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Railroads Come to Kalamazoo
Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad
Michigan Central RailRoad
G. R. & I. References and Links
Railroad Links
Railroads, Interurbans and Transit History p 2


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The back of this photograph identifies the subject as a locomotive built in 1836 that was the first steam engine to run from Detroit to Kalamazoo.  It also indicates the steam engine is now in the Chicago  Museum ? - date and location of the photo not given

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One of the greatest contributions to the settlement of the county was the completion of the Michigan Central Railroad from Detroit to Kalamazoo in 1846 - extended to Chicago in 1852.  The impact of the railroad was described in an 1846 Kalamazoo Telegraph article by George Torrey:  "The year 1846 formed a new era in the growth and prosperity of the village ( Kalamazoo ).  On the 2nd of February, the Central Railroad was finished to this place and the influence of this enterprise was at once felt in growth and advancement of business of all kinds.  The stage lines run by Davis, Humphrey & Co. , had heretofore a great business eastward, now it was limited to lines south, north, and west to Chicago house was the headquarters." - see the A Glimpse of Early Kalamazoo page

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Map of railroads and steamship lines serving Michigan in 1848

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By 1885 Kalamazoo County had 200 mile of railroad track
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Michigan Central Locomotive, 1900
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Michigan Central Depot 1904

Michigan Central Station, 1909
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 Engine 6661, 1952

The brick station  (Michigan Central Station 1909) pictured above replaced the original 1846 wooden station on the same site.  The brick station was designed by Cyrus Eidlitz and constructed in 1877.  The Michigan Central Station became when the Pennsylvania Central took over.  In the early 1970's The city of Kalamazoo bought the depot from Penn Central and adapted the building to serve as a bus/train station. At about the same time, Amtrak bought the tracks from Kalamazoo, westward to Porter, IN.

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Grand Rapid and Indiana Railroad

In 1857 the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad had won a land grant to build a railroad from Grand Rapids to Traverse City.  By 1869 they had made very little progress and the state ordered the railroad to surrender its charter. Desperate to save their railroad, the Indiana interests behind the G R&I, turned over construction of the line to the Continental Improvements Co., which was controlled by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The Pennsylvania RR had just acquired the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago, and saw the G R&I as a means to extend into Michigan. G R & I. Locomotive from the George Elwood Collection Grand Rapids & Indiana Locomotive


Personal note:  My great grandparents, Thomas and Jane Branch, in 1870 sold to the G R & I a right of way strip of land parallel to the east side of Austin Lake.  The railroad was abandoned and torn up in the 1990's.

It was however,  controlled by the Pennsylvania Railroad, not local interests. The Pennsylvania took the land grants and had a nice feeder to their main line.

As Northern Michigan's lumber  boom was winding down, the G R & I was seeking new traffic for its line.  One fairly successful approach was to promote Michigan's resorts and  fishing. "Where to go Fishing" was issued by the G R&I in 1907. It listed  good fishing sites and their distance from G R&I stations along the line.

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1904 Grand Rapids & Indiana schedule
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1907 Grand Rapids & Indiana promotion
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 1908 Grand Rapids & Indiana system map

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GRAND RAPIDS and INDIANA  DEPOT - East Michigan Avenue at Pitcher Street: The Italian Revival station in Kalamazoo was built in 1874 replacing an earlier building that burned down. Passenger service ended in 1954. In 1961 the railroad sold the building. In 1963 the building was adapted for use as the Whistle Stop restaurant. It continued as a restaurant for 25 years, but then went into disuse.
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Grand Rapids & Indiana References and Links

See The Vicksburg Depot page about another G R &I Depot 



The information in this section is from a now defunct website about the Grand Rapids and Indiana RR.  A Western Michigan University student built the site, but it is no longer on line.  I saved the information on this page for future reference.  I have edited to eliminate broken links.

Printed References

"The Grand Rapids & Indiana (like the Michigan Northern and the Tuscola & Saginaw Bay) was a regional railroad, and thus was the subject of few written works. Even as a part of the enormous Pennsylvania and Penn Central Systems, the G R &I only rates as a footnote in texts dedicated to those lines. Nonetheless, the resourceful reader can locate books and articles related to the G R &I if enough effort is put forth. What follows is an annotated list of some of the better examples.

