Tipsico Lakeshore Railroad

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The Tipsico Lakeshore Railroad is a 7-1/4" gauge railroad in Oakland County, Michigan. It was built by Stephen and David Booth. It was founded in 1947, and Stephen Booth claims it is "the oldest continually operating model live steam railroad in the United States".


Stephen Booth

The Live Steamer, March-April 1951

Track Layout of the 1.5 mile run of the Tipsico Lakeshore Railroad, circa 2001.

The Tipsico Lakeshore Railroad is a 7-1/4 inch gauge outdoor miniature railroad built to a scale of 1-1/2 inches to the foot. This freight hauling system is located on the west shore of Lake Tipsico, six miles south of Fenton, Michigan. It is owned, built and operated by Stephen and David Booth of Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

December 21, 1946 marked the beginning of this pike. On that day the first freight car was purchased from Mr. Horace Shaw's defunct Whysall Light Railway. Despite its battered and rusted condition, this gondola, which has sides that open for unloading, was rebuilt in the railroads' Thornlea Shops in one week and has been inservice since the beginning of operations. Soon after the original car was bought Mr. Shaw sold his coal burning 4-6-2 "Pacific" to the newly founded railroad. It was shipped from the Grand Trunk Western Railway's Battle Creek, Michigan Depot, where it had been on display. Only minor repairs were necessary to ready this piece of motive power, No. 147, for service. Five more cars were also obtained from the Whysall Light Railway during the first year.

In early September, 1947, the first track was laid. A pre-fabricated steel garage had been erected during the summer for an enginehouse. Into it go two yard tracks, one going over a pit to facilitate work on the under-sides of the locomotives. The yard tracks enter the mainline thru a leading track. The two switches required were rebuilt from those purchased from Mr. Shaw. Details of track construction are as follows:

  • Rail - 8 pound steel
  • Ties 2"x4"x16" Pine drilled for spikes before pressure treatment with No. 8 distillate oil
  • Spikes - 1/4"x1/4"x2" steel railroad spikes
  • Ballas - 1/2" crushed Limestone

Soon after the yard at Lakeview was completed, No. 247, a diesel type road locomotive was put into service. Designed and built to pull work trains, this engine has not been completely satisfactory, although no insurmountable problems have been encountered. Tentative plans call for scrapping it in near future. It is powered by a 3/4 h.p. Briggs-Stratton engine which drives by belts to the front truck through a 1935 Pontiac transmission.

During the period from January 1948 to the present time many interesting projects have been completed. Among these are a tank car, automobile car and two unit diesel type locomotive, a 32 foot two span inverted steel truss bridge, water tank and standpipe, signal tower which houses the water supply pump, train order semaphore signal and a car barn with a capacity for 16 cars. A coaling station, ashpit and steel trestle will be built next.

At present, the Tipsico Lakeshore Railroad consists of about 1200 feet of track, 2 switches, 1 bridge and 2 buildings. The following is a list of motive power and rolling stock.

  • Locomotives
    • No. 147, 4-6-2 Pacific coal burning steam
      • Length of engine & tender: 10 feet 10 inches
      • Weight in working order: 1 ton
      • Driver diameter: 10 inches
      • Cylinders: 2-1/2 inches by 4 inches
      • Steam pressure: 140 p.s.i.
      • Tubes: 29 one inch O.D.
      • Starting tractive force: 217.5 pounds
    • No. 247, 1 unit Alco "diesel" gasoline burning
      • Length: 5 feet
      • Weight in working order: about 300 pounds
      • Driver diameter: 4 inches
      • Starting tractive force: 40 pounds
    • No. 348, 2 unit Fairbanks-Morse "diesel" gasoline burning
      • Length overall: 16 feet
      • Weight in working order: about 1 ton
      • Driver diameter: 4 inches
      • Starting tractive force: 300 pounds
  • Rolling Stock
    • 47101 - Flat car
    • 47201 - Gondola (sides open, removable V bottom for dumping dirt etc)
    • 47202 - Mill gondola (3 seats, 1 removable)
    • 47103 - Gondola (ends open for ballasting)
    • 47104 - Gondola
    • 47305 - Flat car (interchangeable stakes or sides & ends, air brakes)
    • 47406 - Tank car (removable spray bar for weed killing, pressure system for tank, air brakes)
    • 48207 - Mill gondola (2 seats)
    • 40709 - Automobile car

The long range plans of the Tipsico Lankeshore Railroad are indefinit, but a pike with about 3/4 mile of track is not improbable. The land over which the road is begin built is extremely rough and grades of 3% are frequently required in spite of deep cuts & high fills. Track laying is a difficult and length job.

The goal is to have realistic operation over whatever track is complete. Time is the big factor.

The Chicago group of Light Railroaders, including Bruce Achor, John Ingles, Bill Park and Walter Johnston, visited the Tipsico Lakeshore Railroad for two days back in August 1950 to start installation of a "Y" at one terminal. In those two days, two switches and most of the "Y" track were laid. Also a 16 foot timber bridge was built and 16 carloads of earth were hauled for fill.

Not all was work, however. Soon after the four arrived late on a Friday, No. 348 our two-unit Fairbanks-Morse type diesel (actually gasoline burning) was put into service pulling eight cars over the 1200 foot mainline. This was our first try at night operations. Switch lights were turned on and lanterns issued to brakemen. Operated from 11 P.M. until 1 A.M. without a mishap of any kind.

ON Saturday, No. 348 was used as motive power on the work extras, pulling loads of earth, ties, spikes, tools, etc. Next day, No. 147, the coal burning Pacific, was substituted as motive power on the work trains. Bruce, Bill, Walter and John all got their turn at the throttle, and Bruce tried out his steam driven air pump which he had brought with him by connecting it to an unused steam line.

Work now under way in the shops of Tipsico Lakeshore includes more cars and a caboose and an air operated dump car and finishing touches to a spreader ditcher plower attachment to be mounted on one of the flat cars.

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