THE LINE THAT NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN BUILT:
The Michigan & Ohio—Tecumseh’s Second Railroad
By Edward D. Hodges
Following the construction of the Palmyra and Jacksonburgh Railroad to Tecumseh, there were plans for other railroads to the community. One of these, the Ypsilanti and Tecumseh Railroad, was chartered by the state of Michigan in 1838 and received a loan of $40,000 from the state. Construction of the roadbed was begun shortly afterward. However the state of Michigan soon became involved in many projects building roads, canals and railroads and, during a period of financial panic, was unable to advance any more money to the fledging line and construction halted after the initial $40,000 had been spent. Traces of this railroad can still be seen northeast of Tecumseh especially a deep cut near Billmyer Highway a short distance south of the Tecumseh-Macon Highway.
The pace of railroad construction in Michigan increased dramatically following the end of the Civil War. There were less than a thousand miles of railroads in the state in 1865 but by 1890 there were 6,959 miles of main track and about 2,000 miles of spurs and sidings in Michigan.
Lenawee County was the scene of some of this construction. In 1877 work was begun on the Detroit, Adrian and Fort Wayne Railroad. This line would have entered the south edge of Tecumseh near Maumee Street and continued north paralleling Maumee to connect with the unfinished Ypsilanti and Tecumseh Railroad. The roadbed between Adrian and Tecumseh was built but, again, a lack of money brought an end to the project. Twenty years later this roadbed would be used by the Detroit and Lima Northern Railroad when they completed their line to Tecumseh.
In June of 1881, the Detroit, Butler and St. Louis Railroad was completed from Montpelier, Ohio, to Detroit, offering residents of southeastern Michigan a direct route to St. Louis and Kansas City. This line, which would later become the Wabash Railway and is now a part of the Norfolk Southern system, crossed Lenawee County diagonally passing through Britton, Holloway and Adrian. In fact the town of Britton was founded in 1881 at the point where this railroad crossed the road connecting Tecumseh with Monroe.
Finally, in 1883, Tecumseh received its second railroad, the Michigan and Ohio. The M. & O. was building a line that would connect the busy port and rail center of Toledo with Grand Haven on Lake Michigan where railroad car ferries would transport passengers and freight to Milwaukee. At this city connections could be made with railroads to the fast growing West.
The Michigan and Ohio actually began its existence as two separate railroads—the Toledo and Milwaukee Railroad, chartered on August 8, 1879, and the Toledo and Michigan Railway, chartered on November 9, 1882. The two companies cooperated in building the line across southern Michigan and, on October 9, 1883, they formally consolidated as the Michigan and Ohio Railroad Company although the two lines had been referred to informally as the Michigan and Ohio for some time prior to the merger.
The railroad planned to lay track from Allegan to Dundee and use the Toledo and Ann Arbor Railroad for access to Toledo. At Allegan the company bought a branch of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad and planned to use this line as well as the Chicago and West Michigan Railway to reach Grand Haven.
Construction had been delayed in the spring of 1882 when the Michigan Central Railroad threatened to block the proposed crossing of its line by the Michigan and Ohio at Augusta. The Michigan Central claimed that their charter, which had been issued by the state, prohibited any crossings by other railroads as well as the construction of any parallel railroads within twenty miles. Backers of the Michigan and Ohio introduced a bill in the state legislature which would amend this charter and allow the Michigan and Ohio crossing. Eventually the M. & O. crossed the Michigan Central by means of a viaduct at Augusta rather then the originally planned grade crossing.
Bad feelings persisted between the two railroads for some time. When the Michigan Central attempted to build a siding across the newly constructed Michigan and Ohio main track at Marshall in June of 1883, the M. & O. persuaded the Marshall Fire Department to turn a high pressured stream of water on the Michigan Central workers forcing them off the job.
By the winter of 1882–1883 construction of the Michigan and Ohio Railroad was well under way across southern Michigan. The railroad was being built east from Allegan towards Tecumseh. By spring construction had also begun at Britton towards Tecumseh.
