The Pere Marquette Railway was a system which stretched throughout
Michigan and also reached northern Indiana and southern Ontario. If you
have often wondered how the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway came to
operate so much trackage in Michigan and stretched so far northward this
is the reason as the C&O gained control of the PM in 1947. Overall
the PM was only ever a marginally successful system
suffering through a number of reorganizations during its short existence
as Michigan's largest railroad. Today, a fraction of the PM remains in
operation cut up amongst CSX and numerous shortlines.
The Pere Marquette Railway began life through the merger of several
smaller Michigan railroads the Flint & Pere Marquette Railway;
Detroit, Lansing & Northern Railroad; and Chicago & West
Michigan Railway. The F&PM dates as far back as 1857 when it was
chartered to connect Flint, Michigan with Lake Michigan at present day
Ludington with its main staple of traffic based in lumber and wood products.
Through consolidation with other small lines like the Flint &
Holly Railroad; Holly, Wayne & Monroe Railroad; Bay City & East
Saginaw Railroad; Flint River Railroad; and Cass River Railroad the
F&PM eventually reached its Lake Michigan connection in 1874 as well
as such cities as Detroit.
The DL&N was created on March 16, 1871 as a consolidation of the
small railroads the Detroit, Howell & Lansing and Ionia &
Lansing. Overall this railroad was rather unprofitable and fell into
several bankruptcies before become part of the PM. At its
peak the DL&N connected Detroit with Howard City to the northwest. The last component of the PM was the Chicago & West Michigan
Railway which was formed through the consolidation of the Chicago &
West Michigan Railroad; Grand Rapids, Newaygo & Lake Shore
Railroad; Grand Haven Railroad; and Indiana & Michigan Railroad.
Overall the C&WM was large system containing some 348 miles of
railroad mostly concentrated in Michigan's western regions connected
such cities as Holland, Grand Rapids, White Cloud, Muskegon, New Buffalo and others.
The creation of the Pere Marquette Railroad took place on January 1, 1900 as the three systems, never very profitable, chose to consolidate as a means of decreasing costs and increasing profits. The Pere Marquette Railway was formed 17 years later April 1917 when the system was reincorporated after a reorganization. Stretching all throughout Michigan and as far south as La Crosse, Indiana the PM eventually reached southern Ontario including trackage rights as far east as Niagara Falls and Bridgeburg. Along with these expansions the PM also had car ferry operations at Ludington (connecting Milwaukee, Manitowoc and Kewaunee, Wisconsin) and took over the Manistee & North Eastern Railroad in December 1931 giving it additional lines in northern Michigan.
Overall the PM had a tough time earning
healthy profits as its predecessors. It went through receivership
twice, first in December of 1905 and later as mentioned before in April
1912, successfully coming out of the second in April 1917. Perhaps,
though, the PM's most interesting period took place when it came under
the control of siblings Oris P. and Mantis J. Van Sweringen, famously
remembered as the Van Sweringen brothers in 1924. These two had also
gained control of the New York, Chicago & St. Louis (the Nickel Plate Road)
and Erie railroads. The two were successful in turning around the PM's
fortunes cutting costs and expanding revenues. As successful as the
brothers were at managing
railroads their attempts to consolidate the three systems was not
allowed by the ICC. If this merger had taken place its interesting to
think what may have come from the new railroad and its history as a
classic fallen flag (assuming, of course, that it was eventually merged
In any event, as it were while the Pere Marquette Railway had also come
under the control of various railroads over the years such as the Erie
itself and Baltimore & Ohio it was eventually the Chesapeake &
Ohio which acquired it, merging the PM into its system on June 6, 1947.
For several years the C&O continued operating much of the PM including the car
ferry but it was particularly during the Chessie era (after 1972) that
the railroad began selling off and abandoning large chunks of the
railroad. Although the railroad only existed a short time
in the diesel era it did operate a small fleet of them before coming
under C&O control. It's diesel locomotive fleet was exclusively comprised of EMD models (NW2s, SW1s, BL2s and even E7As) save for three General Electric 70-tonners.
While the PM may not be well remembered by the masses as part of
our country's railroad heritage it does have a very famous steam
locomotive, 2-8-4 Berkshire #1225 which is fully operational and was the
star in the 2004 hit movie Polar Express. It
should be noted that the C&O did keep alive the history of the PM.
A year before the railroad was merged into the C&O on August 10,
1946 it launched a streamline train serving Grand Rapids and Detroit
simply as the Pere Marquette. Interestingly it was also the
first streamliner to debut after World War II. Following the C&O's
takeover of the PM it retained the train and launched two more
successful versions of it between Chicago, Grand Rapids and Muskegon;
and Detroit and Saginaw.
Related Reading You May Enjoy
Share Your Thoughts
Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below. Please note that while I strive to present the information as accurately as possible I am aware that there may be errors. If you have potential corrections the help is greatly appreciated.