Fort Marinus

Forgotten Places: Michigan Central Station

“Because it’s there.” – G. H. Mallory, when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest.


Michigan Central Station, built in 1913 for the Michigan Central Railroad, was Detroit’s passenger rail depot from its opening until Amtrak discontinued service in 1988. Architecturally, the building is Beaux-Arts, designed by Warren & Wetmore and Reed & Stem, who also designed New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. The 500,000 square-foot building cost $15 million when built (about $328 million in 2011 currency). It featured beautiful stonework, terra cotta ornamentation, wide vaulted ceilings, and decorated interiors. (source)

Now abandoned, and (mostly) empty, this impressive structure just sits there, boarded up, rotting away in its own filth. It is actually quite beautiful. Most passers-by overlook the landmark; it even passes for a living building when viewed from afar. Once the main transportation hub of the bustling Motor-City, the Station is now one of the Forgotten Places of the World.

Forgotten by most, but not by all – A brave few Urban Explorers have gone deep inside to bring back photo reconnaissance. They are part-time archaeologists of the Indiana Jones variety. Sometimes foolish, always unlicensed; the Urban Explorer hunts the forgotten places of the world and returns with a story to tell.

The side entrance is a large open doorway, black and unknown; broken glass and graffiti for a welcome mat. Only the frames and a few tattered shards of glass remain of the windows, leaving the interior exposed to the elements. Who lurks in the darkness? What prowls in the deep? The question is not really if someone or something has been inside; the question is, “are they in there right now?”.

Once inside, the view becomes wide and high with the sight of the Main Waiting Room. Somehow the room is grand even in its dilapidated state. Chunks of plaster have fallen, revealing the underlying brick structure. Marble and terra cotta ornamentation lie shattered on the ground. The terrazzo designwork is barely visible on the faded and unpolished floors. Vandals have made a canvas of the walls.

Continuing on the first floor, the Main Room adjoins the Concourse, an equally large sky-lit room leading out to the platforms. Nearby, the ticket counters, baggage area, and even a grand dining room remain. In the dining room, a lattice of thin metal bars traverses the groin vaulting; perhaps leftover from a late-addition drop ceiling. Gasp!

The upper levels are more utilitarian than the first. Floor after floor of symmetrical corridors are painted eggshell with fading pastel accents. The hallways are surprisingly well lit because of the old fashioned ventilation windows above the doors. Most rooms are empty, furnished only by the original floorboards that have buckled from exposure. Occasionally, a graveyard of vinyl floor tiling litters the ground; no doubt the product of some hasty mid-century renovation. Each floor plan is identical, save for the top double-level floor which is mysteriously empty.


At last, the photographers arrive on the roof just in time to catch a glowing sunset. The future of this building is unclear. It has managed to avoid demolition over the last 23 years. But those 23 years have been wearisome, leaving a shell of a building that seems too far gone for a cost effective renovation. Perhaps it will remain there, aging until it becomes but an ancient ruin.

How Far Away is the Horizon?


As I sit in my 30th storey flat, looking over a SimCity-esque grid of city buildings and rooftops, I wonder, “How far away is the horizon?” At what distance do those concrete and brick structures fade into obscurity? If I squint hard, can I see Russia?

First, let us assume perfect visibility and ignore light-bending particle interference et cetera. In general, surprisingly, the distance to the horizon [D] depends on only two factors: 1) the radius of the Earth [R] and 2) the observer’s height from the ground [H].

In short,           D=R\cdot cos^{-1}\left [ \frac{R}{(R+H)} \right ],           

The radius of the Earth (R) is about 3963 miles. The 30th floor [H] is about 0.056 miles high (assume 10 feet per floor times 30 floors, all divided by 5280 feet per mile). Plugging that information into our equation, 3963\cdot cos^{-1}\left [ \frac{3963}{(3963+0.056)} \right ], we find that the horizon is about 21 miles away.

