Decline in Michigan railroads begins...

Michigan's Internet Railroad History Museum


1920 - 1929


  • Railroad event or related event in Michigan

  • Important non-railroad event in Michigan or outside.

  • Improvement in Technology         Mining.

  • Railroad built or extended

  • Railroad abandoned and/or removed

  • Economic panic or depression        Car ferries.


Info Sources
























  • Early 1920's:  Pere Marquette abandons Rodnew-Chippewa lake branch.  [IT-2/1974]
  • Late 1920's:  The New York Central (LSMS) is elevated through South Bend, Indiana  [LS]

  • January 5:  The Jennings and Northeastern RR discontinues service in Jennings.   [IT-4/80/MRC-9/88]

  • March 1:  The USRA returns Michigan railroads to private ownership following the World War.  [MDOT]

  • March:  H. K. McHarg, Jr., the son of the principal stockholder of the D&M, arrives from out east to work on the road.  Following disagreements with McHarg, J. D. Hawks resigns his position on May 16th.  McHarg Jr. was appointed Vice President and General Manager.  One of his forst acts was to order the removal of the long famous turtle trade-mark from cars, locomotives, advertising and stationary.  Hawks sied in September, 1921.  [GW}

  • April 5:  Detroit voters approve a $15 million bond issue to build a street railway system, referred to as the Municipal Operation.  [DWSS]

  • April 5:  A Pere Marquette ferry becomes stuck in the ice off Point Sauble, after leaving Ludingston.  Eleven passengers try to walk to shore.  Suddenly the ice flow breaks up, and the winds carry the piece holding the group out into Lake Michigan.  Hundreds of spectators line the shore and watch as the Coast Guard, with great difficulty, rescues the group.  [MT]

  • April:  Railroad strike worsens economic situation in Detroit;  many factories close due to general downturn.  [DWS]

  • May 19:  Pennsylvania Railroad begins passenger service from Detroit to eastern cities.  [MDOT]

  • May:  Gala party opens unusual two-story Pennsylvania freight house in Detroit.  [MDOT]

  • June 13:  First Baltimore & Ohio RR passenger train leaves Detroit's Fort Street Union Depot for Washington.  [MDOT

  • July 10:  Henry and Edsel Ford purchase the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton RR and immediately begin modernization of property and rolling stock.   Also noted as July 9th.  [MDOT/EMR4]

  • December 31:  Michigan Railroad Mileage Totaled 8,734 miles.   [MDOT/STOV]

  • The Pennsylvania RR begins serving Detroit over its new line from Carleton, the last main line trackage laid by a major railroad in Michigan.   [MDOT]

  • Port Huron & Detroit RR takes over the Port Huron Southern.   [IT-4/81]

  • Soo Line builds a new, larger brick station at Manistique, to replace a wooden structure which was built around 1887.  [MRC-6/1984]

  • A new stone depot is built on the M&NE in Northport.  It is used until the C&O ceased operations in 1970.  [BWC-2/1990

  • Pere Marquette installs new augomatic block signals between Grand Ledge and Elmdale (26 miles of single track, 34 signals), and between Wyoming and Grand Rapids (3 miles of double track, 8 signals).  They are of the Union-motor type, using polarized line overlap.  [RA/1-1920]

  • The Pennsylvania Railroad (GR&I) builds a new red brick depot at Kalkaska.  [BOM]

  • Toledo, Ohio is considered to be the third largest railroad center in the United States, largely due to the amount of coal traffic handled.  [COHS-10/98]

  • Michigan Central constructs a new brick depot at Constantine, after its other depot was destroyed by fire.  The brick depot lasted until the early 1980's.   [MRC-9/1985]

  • The Pere Marquette builds a new eight stall round house with a 90 foot turntable in New Buffalo, MI.  [PM45]

  • Pere Marquette builds a new 500-ton capacity coal dock in Saginaw.  [PM45]

  • Pere Marquette completes yard construction in New Buffalo and Plymouth.  [PMHS]