There was some indecisiveness on the part of the railroad over the route it planned to follow to Toledo. One proposal would have the railroad built east to Dundee where the M. & O. would lease trackage rights on the Toledo and Ann Arbor Railroad to Toledo. The railroad also surveyed a line running directly from Britton to Toledo passing through Deerfield. This may have been an attempt by the railroad to obtain financial inducements from these towns—residents of Dundee did pledge a cash “bonus” if the M. & O. were built through their community. This “bonus” may have been the deciding factor since the line was eventually built east from Britton to Dundee and the connection made there with the Toledo and Ann Arbor.
In Tecumseh the railroad was to be built along the south side of Cummins Street (which was about the southern limit of the town at that time) causing that street to become somewhat narrower.
The first visible sign of the Michigan and Ohio Railroad in Tecumseh was the construction of a wooden trestle over the ravine through which flows the Raisin River east of Tecumseh. By December of 1882 several of the pilings for the bridge had been driven. The bridge was to be 880 feet long and fifty feet above the riverbed. Over 250,000 board feet of pine were required for the pilings and main beams as well as a large quantity of oak for the bracing and ties. The total cost was in excess of $100,000. The bridge was built under the supervision of a Mr. Floring by German immigrants who were referred to locally as “Floring’s boosters”.
Grading for the railroad was also started early in that winter east of Tecumseh as well as in Franklin Township west of town. The winter of 1882–1883 was an especially severe one with frequent heavy snowstorms and bitter cold with temperatures falling as low as 200 below zero. This extreme weather was, as the Tecumseh Herald noted laconically, “a little tough on the railroad graders”. (1/25/1883)
Much of the construction of the line was done by German, Polish and Italian immigrants, few of whom spoke English. This lack of familiarity with the language may have resulted in a misunderstanding at Addison that the local newspapers excitedly headlined as a “Railroad War”.
According to reports received by the Herald, about one hundred workers at Addison went on strike for higher wages. The railroad reportedly hired new workers to take their jobs but the strikers prevented them from working. The leader of the striking workers, referred to as “John, No. 28”, was arrested and put in the county jail in Adrian. This supposedly infuriated the strikers and it was rumored that they planned to march on Adrian and “clean out the jail”. Lenawee County sheriff Bidwell nervously called out the Adrian militia company and they waited for orders to march to Addison and do battle with the striking workers.
Lenawee County eagerly awaited the clash. It never happened. In its issue the following week (May 5, 1883), the Tecumseh Herald claimed the reports it had earlier received had overstated the situation. Apparently a contractor named Carrigan planned to pay his men only $1.25 a day after earlier promising $1.50. He was also accused of overcharging them for board and other items. The previously-mentioned “John, No. 28” was John Wynd, the only member of the crew who could speak English. He decided that he and his fellow workers would have nothing to do with Carrigan and planned to seek work elsewhere. However Carrigan was apparently afraid of Wynd and invented the stories of railroad worker violence in hopes of having Wynd arrested. The Herald concluded its story of the affair by stating that Wynd was released from jail and “peace prevails”.
The life of a railroad worker was very difficult. They frequently worked seven days a week performing hard physical labor laying ties and rails, hammering spikes and shoveling the gravel used for ballast. They usually lived in boarding cars on sidings along the line sometimes in remote locations. Most of them were young men who had recently immigrated to the United States and who understood little or no English so that their feelings of isolation must have been intense. They were generally regarded with scorn by the communities in which they were working. When a group of Italian immigrant workers arrived in Tecumseh in the late summer of 1883 to add ballast to the newly laid track of the M. & O., the Herald warned its readers to “lock your chicken houses and put a few blind cartridges in your wood pile’. (10/25/1883)
While the arrival of the train pulling the pay car was a welcome sight, much of the workers’ wages were probably reclaimed by the railroad as boarding expenses. With little to do for recreation, the local saloons claimed much of the remainder as this article in the Marshall Evening News would suggest:
“Homer came nearer being a temperance town last week than ever before in 25 years. The rain drove the T. & M. (Toledo and Milwaukee) R.R. laborers into the village, and they drained the saloons and almost created a panic among the regular customers who looked on aghast and saw the budge (beer) supply run low.” (7/5/1883)
The Tecumseh Herald reported on the progress of railroad construction of the M. & O. throughout the spring and summer of 1883 as the tracks approached Tecumseh from both the west and the east. Farmers in the area were able to supplement their income by cutting ties from trees in their woodlots and selling them to the railroad. Since the locomotives were wood-burning types, sales of cordwood also provided farmers with extra money.
