Railroad: The Ann Arbor Railroad Company

The Ann Arbor Railroad was the successor to the Toledo, Ann Arbor & North Michigan in 1895. By this time, the line from Toledo to Frankfort was largely intact, though some modifications were made under Ann Arbor ownership. The line was operated for many years under Wabash, DT&I, Penn Central and State of Michigan ownership. For years, the railroad operated cross-lake railroad car ferry service out of Elberta (Frankfort).

The line west of Yuma (near Cadillac) to Frankfort was abandoned 1994. The remainder of the railroad was parted out to the new Michigan Interstate (which became the new Ann Arbor railroad) and the Tuscola, & Saginaw Bay on a state owned route. This later became the Great Lakes Central.

Toledo, Ann Arbor & North Michigan (and others) → Ann Arbor Railroad → Penn CentralState of Michigan/Michigan Interstate Ry,

AA LogoBuilt: ~1882

Acquired: The  Toledo, Ann Arbor & North Michigan at foreclosure in 1895 from Toledo to Frankfort.

Operated for 77 years.

Became: Penn Central

Reference: [MRRC] 

AA Motor Car at DurandPhoto Info: An Ann Arbor Motor Car passenger train at the Durand Depot in the 1930's. [Alan Loftis collection].


The Ann Arbor Railroad was created by the purchase of the Toledo, Ann Arbor & North Michigan Railway company in a foreclosure sale on July 2, 1895. The company was controlled from 1905 to 1910 by the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton. Control was assumed by the Wabash railroad in 1925, and then transferred back to the DT&I in 1963. The Ann Arbor railroad declared bankruptcy in 1973 and the portion north of Ann Arbor (Osmer) was sold in 1980 to the State of Michigan. 

Time Line

1889. November 17. The railroad line was opened between Toledo and Frankfort, MI. [MCR-1903]

1902. A grade separation project on the AARR in the City of Ann Arbor was completed. [MCR-1903]

1902. SNAPSHOT. The Ann Arbor railroad employed 7 train dispatchers, 43 station agents, 52 engineers, 52 firemen, 38 conductors and 84 other trainmen. 181 section foremen and other section hands, with total employees numbering 1,032. The railroad had 46 locomotives, 28 passenger train cars and 1,393 freight cars. All had Westinghouse automatic air brakes. Passenger cars heated with steam from the locomotive. Top five freight categories carried were Coal (22%) Logs and lumber products (34%), Grain (5%); Cement (4%), and ice (4%). The railroad owned their own telegraph line of 262 miles. [MCR-1903]

1911. The Ann Arbor Railroad controlled the Manistique & Lake Superior in 1911.

1925. The Ann Arbor railroad is acquired by the Wabash (from the Ford-owned DT&I). A new interchange and yard tracks were constructed at Milan to send Ford parts to Minneapolis via Lake Michigan car ferries. [TSD]

1925. The Wabash establishes trackage rights on the Ann Arbor from Milan to Toledo to facilitate Ford business between Dearborn and Toledo. [TSD]

1977. The line south of Ann Arbor was operated by the Michigan Interstate Railway Company from 1977 to 1988 and acquired at that time by the Ann Arbor Acquisition Corporation. In 2013, the line was sold to Watco, a large operator of shortline railroads. The Ann Arbor interchanges with the Great Lakes Central Railroad at a location known as Osmer, in Ann Arbor Township.


The following sources are utilized in this website. [SOURCE-YEAR-MMDD-PG]:

  • [AAB| = All Aboard!, by Willis Dunbar, Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids ©1969.
  • [AAN] = Alpena Argus newspaper.
  • [AARQJ] = American Association of Railroads Quiz Jr. pamphlet. © 1956
  • [AATHA] = Ann Arbor Railroad Technical and Historical Association newsletter "The Double A"
  • [AB] = Information provided at Michigan History Conference from Andrew Bailey, Port Huron, MI

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