Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

RAILROAD AN IMPORTANT EARLY ASSET

Morning Star, October 20, 2002, pg. 9

If you’re a “snow bird” and spend the winter months down south, be sure and pick up a copy of my new book “Albion in the 20th Century” before you leave and take it with you to show people there. You can purchase them at the Albion Chamber of Commerce. These will make great Christmas gifts to just about anyone who used to live in Albion. If you missed my recent Riverside Cemetery tour, you can pick up the tour booklets at the Chamber also.

The current ongoing relentless push to “merge” the E. Erie and S. Hannah Streets railroad crossings reminds us of the historical significance the railroad once had for our community. The railroad crossing on E. Erie St. is just about as old as Albion College itself. On June 25, 1844, the strap-iron railroad tracks reached Albion from Jackson, and on Independence Day a week later, the first steam locomotive rolled into town past “Seminary Hill” as it was then called. Today this is the location of the E. Erie St. railroad crossing and the land north of it. The first locomotive that arrived on July 4, 1844 was called the “Rocky Mountain,” and was powered by wood and a few barrels of water. Another locomotive on the first line was nicknamed “Storm.”

Albion was then in direct contact with the rest of the world “out east” from whence its inhabitants had come. Passenger service was instituted on December 11, 1844. The first passenger train was nicknamed the Antelope, consisting of an engine, and four cars. The road was completed to Marshall and Battle Creek the following year. A person could travel by rail from Detroit to Marshall in a period of 7½ hours for a fare of about $3.00. It took half an hour to ride the train from Albion to Marshall, which included a stop in Marengo at the station there. The railroad had been built by the State of Michigan, which soon got out of the railroad business in 1846 by selling its holdings for $2 million to the newly formed Michigan Central Railroad.

The railroad was a major asset to our community, and helped in the faster shipment of goods, materials, and people to and from our town. It was an asset to have your house or business located along the route. At one time Albion College was considering placing a stone sign in the side of the hill north of Erie St. that spelled out “Albion College” so it could be easily read by passengers as their train approached E. Erie St. Today of course, the proposal is to fill the area with more automobile parking spaces.

While rumor has it today that the proposed high-speed rail cars will travel in excess of 75 miles-per-hour, the freight trains that once traveled through town and passed over the E. Erie St. crossing before the Civil War reached a maximum speed of 12 MPH. It took a train three days to travel from Detroit to Chicago. We wouldn’t be surprised if when the new high-speed system is instituted, that Albion loses its local passenger service from our historic railroad depot, and our citizens would have to drive to Battle Creek or Jackson to receive train service.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a classic early 20th century photograph of a steam engine stopped at our local depot, with passengers disembarking on the brick sidewalk that once existed between N. Eaton and N. Clinton Sts. until the mid-1970s.


Steam Engine Stopped at our Local Depot

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