Now, suppose I am standing on the beach looking out toward the horizon. How far can I see? The radius of the earth has not changed. But now I am only .001 miles off the ground (somewhere between 5 and 6 feet). Our equation becomes 3963\cdot cos^{-1}\left [ \frac{3963}{(3963+0.001)} \right ] The horizon is about 2.8 miles away. That’s it!

Trigonometry ahead

Where does that lovely equation come from? Draw a diagram. Draw the Earth as a perfect two-dimensional circle. Also draw two radius lines; one terminating at the observer’s location, the other at the horizon. The lines form a triangle. Geometrically, the ‘horizon’ is the point at which one’s line-of-sight becomes tangent with the circle. By definition, the fact that the line-of-site is tangent to the circle means that the angle there is 90 degrees; the so-called ‘Right Triangle’.

Since we have a Right Triangle, we can use the Cosine trigonometric function to describe the angle that is the ‘slice’ of Earth between the Observer and the Horizon, call it Θ. In Right Triangles, the Cosine of an angle is described as the side Adjacent to it divided by the Hypotenuse. In our case, cos \, \Theta = \frac{R}{(R+H)}. We can solve for Θ by taking the Inverse Cosine of both sides of the equation, leaving: \Theta =cos^{-1}\left [ \frac{R}{(R+H)} \right ].

Now, the Distance to the Horizon is an ‘arc length’: mathematically defined as the radius times the angle of the ‘slice’, R · Θ. We previously solved for Θ, so we can plug it in, yielding the final equation of Distance-to-Horizon = R\cdot cos^{-1}\left [ \frac{R}{(R+H)} \right ].

Drank, Drunk, or Dranken?

“I’ve dranken a lot more than I drank tonight.” – Ron of the Jersey Shore.


I happened upon this sound bite as I cycled through the channels, lamenting the fact that ‘there’s nothing good to watch on TV’. No, seriously, I was only flipping channels; I don’t really watch this show. It’s true! No need to pick on Ron though. I have heard various mutations of drank, drunk, ‘dranken’, and drunken in common speech. Perhaps it is a bit confusing. Many tend to avoid the construction completely. Fear not, be confident as you conjugate ‘drank’, and allow me to take you to school:

TENSE                     EXAMPLE
Present                   "He drinks"
Past                      "He drank"
Future                    "He will drink"
Present  Perfect          "He has drunk"
Past     Perfect          "He had drunk"
Future   Perfect          "He will have drunk"
Present  Conditional      "He would drink (if...)"
Perfect  Conditional      "He would have drunk (if...)"

Returning to Ron, we imagine that he meant to convey that he had done more drinking in the past than the drinking that occurred that evening. Speaking from the present time, he first references past completed events: this is called the ‘Perfect’ tense. He might say, “I have drunk”. Next, he speaks of a past event without reference to its completedness: this is called the ‘Simple Past’ tense. He might say, “than I drank tonight”. Assembling the phrase, we have “I have drunk a lot more than I drank tonight”.

The phrase sounds a bit archaic perhaps. The modern ear may even prefer ‘dranken’, as it matches the paradigm for ‘eaten’ or ‘written’ for example. Ironically, ‘dranken’, though not proper English of any kind, sounds like the Old English Past Participle word form, ‘druncan’.

But, language is a funny thing. If we clearly understand the meaning of something, when does correction become pedantic?

Sun Rays

Sun Rays

Welcome to Fort Marinus Blogs

For my first post, I would like to share this luxurious swatch of fabric. This is Herringbone.

Herringbone describes a wonderful pattern of woven fabric, so called (supposedly) because it ‘resembles the bone structure of a herring fish’. Typically uninteresting when used for woolen outerwear, as is most common, Herringbone is decidedly luxurious when used with high thread count cotton as in a fine dress shirt. In this case, it exudes a subtle yet radiant sheen that evokes an air of sophistication and style. The effect is inarticulable by most, but noticed by all.


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