Michigan First or Famous

The State of Michigan was first or famous in a number of railroad areas.  These are events, companies or other known facts about Michigan which are interesting:

  • Babies Born On Same Train.  A new record in the history of railroading is believed by the Pere Marquette to have been established on May 4, 1903 when three babies were born to as many mothers while traveling on the same train, during a run of a hundred miles. The parents belonged to a big party of Germans, Russians, Poles and Swedes enroute from Nebraska to the beet sugar fields beyond Port Huron when the babies were born. [RA-1903-0515:875]
  • Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.  Meeting in Marshall, 13 Michigan Central men planned a national railway men's organization, resulting in the founding the following month in Detroit of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the oldest labor union in the western hemisphere.  In April, 1863.  [MDOT]
  • Brownhoist Railway Cranes.  The largest railroad wreck cranes, which were used to upright train derailments and other railroad disasters, were built in Bay City, Michigan at the Industrial Works.  One living example of an Industrial Brownhoist Crane is at the Greenfield Village.  The crane was used for years in Detroit and was equipped to work in the Detroit-Windsor International rail tunnel because it could be powered by steam or third rail electric. Ultimately, the crane was never used to rerail a car in the tunnel itself [THF]
  • First African-American Operated Railroad in the U.S.  The Kent-Barry-Eaton Connecting Ry. was the first black operated railroad in the U.S., beginning Grand Rapids to Vermontville service on the old Michigan Central Grand Rapids branch. On July 15, 1979.  [MDOT]
  • First All-Diesel Line haul Railroad in the U.S.  The Detroit & Mackinac Railway discontinues use of steam locomotives, becoming the nation's first all diesel, line-haul railroad - in 1946.  [MDOT]  Note: This claim has been made by other roads in other parts of the country. The D&M replaced steam with five RS-2 Alco road switchers and one Alco S-1 yard switcher. Two (the 466 and the 467 were equipped with steam generators in the short hood for passenger service. A sixth RS-2 was purchased in 1948.
  • First Bessemer-process steel rails. The first Bessemer-process steel rails were made in Wyandotte, Michigan in 1865 by Eber B. Ward, an industrialist, at his Eureka Iron Works. The ore came from the mines near Negaunee and were smelted. The Eureka Works ceased operations in 1892.
  • First Car Ferry Across Open Water.   Ann Arbor No. 1 began service from Elberta, MI to Kewaunee, Wisconson on November 24, 1892 and was the first railroad ferry service in the world across open water.  [MDOT] Note: Car Ferry service across the Detroit and St. Clair rivers were already in place by this time.
  • First Chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission.  Thomas M. Cooley of Michigan became the first chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887. [MDOT] The Cooley Law Schools is named after the Commissioner who was also Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.
  • First to have regularly scheduled dining cars. The Michigan Central was the first railroad to use regularly scheduled dining cars on passenger trains, in 1876.
  • First competitive exams for certain railroad jobs. in 1887.
  • First International subaqueous railroad tunnel. The St. Clair Tunnel was the world's first international submarine tunnel and was opened between Port Huron and Sarnia by the Grand Trunk system on September 19, 1891. It formed a continuous rail route between eastern Canada and Chicago, the longest route in the world under single management at the time. [MDOT]
  • First Mechanically-driven Logging Railroad. In 1857.
  • First Railroad Steam Shovel was built in 1881 by the Industrial Works of Bay City for the Pere Marquette railroad. [BJ]
  • First Railroad to Reach Chicago from the east. The Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana (later known as the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern), reached Chicago in 1851. After the Lake Shore installed their Air Line route from Toledo to Elkhart, this Michigan line was known thereafter as the "Old Road".
  • First Newspaper Delivered on a Train.  Thomas Edison became the first newspaper publisher to distribute his paper on a train. He sold his one-page Weekly Herald on a run between Port Huron and Detroit. [MT]
  • First to Propose a Transcontinental Railroad. In 1832.
  • First Railroad West of Pittsburg. The Erie & Kalamazoo Railroad from Toledo to Adrian was the first midwest railroad, in 1836.
  • First to Introduce Refrigerated Boxcars. In 1869.
  • First Roadrailer in the United States. Roadrailer first experimented with a dual-wheeled combination rail and highway vehicle in the U.S.,beginning operation between Grand Rapids and Traverse City on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad in 1959. [MDOT]
  • First Steam Locomotive Used on a Logging Railroad.  In 1857, the Blendon Lumber Company purchased a seven-year-old Michigan Central locomotive (a Locks & Haven 0-4-0 locomotive dubbed the "St. Joseph") and began hauling logs on wooden rails. The railroad was built southwest from the Grand River into the Bass River Valley. It was the first use of a steam locomotive on a logging railroad in the U.S. [MH-11/1993]
  • Longest Serving Railroad Car Ferry in the world. The paddlewheel car ferry "Lansdowne" began in November, 1884 more than 90 years of crossings between Detroit and Windsor, the longest service of any railroad car ferry in the world. [MDOT]
  • Most Logging Railroads. Eighty-nine logging railroads operated in Michigan in 1887. The state had more logging railroads than any two combined U.S.states. [MDOT]
  • The Real McCoy - Locomotive Lubrication. Elijah J. McCoy, an african-american inventor raised in Ypsilanti, patented the first automatic lubrication system for locomotives and other machinery, a device so effective that it was difficult to sell imitations that weren't "the real McCoy". Thus, McCoy's name became synonymous with anything genuine or authentic. July 23, 1872. [MDOT]
  • Shay Locomotive.  Ephraim Shay of Cadillac developed the Shay gear-driven steam locomotive in 1880. From 1880 to 1945, 2,770 Shays were built, chiefly for logging and mining railroads. The gear driven locomotive was ideal for forests with heavy grades and winding curved tracks. Many Shays were built under license by the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, OH. A Shay is on display in the City of Cadillac.
  • Telegraph. The Michigan Central Railroad began using the telegraph to control train operations in 1855, the first railroad in the nation to make widespread use of this technology. [MDOT]
  • Track Velocipede.  George S. Sheffield of Three Rivers, MI invests in a three-wheel, hand-pumped "track velocipede" in 1877 for use by track inspectors. His company ultimately produced thousands for worldwide use.
  • Adoption of the Westinghouse Airbrake. Michigan was the first state to adopt as mandatory, use of the Westinghouse air brake in 1873.

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