The Civil War and its aftermath...

Michigan's Internet Railroad History Museum




  • Railroad event or related event in Michigan

  • Important non-railroad event in Michigan or outside.

  • Improvement in Technology         Mining.

  • Railroad built or extended

  • Railroad abandoned and/or removed

  • Economic panic or depression        Car ferries.


Info Sources









  • Railroads began building branch lines to replace plank roads and stage coaches.  [AAD]
  • The Michigan Car Company (John S. Newberry and James McMillan) began building rail cars in Detroit.  A competitor, the Peninsular Car Company (owned by Russell A. Alger) also opened but was later merged into Michigan Car.  A number of supporting businesses, including iron works and the Detroit Wheel Company, the Russel Wheel and Foundry Company, and the Griffin Car Wheel Company were founded in Detroit.    [AAD]
  • Michigan Central built many of its own freight cars in shops at Jackson, which was the city's first industrial enterprise.  The Flint and Pere Marquette also built passenger coaches at shops in Saginaw.  [AAD]

  • Summer:  Lewis Cass, the "foremost citizen of Detroit for a generation", addresses members of the "three months' regiment" at the D&M depot when the regiment returned to Detroit.  [MRC-6/1973]

  • September:  Flint & Pere Marquette finishes construction from Saginaw 20 miles south towards Flint.  [MRRC]

  • November:  Amboy, Lansing and Traverse Bay Railroad opens line from Owosso to Laingsburg.  [MRRC]

  • December:  The Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad is the first main-line railroad to penetrate Michigan's white pine forests.  They began hauling logs from the Crockery Creek valley to Hunter SAvidge's sawmill in Mill Point adjacent to Spring Lake.  [MH-11/1993]

  • December 31:  Michigan Railroad Mileage Totaled 700 miles.  [MDOT/AAD]

  • Michigan Central Railroad builds a 3-story brick depot in Ypsilanti - [MRC-0988]

  • Passengers could travel from Boston to St. Louis in about 48 hours.  [STOV]

  • Passenger train conductors and brakemen were furnished uniforms by the railroad.  During the Civil War, these were stovepipe hats but these soon gave way to caps.   [AAD]

  • Nationally, there are 30,000 miles of railroad track.  [STOV]

  • George Pullman builds a plant in Detroit to manufacture his Palace and Sleeping Cars.  Later, Pullman moved the entire operation to Chicago.  [AAD]

  • Detroit's population: 45,619 [D18/BOM]

  • January 5:  Amboy, Lansing and Traverse Bay RR completed 20 miles of railroad (location unknown) and received 1st land grant.  [MDOT]

  • February 3:  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]

  • April 12:  Civil war begins.

  • May 13:  First movement of troops by rail on the Amboy, Lansing and Traverse City from Lansing to Bath.   [MDOT]

  • September 4:  The Amboy, Lansing & Traverse Bay Railroad reaches North Lansing from Bath.  [MCR-75]

  • October 24:  First U.S. transcontinental telegraph line put into operation.  Pony Express ends two days later.  [DWS]

  • Railroads begin setting aside one car for smokers.  It was normally placed at the rear of the train. [AAD]

  • The Michigan Central, a pioneer in the development of sleeping cars, constructs its first sleeper car in its Detroit shops.  The car has seats that can be converted into beds.  They also make two "drover's sleeping cars".  [AAD]

  • SNAPSHOT:  The Michigan Central Railroad reached Chicago nine years ago.  Today, the road runs 3 passenger trains each way between Detroit and Chicago.  They include a "Day Express", a "Night Express" and a westbound 2nd Class Emigrant and Express Freight train.  In addition to the day and night express eastbound, the MCRR runs a 2nd Class "Stock Express" between the Stock Yards at Chicago and the Stock Yards at Detroit, with local stops in between.  The road also operates a local bidirectional passenger train between Detroit and Jackson, and a "Cincinatti Express" between Chicago and Michigan City, Indiana.  Finally, the schedule includes two 3rd class "way freights" between Detroit and Michigan City.  In addition to Detroit and Chicago, the road shows two major terminals at Marshall and Michigan City.  (Jackson and Niles are merely stops).  The timetable says "All trains whether regular or wild, will keep a sharp look-out for Grand Trunk Trains and at Cattle Yard Tracks.

