Railroad: Union Belt of Detroit


Operated: About 90 years.

Detroit Union RR Depot and Station Co. → Union Belt of Detroit →  Norfolk Southern | CSX

Built: 1882 opened from Delray to 18th Street, Detroit

Became: Became part of the Union Belt of Detroit in 1889.

Operations disolved: 1992

Reference: [MRRC]


The Union Belt of Detroit was not an independent railroad. It appears to have been a joint operating agreement between the Wabash, Pere Marquette and Pennsylvania railroads. Each railroad contributed trackage to this JOA. As an example, the Wabash line from Delray to the Fort Street Union Depot was its busiest line. The Pere Marquette contributed trackage rights on its main line from Delray northwest to at least Dearborn, and the Pennsylvania built industrial trackage from the PM (in east Dearborn) north and east to Highland Park. The PM also contributed its former main line from Oak (now Livonia) to West Detroit junction.

This FSUD served the Pennsylvania, Pere Marquette (later C&O), and the Wabash railroads. The station was located at Fort Street and 3rd Street, a block from the Michigan Central's original station and the Detroit & Cleveland steamship terminal at the foot of 3rd Street.

The Union Belt also included PRR trackage from Dearborn to Highland Park, as well as the PM/C&O line from Oak Junction to West Detroit.


Time Line

1892. September 4. The F& PM are now engaged in laying their tracks alongside the Wabash railway tracks between Delray yards and their Detroit depot, and work will be pushed to completion. [DFP-1892-0904]

1892. December 17. There has been a quiet little fight going on for the past few days and nights near the foot of 18th Street where the F& PM railroad connects with the Union depot viaduct. The land on which the tracks were laid was purchased by the F& PM from the Wabash, and the latter gave a guarantee that the title was clear. The tracks were put in and all looked lovely until a short time ago when the land was claimed by Morton & Backus. A few days ago the F& PM received information that a gang of men were about to descend on their tracks and tear them up. In great haste an engine was dispatched to the disputed portion of track and has ever since been wearing itself out running back and forth over it - to keep the track lifters at a respectful distance. This mode of defending property is rather expensive, but as the Wabash guaranteed quiet possession to the purchasers the bill will be sent to the former for settlement. A policeman is stationed there to quell any disturbance that may arise. [DFP-1892-1217]

May, 1904. The Pere Marquette sues the Wabash over equal use of tracks to Union Depot in Detroit. [RA-1904-0527:1022]

1920. The Union Belt railroad serves 81 industries in Detroit with 95 sidings and a car capacity of 764 cars. They have 4 sets of team tracks. They utilize the Pere Marquette and Wabash freight terminals.. [DWT-1920]

1927. The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) rules that the Union Belt may continue to operate facilities of the PRR, PM and Wabash in and near Detroit. They rule that its lack of incorporation does not constitute a reason sufficient to justify withholding permission for it to continue a service of importance to the business interests of the city. [DFP-1927-1021]

1992. The operations of the Union Belt were disolved.