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, April 7, 2002, pg. 20

With the reconstruction of E. Erie St. occurring this year, it should be noted that this is not the first time the street has had a major overhaul. Coming up exactly 100 years ago in May, 1902, workers tore up E. Erie and installed the interurban tracks down the middle of the street. The local paper reported on May 8 of that year, “The work of building the electric road down Erie St. from the Michigan Central Railroad has been pushed rapidly this week. A gang of 50 men has been busy making the excavation for the ties and rails, which were laid at once.”

The interurban was a railroad track which ran down the middle of major streets across southern Michigan that carried passengers and freight from 1903 to 1929. The difference between the interurban and a regular railroad was that the power on the interurban was electric. The interurban cars received their power from touching a live elevated electric “third rail” that was placed off on the side of the track. In the cities, the interurban was powered by overhead wires. The interurban was a convenient mode of transportation as it could make frequent “local” stops at places that the railroads did not go, including the center of downtown business sections.

The tracks in the Albion area were laid in 1901 and 1902, and service officially commenced in the spring of 1903. When the tracks were laid on E. Erie St., builders had to put cement foundations underneath the two bridges over the Kalamazoo River in order to support the added weight. The passenger station and freight office eventually located itself at the local Consumers Power Company office on E. Erie St., as Mr. Foote of Jackson had invested heavily in the interurban project.

The coming of the automotive age provided much competition with the interurban and regular railroads as well, both of which saw passenger ridership decline in favor of private automobiles. There were also numerous accidents and injuries between autos and interurbans competing for the same space in the middle of the road as the number of cars increased. Passenger service declined steadily during the 1920s, and was discontinued on November 30, 1928. Freight service was ended on June 1, 1929. The tracks were torn up in 1930. There is one exception however. The interurban tracks still lay buried in the 600 and 700 blocks of Austin Avene underneath the blacktop. They are occasionally uncovered during sewer or road repair projects.

Today in the 100 block of E. Erie St. you can still see the “scar” in the bricks where the interurban tracks were removed in 1930. These bricks will be removed this year. While there was funding from the State of Michigan for our Superior St. brick project in 1993, there is no such funding for the bricks in the 100 block of E. Erie St. The State of Michigan however will not fund the destruction of this 1-block long historic brick street. The city instead will take on the expense of removing the bricks and repaving the 100 block of E. Erie St. with asphalt out of our regular street funds. The “state funded” portion of this year’s E. Erie St. reconstruction won’t begin until east of the bridge east of Linden Avenue. This is because the other bridge over the main Kalamazoo River between Ionia and Linden is in dire need of replacement. The State won’t fund road reconstruction there because the street will have to be torn up again when the bridge is replaced.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a view circa 1907 of unpaved E. Erie St. looking west towards town, with the interurban tracks down the middle of the street. The large building on the left is the old Methodist Church. Bricks were laid a few years later and still lay buried beneath the overlaid asphalt today. All of these layers will be removed this year and the street will be totally reconstructed. Notice the majestic elm trees on the left which once lined Albion’s streets.

Unpaved E. Erie St.

Read more Albion 100 Years Ago articles.

Next 100 Years Ago article: MAY, 1902


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