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Edition #100, April 15, 2009

Another World…in Another Time

Photographer: George Hamlin

                                                                                                             Photo by George Hamlin

Another World…in Another Time

From the perspective of 2009, what’s depicted here seems more akin to fantasy than reality.  What’s remarkable about the accompanying photo is not its composition or subject matter, but the fact that it was made in 1996, without fear of being ejected from the property or even arrested.  Perhaps just as startling, in today’s terms, our presence elicited friendly greetings from employees passing by in the performance of their duties.

The reason for this goodwill?  Both Todd and I were in possession of bright orange stickers labeled “Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad Company Visitor’s Pass”, obtained via a visit to the yard office upon our entry to the LS&I’s Eagle Mills facilities.  Once, apparently, such items were relatively common; now, it’s doubtful that they can be obtained at very many locations, if at all. 

It’s certainly understandable why many roads have had to restrict access severely for safety/insurance reasons.  And the aftermath of September 11, 2001 only added to the “lockdown” mentality.  Even in 1996, the obligation to pay careful attention to your personal safety was not relieved by the possession of an LS&I pass, however.  Not to have done so in an environment where even alighting at a public grade crossing could be an unnerving experience, due to the presence of ball bearing-like iron pellets on the ground would have been foolish, to say the least. 

The LS&I that we visited was a heavy-duty railroad operating in an industrial environment, which could have been sufficient cause even in those times to have said “enough” to the idea of being a gracious host to visitors.  Fortunately they hadn’t, and a look at the Harriman Safety Awards on the walls of the road’s headquarters at 105 East Washington Street in downtown Marquette later that day suggested that the professionals running the operation had been able to mix their serious business with our pleasure without compromising safety.

Thus, a belated “thanks” is certainly warranted.  Since we have subsequently had to accept a more distant view of many of railroading’s more interesting locations, it’s nice to look back on a time and place where responsible individuals were still welcome on the property.  Thanks again, LS&I!

George Hamlin

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