The rapid pace of the construction of the railroad can be seen from an item in the Kalamazoo Telegraph on May 3, 1883, which stated that trees cut in the morning would be sawed into ties at a nearby sawmill, hauled to the construction sites of the M. & O. near Augusta and iron rails would be spiked to them the same day so that the construction train could pass over the newly laid track by evening and move on to the next construction site. These ties, of course, were untreated which was standard practice in railroad construction at that time. These untreated ties would soon deteriorate and require replacing.
By May 10th of 1883, the roadbed between Ridgeway and the long bridge over the Raisin River east of Tecumseh was nearly completed. Grading for the track along Cummins Street in Tecumseh was completed and a house on Ottawa Street on the new right of way was sold at an auction and moved. The roadbed west of Tecumseh through Franklin and Cambridge Townships was also nearing completion, and it was predicted that the roadbed from Addison to Britton would be ready for ties by the first of June.
By May 24th, the railroad decided to build the line from Britton to Dundee and use the Toledo and Ann Arbor railroad for entry to Toledc and work began to build this section.
An agent for the M. & O. immediately began buying the land for the right-of-way, paying cash to the landowners. This prompted the Dundee Reporter to comment that this was “A new feature in railroad building in the state—settling all claims for right of way before accepting the land.” (It was not uncommon for railroads to build track first and then attempt to get permission from the landowners later. James Ashley, Jr., often used this technique while building the Toledo and Ann Arbor Railroad and later bragged that he would like to write a book entitled “How to Build 600 Miles of Railroad Without a Damned Cent.”)1
By mid-July of 1883 track was being built west of Britton toward Tecumseh and the Herald stated that “Business is lively in Britton now. The Y and side track and about a half a mile of M. & O. railroad is now laid.” (7/26/1883)
The track had been completed through Tecumseh by early August and the first train of the Michigan and Ohio Railroad appeared in Tecumseh on August 6th according to the Herald which stated: “The steam horse went over the big bridge on the M. & O. road for the first time Monday forenoon.” (8/9/1883)
In mid August the M. & O. railroad bought three acres of land from Nehemiah M. Sutton, who owned a large farm just west of Adrian Street. The railroad used the land for a gravel pit which provided the ballast needed to finish construction of the line. The railroad operated this gravel pit for many years before selling it. Other owners continued to operate it for several more decades into the twentieth century, including the Puritan Sand and Gravel Company, before it became the swimming “Pit”. Today it is part of Tecumseh Park.
On September 13, 1883, the Herald reprinted an article from the Marshall Evening News describing the new M. & O. and stating that construction, which had begun two years earlier, was nearly completed with only an unfinished segment west of Tecumseh and another between Britton and Dundee remaining. These were expected to be finished within thirty days. The article concluded: “The scenery along the route in Hillsdale and Lenawee counties, where the road winds around on hill sides, and the country is dotted with small lakes lying below is very beautiful and picturesque. The Devils’ Lake station is within a few rods of the steamer landing of this popular summer resort. (The proprieter of the hotel at Bidwell’s Landing at Devils’ Lake had paid the railroad $500 to establish a flag stop there.) Especially in Hillsdale and Lenawee counties the road traverses a rich agricultural region very free from other railroads and its coming is already heralded by the brisk revival of business at several of the small towns along the line.”
Stations in Lenawee county and vicinity were to be established at Britton, Ridgeway, Tecumseh, Tipton, Springville (which was located on Pentecost Highway and later renamed Pentecost), Devils’ Lake, Addison, Jerome (where the railroad dove underneath the Detroit, Hilisdale and Southwestern Railroad by means of a “subterranean passage”), Moscow (where the M. & O. depot still stands just north of U.S. 12, nicely restored, and used as the township office), Hanover, Pulaski, Homer and Marshall. A depot was built in Onsted a few years later. It was west of Main Street and north of the business district and remained standing after the railroad was abandoned in the mid-1930’s when it became part of a grain elevator. It was torn down a few years ago.
