Saturday, September 24, 2011

Models From My Eighties Detroit & Mackinac Memories

Detroit & Mackinac N5 caboose and Alco C425M locomotive:
 Modeling my memories of a ride behind the best-looking diesel I can think of
July, 1981: I was a bored teenage dirtbag, driving my parents crazy because I was bored on a boring family vacation with my boring family in boring old Northern Michigan, with two things on my fevered adolescent mind: girls and trains.

Of course, no teenage boy wants parental 'assistance' with girls, but my my Presbyterian minister stepfather is still able to smoke out trains and other train enthusiasts wherever he goes. One of his Michigan-based minister colleagues pointed us in the direction of a round-robin group of railfans and model railroaders.

We drove up to Cheboygan, Michigan for a meeting of the group.  Before the kick off of slide shows and running of model trains, the gang filed out and walked over to the nearby Detroit & Mackinac yard to watch the sunset departure of a southbound freight, mostly boxcars loaded with diapers from the local Procter & Gamble plant.

Two D&M Alco C425Ms, freshly shopped and painted by GE, were on the point--exotic locomotives with a flashy but tasteful paint scheme, followed by 50 or so boxcars and an ex-Pennsy N5 caboose. The D&M train snaked out of the yard, and that old caboose stopped in front of our railfan group.

"You guys wanna ride down the line?" hollered the conductor.  One of the group instantly volunteered to drive his station wagon down to Topinabee, Michigan to bring us all back up to the meeting in Cheboygan. 

We piled on the ancient caboose and rode 20 or so miles on down to Topinabee.  It was an awesome, unexpected treat to ride in a grungy old second hand caboose behind the best looking locomotives in the US--almost as exciting as hot Detroit girls also on boring family vacations in Northern Michigan!

My D&M train ride is among my most cherished railroad memories, and it was made possible by Jim Uttley, my stepfather, whose persistence and patience I have come to admire--especially now that I have had two teenage boys of my own.  The HO models--that's an Atlas C425, a Bowser N5 caboose, and Athearn boxcar--are my modest commemoration of a memorable evening with family and trains.