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.


Morning Star, January 5, 2014, pg. 9

In looking back over the past year, Albion has seen significant repair and restoration work done to numerous buildings and infrastructure. One, the railroad, has been spending thousands of dollars in Albion upgrading its main tracks through town over the past few months. They also made much needed repairs to the old Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad tracks which lead to Guardian Industries. Railroad cars can now stay on those tracks without fear of derailment. New ties were placed every six feet to help hold the old tracks together and bent rails were straighten out so railroad cars could safely travel on them. A small "dip" section was replaced near the old Union Steel Products area, and railroad stone was added for finishing touches all along the entire route.

There was also some significant work done by the city to our historic railroad depot. A new roof was added earlier in the year, and the decorative lights under the roof overhang had the burned-out light bulbs finally replaced after months of being in the dark. Furthermore, in the past few weeks you may have noticed that the two decorative wooden spindles on top of each end of the roof peak have just been recreated and re-installed. They had rotted off several years earlier. Our hats off to our city officials for keeping our railroad depot in presentable condition.

For many years in the early 20th century, there was still a railroad spur that crossed N. Eaton and Clinton Sts. south of Michigan Avenue. This includes where the depot parking area is today. These were what remained of a former Michigan Central Railroad line that ran south of the depot from just west of N. Eaton St., to just before N. Superior St. where it joined the main tracks according to the 1866 Birdís Eye View of Albion.

Recently a picture postcard showing this rail line surfaced, and we are presenting it here this week in our Historical Notebook. This postcard is postmarked May 14, 1913. The view is taken from N. Eaton St., looking northeast, showing the south side of the depot. In the foreground is the single track crossing N. Eaton St. south of the depot. On the far left are freight cars on the main line.

North Eaton St., Albion Depot, looking northeast

On the south side of the depot are found several large carts used to transport luggage and freight to their arriving destination or departure.

This line serviced several businesses. The first was the Albion Gas Light Company which had a coal/coke (used to make manufactured gas) shed made of reinforced concrete next to the line. Today this is that cement wall next to the new recycling area west of our new fire station. Next was the Union Steel Screen Company on the west side of N. Clinton St., located here until 1915. Today this would be just north of our new fire station south of the billboard.

The tracks also served the Frank E. Nowlin building (later the Wiener building, still standing) on the east side of N. Clinton St. Today this would be the building at 210 N. Clinton housing Gardner Casters. The tracks once ran along the north edge of this building to deliver and receive shipments. Nowlin operated a grain and produce elevator warehouse at this site, and railroads were commonly used to ship grain and other agricultural products. A 1918 map shows the spur ending at the Nowlin building and not rejoining the main line as it had done in the late 19th century. Apparently the original connection rejoining the main line just west of N. Superior St. was discontinued when the second main line track was laid shortly after the turn of the century.

Eventually this line spur line was abandoned and removed after business declined. On N. Clinton St. itself however, the rails were left in place where they crossed so as not to have to pay for their removal, detour time, and repaving the street there. Eventually during the 1960s however, the tracks across the street were finally removed during a reconstruction/repaving project. How many of our readers remember the spur rail embedded in N. Clinton St.?


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