  • Civil war continues.

  • January 20:  Flint & Pere Marquette opens line from East Saginaw to Mt. Morris.  [MCR-75/MRRC]

  • November 4:  The Amboy, Lansing and Traverse Bay Railroad reaches North Lansing from Owosso.  This line was begun in 1858.  [AAD]

  • December 8:  Flint & Pere Marquette begins train service to Flint (from Mt. Morris).  [MCR-75/MDOT/AAD]

  • Flint & Pere Marquette begins train service between Flint and East Saginaw.  [MHM/R&LHS-Winter/2000]

  • Mail sorting on railroad cars is introduced.  [STOV]

  • "Commodore" Vanderbilt begins investing in railroad properties, gaining controlling interest in several Michigan railroad lines over the next 20 years.  [STOV]

  • Civil war continues.

  • May 15:  Meeting in Marshall (in April), 13 MCRR men planned a national railway men's organization, resulting in the founding the following month in Detroit of the Brotherhood of the Footboard (later called the Brotherwood of Locomotive Engineers, the oldest labor union in the Western Hemisphere.  [MDOT]

  • August 4:  Detroit City Railway is incorporated to run horse-drawn streetcars on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit.  Streetcars are also run on Woodward, Gratiot and Michigan by the end of the year.  [DWS/MRRC]

  • September:  The Amboy, Lansing and Traverse Bay Railroad reaches Lansing from North Lansing.  It is the first railroad to arrive in the state's capital.  [MCR-75]

  • Detroit Bridge and Iron Works is established.  [DWS]

  • First subway begins in London, England.  [DWS]

  • Dining car service is introduced in Pennsylvania.  [STOV]

  • The Michigan Legislature passes an act to permit local aid to railroads.  It is later found to be unconstitutional in 1870.  [AAD]

  • Civil war continues.

  • August:  Peninsula RR of Michigan completes Escanaba-Negaunee line.  31,072 tons of ore were shipped between the two points in 1864.  It was consolidated with the Chicago and Northwestern in 1865.  [MDOT/AAD]  [MCR-75] reports this date as September, 1864.

  • September:  C&NW (Peninsula Railroad) completes line from Escanaba to Negaunee.  [MRRC]

  • October 21:  Chicago and Northwestern acquires Peninsula Railroad (Escanaba to Ishpeming).  [MRRC]

  • November 1:  Flint and Holly Rail Road opens line from Flint to Holly.  The F&H trains run into the Brush Street depot over the D&M as a result of trackage rights between the two railroads.  This relationship continued for several years.  [MCR-75/MRRC/MRC-6/1973]

  • Pere Marquette Railroad enters Detroit.  [DWS]

  • Blendon Lumber Co. abandons logging road, 7 miles near Blendon Landing in Ottawa County :(T7N R14W to T6N R14W).  [MRRC]

  • Michigan Car Company organized in Detroit by James McMillan and John Newberry to manufacture railroad freight and refrigerator cars.  They build their works at Grand Trunk Junction, now West Detroit.  Leads to numerous ironworks.  [DWS]

  • The Eureka Iron Works, constructed in 1853 in Wyandotte, produces America's first Bessemer process steel.  The plant is destroyed by fire in 1894 and went out of business.  [EMR4]

  • Thomas Edison takes a job as a telegraph operator on the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad at Adrian, Michigan.  He is fired two months later and moves to the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad at Fort Wayne, Indiana  [ELI/MWD]

  • Civil war continues.

  • April 9:  Civil war ends.

