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Michigan Central Railroad

Freight Contract

November 15, 1864

 

By the 1890s the Michigan Central was a formidable system, covering roughly 1,700 miles. Its main line linked Buffalo with Chicago via Detroit with connects to Toledo, Mackinaw City, South Haven, Grand Rapids, and Lansing. Its superbly engineered main line, particularly the CASO segment, allowed trains to cruise at speeds of 60 mph to Detroit.

 

~ the Michigan Central Railroad ~

The Michigan Central Railroad (reporting mark MC) was originally incorporated in 1846 to establish rail service between Detroit, Michigan, and St. Joseph, Michigan. The railroad later operated in the states of Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois in the United States and the province of Ontario in Canada. After about 1867 the railroad was controlled by the New York Central Railroad, which later became part of Penn Central and then Conrail. After the 1998 Conrail breakup, Norfolk Southern Railway now owns much of the former Michigan Central trackage.

 

At the end of 1925, MC operated 1871 miles of road and 4139 miles of track; that year it reported 4304 million net ton-miles of revenue freight and 600 million passenger-miles.

 

The line between Detroit and St. Joseph, Michigan, was originally planned in 1830 to provide freight service between Detroit and Chicago by train to St. Joseph and via boat service on to Chicago. The Detroit & St. Joseph Railroad was chartered in 1831 with a capital of $1,500,000. The railroad actually began construction on May 18, 1836, starting at "King's Corner" in Detroit, which was the name by which the southeast corner of Jefferson and Woodward Avenue was then known. Note that this is not the location of Michigan Central Station, which apparently replaced this building.

 

The small private organization, known then as the Detroit and St. Joseph Railroad, quickly ran into problems securing cheap land in the private market, and abandonment of the project was discussed. The City of Detroit invested $50,000 in the project. The State of Michigan bailed out the railroad in 1837 by purchasing it and investing $5,000,000. The now state-owned company was renamed the Central Railroad of Michigan.

 

By 1840 the railroad was again out of money and had completed track only between Detroit and Dexter, Michigan. In 1846 the state sold the railroad to the newly incorporated Michigan Central corporation for $2,000,000. By this time the railroad had reached Kalamazoo, Michigan, a distance of 143.16 miles.

 

The new private corporation had committed to complete the railroad with T rail of not less than sixty pounds to the yard and also to replace the poorly built rails between Kalamazoo and Detroit with similar quality rail, as the state-built rail was of low quality. The new owners met this obligation by building the rest of the line some 74.84 miles to the shores of Lake Michigan by 1849. However, rather than go to St. Joseph, instead they went to New Buffalo. This was because they had decided to extend the road all the way to Chicago.

 

This involved passing through two other states and getting leave from two state legislatures to do so. To facilitate this process, they bought the Joliet and Northern Indiana Railroad in 1851. Thus they reached Michigan City, Indiana, by 1850 and finished the line to Kensington, Illinois, (now a south Chicago neighborhood) in 1852, using Illinois Central trackage rights to downtown Chicago. The completed railroad was 270 miles in length.

 

The Michigan Central Railroad (MCR) operated mostly passenger trains between Chicago and Detroit. These trains ranged from locals to the Wolverine. In 1904, MCR began a long-term lease of Canada Southern Railway (CSR), which operated the most direct route between Detroit and New York. CSR's mainline cut through the heart of Southwestern Ontario, between Windsor and Fort Erie.

 

The new service, known as the Canada Division Passenger Service, saw a major surge beginning at the start of the 1920s. Between 1920 and 1922, the legendary Wolverine passenger train operated in two sections, five days per week along CSR's mainline. Then, in the summer of 1923, the eastbound Wolverine began running from Detroit to Buffalo without any scheduled stops in Canada, making the trip in 4 hours and 50 minutes, an unprecedented achievement. During the same summer, the Canada Division was moving 2,300 through passengers per day. By the end of the decade, a fleet of 205 J-1 class Hudsons – one of the most powerful locomotives for passenger service yet designed – was hauling passengers along the CSR mainline. However, by the 1930s the Wolverine was making stops in the Canadian section of the route. Also, by the late 1940s, the Empire State Express passed from Buffalo into Southwestern Ontario; however, it terminated at Detroit.

 

All major Michigan railroads operated a rail ferry service across Lake Michigan except the Michigan Central. This can be attributed to MC's most direct route across Southern Michigan from Detroit to Chicago. The Michigan Central also had the best access to Chicago of any Michigan railroad. The Michigan Central did own part of the Mackinac Transportation Company, which operated the SS Chief Wawatam until 1984. The Chief Wawatam was a front-loading, hand-fired, coal-fed steamer. It was the last hand-fired steamer in the free world at its long-overdue retirement in 1984. The Chief Wawatam continued to operate until 2009, cut down to a barge. One Chief Wawatam engine was salvaged and restored by the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. Other artifacts from the ferry, including the whistle, wheel, telegraphs, and furniture, are preserved by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission in Mackinaw City. Car floats also ran across the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario, for high and wide loads that could not fit through the tunnels.

Michigan Central Railroad Freight Contract ~ 1864

SKU: Freight Contract ~ 1864
$35.00Price
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