighbors in Owosso and the communities it serves, the employes and officers express thanks for their patronage and assurance of the sincere desire of all the Ann Arbor people to serve their transportation needs in an acceptable manner.