Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, April 27, 2008, pg. 13
For all our bicycle enthusiasts, I hope you will try out the new Falling Waters Trail which runs from Concord eastwards to Jackson. I’ve been on it a couple of times and it is fantastic. I especially enjoy the area around Lime Lake south of Spring Arbor along Teft Road. You can park your car at the Lime Lake Park, and just ride north 1,000 feet to access the trail. The name Falling Waters is most appropriate, as that was the name of the native Potawatomi village once located along Hammond Road in the 1820s. There is a Falling Waters Park just east of there at the intersection with Cross Rd., where Albion College was supposed to have originally been located, and where Hillsdale College got its start. My article about this was published in this column in the October 9, 1994 issue, and is reprinted on the www.albionmich.com website.
The Trail is one of those “rails to trails” projects, and was fashioned from the roadbed of the Air Line Railroad, owned by the Michigan Central Railroad, then the New York Central, and then Penn Central. This line opened in 1872, and operated until the early 1980s when it was abandoned and the tracks were torn up. It began at Jackson, and ran southwestwards through communities such as Concord, Homer, and Tekonsha, all the way to Niles. It traveled though rich farmland, and serviced grain elevators in those small towns. It also offered passenger service.
South of Spring Arbor at Teft Rd was the small “Spring Arbor station.” A side track was built along this stretch in early 1903 along with the erection of buildings, for the purpose of shipping marl which was used in making Portland cement. The nearby swampland was dug out to a depth of around 25 feet, and that is how the two-sided Lime Lake came to be the size it is today (It used to be smaller). Marl was dug and loaded onto railroad cars. When the project was finished, the tracks, which were not moved, went right through the middle of the new combined lake. Today you can ride your bicycle along this very interesting stretch of the Falling Waters Trail with both sides of Lime Lake lapping the sides of the trail right-of-way.
Passenger service was discontinued in the 1950s. Also during the 1950s, the double track was removed, and a high-speed modern single track was installed along the entire line. The portion between Sturgis and Niles was also abandoned at that time. In its later years, the line was mainly used to haul long freight trains containing empty “returning” freight cars back and forth instead of using the main Penn Central line which ran across the state through Battle Creek, Albion, Jackson, etc. When the Air Line was abandoned, those long freight trains were thereby transferred to the main line which goes through Albion.
Penn Central let repairs on the line slip during the 1970s, and in the 1980s Conrail requested and received authorization to abandon the line and tear the rails up. It is still hard to imagine that there is no railroad anymore in Concord by the mill, or in Homer on the south edge of town. The Air Line railroad was once a vital part of the fabric of these small communities south of Albion, in the days when the railroad was a major means of transportation.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of the Falling Waters Trail sign at Teft Road on the site of the former Air Line railroad. Take a ride, or a leisurely walk along this trail sometime this spring.
Falling Waters Trail
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic