Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, October 11, 1989
One of the interesting subjects about Albionís history concerns the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Road, which ran from Hillsdale to Lansing, going through Jonesville, Litchfield, Homer, Albion, Devereaux, Springport, and Eaton Rapids. The railroad had been conceived back in the 1850s, but was not completed until 1873. The building of the railroad was financed through the fund raising efforts of local citizen, Rev. William H. Brockway, who was the financial agent for Albion College.
The LSMSRR depot was located on N. Superior St. where the Chemical Bank now sits. The "spur" tracks going bast Union Steel to Guardian Industries are the remains of the Lake Shore tracks. The tracks also crossed N. Albion St. on the west side of town, and the wooden trestle across the Kalamazoo River just west of N. Albion St. is all that remains of those tracks today.
With the advent of the automobile, a sharp decline in passenger riders occurred, and in the 1930s the Great Depression cut into freight service. In 1940, the Interstate Commerce Commission granted the New York Central Railroad (which then owned it) to abandon the tracks from Springport to Lansing. That action signalled the end of the line, which from then on would see itself dismantled piece by piece over the years. A month after the abandonment, the Springport depot was closed, with the line from Albion to Springport serving as a "feeder."
The tracks in Lansing were torn up to a point just north of Mt. Hope Road, next to Mt. Hope School. The railroad bed still can be seen there. The tracks which cross M-99 (Logan St.) in Lansing by a drop forge company are the remains of the old LSMSRR line which went to Albion. A small stretch was allowed to remain in Eaton Rapids for about a mile. This stretch deteriorated over the years and eventually was removed in the early 1970s.
In November 1942, the railroad petitioned the ICC to abandon a 33 mile stretch of the line from Springport to Jonesville, including Albion. The local paper commented: "While the nostalgic hopes of folks who can remember when this branch flourished are that the ICC will veto their abandonment, the commission of course, will decide on the principles of hard business."
Permission was granted in August 1943 to abandon 14 miles between Albion and Litchfield and the tracks were torn up, all for about a mile of track in Homer.
In 1958, the U.S. 12 bypass (now I-94) was constructed, and a grade railroad crossing was made at the point of the highway instead of a bridge over the tracks. This created a traffic hazard when trains headed towards Springport to deliver coal and service the Springport Elevator Company. However, in the late 1960s, a natural gas pipeline was laid, with the piping being delivered by the railroad itself. This eliminated the need for coal to the village, which reduced the freight runs considerably. Service to Devereaux had been completely eliminated, with business moving out of that tiny burgh.
The State Highway Department put pressure on the railroad to eliminate the grade crossing. Permission to abandon the Albion to Springport line was granted, and the tracks were torn up in 1969, to a point just east of N. Clark St. The only sections of the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad left today is the portion from Hillsdale to Litchfield [INTERNET UPDATE: The tracks from Jonesville to the end of the line at Litchfield were torn up in 1997], a mile of track in Albion, and a small stretch in Lansing.
A portion of the former Lake Shore line which crossed N. Albion St. to service the former Gale Manufacturing Company was dismantled under spurious circumstances in 1976. On March 31, 1976, the Penn-Central System entered into a contract with a construction firm to dismantle its branch line tracks remaining in Albion. This was an unannounced operation, without consulting Albion city officials. The branch lines went to nearby Albion factories, and former industrial areas. On April 1, 1976, the Penn Central became part of the federal Conrail system, and Conrail officials were unaware of the contract that Penn Central had made the day before.
In May 1976, workers began tearing up sections of track in town, especially in the western portion. It was several days before the city officials realized what was going on. By that time the damage had been done. While the action was determined to be technically illegal, the city could not order the railroad to put the tracks back, and so they remain empty today. The sad part of the situation was that the city had at the time obtained a buyer for the Gale property, that would make generous use of the railroad tracks: it was a manufacturer of railroad ties!
Upon discovering the removal of the railroad, the company withdrew its offer, and hence the rails have not been restored across the trestle over the river. A paving project in 1979 on N. Albion St. covered over the tracks on the street that were headed towards the Union Steel plant. A small section of cement curbing was omitted, and a blacktop curb was placed there instead. Thus went the western portion of Albionís Lake Shore tracks. Only the eastern portion remains today, headed towards Guardian Industries.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present the classic photograph of Albionís Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad depot on N. Superior St. The depot was dismantled in the 1930s.
Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad Depot
All text copyright, 2014 © all rights reserved Frank Passic