  • The E&LS extends its Hendricks branch to Boney Falls dam.  [EDP-12/27/1950]

  • Detroit's population hits 993,678.  [BOM]

  • February 1:  First municipal street car operates on St. Jean and Charlevoix lines.  [DWS]

  • March 26:  Grand Rapids & Indiana RR is leased to the Pennsylvania RR for 999 years.   [MDOT]

  • June 7:  Pere Marquette RR creates the Flint Belt Railroad Co.   [PMHS]

  • August 8:  Pennsylvania RR is granted trackage rights on PM from Alexis, OH to Carleton, MI.   [PMHS]

  • Pere Marquette RR abandons line from Rapid City to Kalkaska, 11.4 miles.   [PMHS/COHS-8/1997]

  • Pere Marquette RR abandons line from Carters to Clary. 4.45 miles.  [PMHS/COHS-8/1997]

  • Manistee Railway Co. ends electric operations in and around Manistee.  [MRRC]

  • Pere Marquette RR completes massive Saginaw Yard improvement project.  [PMHS]

  • Pere Marquette builds a 30 stall roundhouse, with a 100' turntable at Saginaw Yard.  [PM45]

  • Ford Tractor plant in Dearborn closes.  [DWS]

  • The E&LS constructs a new machine and car shop at Wells, 75'x150' and built of reinforced concrete.  At peak times during World War II, it employed about 40 machinists, boilermakers, carpenters, welders and other mechanics.  Trackage was available for repairing and rebuilding five cars at one time.  [EDP-12/27/1950]

  • The E&LS extends its Kates branch from Kates to New Kates.  [EDP-12/27/1950]

  • Grand Trunk builds new depot at St. Johns.  Depot continues to exist as of 1974.  [IT-12/1974]

  • Cadillac's Clark Street complex is opened near West Detroit on the GTW and MCRR.  [BOM]

  • May 15:  City takes over Detroit United Railway operation;  voters approved purchase on Company named Department of Street Railways.  [DWS/EMR4]

  • June:  Escanaba & Lake Superior receives permission to abandon their line from Northland to Camp Ten (Northland Branch) 6.1 miles.   [MDY33]  According to [EDP-12/27/1950], the remaining Northland Branch was not removed until 1939.

  • June 13:  The Interstate Commerce Commission orders the Michigan Central and 49 other railroads to install Automatic Train Control (automatic train stop) on major, signaled lines with passenger trains.  ATC is ultimately installed on MCRR's main line and their Detroit to Toledo lines.  [RA-1923]

  • September:  For-runner to Great Lakes Steel chartered to build plant in Ecorse Township.  [DWS]

  • Pennsylvania Railroad opens line from Carleton to River Rouge (near Delray).  [MRRC]  Note: Possible conflict with May 14, 1923 entry.

  • The Short Cut Canal bridge is built over the Rouge River. [MRC-10/01]

  • Pere Marquette RR abandons line from Leota to Harrison., 9.43 miles.  [PMHS/COHS-8/1997]

  • The E&LS removes their branches at Turner.  [EDP-12/27/1950]

  • Radically new type of railroad bascule bridge is built over River Rouge for the Wabash Railroad.  [MDOT]

  • Coal strike lasts 6 months;  cripples U.S. industry.  [DWS]

  • A general railroad strike occurs and Pere Marquette employees participate.  Federal marshals are summoned to Saginaw to preserve order when city police failed to act during strike.  [COHS-8/1997]

  • A new passenger station is built in Hastings on the MCRR Jackson to Grand Rapids line.  It was built with the aid of the local Rotary Club.  [MHM]

  • Soo Line removes its 60' turntable at Ironwood.    [SOO-W/1996]

  • May 14:  The Pennsylvania begins running regular freight and passenger trains to Detroit by way of its own route from Carleton to Detroit.  [RA-5/19/1923]  Note: Possible conflict with 1922 entry.

  • June 5:  The Flint Belt Railroad Co. is placed into operation in and around Flint, MI.  The purpose of the line is to serve manufacturing industries in Flint and to provide a cut-off by which certain PM trains may be operated around the congested portion of the city.  The road was financed the operated by the PM.  [PM45]

  • June 19:  Inbound Shore Line interurbans turn around at Detroit's east city limits (the Wayburn Loop), no longer going to the downtown terminal.  This is the first DUR abandonment.  [EMR4]

  • July 5:  Knights Templar Grand Commandery special train derailed at Durand, killing 5 persons.   [MDOT]

  • August 17:  The Munising, Marquette and South Eastern Railway (with 140 miles of main line) merged with the Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railway Co. (with main line mileage of 33 miles.  [MRC-10/1987]

    September 21:  A new interlocking plant at Charlotte is inspected and approved for operation.  It is a small, General Railway Signal Co. floor model electric  interlocking machine which is operated by the GTW from inside their depot.  Archives suggest that the crossing was a stop and proceed crossing up to this time.  [MSAI]

    Fall:  The Michigan Central Railroad builds an 8-stall, reinforced concrete roundhouse, boiler house, office building and sanding facilities at Grand Rapids at a cost of $100,000.  [RA-7/21/1923]

    October 1:  DT&I completes the Dearborn to D&I Junction branch.    [IT-2/80]

  • Muskegon Railway and Navigation Co. opens 10 miles of track in Muskegon.  (Transferred to GTW in 1955).  [MRRC]

  • Michigan Central double tracks its branch from Jackson to Rives Junction.  [MSAI]

  • Fruit Belt (Kalamazoo, Lake Shore and Chicago) ceases operations between Paw Paw and Kalamazoo.  [IT-12/79/AAD]

  • Remnents of the Detroit & Mackinac Jackson Branch was removed between Hurst and La Rocque.  [NK]

  • Pere Marquette begins massive upgrading of Wyoming Yard.  This includes a new 42 stall roundhouse with a 115 feet long turntable.  [PM45]

  • Pere Marquette builds a 3-chute, 300-ton capacity coal dock at Ottawa Yard, just north of Toledo.  [PM45]

  • As a result of the City of Saginaw's failure to protect Pere Marquette property during a strike in 1922, much of the railroad's shop operations were transferred to Wyoming Yard in Grand Rapids.  [COHS-8/1997]

  • Pere Marquette closes ex-Detroit, Grand Rapids & Western shops in Ionia.  [PMHS]

  • The Pennsylvania Railroad builds six miles of belt line trackage in Springwells (East Dearborn) to the Ford plant in Highland Park.  [EMR4]

  • The Detroit and Mackinac is authorized by the ICC to construct an extension 12 miles in length from its Avery Branch at Alpena, Michigan to Rockport.  The Boyne City, Gaylord & Alpena, which had proposed construction of a line between the same towns and over nearly the same route, has withdrawn its application.  The main object of the proposed line is to reach the plant of the Kelley Island Lime & Transport Company, at Rockport, on the Shore of Lake Huron.  [RA-7/14/02]

  • Spring:  The Michigan Central builds an 8-stall roundhouse and cinder pits at Lansing at a cost of $125,000.  [RA-12/1/1923]

  • Spring:  The Pere Marquette builds a 16-stall brick roundhouse and 100 foot turntable at Erie, Michigan.  [RA-12/1/1923]

  • June 28:  The Adrian city street car system is abandoned.  [EMR4]

  • November:  Ottawa Yard placed in service by Pere Marquette.  [PMHS]

  • Detroit & Mackinac RR builds branch from Alpena to Kelly Island Quarry.  [ NK]

  • Manistee & North Eastern abandons line from Kaleva to Grayling.  [PMHS]

  • Van Sweringen interests purchase Pere Marquette Railroad.  [PMHS]

  • Pere Marquette builds a 24 stall locomotive shop at Wyoming Yard in Grand Rapids.  They also building a new freight car shop and water treatment facility. [PM45]

  • Pere Marquette builds a 16-stall roundhouse at Ottawa Yard, just north of Toledo.  It has a 100' long turntable.  [PM45]

  • PM purchases a fifth steel car ferry this year.  [COHS-8/1997]

  • New coach yard and engine terminal is built for Union Belt Ry. of Detroit (PM, PRR, Wab).   It extends from 15th Street to 21st Street.  It contains eight tracks with a capacity of 90 cars.  Two adjacent tracks south of the main tracks, so-called "Freight Main", capacity of 25 cars, are also used for coach yard purposes and were constructed in 1924.  [PM45][PMHS]

  • Pere Marquete builds their 21st Street Engine Terminal, which is used by the PM for freight, passenger and switch engines, as well as the Pennsylvania Railroad for passenger engines.  The terminal has 28 stalls, has a 100' electrically operated turntable, a 500 ton capacity electrically operated coal dock and an ash pit for 4 engines.  [PM45]

  • The Pere Marquette installs three fixed steel trusses on its Saginaw River drawbridge, increasing its load factor to Coopers E-50.  The steel fix trusses replace two fixed spans built in 1893 and one segment of pile trestle.  [PM45]

  • DSS&A replaces their bridge over the LS&I at Munising Jct.   The new bridge is made up of a timber decking on top of concrete wall supports. [1924 date in support concrete].

  • Two C&NW ore docks burn in Escanaba.  During the fire, E&LS fire cars pumped water from Little Bay De Noc to keep the C. Reiss Coal Docks from catching fire as well.  [EDP-12/27/1950]

  • Pere Marquette abandons line from Buchanan to Benton Harbor, 22.5 miles.  [PMHS/COHS-8/1997]

  • Cleveland Cliffs Iron Co. abandons 60 miles of logging operations in Alger County.  [MRRC]

  • January 1:  Detroit Department of Street Railways begins bus service.  [DWS]

  • July 1:  Wisconsin Land & Lumber Co. abandons 7.5 miles of Blaney and Southern Railway in Schoolcraft County.  [MRRC]

  • September 27:  "The Red Arrow", popular Detroit-New York passenger train names for Michigan's Red Arrow infrantry division of World War I, begins service on the PRR.   [MDOT]

  • MCRR line from Slocum Jct. (Trenton) to Stony Island (Grosse Isle) abandoned.  [MRRC]

  • The DT&I RR begins use of a Ford-built 5,000 HP electric locomotive, the most powerful in the world at the time, between the Ford Route plant at Dearborn and Flat Rock.  [MDOT]

  • First diesel-electric locomotive is used in regular switching service.  [STOV]

  • The Wabash RR obtains control of the Ann Arbor Railroad.   [MDOT]

  • The Pere Marquette builds a two-chute, 250 ton coal dock at Baldwin.  [PM45]

  • Pere Marquette builds a 500-ton coal dock at Ludington.  [PM45]

  • The Pennsylvania Railroad equips its passenger trains with dictionaries for crossword puzzle addicts.  [IT-4/1975]

  • The Uniroyal plant is opened on East Jefferson Avenue near Belle Isle.  [BOM]

  • January 12:  An interlocking tower is installed at Carelton, MI at the crossing of the DT&I, Pere Marqutte and the Pennsylvania.  Prior to this time, it is a stop and proceed crossing.  [MSAI]

  • June 9:  Michigan Central is leased to the New York Central Railroad.   [MDY33]

  • June 26:  Interurban service between Detroit and Farmington on Grand River is abandoned and replaced by buses on July 1st.  [EMR4]

  • DT&I completes electrification of the Dearborn to Flat Rock yard line in early 1926.   [IT-2/80]

  • The Wabash installs a 2nd main line on its Detroit-Montpelier route (through Adrian). [MSAI]

  • Grand Trunk builds new depot at Armada.  Depot continues to exist as of 1974.  [IT-12/1974]

  • During a forest fire in Mashek, E&LS fire protection tank cars help save 2,000,000 feet of logs at the landings.  The E&LS owned two such cars, each with an 8,000 gallon capacity tanks and powerful steam pumping engines.  It was reported that the cars would throw a stream of water the distance of a city block.   [EDP-12/27/1950]

  • The Copper Range  purchases the telegraph "plant" and facilities from the Western Union Telegraph Company, which was located along the right-of-way of the railroad. [CRH]

  • The Pere Marquette RR begins a 20-year experiment with poured concrete roadway and ties on a section of the line east of Plymouth.   [MDOT]

  • Pere Marquette RR abandons line from White Cloud to Big Rapids, 19.67 miles.   [PMHS/COHS-8/1997]

  • January 15:  The Pere Marquette reduces thumb branches to one mixed train per day on each line.  The Almont Branch is reduced to three round trips per week.  [AB]

  • February 1:  The DT&I changes its northern passenger terminus at Jefferson in Delray to a new station opened at Fordson.  (After sale of the DT&I to Pennroad, passenger trains returned to Union Station.  [EMR4]

  • May 25:  The interurban line from Wyandotte to Trenton is abandoned.  [EMR4]

  • August 25:  Detroit & Mackinac Ry abandons line from Au Sable River Jct. to Comins.  [MDY33]

  • August 25:  Detroit & Mackinac Ry abandons line from Hardy to Beavers (the Curran branch).   [MDY33]

  • December 8:  The GTW car ferry Grand Rapids struck a sand bar that had been formed by storms about 150 feet off the pierhead in Grand Haven.  The mishap caused the ship to suffer $11,000 is damages.  [GTWHS-5/1997]

    The carferry Sainte Marie (I) is abandoned.  [AATHA-SF/1999]

  • Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) has first installation.  [STOV]

  • First experiments with air-conditioned passenger cars.  [STOV]

  • The GTW station in Flint is built, and the former stone station removed.  The stone was piecemarked and re-erected at Muskegon..  [AAD]

  • The City of Detroit reaches its current boundaries with a total area of 139 square miles.  [BOM]

  • January 21:  The GTW car ferry Madison hits a sand bar, grounding the vessel and causing $49,200 in damages.  The incident occurred during heavy wind, high seas and drifting ice.  [GTWHS-5/1997]

  • May 1:  Grosse Pointe Village refuses to allow DUR cars to operate into the village, ending service on the Shore Line.  [EMR4]

  • June 9:  Detroit & Mackinac Ry abandons the Lincoln Branch from Lincoln to Lincoln Jct.   [MDY33]  Note: [GW] shows this abandonment as June 3.

  • August 14:  Interurban passenger service between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids and Battle Creek via Gull Lake ends.  The track is abandoned.  [MT/IT-12/79]

  • August 18:  The Detroit to Wyandotte rail line is abandoned (DSR operates part to the Penn "Y" until January 1, 1931).  [EMR4]

  • Summer:  Soo Line discontinues dedicated passenger trains on its Gogebic Branch between Bessemer, Ironwood and Wisconsin.  A freight train was made into a mixed train to handle passenger traffic.  [WC-Sp/1996].

    November 1:  The Grand Trunk Western RR consolidated 10 subsidiary or component companies to form a single system in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois.   [MDOT]

  • November 30:  Interurban service between Jackson and Kalamazoo ends. [MT]

  • Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village founded.  Ford begins moving historic buildings to the site from elsewhere.  [BOM/DWS]

  • Soo Line closes its agency at Upson, on the Gogebic Range.  [SOO-Sp/1996]

  • The GTW builds a new brick depot at Imlay City.  The depot continues to exist in 1999 as a historical museum.   [MRP-I]

  • Grand Trunk builds new depot at Imlay City.  Depot continues to exist as of 1974.  [IT-12/1974]

  • The Plymouth Motor Corporation builds their Lynch Road Assembly Plant at 6334 Lynch Road.  [BOM]

  • The E&LS removes lumber branches at Ralph.  [EDP-12/27/1950]

  • April:  Detroit & Mackinac Ry abandons the Rockport branch (13 miles).   [MDY33]

  • April:  Detroit & Mackinac Ry abandons thw west end of the Hillman Branch, from Hillman to Emerson (14  miles).   [MDY33]  Note:  [GW] suggests that this took place on May 10.

