Timeline - 1881

  • January 17: The Port Huron & Northwestern opens their line between Zion and Marlette, over high bridge. [AB]

  • April 14: The first through train from St. Louis on the Detroit, Butler and St. Louis Railroad (later Wabash/N&W) steamed into brush Street depot. The DB&SL used the Brush Street station until March 18, 1883. [MRC-6/1973]

  • May 3: A Mendon man, Leonidas Woolley, receives a patent for a locomotive headlight. [MT]

  • May 21: Thomas A. Scott, former President of the Pennsylvania Railroad passes away at age 56. He had relinquished the presidency in June, 1880. [MRRC]

  • June: Buckley and Douglas Rail Road opens 8 mile line fro Manistee River to T22N R13-14W to T23N R13-14W in Manistee County.  Abandoned in 1889. [MRRC]

  • June 1: Detroit, Butler & St. Louis RR (later Wabash) completes line from Montpelier, OH to Detroit, offering a direct route to St. Louis and Kansas City. [MDOT]

  • June: Detroit, Mackinac & Marquette reaches Munising Jct. from Marquette. [SOO-1/1991]

  • August: A forest fire sweeps through the Thumb, destroying forests but clearing huge expanses of land. Thereafter, logging operations give way to farming. [HB-Sum/1993]

  • August 14: First train from St. Louis on the Wabash Railroad arrives in Detroit. It uses the D&M depot. [EMR4]

  • Fall: St. Joseph Valley Railroad is opened between Berrien Springs and Buchanan with narrow gauge. [PMHS]

  • August 15: Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Ry. opens line from Delray to the Ohio state line near Morenci.[MRRC]

  • September 20: The Detroit, Hillsdale and Southwestern Railroad, formally operated between Detroit and Hillsdale by the Michigan Central, comes under Lake Shore & Michigan Southern control. [MRC-7/1973]

  • October 10: Detroit, Mackinac & Marquette, the Michigan Central and the Grand Rapids & Indiana form a joint subsidiary, the Mackinac Transportation Company, to operate car ferry service at the Straits of Mackinac. The original boat is the Algomah which carried passengers and freight, and was designed to tow the barge Betsy, which had a capacity of 4 railroad cars. This arrangement lasted until 1887, when the St. Ignace was built and placed in service. [MDOT/SOO-1/1991]

  • October 20: Construction of the Pontiac, Oxford & Port Austin RR begins at Caseville to bring rail service to the Thumb area. [MDOT]

  • December 1: Port Huron & Northwestern opens its Court Street station in Port Huron. [AB]

  • December 18: Michigan Central RR reaches the Straits of Mackinac from Bay City. [MDOT]

  • December 19: Detroit, Mackinac & Marquette RR completes line into St. Ignace creating a through route from Marquette to the Straits. [MDOT/MRRC/AAD]

  • December 31: Flint & Pere Marquette (Manistee Railroad Co.) completes line from Walhalla to Manistee. [MRRC]

    December 31: The Port Huron & Northwestern completes its line from Marlette to East Saginaw. It is officially opened for service on February 21, 1882. [AB]


  • Railroad car ferry service begins between Lower and Upper Peninsulas. [DWS]

  • Canadian Pacific Railway Co. founded. [DWS]

  • Port Huron & Northwestern Ry completes narrow gauge line from Port Huron to Marlette. [PMHS]

  • Bay Springs & Southeastern, a private logging road, opens 6 miles in Charlevoix County, from Sec 27 T33N R6W to Sec. 10 T32N R5W. [MRRC]

  • Charon and Bougette Lumber Co. builds 4 mile long 3' gauge line in Lake and Mason Counties. [MRRC]

  • Chicago & West Michigan acquires a line from Grand Rapids to White Cloud. [AAD]

  • Muskegon Lake Railroad opens line from Muskegon to Port Sherman. [MRRC]

  • Nahma & Northern opens logging road north from Mahma. [MRRC]

  • The C&NW extends its line from Florence, WI to Crystal Falls 15 miles. [ICHS]

  • The predessor line to the Detroit & Mackinac is sold to the Alger, Smith & Co., and General R. A. Alger is made President. [GW]

  • The Mackinac Transportation Company is created to buy and operate a ferry across the straits. The Algomah, a steamer, was placed in service. [AAD]

  • Muskegon River and Rose Lake Ry. abandons 7.5 mile long, 3' gauge line between Muskegon River and Rose Lake. [MRRC]

  • Michigan Central builds a new depot in Cheboygan. Depot continues to exist to at least 1974. [IT-12/1974]

  • The Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee (or predecessor) builds a new six-stall roundhouse in Marshall. It was abandoned in 1932 and later moved to Greenfield Village. [DRK]

  • Lake Shore & Michigan Southern builds depot at Hillsdale. Continues to exist as of 2001. [IT-12/1974]

  • Flint & Pere Marquette builds Potter Street Depot in Saginaw. Depot continues to exist as of 2001, but is damaged by fire. [COHS-8/1997]

  • Union Switch & Signal Company is organized. [SAM]

  • A serious accident on the Chicago & Northwestern is reported near Ishpeming. The wheel truks on a car broke and began to tear up the rails and ties, causing a rocking motion which derailed the train as it was entering Negaunee on the bridge over the large Jackson Mine tunnel. The cars luckily did not topple into it. [EHMT]


Timeline Key:

  • Railroad event in Michigan
  • Event relating to mining
  • Event related to car ferries
  • Event outside of Michigan
  • Improvement in Technology
  • Railroad built or extended
  • Railroad abandoned and/or removed
  • Economic panic or depression