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 from Michigan which are interesting. Our thanks to Dr. LeRoy Barnett for contributing this list:

  • Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in 1863 Meeting in Marshall, 13 MCRR 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 - 4/1863 - [MDOT]
  • Brownhoist Railway Cranes - Made to order in Bay City, Michigan.
  • First African-American Operated Railway in U.S.  Kent-Barry-Eaton Connecting Ry. first black-operated railroad in U.S. begins Grand Rapids-Vermontville service - 7/15/1979 - [MDOT]
  • First All Diesel Line Haul Railroad in U.S.  Detroit & Mackinac Ry discontinues use of steam locomotives, becoming the nation's first all-diesel, line-haul railroad - 1946 - [MDOT]
  • First Bessemer-process steel rails in 1865. Wyandotte, MI
  • First Carferry Across Open Water.  Carferry "Ann Arbor No. 1" began service from Elberta to Kewaunee, WI, the first carferry service on Lake Michigan and the first railroad ferry service in the world across open water. - 11/24/1892 - [MDOT]
  • First Chairman of ICC. Interstate Commerce Commission established. Thomas M. Cooley of Michigan is its first chairman - 1887 - [MDOT]
  • First to have regularly scheduled dining cars in 1876.
  • First competitive exams for certain railroad jobs in 1887.
  • First International Railroad Tunnel.  World's first international submarine tunnel, the St. Clair Tunnel, was opened between Port Huron and Sarnia by the Grand Trunk system, forming a continuous rail route between eastern Canada and Chicago, the longest route in the world under single management - 9/19/1891 - [MDOT]
  • First mechanically driven logging railroad in 1857.
  • First Michigan railroad to reach Chicago. The LSMS.
  • First Newspaper Distributed on a Train. Thomas Edison becomes 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 Pitttsburg - The E&M in 1836.
  • First to introduce a refrigerated boxcar in 1869.
  • First Roadrailer in United States. "Roadrailer," first experimental dual wheeled combination rail and highway vehicles in the U.S., begins operating between Grand Rapids and Traverse City on the Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. - 1959 - [MDOT]
  • First Steam Locomotive on a Logging Railroad in the United States.  In 1857, the Blendon Lumber Company purchased a seven-year-old Michigan Central locomotive (a Locks & Haven Co. 0-4-0 locomotive dubbed the "St. Joseph") and began hauling logs on wooden rails.  Their 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 United States.  [MH-11/1993]
  • Linking New York and Chicago - the LSMS Old road in 1855.
  • Longest Serving Car Ferry. Paddlewheel carferry "Lansdowne" began more than 90 years of crossings between Detroit and Windsor, the longest service of any railroad carferry in the world. - 11/1884 - [MDOT]
  • Michigan Car Company.in Detroit.
  • Most Logging Railroads. Eighty-nine logging railroads operated in Michigan; the state had more logging railroads than any two combined U.S. states. - 1887 - [MDOT]
  • The Pullman Company factory in Detroit.
  • Real McCoy. Elijah J. McCoy, a black 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. - 7/23/1872 - [MDOT]
  • First creation of permanent trade-union - the American Railway Workers in 1853.
  • Shay Locomotive. Ephraim Shay of Cadillac developed the Shay gear-driven steam locomotive. From 1800 to 1945, 2,770 Shays were built, chiefly for logging and mining railroads. - 1880 - [MDOT]
  • First railroad telegraph. Michigan Central begins using the telegraph to control train operations, the first railroad in the nation to make widespread us of this technology - 1855 - [MDOT]
  • First to mandate the Westinghouse air brake in 1873.
  • Track Velocipede. George S. Sheffield of Three Rivers invests a three-wheel, hand-pumped "track velocipede" for use by track inspectors;  his company ultimately produced thousands for worldwide use - 1877 - [MDOT]

Le Roy Barnett retired in 2001 as an archivist with the State of Michigan Archives. Throughout his career, Dr. Barnett made note of railroad trivia as well as interesting railroad facts which he has shared with RRHX. We hope that you enjoy reading them. Many of these "sayings", slogans, film names will bring back memories for you. If you have other factual bits of trivia to add, there is a hot-link on each page for you to use.