  • June:  Marquette & Ontonagon RR opens Ishpeming-Champion line.  [MCR-75/MDOT/MSL/AAD]

  • July:  Marquette & Ontonagon RR opens line from Winthrop Jct. to Lake Michigame.  [MRRC]

  • December:  Jackson, Lansing and Saginaw Railroad opens line from Jackson to Mason.  [MCR-75]

  • Bay City and Portsmouth Railway opens 10 mile long line from Saginaw & 34d Streets in Bay City, via Saginaw (6th and Water Streets) to Portsmouth and other points.  (street railway).  [MRRC]

  • A railroad is extended from Three Rivers to Schoolcraft.  [AAD]

  • MCRR opens first Dearborn station - Mid-1860's - [DPG]

  • First Escanaba ore dock is built.  [MSL]

  • Calumet Mine (copper) opens.  [MSL]

  • The Hecla Mine (copper) also opens.  [MSL]

  • First horizontal tank car is placed in railroad service.  [STOV]

  • Manual block system of train control is developed by Ashbel Welch.  [STOV]

  • First domestic steel rails are produced in the United States, at the Wyandotte (Michigan) Mills, using the Bessemer process.  [HWC][STOV]

  • January 1:  First train into Schoolcraft on the Schoolcraft & Three Rivers Railroad.  [MT]

  • June 25:  Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw RR completes line from Mason to Lansing.  [MCR-75]

  • April 26:  A fire at the foot of Brush Street burns the office, freight and passenger depots, as well as the ferry "Windsor".  18 lives were lost.  Description.  [MRC-6/1973]

  • September 19:  Representatives of car departments of 11 railroads met at Adrian, agreeing on a general meeting of "car masters" in Springfield, Mass. on 5/15/1867, resulting in the founding of the Association of American Railroads.   [MDOT]

  • December:  The Lake Shore completes its passenger depot at Chicago, a wood and stone structure at van Buren and LaSalle Streets.

  • MS&NI train crews go out on strike to protest conditions which were "unjust and unbearable", as well as pay now allowed for work performed.  Incidents of violence took place.  When a Pittsburg, Fort Wayne & Chicago engineer attempted to take an engine out of the engine house at LaPorte, he was set upon by strikers, dragged from the cab and hauled out of town.  The strike was brief.  [LS]

  • The Calumet and Hecla Mining Company opens stamping mills and a reclamation plant in Lake Linden.  [BOM]


  • January 1:  Detroit River car ferry service begins with "Great Western" at the time the largest iron or steel vessel on the Great Lakes.   [MDOT]

  • January:  The Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw complete their line from Lansing to Owosso.  [MCR-75]

  • January 14:  A new Brush Street Station is opened in downtown Detroit.  It is described by the Detroit Advertisor as a two-story structure with two large and convenient waiting rooms, one for the ladies and one for gentlemen, a conductors' room, a telegraph office each for the DM and MS&NI railroads, and the MS&NI's Superintendent's office.  It also held two baggage rooms and a refreshment room.  The 2nd floor offices were for D&M executives.  It closes 106 years later in 1973.  [MRC-8/1973]

  • May 3:  Kalamazoo and Schoolcraft Rail Road completes line from Kalamazoo to Schoolcraft.  The first train arrives in Kalamazoo on this line.  [MRRC/MT]

  • May 3:  The Kalamazoo & White Pigeon extends their line from Three Rivers to Kalamazoo.  [MCR-75]

  • September:  Paw Paw RR, Michigan's shortest (4 miles) common carrier railroad, began Paw Paw-Lawton service.  [MDOT/PMHS/MRRC]

  • October:  The Paw Paw Railroad opens from Lawton to Paw Paw.  Later becomes part of Chicago & West Michigan.  [MCR-75/R&LHS-Winter/2000]

  • November 1:  Bay City and East Saginaw Rail Road completes line from East Saginaw to Bay City (CSX line).  [MCR-75/MRRC]

