Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Albion Recorder, January 4, 1999, pg. 4
In the days before private automobiles became affordable to everyday citizens, people used to travel by train. One such means of transportation was the interurban, an electric-powered train. While the normal Michigan Central Rail Road trains made one stop in each community at a depot, the electric interurban had the advantage of its tracks going down the middle of streets and frequently stopping at various points along the way. The interurban was a convenient way to travel to Jackson, Marshall, Battle Creek, and other places. Residents often used the interuban to travel to Montcalm Lake west of town where there was a recreation area. On one particular summer night during the Calhoun County Fair in the 1910s, 176 persons from Albion used the interurban to attend the fair in Marshall.
The Jackson, Battle Creek Traction Company began regular service through Albion in April, 1903. The tracks came into town from Bath Mills and Newburg, just north of where the Albion College athletic complex concrete wall (what’s left of it) is today. In fact, the main center path at the Albion College Nature Center is the old Interurban roadbed.
Tracks were then placed right down the middle of E. Erie St. A small spur branched out into the Market Place area where the freight depot was located. Take a look at the brick pavement on E. Erie St., and you will see the "scar" of the old interurban route in the center.
The tracks then turned onto S. Superior St. The first passenger depot was located in the building just north of Fedco, in their "dollar store" annex. Later the depot was located on E. Erie St. where the Consumer’s Power office was located. Mr. Foote of Jackson who owned Consumers Power invested heavily in the interurban, which was powered by electricity.
The tracks turned west onto W. Cass St., and went all the way to Ann St., where they turned northwards. A large elaborate trestle was erected over the Kalamazoo River, over the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad tracks, and over the Michigan Central Railroad tracks. Today you can view the remains of a cement foundation of the trestle at the intersection of N. Ann and Michigan Sts. The tracks then moved behind the Albion Malleable Iron Company parking lot and turned westward onto Austin Avenue by Bilickes. They then went down the center of Austin Avenue until just past the old Haines Auto Sales, when the tracks were then positioned just to the north of the road. A repair complex was located west of town and was called "Taylorville," named after Robert Taylor, the superintendent. The long white building still standing there today was once the office for the repair complex. The interurban line paralleled U.S. 12 for the most part, and drivers can still view portions of the old right-of-way between Albion, Marshall, and Battle Creek today.
With the advent of the private automobile, ridership declined during the 1920s. Passenger service was discontinued on November 30, 1928, and freight service was ended on June 1, 1929. The tracks were torn up in 1930 over most of the route. They still remain buried, however, under Austin Avenue in the vicinity of N. Albion St. The elaborate trestle was demolished on February 10, 1941. The old interurban right-of-way was acquired by Consumers Power Company, which used the property to string its power lines across the state, and are so positioned today.
Despite the convenience, the interuban was dangerous. Many people and animals were killed through the years. Having a train speeding along behind you in the middle of the street in your driving lane was dangerous to both drivers and pedestrians. Imagine driving down the street and having to "dodge" an interurban car today on Superior St.
Most dangerous however, was its power source. In the city the interurban was powered by electric lines that were placed overhead. In the country however, the cars were powered by a "third rail" which was an elevated lively-charged electric rail which ran parallel to the side of the tracks. Livestock would often be electrocuted on this "third rail," as well as humans, too. Numerous persons throughout the state lost their lives by falling upon or walking upon the "third rail."
I’ve finally been able to locate a photograph of that "third rail," which I found in an old Albion College "Albionian" yearbook. It is pictured here, in a scene taken east of town. Notice the elevated third rail just to the left of the main tracks. Our second photo is a classic postcard photograph of the trestle which once existed. Notice the interuban car traveling on the top. The scene looks east towards town, and was taken on N. Albion St. The tracks that move diagonally on the right is the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad line that serviced the Gale Manufacturing Company and then moved onwards to Homer, Litchfield and Hillsdale. The main line Michigan Central tracks are on the left.
Next: THE BLACK DITCH
All text copyright, 2019 © all rights reserved Frank Passic