A Chicago Hub Railroad of the 1930's - 1940's
Michigan Central Railroad


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Michigan Central 1938
Michigan Central
March 1, 1938
Michigan Central herald
The Michigan Central Railroad (MC) was originally incorporated in 1837 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. Starting in about 1867, the railroad was operated as part of the New York Central System, which later became part of Penn Central and then Conrail. With the 1998 Conrail breakup, Norfolk Southern now owns much of the former Michigan Central trackage.(wik)
In the 30's and 40's the MC operated a good number of passenger trains between Chicago and Detroit. These trains were anywhere from locals to crack trains such as the Wolverine the Twighlight Limitedd and the Mercury, with a 4-3/4 hour schedule to compete with the Pennsylvania's fast Detroit Arrow and Red Arrow. Trains were also forwarded over the Canada Southern, (majority owned by the NYC and leased by the MC and then the NYC) to Buffalo and then on the NYC to New York City and Boston. The MC was the out of Chicago carrier for Canadian Pacific trains, the Canadian and the Overseas, bound from Chicago, through Detroit, to Toronto and Montreal.
Michigan Central 1940 Michigan Central
June 23 1940
While Michigan Central was an independent subsidiary of the New York Central System, passenger trains were staged from Illinois Central's Central Station as a tenant. Prior to the automobile, Michigan Central was mostly a carrier of natural resources. Michigan had extensive reserves of timber at the time, and the Michigan Central owned lines from east to west in the state and north to south, tapping all Michigan resources available. After the advent of the automobile as one of the most dominant forces of commerce ever seen by the world, with Detroit at the epicenter, the Michigan Central became a carrier of autos and auto-related parts. Michigan Central was part-owner of the
ferry service operated to the upper-peninsula as well as cross-river ferry service to Ontario (wik).
The Canada Southern (CASO) ran across Ontario from Windsor to Niagara Falls. The railroad operated a car-float service over the Detroit River, a tunnel below the Detroit River, and a bridge at Niagara Falls. The tunnel was originally electrified at 600vDC, similar to parent New York Central's Grand Central electrification. With the advent of diesels, the electrification was dropped. Majority control of Canada Southern passed from MC to NYC, then Penn Central, then Conrail. During the first decade of Conrail, both the Detroit River tunnels and Canada Southern were sold to Canadian Pacific. These tunnels have been enlarged to allow loads through that were previously floated over. The car float operation is no longer in service. The balance of the MC became part of the Norfolk Southern after the Conrail days.(wik/rp) All major Michigan railroads (Ann Arbor, Pere Marquette and Grand Trunk Western) operated ferry services 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 (wik).
Michigan Central map 1916
Michigan Central Map - 1916

History of the Michigan Central Railroad

Michigan Central Railroad
1830 - Line planned from Detroit to St. Joseph with steamboat connection to Chicago
1836 - Construction started by Detroit & St. Joseph Railroad. The D&SJ ran into financial difficulties
1837 - Michigan bought D&SJ and changed name to Michigan Central Railroad
1840 - RR out of money again with only short trackage completed
1846 - State sold MC to MC Corporation and tracks completed to Kalamazoo
1846-1852 - MC changed to better rail. Route changed toward Chicago and Chicago reached
1850's-1860's - Michigan Air Line planned to build across Southern Michigan and connect with the Canada Southern (CASO) for link to Chicago. Only part of line built. Split between MC and NYC.
1868 - Grand Trunk Railway chartered and merged with Michigan Air Line
1870 - St. Joseph Valley Railroad merged into MAL to form branch from Niles to South Bend, Indiana
1871 - Main line of MAL completed from Niles to Jackson, and leased to the MC to give MC a shorter line to Chicago
1883 - MC builds a double tracked cantilever bridge at Niagara Falls. It then Leased the Caanada Southern (CASO). It could then cross the Niaagara at Fort Erie or Niagara Falls.
1890 - The Michigan Central Railroad came under the financial control of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, but it continued to operate as a separate railroad.
1900's - MC becomes a major carrier of autos and auto parts
1904 - The MC extended its lease of the e Canada Southern (CASO) for 99 years. The MC now had access from Chicago, through Detroit to Niagara Falla, Buffalo and connections with the NYC to New York and Boston.
1925 - MC replaces its cantilever bridge at Niagara to a steel arch bridge.
1929 - CASO was subleased to the New York Central Railroad.
1968 - NYC (MC) and Pennsy merge into Penn-Central
1976 - Penn-Central merged into Conrail
1998 - Balance of MC becomes part of Norfolk Southern (NS).

Canada Southern Railway (CASO)
1855 - Suspension bridge completed at Niagara Falls for railroad and other traffic across Niagara River to the US.
1868 - The Eroe and Niagara Extension Railway was founded on Fe. 28.
1869 - The E&NE name was changed to Canadian Southern Railwaay (CASO) on Dec. 24.
1874 - CASO receives permission to use suspension bridge.
1876 - Cornelius Vanderbuilt (NYC System) purchased controlling interest in CASO and arranged interchange with both the MC and NYC, which he already controlled. The interchange revenue prevented the CASO from going into aankruptcy.
1880 - Suspension bridge handling 45 trains a day.
1883 - CASO built a double track line from Niagara Falls to Welland, ONT. and is leased to the MC.
1897 - Suspension bridge at Niagara Falls replanced by a steel arch bridge for rail and other traffic.
1904 - Tthe CASO lease to the Michigan Central Railroad was extended for 99 years..
1929 - CASO was subleased to the New York Central Railroad.
1985, The Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway jointly purchased the former CASO from Conrail in order to acquire the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel and the Bridge at Niagara Falls.

Michigan Central - 60+ speeds - Chicago Detroit Buffalo - 1940
The Michigan Central had its own mini-racetrack on its main line from Chicago to Detroit and Buffalo. The long distant MC trains, headed by the Wolverine, supplemented the NYC Chicago to eastern cities trains by serving Detroit and southern Ontario cities. Its quick Mercury and Twilight Limited proved to be all that the Pennsylvania-Wabash could handle in the Chicago-Detroit competition. The shorter Detroit run gave the Michigan Central an opportunity to cruise up to Detroit on a slightly more leisurely pace than that extracted from the PA-Wabash team. This 1940 timetable offering will illustrate.
Train#From CityTo CityMilesMin.mph
Wolverine 8 St. Thomas Black Rock 134.5 118 68.4
Twilight Lim. 30 Englewood Niles 86.4 79 65.6
Wolverine 8 Windsor St. Thomas 109.6 101 65.1
44 44 Windsor St. Thomas 109.6 101 65.1
Mercury 75 Ann Arbor Jackson 38.2 36 63.7
Mercury 71 Niles Kalamazoo 48.6 46 63.4
Mercury 75 Kalamazoo Niles 48.6 46 63.4
Twilight Lim. 31 Kalamazoo Niles 48.6 47 62.0
Twilight Lim. 30 Jackson Ann Arbor 38.2 37 61.9
Mercury 71 Jackson Ann Arbor 38.2 37 61.9
Mercury 71 Battle Creek Jackson 45.1 44 61.5
Twilight Lim. 31 Niles Englewood 86.4 85 61.0
Mercury 71 Englewood Niles 86.4 85 61.0
Mercury 75 Niles Englewood 86.4 85 61.0
Twilight Lim. 30 Niles Kalamazoo 48.6 48 60.8
Twilight Lim. 31 Ann Arbor Jackson 38.2 38 60.3
Twilight Lim. 30 Battle Creek Jackson 45.1 45 60.1
Twilight Lim. 31 Jackson Battle Creek 45.1 45 60.1
Mercury 75 Jackson Battle Creek 45.1 45 60.1
Average Speed 1226.9 1168 63.0

Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- April 1940
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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright Richard Parks, April 29, 2009, revised July 9, 2011, revised Nov.5, 2001