Railroad facilities at Tecumseh were built in the early fall of 1883 and were described by Scovel Stacy, the editor of the Tecumseh Herald in the issue for October 4, 1883: “We paid a visit yesterday to the depot grounds of the M. & O. railroad to note the improvements going on there. A side track has been put in on the North side of the main track and a large amount of iron (rails) is piled between the two. A water tank has been built about midway between Maumee Street and the big bridge and an engine house on the flat near the West end of the bridge. This contains a large force pump which draws the water from the river and forces it into the tank. Richard Haidway will preside over the engine house. His time has already begun, but he finds it hard work at present to find anything to do, as there are now only two locomotives on this end of the line to water. But when regular trains begin to run he will be kept busy. The passenger house is well under way, a large force of carpenters now being employed on it. The building will be about the size of the L.S. & M.S. depot building in this village, but a much more attractive building in outside appearance. It is located just South of the main track and on the East line of Maumee street. The carpenters and painters go together and the painting is done as fast as the carpenters finish their work. The heavy timbers in the building were furnished by Waring and Kniffin of Ridgeway. The finishing stuff, including doors, frames, brackets, etc., is furnished by the Tecumseh Lumber Co., which firm supplies all the depot buildings on the line between here and Marshall. The passenger house will be completed within two weeks and the freight depot will then be erected.”
On October 9, 1883, the two track-laying gangs working west from Tecumseh and east from Marshall met at Wooden’s corners in Cambridge Township which left only a five-mile section between Dundee and the Lenawee-Monroe county line to be completed. A week later this final segment had been built.
The Herald in its issue of October 18, announced the completion of the new railroad:
“The last rail was laid on the M. & O. road on Tuesday afternoon (October 16) at five o’clock, when a connection was made with the Toledo and Ann Arbor road at Dundee. The ballasting will now be pushed as rapidly as possible, and regular trains will be running at an early day.”
The ballast trains, carrying cars of gravel, began running “night and day” according to the Herald, and Italian immigrant workers living in boarding cars at the gravel pit at the west edge of Tecumseh spread the gravel over the road bed. By early November of 1883 several car loads of telegraph poles had arrived at Dundee and crews were soon busy stringing the telegraph lines needed for communication along the railroad.
On November 8, 1883, the Herald reported that:
“The freight house on the M. & O. depot grounds is now completed and the painters are putting the finishing touches upon the passenger house. The latter is a very neat looking building, substantially built, with slate roof. It is one of the best depot buildings on the line of the new road.”
The freight house was built along East Cummins Street near the foot of Wyandotte Street. The village water works was nearby and a siding was built to it so carloads of coal could be delivered for the steam-operated water pumps.
The village of Tecumseh prepared for the opening of the new depot by grading Maumee Street, covering it with a fresh layer of gravel and making it “one of the finest streets in the village” according to the Herald. (11/8/1883)
The first passenger train on the Michigan and Ohio Railroad, an inspection train, passed through Tecumseh on November 3, 1883. It consisted of two Pullman coaches and a baggage car and carried the officers and directors of the railroad as well as many of the investors. It left Toledo in the morning, passing through Tecumseh about nine a.m. on its way to Allegan and Chicago. The train, minus one of the coaches, returned through Tecumseh on its way back to Toledo the following day.
The first freight train, made up of four freight cars and a caboose, went through Tecumseh on November 20 and on November 28 another inspection train arrived at Tecumseh. This train contained the president of the M. & O., J.A. Latcha, and other officials. It stopped in Tecumseh for ten minutes giving President Latcha a chance to meet local businessmen.
In the meantime depots were being built at other towns along the line including Ridgeway, whose residents guaranteed themselves of a station along the new railroad with a payment of a $2000 “bonus” and then watched in consternation as the depot was built on quicksand.
