Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Albion Recorder, March 21, 2002, pgs. 9 & 10
Albion has always had a large number of railroad crossings for a city our size. That is something that will have to be addressed in the not-to-distant future as 90 mile-per-hour trains are envisioned between Chicago and Detroit which will pass through Albion. Which crossings and how many will be closed is unknown, but it will certainly affect the driving habits of many motorists and traffic patterns in the future. We’ve already seen two “minor” crossings closed: Ingham St., and N. Mingo St., both in the vicinity of Albion College, nearly two decades ago.
There once were plans drawn up to dig a tunnel under E. Cass St. at the railroad crossing so fire trucks could get from one side of town to the other in case a fire occurred while trains were slowly passing through town. Albion once had a double track along the Michigan Central/New York Central main line from 1901 until 1988 (Albion is now a one-track town again). In the early 20th century there were several trains per day each way which tied up traffic in town. The tunnel idea was scrapped, but the importance of having adequate crossings in town was a major fire safety issue for many years.
Albion once had two major railroad lines pass through town: the Michigan Central Railroad which arrived in 1844, and the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad which came in 1872. Both did a booming business in the heyday of railroads, and passenger cars took people to far off places which were practically unavailable by horse-and-buggy. Shortly after the turn of the century, the Interurban also came, providing additional town-to-town passenger rail service down the center of main streets across southern Michigan, including Albion. The interurban was especially dangerous, as it placed the “railroad crossing” down the center of several streets in Albion, which also had to compete with automobiles and pedestrians. Many people were killed in interurban accidents, both in the city and in the country.
The advent of the automotive age signalled the downfall of rail passenger service, which especially declined after World War I. Albion has been fortunate to have a train that still stops here for passengers once a day each way, and an historic railroad depot still in use. Many smaller towns lost their passenger service and depots years ago. How Albion will figure into the proposed high-speed passenger rail service remains to be seen. No doubt the rail crossing closings being requested will become a political issue for members of the Albion City Council which will have to vote on the matter.
On a lighter vein as we approach springtime, there was one railroad crossing in Albion that became sort of a curiosity attraction during World War II. At the S. Huron St. crossing on the east side of the street behind Kresge Gymnasium, a mother robin built her nest on top of the center bell of the railroad crossing sign! Neither vibrations, bells, train whistles, nor flashing lights deterred this mother robin from raising her family in this unique war-time nest. The nest first appeared in 1943, and the robin came back for more in 1944 and 1945.
From the Archives this week we present this classic 1943 photograph of the mother robin patiently sitting on her eggs in her nest at the N. Huron St. railroad crossing. As can be easily seen, she has an excellent home security alarm system. Today, bird watchers can go to the Albion College Nature Center. During World War II, they went to the S. Huron St. railroad crossing. How many of our readers remember this curiosity?
Robin's nest on Railroad Crossing
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic