Railroad: Canada Southern Railway Company

The Canada Southern (CASO) began in 1869 and had railroad lines across Ontario, Canada. CASO then built into Michigan in 1872, hoping to be one of the early lines to reach Chicago from the east. They crossed the Detroit River (via ferry) at Grosse Isle and then built west to Fayette, Ohio via Carleton, Dundee, Deerfield, and Morenci. The line then ran out of money. (Their right-of-way west of Fayette, some of which was graded, became part of the Wabash's Toledo to Chicago branch.) 

VariousCanada Southern railway Various (mostly MCRR, also DT&I & LSMS)

Built: Various lines from 1869.

Operated by Michigan Central in 1882 and leased to them in 1904.

Reference: [MRRC]


For a time, some of the control of the CASO was held by Gould interests who also owned the Wabash. Gould hoped to use this line from Toledo to Grosse Isle and then across Canada. (This is likely why the CASO - and later Michigan Central - had favorable connections with the Wabash in Toledo (via C&S Junction).

The CASO also controlled the Toledo, Canada Southern & Detroit, which had built a line from Peninsular Junction (on the Detroit & Milwaukee line to Brush Street station, through Grand Junction in Detroit, and on to Toledo in 1873.

Both of these lines (to Detroit and Toledo, and west to Fayette) were intended to compete with the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, the Michigan Central and the Grand Trunk of Canada. In 1882, the CASO also controlled a short railroad line in Michigan which went from the St. Clair River, across from Ontario, west to Lenox in Macomb County. This was called the Michigan, Midland & Canada railroad and also was part of a different attempt to cross Michigan towards Chicago.

Around 1875, following the panic of 1873, the CASO came under control of the Vanderbilt family (New York Central and Hudson River railroad). This began a series of moves to integrate the Canada Southern into the Vanderbilt controlled Michigan Central and Lake Shore & Michigan Southern lines in Ontario and Michigan.

This included making the CASO in Canada part of Michigan Central's main line to Buffalo and New York City. The north-south CASO line from Detroit to Toledo became part of the Michigan Central. (The LS&MS had their own parallel route between the two towns).

The line west to Fayette was down graded and parted out. From Slocum Jct. to Dundee was sold to the DT&I in 1897 (allowing the DT&I to reach Detroit). The line west of Dundee to Grosvenor was abandoned and the line from Grosvenor to Fayette became a branch of Vanderbilt's Lake Shore & Michigan Southern. All of these actions took the CASO out of any contention as a east-west route to Chicago.

Ultimately, most of the CASO became managed by the Michigan Central out of Detroit. The ferry crossing at Grosse Isle continued service briefly until the car ferry operation at Detroit became sturdy enough to combat winter ice. The line into Grosse Isle was used for passenger and freight traffic until the late 1920's.

CASO Map CASO Grosse Isle StationPhoto Info: Left, a map of the Canada Southern railroad west of St. Thomas under Michigan Central ownership. 2nd photo, an early view of the depot at Grosse Isle, MI, which was located near the railroad's bridge across the river to the ferry dock at Stony Island. [Alan Loftis collection].

More Notes

The Canada Southern railway was originally an effort to build a line from southern Ontario to the Chicago area. At least two routes were started, one from St. Clair (in St. Clair County) west-southwest through Richmond (some of which later became part of the MC and GTW, and a line from Amherstburg, ON across the Detroit River to Grosse Isle using a car ferry operation. This line built west from Slocum Junction (near Trenton) west-southwest through Dundee, Deerfield, Morenci to Fayette, IN. They also built a north-south branch from Slocum Junction to Detroit and Toledo.

Time Line

1872. We understand that the Michigan Air Line Railroad, now completed from Ridgeway to Romeo, has been leased to the Canada Southern (or Michigan Midland) upon a contract to complete the road from St. Clair to Jackson within one year from this time. The Air Line passed into the hands of its new managers today. [PHTH-1872-0415]

1878. Paymaster Burton of the Canada Southern, paid a portion of the men on the Detroit & Toledo Division yesterday, and will finish up his monthly trip today. [DFP-1878-0105]

1882. November 30. The Michigan Central has leased the Canada Southern road for a term of 21 years and the two hereinafter be under the management of the Central. The Michigan Central drops the Great Western and the latter will hereafter run in connection with the Grand Trunk. [NREP-1882-1130]

1905. June 9. The Canada Southern announces that they are organizing companies with the Michigan Central to construct a Detroit river railroad tunnel. [RG-1905-0609:190] The tunnel was opened in 1908.


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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