Several Tecumseh residents found employment on the new railroad including John Cupples, who was hired as an engineer. Cupples had a rocky initiation to the new railroad in early January of 1884 when he was the engineer of an M. & O. passenger train which experienced considerable difficulty in completing its trip from Monteith, near Allegan, to Tecumseh because of a severe snow storm. The train left Monteith on a Wednesday but did not get to Marshall until late Thursday because of heavy snow. East of Marshall the train became hopelessly stuck in deep snow drifts. A westbound train which left Toledo on Thursday also became stuck in the same drift. The passengers and crews spent the night trapped by the heavy snow and in the morning they made their way to a nearby farm house for breakfast. By that time a group of workers had arrived from Marshall and began shoveling the snow away from one train. When freed that train pushed the other train out. Both trains returned to Marshall for firewood and water. The eastbound train, with an undoubtedly weary John Cupples at the throttle, finally arrived in Tecumseh about 10 p.m. on Friday, some 53 hours late.
A railroad could be a very dangerous place to work and the Michigan and Ohio Railroad claimed a casuality in late November of 1883. Gustavus (Gus) Vallenberg, one of the workers helping to spread gravel as ballast on the newly built track, was riding a flat car next to the caboose with his brother Victor, on an M. & O. gravel train returning to Tecumseh after a day’s work. The weather was cold and the conductor of the train told the Vallenburg brothers to come inside the caboose where it was warmer. It was necessary for them to jump from the flat car to the caboose platform. Victor made the jump safely but as Gus was about to leap, a brakeman came out of the caboose with a lantern and its light apparently blinded Gus causing him to step off the end of the car and fall to the track between the flat car and the caboose. The wheels of the caboose crushed his right leg and badly injured the left. Tecumseh physicians C.M. Woodward and H.W. Catliri were forced to amputate his right leg.
Gus eventually recovered and was given the job of operating the “target”, the signal at the crossing of the Michigan and Ohio and Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroads on South Evans Street. He had a tiny office building where also worked as a shoe cobbler. Clara Waldron, in her history of Tecumseh, “One Hundred Years A Country Town”, describes Gus as a “fairly well educated and informed person (who) discussed world affairs with all and sundry, keeping encyclopedias and other reference books conveniently at hand, and expressing himself in a highly individual manner.” (Page 134)
The first trains run on the Michigan and Ohio were mixed freight and passenger trains, but by January 17, 1884,the Tecumseh Herald reported that “the M. & O. are now running purely passenger trains, the freights being separate.” On February 18, a second passenger train was added to the schedule and the M. & O. now offered three trains daily except Sunday on the line through Tecumseh. Two of them were listed as passenger trains.
H. Usher Mathews was appointed station agent at Tecumseh while A.J. Sutton and W.J. Clark were named station agents at Ridgeway and Britton respectively. By mid-January of 1884 the telegraph line along the railroad from Toledo to Allegan was completed and the Herald reported that the passenger trains were “well patronized and freight already begins to move.” (1/17/1884)
Flour milling was an important industry in Tecumseh at that time and the various milling companies began shipping their flour on the M. & O. attracted by the direct connections to the east coast on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad which could be made at Toledo. One of these shipments was forty carloads of flour from the Wm. Hayden Milling Company destined for Sligo, Ireland.
The Tecumseh Herald enthusiastically supported the new railroad, emphasizing the ease of travel to Toledo and Detroit (via the Wabash Railway from Britton) that the line afforded. Another attraction was the lower fare to Detroit for travelers using the M. & O. It cost 20¢ to ride from Tecumseh to Britton and another $1.45 for the fare from Britton to Detroit on the Wabash compared with a fare of $2.20 from Tecumseh to Detroit on the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad which also required changing trains at Manchester Junction and again at Ypsilanti.
On February 5, 1884, the editor of the Herald, Scovel Stacy, rode the M. & O. train to Toledo to conduct some business. The train, consisting of a wood burning steam locomotive, a baggage car and a coach left Tecumseh on time at 1:23 p.m. and arrived at Dundee 40 minutes later after making station stops at Ridgeway and Britton. Another hour of travel brought the train to its terminus near downtown Toledo. Editor Stacy made the following observations about the new railroad:
“Their passenger cars are models of neatness and convenience, and the train officials seem to be picked men who are well up in their business.”
