MICHIGAN AuSABLE VALLEY RAILROAD
230 S. ABBE ROAD
FAIRVIEW, MI 48621
Closed for Maintenance, Repairs, and Upgrades until Memorial Day Weekend 2020
First, I apologize for taking so long to post an update. I have sat down to do this several times over the last couple of weeks and just got to depressed to finish it. I never dreamed this would happen when buying the railroad from the Schrader's last May.
Second, what has happened to the wood on the trestles is no ones fault. Nature just took it's course and insects damaged the oak beams from the inside where the damage was hidden. We hired a building inspector that looked at the trestles and the tunnel before we purchased the railroad and he reported no issues. I want everyone to know this was not an issue of neglect or poor maintenance. Howard Schrader, architect and builder of the railroad, had the trestles designed by a professional engineer, used the best materials available at the time of construction, and was meticulous at maintaining the railroad and it's equipment. I could never afford to actually pay Howard Schader what the railroad cost him to build in time, labor, and cost of the equipment. Most people have no idea what something like this would cost to recreate today. I do because I was looking at building one in Texas before I saw that the MAVRR was for sale. For instance, before the tarrif on Asian steel went into effect, one foot of a railroad this scale cost about $50 just in materials. That is $269K per mile plus time and labor. Now that is even higher today. We have had a few comments on Facebook as to why we do not buy American steel rail. I would love to except none is produced here. The MAVRR uses 12 lb/yd rail that was common in small mines now only found in Asia countries. Mines like you see in old Western movies. And only China and Japan produce this size rail. So it is only imported by a few sources for use with small cranes, some of which have stopped importing it because not many people buy it in the first place in the USA.
The process to redesign the trestles, and obtain approval of the redesign from the state of Michigan, has taken much longer than I anticipated. The design was finished at the end of March and approval from the state was obtained at the end of April. I then needed to find about $50K to buy materials and complete the work. We applied for a loan but could not get one for this project. We are now in the process of getting our house in Texas on the market so we can get the money needed to complete the work. But we do not have time to do the job right and get the railroad open for this season. So our goal is now to be ready for next year.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we are going to have to replace to top half of both trestles. We are replacing the wood beams with steel that will last 100 years or more and will free from insect attack. We are also adding a walkway for an escape route should the train ever experience a problem while on the trestles. We will also add full guard rails in case a wheel jumps the main rails. This is a safety feature found on all modern large railroads. This will bring the trestles up to current amusement ride standards being proposed for new construction by the engineering organization that sets uniform standards for amusement rides in the USA. The engineer we selected actually is part of this organization. The state did not require this. We could have just kept the same design using wood beams and no escape route and then no engineering would be required. But since we want to change the original design, the state required us to have the new plans drawn up and certified by a professional engineer from their approved list. We felt the time and cost was worth it for the safety of our passengers and ourselves. I should note that this in no way should be taken as a criticism of the original trestle design that Howard Schrader paid another professional engineer to design 20+ years ago. Now that we know the type of wood needed to hold the weight of the train is subject to decay and attack by insects, we to move to steel beams just like the big railroads have. As we all know, standards change and evolve over time and lessons are learned as structures experience wear and tear. We are looking to the future with this project so this railroad keeps running for generations to come.
Sorry to disappoint everyone. We are disappointed as well. But safety has to be our top priority. Thanks for all of your support our first short season as new caretakers of the MAVRR. We look forward to a full season in 2020. If you purchased a season ticket in 2018, please stop by during the week and we would be glad to provide a refund. The Schrader's Railroad Catalog office is normally open from 9AM to 4PM Monday to Friday. I will post updates as they become available along with some progress photos. Have a great summer and please come see us next year.