  • April:  Service on the Detroit & Huron Railroad, between Cass City and Bad Axe is reduced to a three day a week way freight.  [MRC-7/87]

  • June 1:  The Detroit Union Produce Terminal is opened, built in only 100 days by the Pennsylvania Railroad.   [MDOT]

  • June 1:  Interurban railroad operations in Kalamazoo County cease as the last car runs between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek.  [MT]

  • June 27:  The DT&I is sold by the Ford family to the Pennroad Corporation, owned by the PRR.   [IT-2/80]

  • July 1:  The Pennsylvania Railroad's Detroit Union Produce Terminal opens. It was constructed in 100 days.  [MT]

  • August:  The GTW RR begins regular commuter service from Detroit's northern suburbs downtown.  [MDOT]

  • August:  Detroit Union Produce Terminal completed by the Wabash, Pere Marquette and the Pennsylvania Railroads, at a cost of $5 million.  [DWS/EMR4]

  • September 4:  The Detroit, Jackson and Chicago Railway abandons passenger operations.  [EMR4]

  • October 22:  Grand Trunk car ferry "Milwaukee" was lost in a violent storm on Lake Michigan without survivors, making this the Lake's worst carferry disaster, with a total of 42 dead.  - [MDOT]

  • October 24:  Black Friday.  Depression begins.  [DWS]

  • November 24:  Car ferry City of Saginaw 31 placed into Lake Michigan service by Pere Marquette, their sixth steel car ferry.  [PMHS/COHS-8/1997]

    November:  Passenger service is ended by the Pere Marquette north of Bad Axe and Harbor Beach.  [AB]

  • Jackson and Northern Railway (24" gauge) is removed by this date. [MASI]

  • Henry Ford Museum opens.  [DWS]

  • Detroit & Mackinac RR removes branch from Alpena to Kelly Island Quarry.   [NK]

  • Chesapeake & Ohio RR acquires controlling interest in the Pere Marquette Railroad.  [PMHS]

  • Mills served by the Pere Marquette in Grindstone City are closed.  [AB]

  • There was a major crude oil development in Michigan.  The production this year was more than seven times as great as it was in the preceding year.  The principal new development was in the area around Mt. Pleasant.  [PM45]

  • SNAPSHOT:  Between 1931 and 1939 the Pere Marquette handled more than 100,000 tank cars of oil from the so-called "Mt. Pleasant pool".  As of 1945, almost all oil goes by pipeline.  [PM45]

  • GTW builds 2-story brick office building at Milwaukee Jct.  It is vacated on July 3, 1987. [MRC-12/87]

  • Buses transport 15% of all intercity commercial passenger traffic.  Trucks transport only 3% of intercity freight traffic.  [STOV]

  • 1929 is a peak year for the Soo Line Gogebic Range ore operations.  The Soo uses as many as 11 switch engines on the Range.  During this time, Ironwood had operators aroudn the clock and there were agents at Hurley, Ironwood and Bessemer.  Three clerks were employed at Ironwood to assist the agent.  [SOO-Sp/1996]

  • Railroads begin many years of operating passenger trains at a loss, with the exception of the war years between 1942 through 1945.  [STOV]

  • Greyhound bus service begins.  [STOV]

  • A grade separation viaduct of built on the Pere Marquette over Fort Street in Detroit.  [PM45]

  • The United States has 20,000 passenger trains in operation nationally.  [STOV]

  • The Detroit-Windsor Ambassador bridge is completed.  [BOM]