The Summer 2016 Rail and Intermodal Transportation Summer Youth Program is now complete!
The Rail and Intermodal Transportation Summer Youth Program was hosted at the Michigan Tech campus July 17-23, 2016. After and introduction to the program on Monday morning we headed right out to Neguanee, MI to visit the Lake Superior and Ispheming Railroad (LS&I). While there we toured their locomotive and car shops, and spent some time in the cabs of two of the LS&I locomotives ... an unexpected treat for our students! We also got up close and personal with some of the maintenance of way equipment LS&I uses to maintain their tracks. We capped off the tour with a highrail trip from the Eagle Mills yard down to the ore docks in Marquette ... 11 miles of some of the most beautiful scenery in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, including the trestle over the Dead River[Photo from MichiganRailroads.com, http://www.michiganrailroads.com/MichRRs/Pictures/IndividualPhotos/101-110/Photo110D.htm]
On Tuesday morning we learned about track structure and built scale model track sections, and spent some time talking about high speed rail in the US and around the world. After lunch we talked about railroad operations, and used a pc based railroad simulator to get a feel for operating a locomotive. Then we collected our gear and hopped in our van for the four hour trip to Superior, WI, where we met up with our hosts from University of Wisconsin-Superior (UW-S)! UW-S has been an integral partner in the Rail and Intermodal Transportation program since its inception.
Wednesday dawned on Superior, with bright sunny skies and a tour of the BNSF 28th Street Yard and the associated shop facilities. This visit has been a center piece of the program, and gives the students a chance to interact with railroad personnel in a real railroad environment. After lunch we did a quick tour of the port facilities on Rice's Point in Duluth, MN including a visit to a recent train derailment site where we talked about derailment causes, and the ongoing recovery process. We then proceeded to the afternoon's main event, a tour of the Midwest Energy Coal Terminal in Superior. This terminal receives over 13 million tons of coal each year, mostly by train, and then transloads the coal to ships and trucks for distribution to users around the world. The plant features the fastest rotary coal car dumper in the world, capable of processing cars every 90 seconds. The terminal can hold two 123 car unit trains at the same time. We capped off Wednesday night with pizza party at the UW-S Wellness Center, where some students enjoyed the open gym and climbing wall, while others took a walking tour of Superior to do a little train watching.
Thursday morning featured a trip to the Halvor Lines trucking terminal, to learn about trucking operations and how they support rail operations. Students had the opportunity to climb up into the cab of a big rig, and see how the world looks from that perspective. They also got to operate a truck training simulator, and got a feel for driving a semi truck ... without the worry of actually damaging a big truck! We finished the mornings activities with a skyline tour and visit to Enger Park in Duluth, where students got an awesome view of the entire port complex, and the rail connections that serve it. One of the highlights or our stay in the Superior/Duluth region is always the visit to the Lake Superior RR Museum in Duluth. The visit included a trip on the North Shore Scenic Railroad. Although the weather for our trip was perfect, we got to see some of the damage caused by a fast moving thunder storm that knocked out power and downed trees across the region early on Thursday morning. After several hours touring the awesome collection of locomotives and cars in the museum we reluctantly boarded our van for the trip back to Houghton and Michigan Tech.
Friday was our final day of the program. We started out by watching the National Geographic video, Megastructures: Extreme Railway: China. The video covers the construction of Chinese railroad across the Tibet plateau, and was narrated by Dr. Pasi Lautala ... the director of the Rail Transportation Program at Michigan Tech. Pasi visited the class, answered questions, and gave his first hand impressions of the rail line and it's construction ... not to mention some very intersting insites into the filming process for the video! The morning continued with lessons on Urban Transit and Maglev Trains. After lunch we spent some time playing with a maglev track set up, then headed out for our final field excursion, a trip to the Hougton County Historical Museum and the Lake Linden and Torch Lake Railroad. While the museum is much smaller than the one in Duluth our students got to experience a steam engine in operation, and to talk with the Engineer. Our students were also impressed with the massive electric train model set-up that volunteers at the museum have been chipping away at for the last twenty years. We returned to the Tech campus, and wrapped up our program. Although sad to be finished, our students all agreed that the program was an awesome experience!
Watch our Website for an upcoming announcement on the Rail and Intermodal Transportation Summer Youth Program 2017!
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