LeRoy Barnett. Railroads in Michigan: A Catalog of Company Publications, 1836-1980. Marquette, Mich.: Northern Michigan University Press, 1986.

Barnett's catalog lists publications from all of the GR&I's operators through the Michigan Northern.  The book is most useful for its listing of the countless promotional pamphlets issued by the GR&I during its tourist days. The book also includes call numbers for locating listed publications in the State Archives of Michigan.

Frances D. Burgtorf. Chief Wawatam: The Story of a Hand-Bomber. Cheboygan, Mich.: Review Printing Co., 1976.

For 73 years the Chief Wawatam ferried railcars between Michigan's two peninsulas. The GR&I had a third interest in the boat - as did the Pennsy, the Penn Central a half interest, and the Michigan Northern full control. Most of the Chief's life is chronicled in Burgtorf's book through newspaper clippings, ship's logs, and oral histories. For the record, the rest of the story is as follows: the Chief stopped sailing in 1984 (not because of a problem with the boat, but with one of the slips she loaded cars at) and was sold in 1988, after which she was stripped of her decks and reduced to a barge.

Ron Cady. "Michigan Metamorphosis." Trains October 1987: 26-38.

This magnificent Trains cover story is essential reading for anyone interested in Michigan railroading in the immediate post-Conrail era. The rise and fall of the Michigan Northern is explained, as is the growth of the Tuscola & Saginaw Bay.

George H. Drury. The Historical Guide to North American Railroads. Waukesha, Wis.: Kalmbach Publishing Co., 1994. This book includes an entry for the Tuscola & Saginaw Bay.

The Trainwatcher's Guide to North American Railroads. 2nd ed. Waukesha, Wis.: Kalmbach Publishing Co., 1992.

Willis Frederick Dunbar. All Aboard! A History of Railroads in Michigan. 
After three decades this book remains the starting point for any serious study of Michigan railroading. 

Frank N. Elliot. When the Railroad Was King. 2nd ed. Lansing, Mich.: Bureau of History, Michigan Department of State, 1988.

While the writing concentrates on pre Civil War Michigan railroading, the pictures include many images of GR&I trains.

"Grubbing and Grading for the GR&I." Michigan History Magazine March/April 1980: 16.

This article is comprised of entries from the journal of Edward T. Couch, an Ontario native who came to Michigan in 1872 to work on the GR&I. His comments on building the line reveal much about the back-breaking labor involved. 

Cornelius Hauck. "Pullmans, Lounge Cars and 2-10-2's: The Pennsylvania Railroad in Northern Michigan." The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society Newsletter Summer 1999: 1-2.

For those interested in the operations of the Pennsy's Northern Arrow, this is the place to go. Hauck's piece covers schedules, power and consists for the deluxe train between Cincinnati and Mackinaw City. Also be sure to see Hauck's follow-up piece, "Northern Arrow," from the Summer 2000 issue of The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society Newsletter. Further details about the train are provided, as well as a few stories from former passengers.

George W. Hilton. The Great Lakes Car Ferries. Berkeley: Howell-North, 1962.

The Ann Arbor Railroad it wasn't, but the Grand Rapids & Indiana did maintain an open-water car ferry service that was both unprofitable and short-lived. Operated as the Manistique, Marquette & Northern Railroad, the ferry service ran from Northport in Michigan's Lower Peninsula to Manistique in the Upper Peninsula. The route opened in 1903, then struggled for a while until the GR&I pulled out in 1914. This service, along with the more successful Straits of Mackinac route, is profiled in Hilton's seminal, though dated, study. This book deserves an update too.

J. G. Inglis. Northern Michigan Handbook for Travelers. Petoskey, Mich.: Geo. E. Sprang, 1898;reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Black Letter Press, 1987.

Originally printed as a guide for rail and steamboat travelers touring Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula, today the book provides a rare glimpse into Great Lakes State railroading at the close of the 19th century. Pages 35 through 40 and 126 through 128 describe the journey - via the GR&I - from Grand Rapids to Mackinaw City. 

Graydon M. Meints. Michigan Railroads and Railroad Companies. East Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State University Press, 1992.

All the details and dates regarding the charters of the GR&I and each of its successors.

Michigan Railroad Commissioner. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Railroads of the State of Michigan. Lansing, Mich.: W.S. George & Co., ca. 1870-1920.

