Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, November 9, 2003, Pg. 2
Railroad crossings have been in the news in recent months here in Albion, as there has been debate about which ones to close. On Tuesday, September 30, the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad tracks across N. Clark St. were cut on both sides of the street and removed. Although the tracks to the east were still left (they are full of grown trees and need to be cut down before railroad equipment can do their work) in place, no doubt they will be removed sometime in the future. These tracks however were once bustling with activity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as they serviced industries along its route through the communities of Lansing, Eaton Rapids, Springport, Devereaux, Albion, Homer, Litchfield, Jonesville, and Hillsdale beginning in 1872.
South of the Clark St. crossing once stood the old Hayes-Wheel Company (later the site of McGraw Edison) which made thousands of wheel hubs for the automotive industry in the 1910s and 1920s. Special heavy-duty rails were laid to help ship auto parts from Albion up to the Reo plant in Lansing. When the Great Depression hit, business on the railroad declined significantly. The tracks from Springport to Lansing were abandoned in 1940, and the tracks from Albion to Litchfield in 1943. The portion from Albion a quarter mile east of Clark St. to Springport was abandoned in 1968, and included removing the tracks across Interstate-94.
Railroads were a major way of shipping goods and products in the history of our country for many years. Sadly, the shipping was transferred to semi-trucks, especially following World War II and many railroads were abandoned. We now have “railroads on wheels” clogging our interstate system in Michigan with two different speed limits that differ by 15 miles-per-hour, but only two lanes. That is why I-94 really needs a “third lane” the entire length.
Here in Albion, there were once numerous railroad spurs which were attached to the “main lines,” and serviced factories, mills, lumber companies, and other businesses. You can still see “scars” of those old railroad spurs today in various locations. N. Eaton St. especially once had several spur crossings in the vicinity of the railroad depot there.
One industry that utilized the railroad for shipping its products was the Gale Manufacturing Company on N. Albion St. The Gale made agricultural implements. The Lake Shore tracks went past the Gale headed towards Homer, and the railroad trestle over the river is still in place today just west of N. Albion St. Several willow trees have fallen into the river blocking the once-scenic view and so the trestle can no longer be seen from the street. Spurs from the Lake Shore tracks entered from the west end of the Gale plant. Just west of there the tracks were torn up to Homer in 1944. After the Gale folded in 1968, there was no business on this local portion of the line, and the remaining tracks were torn up in 1976.
There was another spur however which also serviced the Gale. The Lake Shore, and the Michigan Central Railroads were competitors until the latter bought out the former in 1914. The Michigan Central ran a spur track which began on the south side of its main line by the city stockyards. It then crossed the River over a different trestle, and proceeded across N. Albion St. where the tennis courts are now located north of Michigan St. The spur continued west along the north Gale warehouse building where it eventually joined the Lake Shore tracks on the west.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a rare photograph showing this other spur and trestle. The scene, circa 1910, is taken from on top the Interurban trestle looking southwest. In the right foreground are the Lake Shore tracks. If you look at the bottom photo on page 27 of my book “Albion in the 20th Century,” you can match the two photos together by the small peaked-roof building in the lower left in the book, with the one on the extreme right in this photo.
Interurban trestle looking southwest, circa 1910
Here we see the Michigan Central trestle on the left over the Kalamazoo River. The N. Albion St. bridge is “behind” the telephone poles on the right in the distance. The houses on the left are located on Michigan St. In the distance of course, is the Gale plant.
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic