Greenfield Village Perimeter Railroad: Adding Elements

Over the years, the number of locomotives began to grow. In 1979 the Edison Institute obtained a 1927 Plymouth Gasoline-Mechanical locomotive. The locomotive, built by the Fate-Root-Heath Company of Plymouth, Ohio, had been used to shuttle coal cars at the Mistersky Power Station in Detroit (The Mistersky plant was run by the City of Detroit Power and Light Department until 2010 when it was sold to DTE). It was to be used at Greenfield Village shuttling locomotives and rolling stock.

In 1993 the Edison Institute added a fourth engine to the Perimeter Railroad program. This 1942, 50-ton diesel electric locomotive was manufactured by General Electric in Erie, Penn. It was first used at the United States Naval Ammunition Depot in Charleston, S.C., to shuttle ammunition to the Navy ships during World War II.

1942 G.E. Diesel-Electric locomotive

This 1942 G.E. Diesel-Electric locomotive was originally used to shuttle ammunition at the Naval Weapons Station in Charlston, S.C. It is used today to shuttle rolling stock.

The Edison Institute obtained the G.E. locomotive from the Luria Brothers & Co in Ecorse, Mich., where it was being used to switch scrap cars. It was to be used in Greenfield Village to shuttle cars and fill in for the steam locomotives when necessary.

The Detroit & Mackinac Railway Caboose

1912 Detroit & Mackinac Railway caboose

This circa 1912 Detroit & Mackinac Railway caboose was donated by the D & M in 1979. For a few years it was used as an operational member of the Perimeter Railroad.

This Detroit & Mackinac caboose, originally built circa 1912, was probably in service until 1964 when caboose service was ended by that railroad. After its railway service ended, this caboose was displayed in Tawas City Park for five years. The caboose was then taken back to the D & M shops were it was restored and made a prominent display in their own museum.

In 1979 D & M donated the caboose, three other cars and a 1914 Baldwin locomotive to The Henry Ford.

Greenfield Village Water Tower

This Greenfield Village Water Tower is a 39,000-gallon replacement for the original 14,000-gallon water tower. The original water tower was a gift from the New York Central System and was installed in the mid 1950s.

When the D & M caboose (currently undergoing restoration in the Roundhouse) first arrived at Greenfield Village, it was used as an operational member of the Perimeter Railroad program. When in use it was attached behind the regular passenger cars and for a special price guests could ride in the enclosed car and purchase snacks to eat along the way.

The Greenfield Village Water Tower

Between the Smiths Creek Depot and the Roundhouse stands an impressive red structure (Figure 9). That structure is the Greenfield Village Water Tower.

The original water tower for Greenfield Village’s railroads was a 1943 gift (Accession 43.36.1) to Henry Ford from the New York Central System. The water tower had been used inside Michigan Central Railroad’s Bay City Junction repair facility in Detroit. The 14,000-gallon water tower was installed in the same location as our current tower sometime in the mid 1950s. Since there was no operational railroad until 1971, it was not functional but part of the Smiths Creek exhibit.

An Oct. 12, 1971, memo indicates the water tower was to be inspected, caulked and repaired as needed for “Perimeter Railroad” operation.

The Michigan Central tower was used for train operations until 1993 when it had become deteriorated to the point it was no longer practical to maintain it. In 1993 a new 39,000 gallon water tower was purchased. The new tower was supplied in kit form from the Rosenwach Tank Company of Long Island City, N.Y.

Greenfield Village water column

This water column, across from Firestone Station, is one of two supplied water by the Greenfield Village Water Tower.

The old tower was disassembled and the new one was constructed on the same foundation. This tower is still used today to supply water directly to our steam locomotives or through two water columns. The water tower is supplied by city water that is conditioned by two large softener units in the basement of the Smiths Creek Station.

The Firestone Water Column

Water Columns were used to supply water to steam locomotives in areas where space is too limited to have a water tower. This unit (Accession: 2002.171.1) was made by The American Valve and Meter Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Firestone water column and one outside the DT&M roundhouse (accession: 93.204.1) are connected to the water tower by pipe. The one pictured is representative of columns produced by American Valve and Meter between 1925 and 1955.

Don LaCombe is Supervisor of the Transportation and Crafts Program at The Henry Ford

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