  • November 9:  The Paw Paw Railroad, with financial help from the MCRR, reaches from Paw Paw to Lawton.  [AAD]

  • November 26:  A refrigerator car is patented by Michigan Central's Master Carbuilder, J.B. Sutherland, in Detroit. [MT]

  • December 1:  Bay City & East Saginaw RR began regularly-scheduled service between East Saginaw and Midland.  [MCR-75]

  • December 23:  Grand Rapids & Indiana opens line between Grand Rapids and Cedar Springs.  [MCR-75]

    December:  The Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw complete their line from Owosso to Wenona (North Bay City).  [MCR-75]

  • Flint & Pere Marquette builds line from East Saginaw to Midland.  [MRRC][PM45]

  • The Hecla & Torch Lake Railroad was chartered and built to connect the Calumet Mine and its stamp mill.  It was originally a 50" gauge railroad which was changed to 49" when the 1st locomotive "The Fluke" arrived at that gauge.  [MOD-6/1985]

  • Railcar manufacturer George Pullman invents sleeping car.  [DWS]

  • The National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry was organized by Oliver H. Kelley.  Organized for educational issues, the Grange shofted its interest to economic and poltical issues, and railroad rates in particular.  [STOV]

  • The Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad opens a 16.7 mile stretch of track between Saginaw and Bay City.  It is operated by time table and train orders - no automatic block system - for it entire time of operation.  [PM45]

  • The Lake Shore builds a machine shop (600'x20'), a blacksmith shop (100'x72') at Elkhart.  Similar shops in Adrian and LaPorte are downgraded.  [LS]

  • Flint & Pere Marquette builds a moveable bridge over the Saginaw River at Saginaw.  [PM45]

  • January 16:  A refrigerator car is patented by William Davis, a Detroit fish dealer. [MT]
  • February 28:  Canada Southern Railway incorporated in the Dominion of Canada.  [MDY33]

  • June:  The Grand Trunk Railway of Canada operates passenger trains between Toronto and Detroit, crossing the border at Port Huron, then down what is now known as the Mt. Clemens subdivision to Milwaukee Jct. The road stopped at the depot at the Junction, and then went on to the MCRR Third Street station via Grand Trunk Junction (now West Detroit). [CRP1]

  • July 4:  Grand River Valley Railroad opens line from Rives Jct. (north of Jackson) to Eaton Rapids.  [MCR-75/MRRC]

  • Autumn:  The Grand River Valley extends its line from Eaton Rapids to Charlotte.  [MCR-75]

  • October 26:  The Flint & Pere Marquette open their line from Midland to Averills.  [MCR-75]

  • October:  The Hecla & Torch Lake complete their line from Hecla to Torch Lake Incline.  [MCR-75]

  • November 23:  The Kalamazoo, Allegan & Grand Rapids Railroad reaches Allegan from Kalamazoo.  [MCR-75]

  • E. P. Cambell and Co. builds 1 mile mile railway from mill to dock in Alpena. [MRRC]

  • The Flint & Pere Marquette opens their line from Midland to Averill.  [PM45]

  • William Davis, of Detroit, receives patent for an "icebox on wheels", a refridgerator car he uses to ship fruit and fish by rail.  [DWS]

  • Eli H. Janney receives patent for the automatic rail car coupler, which begins to replace the dangerous link-and-pin coupler.  [STOV]

  • The Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana begins using the "Baker patent car warmer" which circulated salted water through pipes underneath coach seats.  [AAD]

  • Railway conductors organize into a national union.  [STOV]

  • Detroit, Grand Haven & Milwaukee (GTW) builds depot in Grand Haven.  Depot continues to exist as of 1974.  [IT-12/1974]

  • The Flint & Pere Marquette begin running into Detroit via trackage rights on the Grand Trunk between Holly and downtown.  This lasted until 1872 when the F&PM began using the MCRR between Wayne Jct. and downtown.  [PM45]

