Railroad: Ford Rouge Works Industrial Railroad


Bujilt → Ford Rouge Industrial Railroad. → Canadian National and others

Built: Late 1917 at the beginning of Rouge Plant construction.

Became: Sold or transfered to Canadian National and other entities in the 1970s-1990's..

Reference: [RRH-SS/2018]


The industrial railroad at Ford Motor's Rouge Works was one of the largest, single-site industrial railroads in the United States. The railroad encircled the 2,000 acre Dearborn, Michigan facility and provided siding access to most of the buildings within the Rouge complex.

The railroad interchanged with the following railroads:

  • Pere Marquette/C&O/CSX on the east side
  • Pennsylvania and Wabash on the southeast side
  • Michigan Central/NYC/PC/Conrail on the north and west sides
  • Detroit Terminal railroad on the northeast side
  • Detroit, Toledo & Ironton on the east side

Ford Motor was obsessed with owning all resources necessary for building boats, automobiles and other products produced at the Rouge Works.and those incoming resources were interchanged with Ford's Industrial railroad. Coal, coke, limestone, iron ore, sand, and other things brought in rail. Automobiles and byproducts brought out by rail.

Ford's railroad was known for operating clean, well-maintained locomotives and rolling stock and they built their own facilities for maintenance. Steam locomotives (and small electric industrial locomotives) were used for switching, followed by Alco diesel switchers and then EMD switchers.

Ultimately, the railroad was split up as the steel mill and other buildings were sold to new owners. Auto loading facilities for the newest F-150 truck plant ended up in CN hands, the eventual owner of Ford's DT&I railroad.

The Rouge Plant was named after the Rouge River, which ran through the middle of the land used for the plant. The Rouge River, which is a tributory off the Detroit River, was widened so that lake freighters could bring in resources and military boats (the original product produced at the Rouge for the first world war) could be launched. The widening of the river caused a number of railrroad drawbridges to be replaced (DT&I, NYC, Wabash) and may have resulted in the Ford purchase of the DT&I.

The Rouge also had Detroit Street Railways access at Miller Road Gate 4 (Miller and Eagle) on the east side and Gate 12 (Schaffer and I-94) on the west side. Thousands of workers travelled to their jobs at the Rouge by using street railways.

For an excellent article on the operation of the Rouge and its railroads, see the Spring/Summer, 2018 edition of Railroad History, a publication of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society.