About the Author and MichiganRailroads.com | RRHX
Dale Berry is the author and editor of MichiganRailroads.com, a project he began in 2001.
I was born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan during the waning years of the great New York Central System, which ran nearby my Springwells Park neighborhood. On Sunday's, my father, Jim Berry took me and my three brothers to see trains. My dad, who was a school administrator with a doctorate in education was a "closet" railfan. His favorite train-watching location he called the "Brandon-Brandon Bridge", a name he made up to make life more interesting for his boys. It was actually the crossing of the Chesapeake & Ohio's large steel bridge over the New York Central's main line near Wyoming Avenue at John Kronk Street at the Detroit-Dearborn border. Those visits picqued my early interest in trains.
Our neighborhood had a park along the NYC main line at a place called "Town Line", a signal station at Greenfield Road at the west end of NYC's Detroit terminal in Dearborn. Many neighborhood kids would visit Town Line and I became very interested in how the railroad operated. These were days when the railroads tolerated visitors and we could sit in listening to the dispatcher phone circuit and the railroad radio (which was fairly new at the time). I learned about train orders and knotting twine for hooping orders up to the train crews. I threw many a switch for the operator and soaked up the complexities of moving trains on a high-speed, double-track main line in and out of the busy Detroit terminal.
I've always been interested in history, particularly industrial history and transportation systems which supported it. Our family had a summer cottage in northern Michigan and there would always be a trip to Sault Ste. Marie to see the Soo Locks in operation. Large ore freighters would bring coal north and iron ore back south. Our cottage was near the Detroit & Mackinac railway and my dad would take us to the depot in Onaway to see the southbound Cheboygan to Alpena local freight come through with boxcars full of diapers which were manufacturered in Cheboygan.
In high school, I discovered girls, and getting through school and into a real job put a pause on my hobby for about ten years. I got married and my wife and I had five wonderful children. I became as a police officer, then a paramedic, and finally became a healthcare administrator. Eventually, my interested in railroads resumed.
Around 2000, I began collecting timetables, maps and photos again, filling file cabinets full of stuff. I decided to create a website (michiganrailroads.com) to put it all in one place. But I also made it available to the public and people have been extremely encouraging and supportive. The site now has about 4,000 pages and 6,000 photos. At last check, about 3.5 million people have visited the site.
The original website was written in HTML, which worked out well until HTML got complicated. Unfortunately, with family and work duties, I couldn't keep up with the learning curve. I realized that I needed to convert the site to a content-management system and that required a learning curve. But that has now been completed, and adding content will be much easier.