Clark Street crossing, Southern Michigan Railroad, Clinton, MI

The Southern Michigan Railroad Society signed the contract to purchase Conrail’s Clinton Branch between Lenawee Junction and Clinton, Michigan in 1985. At this time there were no full-size trains on the line, and operations were handled using railroad motor cars.

One of the first tasks of the Society’s volunteers was to start work on “backdating” the line, restoring remnants from the line’s earlier days. Ancient, rusty LS&MS switchstands were scraped and painted. Signs along the line were restored.

One major project was to replace the modern crossbucks in Clinton and Tecumseh with replicas of the traditional wooden crossbucks used by the NYC. We had a pattern—an original crossbuck that stood at a crossing on the north side of Tecumseh.

Society founding member Dale Pape undertook the work. Boards were cut, and a stencil was prepared based on a tracking of the original crossbuck. Dale painted the boards, stenciled on the lettering, and went out along the line to install the wooden crossbucks and paint the posts at the same time.

Later, after this photo was taken, “N.Y.C.R.R.” lettering was added to the posts as well.

In retrospect, the project probably flew in the face of regulations and standards, even at the time. However, no complaints or citations were received (even during an MDOT inspection), and the wooden crossbucks remained in place until at least 1989. Newer photographs show modern reflective crossbucks and replacement of all the posts with lighter wooden posts meeting modern standards.

For a while, though, a reminder of the past returned to the Clinton Branch.

Postscript, 13 February 2024:

After publishing this post, I was contacted by Dale Pape, who worked on the installation of these crossbucks.

He wrote: About a year ago, a friend shared a garage sale that had “antique” railroad crossbucks. From the photos of the garage sale items, I recognized them as the ones I had made for this project! I ended up buying them to possibly place on a mock crossing here at my home

He kindly sent these photos.



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