So what exactly was a railroad roundhouse and what was it used for?

According to Wiki, “Roundhouses were originally constructed to service steam locomotives.....regular daily serving began with a hostler moving an engine to an ash pit to remove the detritus of burned wood or coal. The locomotive's tender would be refilled with fuel, water, and sand, and the engine would be placed above an inspection pit so that workers could inspect it for any maintenance needs.”

Many of North America's railroad roundhouses included a 'turntable' where locomotives could turned around and prepped for the next trip. For extensive work, larger roundhouses employed blacksmiths and pipefitters; for major repairs, the engines were sent to specialized backshops.

After World War II, most steam engines were replaced by diesels, making maintenance easier and more affordable.

The advantages of diesel engines:
Can be parked running for days unattended
Easy fueling Less fuel is used
Much simpler to start and shut down
Operating costs much lower
Requires less time and labor to maintain and operate

Since diesel changed almost everything, many roundhouses were closed down or destroyed. Some foundations of the demolished ones are still very visible by satellite...but yeah, some are still standing and being used.

5 turntables where a former roundhouse stood
9 turntables with or without a roundhouse
14 roundhouses partially intact
22 demolished roundhouses, still visible in aerial views

Take a look at a few old Michigan roundhouses in the gallery below...

Michigan Railroad Roundhouses, Early 1900s


The Michigan Railroad That Was Never Used

Train Car Graveyard in Escanaba

Former Depot, Clough View

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