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Archive for May, 2015

Despite the damp, cool spring weather, over the past couple of weeks I’ve finally been able to roll up a few miles on my bicycle.  One of the many interesting Detroit neighborhoods I ride through and explore on a regular basis is the Historic Milwaukee Junction. It’s a section of Detroit just northeast of the city’s bustling mid-town area. It is an old industrial area full of vintage buildings that are showing signs of life, with many of the old brick structures being converted to residential lofts and art galleries.

One of the most historic buildings in that neighborhood is the abandoned six-story Albert Kahn designed Fisher Body 21 manufacturing plant. That old industrial building stretches almost a city block along Piquette Street.

The historic Fisher Body 21 manufacturing plant

The historic Fisher Body 21 manufacturing plant

Interestingly, I was riding past the old plant a few days ago and discovered the steel rails being used in the construction of the M1 light rail project going in along Woodward Avenue. They were stacked on Piquette in front of the former plant in rows 4 or 5 high and 25 or so wide.  What was remarkable about them was their length. Ninety percent of the rails appear to be seamless and at least 110 feet long, if not longer. They virtually ran the length of the building.

The one piece M1 rails stretch a city block

The one piece M1 rails stretch a city block

Rails stacked along Piquette Street in front of the plant

Rails stacked along Piquette Street in front of the plant

I recognize that technology is in place allowing continuous lengths of rail or steel of all sizes. But the bigger mystery to me is, how did they get there? The narrow streets don’t seem wide enough for semi-trucks to be able to haul the long rails through there, let alone make the necessary tight corners found in that section of the city. The corners just don’t appear to be wide enough.

I understand portable type wheels can be placed along the length of the rails for hauling. However, it’s a nagging question to me as to how they made it to Piquette street to be stacked in front of the old plant, especially with the tight street corners found in that old industrial neighborhood.

Looking at them and their 110’ length that seems to go on forever, I wondered how they will be moved from their current location along Piquette Street west to Woodward for placement along the M-1 light rail system that is being built. It’s a straight shot along Piquette to Woodward, but they still have to be swung around to a north/south direction once there.

Manufacturer's numbers on the rails

Manufacturer’s numbers on the rails

I’ll be keeping my eye on these; hopefully I’ll be in that neighborhood when they are being moved to Woodward Avenue for placement.

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