  • The Robinson, Russell & Company, a freight car manufacturer founded in 1854, is merged into the Detroit Car & Manufacturing company.  Their works are located at the foot of Beaubien Street.  [HWC]

  • March 1:  Kalamazoo, Allegan & Grand Rapids (LSMS) reaches Grand Rapids from Allegan.  [MCR-75/IT-12/79/AAD]

  • April 6:  Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana merges into the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern.  [DWS]

  • Spring:  The Grand River Valley Railroad opens their line from Charlotte to Hastings.  [MCR-75]

  • May 1:  The Grand Rapids & Indiana completes a line from Grand Rapids, north 20 miles which qualified them for a land grant. [AAD]

  • May 10:  Transcontinental railroad completed at Promintary Point, Utah.  [DWS]

  • June 21:  The Grand Rapids & Indiana open their main line from Cedar Springs to Morley.  [MCR-75]

  • August 14:  The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern acquires the Schoolcraft & Three Rivers and the Kalamazoo & Schoolcraft. It joins the companies and changes the name to the Kalamazoo & White Pigeon.   It also acquires the Kalamazoo, Allegan & Grand Rapids. Both the K&WP and KA&GR will remain extant companies until the formation of Conrail in 1976.  [MT]

  • September 24:  Severe depression set off on Black Friday by gold manipulation by railroad financier Jay Gould.  This was the Panic of 1869.  [DWS]

  • November 18:  Ionia and Lansing Rail Road opens line from Lansing to Grand Ledge and Portland.  [MRRC]  [MCR-75] dates the opening of this line between Lansing and Ionia as December, 1869.

  • November 22:  The Ft. Wayne, Jackson and Saginaw open their line from Jackson to Reading.  [MCR-75]

  • November:  First passenger train into Muskegon from Ferrysburg.  [MDOT]

  • November:  Port Huron and Lake Michigan opens line from Port Huron to Emmet.  [MRRC/MCR/75]

  • December 9:  Michigan Air Line opens line from Ridgeway to Romeo.  [MCR-75/MRRC]

  • December:  Michigan Lake Shore Rail Road opens line from Muskegon to Ferrysburg (near Grand Haven).  [MRRC]

  • December:  Peninsular Railroad opens line from Battle Creek to Lansing.  [MRRC/AAD/MCR-75]

  • Silkman and Hart open private lumbering trramway, 5 miles from Torch Lake to Grand Traverse Bay (sec 24 T31N R9W).  [MRRC]

  • Lake Shore & Michigan Southern opens line from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids.  [MRRC]

  • The rail line is completed between Jackson and Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1869-1870 and leased to the Lakeshore in 1882.  [AAD]

  • A line is completed this year from New Buffalo to St. Joseph and leased to the Chicago & West Michigan in 1881.  [AAD]

  • George Westinghouse invents the air brake for railroad cars.  [DWS]

  • Michigan Central builds depot in Quincy.  This depot is still standing as of 1974.  [IT-12/1974]

  • Salem Township in northeast Washtenaw County refuses to deliver 2% local government bonds to the Howell & Lansing Railroad for construction of their road through the township.  The railroad went to court to get possession of the bonds and the Michigan Supreme Court, on a 3-1 vote, ruled that a township had no right to bond itself to aid a railroad, even though authorized by the legislature.  The H&L and other railroads were forced to discontinue this form of financing.  [COHS-2/1998]

  • The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern consolidates individual rail companies between Buffalo, NY and Chicago, IL, including the "Old Road" in southern Michigan.  In the same year, Commodore Vanderbilt obtained controlling interest in the Lake Shore, adding it to his interests in New York.  [LS]

  • NOTE:  Roads constructed by 1869:  Kalamazoo & White Pigeon Railroad (38 miles); Kalamazoo, Allegan & Grand Rapids Railroad (58 miles).