Last revised: April 28, 2023
By: Adam Burns
Because of Michigan's unique topography, with the state split by Lake Michigan, its railroad network was quite fascinating. The state featured main lines running from Detroit to Chicago, as well as continuing through southern Ontario to Buffalo, New York. In addition, through connections to other points through Canada were available from Detroit.
There were also lines running north to points such as Bay City, Petoskey, Alpena, Traverse City, and Mackinaw City. These corridors predominantly handled timber although during the early 20th century also hosted seasonal trains to the various lake resorts. In addition, points such as Mackinaw City, Ludington, and Frankfort operated car ferry services across the lakes.
And then there was Upper Peninsula, an entirely different region from a railroading perspective. This area's originating freight traffic was largely iron ore and timber although it was also home to a surprising number of streamliners operated by the Milwaukee Road and Chicago & North Western (C&NW). The Soo Line also offered a through route in the UP to the Canadian border at Sault Ste. Marie.
For the traveling public, the Milwaukee Road and C&NW offered trains like the Copper Country Limited (Milwaukee Road) to Calumet, Michigan (via Green Bay) and Peninsula '400' (Chicago & North Western) to Ishpeming, Michigan.
The Peninsula '400' was a dayliner, capable of completing its run in the same day while the Copper Country Limited was an overnight service. Considering the regional nature of these trains, their on-board accommodations were stellar; both provided a full dining car, sleepers on the Copper Country Limited, reclining seat coaches as well as a tavern lunch-counter car and parlor (with drawing room) on the Peninsula '400'.
The Coopersville & Marne Railway, based in Coopersville, Michigan offers a wide variety of train rides to choose from.
The railroad also hosts The Murder Mystery Train. Many organizations host similar events around the country which have become quite popular. As you try to unravel who the culprit is, enjoy appetizers and non-alcoholic cold beverages.
The Coopersville & Marne began in 1989 operating 7 miles of former Grand Trunk Western trackage between its namesake towns (Coopersville and Marne, Michigan). The line is generally well-maintained and has a connection to the national rail network further east at Grand Rapids.
The railroad provides guests a fantastic trip through the bucolic rural farms of western Michigan. At one time this trackage ran as far west as Grand Haven although this last segment was removed long ago.
All trains are pulled by the organization's SW9 switcher locomotive, #7014, with the cars vintage coaches from the early 20th century. The railroad's typical excursion lasts from about 90 minutes with trains departing from a preserved interurban depot at Coopersville.
This structure was originally part of the Grand Rapids, Grand Haven & Muskegon Railway, which linked all three towns with rapid transit service until 1928.
The Adrian & Blissfield Railroad, which is first a freight-carrying short line, also hosts the Old Road Dinner Train which features both a standard dinner as well as a murder mystery special.
Unfortunately, following the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, the company, which is primarily a short line freight operation, shuttered its public dinner trains. As of this writing (January, 2023), the railroad is still not operating such excursions.
The Adrian & Blissfield began in 1991 utilizing about 20 miles of former New York Central/Penn Central/Conrail trackage between Adrian and Riga Township, via Blissfield. It connects with Norfolk Southern at Adrian and the Indiana & Ohio at Riga. The former NYC line is abandoned west of Adrian.