“Over 1000 freight cars are already distributed along the road, and other rolling stock is being added as fast as needed. It takes time, of course, to get a new railroad in running order, but the officials of the M. & O. are planting their enterprise on a firm basis, and we believe the road will become at an early day one of the most popular lines in Michigan.” (2/7/1884)
This optimistic assessment of the railroad’s future fell far short of the mark. The line was mortgaged for $2,700,000 to pay for the construction costs but was unable to generate enough revenue to meet the payments. This was due to the route chosen for the railroad which wandered across the farm lands of southern Michigan bypassing most major communities. Tecumseh, with a population of a little over 2,000, was the largest town on the line between Toledo and Marshall while west of Marshall the line paralleled the already existing Michigan Central Railroad and had little success in convincing shippers to abandon the M.C. Consequently the line quickly slipped into bankruptcy and remained mired there despite periodic attempts to review it.
On May 1, 1887, the Michigan and Ohio was absorbed into the Cincinnati Northern system and became a part of the Michigan Division of the Cincinnati, Jackson and Mackinaw Railroad which also operated a line running in a north south direction along the western edge of Ohio and passing through Hudson, Michigan, before terminating at Jackson. This line crossed the former Michigan and Ohio Railroad at Addison Junction two miles east of Addison.
The stockholders of the Cincinnati Northern soon began grumbling about the unprofitability of the Michigan Division (meaning the former M. & O.) which was impoverishing the remainder of the system and, on June 1, 1897, the railroad was discarded by the C.J. & M. and was reorganized as the Detroit, Toledo and Milwaukee Railroad.
That same year the Detroit and Lima Northern Railway completed their line from central Ohio to Tecumseh. Needing a route into Detroit, the Lima Northern bought enough of the devalued stock of the D.T. & M. to gain control of it in August of 1897 and was then able to use the D.T. & M. line between Tecumseh and Dundee. By purchasing the portion of the former Chicago and Canada Southern Railroad between Dundee and Trenton, the Lima Northern was able to gain access to the Detroit area.
The Lima Northern, taking full advantage of its control of the D.T. & M., built a locomotive servicing facility and shops for building and repairing rolling stock along the joint Lima Northern and D.T. & M. tracks in Tecumseh. The two railroads cooperated in moving the former M. & O. depot and freight house to the crossing of the D.T. & M. with the Jackson branch of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad at the intersection of Evans and Cummins Streets and collaborated in constructing an office building just north of the new location of the depot. The two railroads established Tecumseh as a division point, although within a year or two many of the employees were moved to offices in Toledo.
Since trains on the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern also began stopping at the depot on South Evans (which was being listed as Tecumseh Junction on timetables), activity at the South Evans Street site increased measurably and the former Cummins Carriage factory on the northwest corner of Evans and Kilbuck Streets was converted into a hotel (the Vendoma Hotel) to accommodate travelers, especially the many traveling salesmen who probably formed the backbone of the passenger business on many of Michigan’s branch lines.
Another improvement made to the D.T. & M. was to fill in the long wooden trestle over the valley of the Raisin River east of Tecumseh. Trains were required to travel at slow speed over this spindly-looking bridge and the threat of fire caused by sparks from the steam locomotives was a constant concern. The traveling public was undoubtedly greatly relieved when the trestle was filled in with earth.
During this time the Lima Northern was also experiencing poor financial health, suspending operations in April of 1898 and losing control of the D.T. & M. on June first of that year to the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, certainly disappointing the editor of the Tecumseh Herald who, while searching for something good to say about the D.T. & M., remarked that at least the Lake Shore “octopus” hadn’t gotten its tentacles on the railroad.
On September 6, 1898, the Detroit and Lima Northern Railway declared bankruptcy and the D.T. & M., hoping to get a piece of the carcass, filed suit in Federal Court claiming that the Lima Northern owed it $12,000 for the use of its track between Tecumseh and Dundee and another $5000 for ties and rails furnished to the Lima Northern. When the Lima Northern was sold in 1901 at foreclosure, the D.T. & M. may have recovered some of this money but they probably had to stand in line as the Lima Northern was besieged with lawsuits including ones brought by the Wabash and Ohio Southern Railroads.
