Print

Railroad: Northern Central Michigan Rail Road Company, The


BuiltNorthern Central Michigan RR Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Ry. Lansing Division


A construction railroad.

Built: 1872 - Jonesville to Albion. 1873 - to Lansing.

Control: 1873 - by Lake Shore & Michigan Southern. Leased to LS&MS in 1897.

Merged: 1915 into New York Central.

Reference: [MRRC]


The Northern Central Michigan railroad company was owned at inception by the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern railroad. The Lake Shore operated the "old road" from Toledo west to Chicago via Adrian and Hillsdale and it built several branch lines north to bring passenger and freight traffic to the main line, in competition mostly with the Michigan Central, Grand Trunk and forrunnerrs to the Pere Marquette.

The Northern Central was a construction railroad. It was built off the Old Road from a junction just west of the Lake Shore depot at Jonesville north to Lansing and North Lansing in 1872. Significant towns along the route were Litchfield, Homer, Albion, Springport, Eaton Rapids and Lansing. The line crossed other railroads at various locations with interlocking towers:

It had one short branch line in Lansing to reach the Detroit, Lansing and Lake Michigan (which later became the C&O).

Officers of the Northern Michigan in 1872 included three Albion residents as well as a resident of Jonesville and Lansing.  But other board members resided in New York or Cleveland and were directors of the Lake Shore (controlled by this time by Vanderbilt interests). Division Superintendent T. J. Charlesworth and the general offices were located in Albion in the early days.

Construction of the 60 mile long main line, all in Michigan, cost $1.2 million.The line had only one bridge, a 44' single span located near Litchfield. It also had 9 trestles of various lengths. Originally there were 55 highway crossings, one of which (Michigan Avenue in Lansing) was over the railroad on a bridge as the grade of the railroad was along the river and low. Iron rail was used at 56 lbs. per yard. The railroad originally owned 25 box cars and 30 flat cars.

Shortly after being built, the line was operated as a part of the Lake Shore. Northward trains were likely built in Jonesville or Hillsdale. There were no other significant yards on the line however this branch, known as the Lansing branch or division, had significant industry along it.

In 1896, Litchfield had a grain elevator and Litchfield Mills flour.  By 1907, a freight house had been added near the passenger station. In 1913 a lumber and coal yard was served.

At Homer, the railroad served the Cortright Milling Company flour and feed mill on Byron Street. This mill had a single siding and a capacity of 125 barrels. It had a corn sheller, buckwheat cleaner, two seperators, one dust collector, eight double sets of rollers and a wheat seperator. The passenger station was south of Adams Street.

Initial customers in Albion were the Gale Manufacturing foundary in the southwest section of town [SAN-1880], and the Albion Manufacturing Company, By 1918, the Wocholz & Gress Coal Yard (east of Ionia St.), the J. W. Brant Co. (manufacturer of proprietary medicine), and thee Hayes Wheel Com. Hub Department was on Edison in the northeast section of town.

The Lake Shore depot in Albion was on the south side of the track, between Superior and Clinton Streets. A freight house and grain warehouse was east of Superior St. on the south side.

In Springport, the railroad served a grain warehouse on the west side of the track opposite the passenger depot (1892). That elevator was owned by Frank E. Nowlin & Co. by 1918.  Also served by rail was a 7,000 bushel capacity bean warehouse owned by the E. C. Comstock & Company.

In Eaton Rapids, Sanborn maps noted no industry on the Lake Shore until 1911. At this time the line served the Crane & Crane grain and bean elevator as well as the Webster & Sons lumber and coal yard. In 1918, the line served the municipal water works and electric plant (bringing coal) and the Island City Pickle Works.

In 1880 in Lansing, the line exclusively served the Capital City Manufacturing Company, which built wagons. This multi-building facility was just south of Michigan Avenue, near the railroad's grain warehouse. Other industries served included the Lansing Wheelbarrow Company Works (south of Saginaw Street east of the river), the Capital Gate Works (south of E.Shiawassee Street), the Capital Flouring Mills and Cady, Glassbrook & Company foundry and machine shop, both located on Factory Street south of Franklin.

By 1913, the railroad served the Reo Motor Car Company (along with the GTW off Washington Street), the Reo showroom and dock east of the plant, the South Lansing Coal Yard (East Hazel Street), Jarvis Engine & Machine Works (Spring St.), Gifford Engine Company (Hosmer and Spring St.), Standard Oil, Atlas Drop Forge Co., Bates & Edmonds :Motor Company, Rikard Lumber, Michigan Condensed Milk Co,, The Lansing Company (manufacturers of wheelbarrows, trucks and concrete mixers), Jones, Smith & Chapman works, Standard Castings Company (E. Franklin St.), and the Peerless Motor Company.

The ornate Lansing passenger station was located on the east side of the main line north of Michigan. north of E. Michigan Avenue. The line had another passenger station in North Lansing just south of Beaver Street. On the north side of Beaver, there was a turntable and 3-stall roundhouse, as well as a long coal shed and water tower on the west side of the main line north of Beaver St.

The railroad lasted in its entirity until 1941 when the line was removed from Springport to Lansing. Some trackage in Lansing was converted to yard trackage operated by NYC Lansing crews. In 1943, the line from Litchfield to Albion was removed. In 1968, the line from Albion to Springport was abandoned, including the grade crossing on I-94.

What remains of the Lansing Division? The line from Jonesville to Litchfield is currently operated by the Indiana and Northeastern, though it seems to be used to store cars. Some track in the City of Albion exists, from a junction with Amtrak west of the depot, through town to industry on the northeast side of town. In southwest Lansing, a bit of track extends south from the CN main line and is services by the Jackson & Lansing railroad.