These annual reports list the particulars (miles of track, number of cars and locomotives, number of stations, passenger and freight revenues, capital expenditures, etc.) for every railroad operating within the State of Michigan. Of course the G R &I is one of them.

Richard S. Simons and Francis H. Parker. Railroads of Indiana. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1997.

The G R &I was, for all intents and purposes, a Michigan line, but let's not forget what the "I" stood for. Simons's and Parker's text contains many references to the road.

Lawrence and Lucille Wakefield. Sail and Rail: A Narrative History of Transportation in Western Michigan. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Press, 1980; reprint, Holt, Mich.: Thunder Bay Press, 1996.

A lively look at transportation in the Traverse City, Michigan, area. The Wakefield's  share many stories regarding the G R &I's Walton Junction - Traverse City branch.

Frank York. Ghost Junctions: Four Tours Through Michigan's Recent Past. Big Rapids, Mich.: Frank York, 1992.

York's book deals with the old G R &I line after it was abandoned. The work is a study of four Michigan communities that, through the 1970s, had rail service in four different directions, but by the 1990s, had no rail service at all. Junctions on the G R &I in the book include Wasepi and Reed City. York catalogued a number of railroad related structures that were still standing as he wrote; sadly some of these are now gone.


Links to other pages that contain information related to the G R &I. Each entry has been annotated for convenience.

I. Lumber

The Library of Congress American Memory Project

In addition to countless photographs related to American History, this Library of Congress page houses a number of  historic railroad maps. The maps can be zoomed in and out, allowing page visitors to study them in detail. Included at the site are two maps of the Grand Rapids & Indiana. The first is a map of the G R &I itself from circa 1871. The second is a map of the G R &I and other Pennsylvania Railroad-affiliated connections from circa 1874.

 H-Michigan Discussion Network

This is the official discussion list for all aspects of Michigan history.

II. Tourists

H-Michigan Discussion Network

III. The Pennsylvania Railroad

Web sites dedicated to this G R&I successor are legion (after all, it was the Standard Railroad of the World), but one of the best is the home page of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society. Other Pennsylvania Railroadlinks page. pages can be accessed from the Society's thorough

The Railcar Ferry, Chief Wawatam

For three quarters of a century the Chief ferried railcars between Michigan's peninsulas. In that time she sailed under GR&I, Pennsylvania, Penn Central, and Michigan Northern flags. Bob Strauss has created a fine site dedicated the the boat.

Car Ferry History, has informatrion on Ferries from the United States & other parts of the world.

IV. Short Lines

The Michigan Northern Railway

There is an interesting employer status determination document concerning the Michigan Northern posted online. It's a straight legal document, but worth looking at nonetheless. (Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this paper.) Also of note Eddie Gross's Michigan Railroad Page 

The Tuscola & Saginaw Bay Railway

The Tuscola & Saginaw Bay now operates the GR&I between Cadillac and Petoskey, as well as the Walton Junction-Traverse City branch. Look for the routes on the T&SB's system map.

Norfolk Southern Corporation

The Thoroughbred of Transportation operates the GR&I trackage between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids.

The Michigan Southern Railroad

The Michigan Southern Railroad's Kendallville Division is actually a 1.1 mile portion of the former G R&I. Check out the Kendallville section of David Safdy's Fort Wayne Railfan page for some pictures of the operation.

The Grand Traverse Dinner Train

It is worth noting that you still can ride as a passenger over a portion of Grand Rapids & Indiana iron. The Grand Traverse Dinner Train offers evening excursions, with cuisine, from Traverse City to Walton Junction over the ex-G R &I branch line between those two points.


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Railroad Links

The Kalamazoo Seven - seven railroad and interurban buildings Michigan Passenger Depots
Michigan Railroad Links Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids Interurban photo and info
Kalamazoo County Depots Grand Trunk Western Historical Society
 Michigan Railroad History Michigan Electric Railway
Kalamazoo Depots Chicago Transit and Railfan


1846 County History Kalamazoo Mall
1876 County History Kalamazoo Theater Views
 1980 Tornado Kalamzoo Views
 Chronology of Township, Village and City Formation Obituaries from the Pioneer Society Reports
Centennial History and Pageant Program Railroads, Interubans, and Transit History
Historical Markers Index Reminiscences of Kalamazoo, 1832 -1833 by Jesse Turner
History Pages Index Schoolcraft History
Indians in Kalamazoo - Early Letters Vicksburg History Site

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