railroads date back to 1836 when the little Erie & Kalamazoo
Railroad finished its line connecting Adrian, Michigan and Port
Lawrence, Ohio (what is today Toledo), a distance of nearly 40 miles
(the line officially opened on November 2nd). The history of the
railroad dated as far back as 1832 although it was not officially
chartered until April 22, 1833. While the E&K began as a
horse-powered operation it switched to steam power by 1837, a year after
begin services. The railroad eventually became part of the large Lake
Shore & Michigan Southern Railway, a massive system for its time
that was formed through smaller lines like the E&K in 1869.
It would stretch from Buffalo, through northern Ohio, southern Michigan, northern Indiana and also reached Chicago. In 1914 it became an important part of the New York Central System. In the succeeding years Michigan would be home to a number of well remembered railroads which included the Michigan Central, Grand Trunk Western and many others.
Today, Michigan still features a number of Class I systems that
include CSX, Norfolk Southern, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific.
Additionally, the state is served by two regionals, Great Lakes
Central Railroad as well as the Indiana & Ohio Railway which
operates in the southern regions. The rest include shortlines Ann Arbor
(mentioned above), Central Michigan Railroad, Delray Connecting
Railroad, Escanaba & Lake Superior (mentioned above), Huron &
Eastern Railway, Lake States Railway, Lake Superior & Ishpeming
(mentioned above), Marquette Rail, Michigan Shore Railroad, Michigan
Southern Railroad, Mid-Michigan
Railroad, Mineral Range Railroad, Adrian & Blissfield Rail Road,
Charlotte Southern Railroad, Detroit Connecting Railroad, Grand Elk
Railroad, Grand Rapids Eastern Railroad, Indiana Northeastern Railroad,
Lapeer Industrial Railroad, Michigan Air-Line Railway, Saginaw Bay
Southern Railway, and West Michigan Railroad.
Today, all of these railroads operate just over 3,600 miles of track in the Great Lakes State, which is a just a fraction of Michigan's all-time of 8,734. The state has lost a staggering 59% of its rail infrastructure since the 1920s and more than 5,000 miles overall. This number is even well above the average of most states, which have seen a decline typically between 45% to 50%. Michigan's significant loss of its railroads can probably be explained by the large number of branch and secondary tracks which looked to tap its resources as well as the number of smaller fallen flag systems whose lines have since been cutup (Pere Marquette, Ann Arbor, Detroit & Mackinac, etc.). In any even, for more information about Michigan, in terms of route mileage over the years please take a look at the chart below.
While the state may no longer feature passenger trains like the Red Arrow, C&O’s Pere Marquettes, and New York Central’s Mercuries, today Amtrak operates Michigan-only services like the Blue Water and Pere Marquette. Amtrak also owns its only stretch of trackage outside of the Northeast Corridor in Michigan
which is the 97-mile, 110 mph Wolverine Corridor that connects Detroit
and Pontiac with Chicago. To learn more about Amtrak's current services
in Michigan please click here to visit their website.
In terms of the state's history it is home to several railroad
museums and excursion trains (for instance, Michigan is also home to
Pere Marquette #1225, the operational 2-8-4 Berkshire steam locomotive
owned by the Steam Railroading Institute and was featured in the Polar Express).
Some of these include the Henry Ford Museum, Michigan Transit Museum,
Huckleberry Railroad, Southern Michigan Railroad, and the Adrian &
Blissfield Railroad(which also offers excursion train
services. So, whatever your interests might be, Michigan railroads offer a
unique experience of Class I, main line operations as well as several
local “down by the depot” shortlines. And, if these tire you out after a
while be sure and ride one of the state’s several dinner and excursion trains!
Related Reading You May Enjoy