In an attempt to move towards solvency the D.T. & M. apparently engaged in illegal rate cutting and was able to obtain a large amount of coal tonnage from competing lines in Michigan, notably the Michigan Central. The other railroads were not pleased, to say the least, and met at Toledo on July 29, 1898, to discuss the situation where, according to the Toledo Blade the D.T. & M. was asked “to show that the scenery along the D.T. & M. is such that the coal business in question would be induced to move that way.” (7/28/1898)
Presumably the D.T. & M. was persuaded to play by the rules and seek to improve its financial status by other means.
During this time a tug of war developed between the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, the Lima Northern and the Cincinnati Northern for control of the D.T. & M. In January of 1899 it was announced that the Cincinnati Northern would lease the D.T. & M. and operate it once again as its Michigan Division with offices in Toledo. The track between Allegan and Battle Creek would be removed and a new line built from Battle Creek to Grand Rapids by way of Gull Lake in an attempt to tap into the sizable resort business there. These reports were greeted with optimism in Lenawee County which was hopeful of improved freight and passenger service on the line which was currently offering Tecumseh two trains daily in each direction—a mixed freight and passenger train and a passenger train which also carried mail to and from the Tecumseh post office.
However, two months later, there were strong rumors that the Lima Northern would reacquire the D.T. & M. and car painters were ordered to stop relettering equipment from D.T. & M. ownership to that of the Michigan Division of the Cincinnati Northern with the possibility that the equipment would be lettered instead for the Lima Northern.
While all of this may have provided good business for the car painters and paint companies, it did little to improve the financial situation of the D.T. & M. All of this competition for an unprofitable railroad may appear baffling today, but that activity may have been mainly a consequence of the largely unregulated trading of stocks and the continual attempts at financial empire building common at the end of the nineteenth century.
Eventually the Cincinnati Northern lost interest, probably after being reminded by its stockholders of its past fiascos with the D.T. & M., and the foreclosure sale of the Lima Northern removed it as a contender with the result that, in 1902, the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern leased the D.T. & M. between Dundee and Moscow with the Michigan Central acquiring the rest of the line.
There was some good news for the railroad during this time. The Joseph Russell and Sons celery farm on the north side of Russell Road west of Tecumseh shipped out many refrigerated cars of celery using the spur track which had been built into the fields by the C.J. & M. years earlier.
The D.T. & M. also tried to cash in on the desire of many Americans to strike out for the American West in hopes of a better life. The following announcement appeared in the Tecumseh Herald in its issue of January 20, 1899:
“The D.T. & M. R.R. will sell on Dec. 6th and 20th and January 3rd and 17th, homeseekers excursion tickets to the south, west and northwest at one half the regular rates plus $2.00.”
“Liberal limit will be given on all tickets and the usual allowance of baggage checked. Here is a chance for parties wishing to buy a home to get a cheap trip.”
On January 1, 1915, the woeful little railroad acquired a new owner when Cornelius Vanderbilt formed the New York Central System from several railroads including the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern. The New York Central provided daily passenger and freight service between Tecumseh and Marshall and daily freight service between Tecumseh and Dundee. The Detroit, Toledo and Iroriton Railroad, the successor to the Lima Northern, also provided freight and passenger service between Tecumseh and Dundee on the same line.
On January 6, 1930, the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton ended passenger service to Dundee and, on February 3, 1930, also ended freight service between Tecumseh and Dundee. At this time the D.T. & I. was operating more trains over the Tecumseh–Dundee section than the New York Central, the owner of the line.
The New York Central also reduced the frequency of its freight service west of Tecumseh as the Depression and increasing use of trucks for freight hauling caused railroad traffic to dwindle.
On November 13, 1931, the New York Central filed an application with the Interstate Commerce Commission asking permission to abandon the former D.T. & M. line. In granting its permission, the I.C.C. stated:
“The area served by the line in question is said to be one of the best farming sections in Michigan, but during the last six years farm produce has formed hardly 15 per cent of the traffic of the line. Coal, road-building material, lumber, and gasoline have formed the greater part of the tonnage. Farm produce is apparently largely handled by trucks.”
