Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, January 8, 2017, pg. 9
Itís been quite a while since Iíve written about railroads in Albion, so for the next two weeks weíll feature some interesting tidbits of information you might like to know about.
A hundred years ago, a coal mine located three miles north of Albion along 29 Mile Road on the Boyd farm just north of F Drive North was in full operation. Although coal was known to exist in the area as far back as the 1880s and various attempts were made, successful mining began in early 1913 when a 72-foot shaft was sunk. The vein of coal measured at least four and a half feet thick equaling about 4,000 tons to an acre. The coal company had 500 acres of land under lease in the area.
Albionís coal was low grade soft Kennel Coal. An analysis by Professor F. S. Kedzie of the Michigan Agricultural College in 1914 showed 44.31% of volatile matter, 43.14% of fixed carbon, and 12.55% ash. The coal contained 7.64% sulphur, and measured 13,410.6 British Thermal Units. The high-ash, high-sulphur, and semi-bituminous coal quality made it impractical for use in most home heating appliances of that era. As a result, Albionís coal was used mostly in factories where it was much needed.
During the World War I period 1917-18 coal was especially in high demand due to severe shortages. Several railroad carloads were shipped on a weekly basis to eager customers and municipalities. Coming up in this columnís monthly "00 Years Ago"feature over the next two years will be various local news items about the activities of this local coal mine and the demand for its product.
In order to ship the coal to needed markets, a railroad spur a mile and a quarter long owned by the coal company was constructed from the mine. It headed east past the Calhoun/Jackson County line where it joined the "Lansing Branch"line of the New York Central Railroad (formerly the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad) which went from Albion to Lansing.
When was the spur built? A February 13, 1913 article stated: "As yet there is no way to get the coal to market, since the mine is about a mile and a quarter from the railroad. A spur will be put in later, howeverÖu8221 The coal company went bankrupt in 1915 and no mining occurred there for several months until December 5, 1916. A December 6, 1916 article stated "Mr. Knapp went to Lansing yesterday to arrange with the New York Central people to have the mine sidetrack reconnected with the railroad, to make shipment by carload lots possible. A gang of men is also engaged in getting the companyís spur track in good shape." From these quotes we can derive that the spur was added about 1914. An easement was made in 1920 for the construction of the Rice Creek drain across the mining spur, after which a 16-foot bridge was constructed to carry the tracks over the Creek.
Coal mine railroad, circa 1914
From our Historical Notebook we present a photograph of the workers or miners at the spur track by the mine. This was taken by Albion photographer Walter Grant. It would date from either during the original installation in 1914, or the 1916 reconditioning of the line as quoted above. Whatever the case, notice how far apart and with irregular spacing the railroad ties are placed. The rail itself appears to be just a few inches tall. This was definitely a crudely placed spur.
Coal Mine railroad map
Also this week we present map showing the route of the entire spur from the mine to the main railroad tracks in Jackson County. It met the NYC at about the "level"of and a little south of Zuehlke Road. This is from an intense topographic map, and so Iíve "whited out"the isobars and highlighted other details in order to better understand this, and have added present-day names to the roads. The "squares"are section line boundaries. It is not known when the mining tracks were removed, but it was probably in the late 1920s after the mine was closed. If you drive north on 29 Mile Road today, you can still ascertain where the mining spur track line once existed on the east side of the road at F Drive North and where it curved eastwards. How many of our readers have been there?
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic