Water Stations, Standpipes and Track Pans

Water stations were facilities which were used to replenish water tenders for steam engines.  The most common type of water station is a water tower.  But, there were other kinds of water stations, including standpipes and high speed track pans.

Water Towers.  Water towers were the most common source for filling locomotive tenders.  In early years, when locomotives would only go 10-15 miles between fillings, water towers were located in almost every town.  Later, they were used in larger railroad terminals.  Water towers were often accompanied by water treatment plants to remove the hardness.  This kept locomotives in better condition and allowed for normal boiling of water in the locomotive.

Standpipes.  Standpipes also filled locomotive tenders, but were tall water "spouts" which were seperated from the water tower or water source.  These were common as passenger terminals (to quickly fill locomotives from waiting passenger trains) which made seperation from the water tower necessary.  Standpipes were also common at large, engine service facilities.

Track Pans.  In Michigan and adjacent states, track pans were only used on the Michigan Central and the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern.  Placed about every forty miles, track pans were narrow pans filled with water which were mounted on ties, between the rails.  The pans were almost a mile long, and were filled with softened water.  Often times, track pans were located near lakes or rivers (such as the original Dexter pans, and the pans near Chelsea at Four Mile Lake [now CP-Lake on the NS Michigan line]).  Track pans also required steam heating in the winter to prevent freezing.  Locomotives reduced speed to about 40 mph and the fireman dropped a scoop into the pan to scoop up water.  When the tender was filled, it often overflowed with vigor, and the fireman pulled up the scoop.  This process allowed rapid refilling of water without stopping.  Click here for an interesting story about track pans.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, there were numerous water stations throughout Michigan.  Almost all towns that had locally based locomotives had water stations.  Also, water stations were located at intervals along a route (every 10 miles in early days, longer distances as the size of locomotive tenders increased).

The following locations had confirmed water stations:

Location Tower Standpipes Track Pans Notes/Source
Addison (LSMS) X [NYCtt1926]
Adrian (LSMS)  X [NYCtt1915]
Ahmeek  (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Airline Jct. (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Albion (LSMS) X [NYCtt1926]
Amasa (MILW) X [GB]
Amberg, WI (MILW) X [GB]  Tank west of depot.
Arcadian Jct. (S of)  (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Avery, MI (MCRR) X
Bessemer Jct. (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Blissfield (LSMS)  X [NYCtt1915]
Blueberry Jct. (E of) (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Brighton (DL&LM) X [COHS]
Brooklyn (LSMS) X [NYCtt1926]
Bryan, OH (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Calumet Jct. ( COPR) X     [CRORG] 16'x24', Steam, built 1903.
Channing (MILW) X [GB]. Located on the east leg of the wye, with the standpipe at the wye. (Coal dock was next to it).
Chelsea, MI (MCRR) X Pan at Four Mile Lake
Chesterton, IN (LSMS) X 1,400 feet long track pan. [LS]
Clarandon, MI (MC)   X X Track pan and standpipe. On the "air line".
Chilson, MI (AA) X [GTWHS-Cal/89]
Coldwater (LSMS)  X [NYCtt1915]
Coleman, WI X [GB]
Corunna, OH (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Crivitz, WI (MILW) X X [GB]. Pumphouse still exists and pump still works in 2003.
Delta (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Dexter, MI (MCRR) X Replaced by pan at Chelsea
Dupont Jct. (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Durand (GTW) X [GTWHS-Cal/89]
Eaton Rapids (LSMS) X [NYCtt1926]
Elkhart (LSMS) - 2 towers, 4+ 2 4+ [LS]
Ewen (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Goshen, OH (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Grant, MI (GRN&LS/PM) X [Russ Venlos] - still exists 2003. Built 1872.
Greenfield Village (GVRR) X [Exists-2001]
Grismore, OH (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Harrisville (DM) X [Remnants-1990's]
Hillsdale (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Houghton ( COPR) X     [CRORG] 16'x18' Steam, Built 1899.
Hudson (LSMS)  [NYCtt1926] X [NYCtt1926]
Iron Mountain (C&NW) X [GB]  Tank with 2 spouts at east end of yard between legs of wye.  (Antoine?)
Iron Mountain (MILW) X X [GB] Water column east of depot.
Ironwood (Soo) X [SOO-W/1996]
Jackson (MC) X
Jonesville (LSMS) X [NYCtt1926]
Kalamazoo Mosel Yard (GR&I) X
Keweenaw Bay (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Kendallville, OH (LSMS)  X [NYCtt1915]
Lake Gogebic (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Lake Mine, MI ( COPR) X     [CRORG] 16'x24' steam/gravity Built 1905
L'Anse (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Lansing (LSMS)  X [NYCtt1926]
Lawton, MI (MCRR) X
Litchfield (LSMS) X [LS-picture]
Manchester (LSMS) X [NYCtt1926]
Marquette (DSS&A) X (near M&SE Ry Grade) [SSP1907]
Marquette Yard (DSS&A) X [SSP1907] at roundhouse
Marshall, MI (MCRR) X
Mill Mine Jct. ( COPR) X     16'x24', gravity, built 1901
Mill Mine Jct. ( COPR) X     16'x24' gravity. built 1905
Milwaukee Jct. (GTW) X [MRC-Cal/73]
Mina, OH (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Montgomery (LSMS) X [NYCtt1926]
Negaunee (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Negaunee (Marquette & Western) X [SSP1907]
Newberry (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Nestoria (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Old Acadian Mine (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Ontonagon (MILW) X [GB]
Owosso (GTW) X [GTWHS-Cal/89]
Pembine, WI (Soo) X X [GB]  East end of platform.
Pembine, WI (MILW) X [GB}
Peppard (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Pine Lake (Haslett) (GTW) X [GTWHS]
Pleasant Lake (LSMS) X [NYCtt1926]
Point Mills Jct. ( COPR) X     [CRORG] 16'x18' Gravity, built 1903
Quinnesec - Fumee Creek (W&M) X [GB] Tank foundations visible from US-2 at roadside park at Fumee Falls.
St. Ignace (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Saline (LSMS) X [NYCtt1926]
Sault St. Marie (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Seney (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Sidnaw (DSS&A/MILW) X X [SSP1907][GB] Standpipe on both roads.
Soo Junction (DM&M) X Also on [SSP1907] at DSS&A [SOO-1/1991]
South Bend IN (NYC) X X [LS]
Stiles Jct. WI (MILW) X [GB]
Stonington MI ( COPR) X     16'x24', Steam then oil. Built 1899.
Stryker, OH, East of (LSMS)  X [NYCtt1915]
Sturgis (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Swanton, OH (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Tecumseh Jct. (LSMS) X [NYCtt1926]
Thomaston  (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
Toledo, OH (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Trout Creek (E of) (DSS&A) X [SSP1907] - also coal shute
Waterloo, OH (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Wauseon, OH (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Wetmore (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]
White Pigeon (LSMS) X [NYCtt1915]
Winthrop Jct. (near CNW Grade Crossing)  (DSS&A) X [SSP1907]

Interesting Stories about Track Pans:

Two stories about track pans picked up along the way . . .

First, since they were often the only open water in the winter wildlife would be attracted to the pans. Extricating "pan kill" from the tank and scoop was one of the unpleasant jobs involved in turning a steam locomotive. If the "pan kill" was large enough or in the right spot it could prevent the scoop from being able to raise. This would usually tear off part of the scoop and damage the end of the pan. A careless fireman could cause the same result.

Secondly, hoboes liked to ride at the rear of the tender. It was one of the more comfortable spots. Many times the tender would overflow when filling from pans, and the water would rush over the back of the tender deck, drenching the 'bo. Not all that bad when it was 95 degrees, but usually lethal when it was below 40.

For these and other reasons, track pans were not an entirely effective solution. Frequent stops for fuel and water were one of the economic pressures that allowed diesel-electrics to replace steam.

From Mark Tomlonson via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Kalamazoo MI