“Traffic on the line has been light for several years and the service has for some time been irregular. Since the Ironton (D.T. & I.) ceased to use the section between Dundee and Tecumseh Junction, in February, 1930, trains have been run over it only when needed to handle the freight offered. There has been no passenger-train service on any part of the line since 1922. There was passenger service by mixed train from Tecumseh Junction to Moscow until April 5, 1931, and from Moscow to Marshall until July 1, 1931, on which dates such service was discontinued on those sections. Freight is now handled between Marshall and Moscow by switching service. Between Moscow and Dundee freight service is given by a train from Adrian three times a week, which runs from Tecumseh Junction in each direction far enough to handle the business it may have and then returns to Adrian. It usually runs as far west as Addison, but sometimes not beyond Onsted. Between Addison and Moscow a few trips were made in 1931.”2
This permission was granted on June 4, 1932, and by 1936 the track had been torn up ending the unsuccessful existence of a line that probably should never have been built.
A section of track along Cummins Street in Tecumseh was left intact to serve several customers including a propane plant on Adrian Street, the Hayden Milling Company on Pearl Street, the Hayden Fuel and Supply Company on Evans Street, the Bruce Foundry also on Evans Street and a woodworking plant on Maumee Street. The Hayden mill and the Hayden Fuel and Supply Company (a coal yard) received service from both the New York Central and the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton which retained trackage rights on a portion of this line. Eventually the Southern Michigan Railroad Society acquired the line and most of the track was removed.
Portions of this railroad still exist today. Its roadbed can still be seen along the northeast edge of Dundee and the sidings adjacent to the grain elevator in Britton are another remnant. Part of its roadbed is visible south of M 50 in Ridgeway (look for a row of trees and bushes extending west of Ridge Highway) and along Shull Road between Ridgeway and Tecumseh. The roadbed with some of the ties still in the ground can be seen near Westhaven Boulevard in Tecumseh.
A portion of a brick roundhouse in Marshall is currently being restored at Greenfield Village in Dearborn.
In Tecumseh the original M. & O. freight house was used for the same purpose by the D.T. & I. for a time and then it was sold to the Hayden Milling Company which used it for a warehouse. The building was torn down in 1980 after a failed attempt to move it.
The depot was also sold to the Hayden Milling Company and, for a time, was used for the production of a biscuit mix. Later it became the office for Perry Satterthwaite who, with his brother-in-law Perry Hayden, operated the Hayden Fuel and Supply Company. Following Mr. Satterthwaite’s death, the depot was acquired by the Tecumseh Area Historical Society and was moved in October of 1986 to the corner of Chicago Boulevard and Ottawa Street in the business district where it was renovated. It has been used for several businesses.
This monograph was completed on May 16, 2002.
The Disconnected Shovel Track
The disconnected track in the New York Central Tecumseh gravel pit was used entirely as a steam shovel track for loading purposes. It was referred to as “Disconnected Steam Shovel Track”.
This track was essential in the working of this pit, being used by the steam shovel while loading gravel. The track was never permanently connected to any other track, as one of the other tracks was cut and thrown to connect with this shovel track whenever the shovel was set in or taken out. The steam shovel worked in this pit during the summer of 1915. This track was still in existence on September 14, 1916.
The gravel in this pit was used for ballast, there being four or five feet of strippings used for filling of bridges and widening banks. In 1916 there was a large amount of gravel still there. The idea was to start working from the northwest side and work it out.
When the steam shovel was being moved in or out of the pit, the steam shovel track was connected with the parallel track which was thrown over to connect with it.
From New York Central Valuation Documents dated September 30, 1916.
Dunbar, Willis F., All Aboard! A History of Railroads in Michigan(William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1969).
McLellan, Dave and Warrick, Bill, The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway(Transportation Trails, Polo, Illinois: 1989).
Waldron, Clara, One Hundred Years A Country Town: The Village of Tecumseh Michigan 1824-1924(Thomas A. Riordan, Tecumseh, Michigan: 1968).
Interstate Commerce Commission Finance Docket No, 9034 Michigan Central Railroad Company et. al. Abandonment, June 4, 1932.
Marshall Evening News
Atlas of Lenawee County, 1893, Published by George B. Caldwell & Co. Atlas Reprint Sponsored By Lenawee County Historical Society, Adrian, Michigan (Unigraphic, Inc., Evansville, Indiana: 1978).
This monograph was completed on May 16, 2002.
Edward Hodges has written histories of Tecumseh’s two other railroads: