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Station:  Niles, Michigan

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Niles Terminal (MC)

Niles Panoramic Map

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Niles Time Line:

  • 1848 - The Michigan Central arrives from Kalamazoo
  • 1849 - The MC extends its main line west to New Buffalo.
  • 1871 - The Michigan Air Line builds east towards Cassopolis and Three Rivers
  • 1882 - The Big Four build their line between Elkhart and Benton Harbor, via Niles.
  • 1919 - MC expands its Niles freight terminal.
  • 1937 - The Air Line is abandoned east from Niles to Three Rivers.
  • 1960's - The Niles Terminal is downgraded following the opening of Robert Young Yard in Elkhart.
  • 1980 - The former Big Four line, now under Conrail ownership, is abandoned north of Niles to Benton Harbor.
     Niles was founded by a French Jesuit in 1690 who was given land by the French Government.  A military post was built in 1697 and the town became known as Fort St. Joseph.  The fort fell to the British in 1761, to the indians in 1763, and to the Spanish and Indians in 1780 and 1781 at which point it was abandoned.

     A permanent settlement was begun in 1828 by people from Ohio.  It was first called Pogwatigue ("running water"), and was changed to Niles in 1829, named after the town newspaper editor.  The town was incorporated as a Village in 1835 and as a City in 1859.

     Niles is the only city in Michigan to have been under four flags:  French, English, Spanish and American.  [MPN]

     The railroad first came to Niles when the Michigan Central built here in 1848 on its route to Chicago.  The line was extended west of town in 1849.  The Michigan Air Line, later a MC property, was built east towards Three Rivers in 1871, and the Big Four built through town from Elkhart to Benton Harbor in 1882.  At some point, the MC built a short branch line south to South Bend, including a siding at Notre Dame.

     In 1919, the Michigan Central dramatically expanded the terminal at Niles, and it became a major MC classification yard on the west end of the MC's main line.  The MC also split freight operations (eastbound on the Air Line Branch, and westbound on the main line) between Niles and Jackson for a time.

     The Air Line branch, east from Niles was abandoned in 1937.  In the 1960's, the Niles Terminal was downgraded following construction of the NYC Robert Young Yards in Elkhart.  In 1980, the north section of the Big Four, now under Conrail ownership, was pulled up from Niles north to Benton Harbor.  The South Bend branch was also removed in the 1980's.

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