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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

History Grand Rapids by the Grand Rapids Historical Commission


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Abandoned Railroads: Kent County, Michigan

by Fr. Dennis Morrow

Using the Kent County map, we’ll examine the abandoned railroads in the county from west to east then north to south, township by township.

Tyrone Twp

Nothing abandoned. The two station stops in this township are on the Grand Elk (Pere Marquette, C & O) out of Grand Rapids, Kent City, with a post office since 1873 and incorporated as a village in 1908; and Casnovia, with a post office since 1851 and incorporated as a village in 1875.

Solon Twp

Both of the railroads, which had some mileage in this township have been abandoned. They included the Pennsylvania (Grand Rapids & Indiana) with a station at Cedar Springs; and the Grand Trunk (Toledo, Saginaw & Muskegon), which skirted Cedar Springs on the south between its stations at Reeds in Algoma Twp. and Sheffield in Courtland Twp.  Cedar Springs has had a post office since 1857. The GR & I came through in 1868, and the tracks were torn up in August 1991. Cedar Springs became a village in 1871 and a city in 1960.

Nelson Twp

Like its neighbor Solon Twp., both the Pennsylvania and the Grand Trunk had trackage. The Pennsylvania had a station at Sand Lake, where the GR & I came through in 1869 to bring milling machinery to harvest the white pine in the area.  Sand Lake has had a post office since 1870, and was incorporated as a village in 1878.  The tracks were removed in August 1991.

Spencer Twp

In the far northeastern corner of Kent County, this township had railroad mileage only in its own far northeastern corner, a portion of the Pere Marquette (Detroit, Grand Rapids & Western; Detroit, Lansing & Northern) between Gowen and Trufant, which ran northwest to Howard City and southeast to Greenville, 17.64 miles. It was abandoned in 1942.

Sparta Twp

A post office was established at Sparta as early as 1850, and it was incorporated as a village in 1883. The Grand Elk continues to pass through from south to north, but this east to west branch of the Grand Trunk (TS & M) was abandoned in 1946. The landmark station survives as a museum and meeting place. To the west, at the Ottawa Co. line, Gooding had a station on the TS & M, and a post office from 1888-1923. It was located on Kenowa Avenue just north of 13 Mile Road.

Algoma Twp

At the northwest corner of Pine Island Drive and Indian Lakes Road was Reeds or Reed Station, on the TS & M, with a post office from 1888 to 1903; the railroad was abandoned in 1946. Edgerton is a still-existing hamlet on 13 Mile Road just east of Summit Avenue; it had a station on the Pennsylvania from 1869 on, and its own post office from 1869 to 1937. Rockford had a station on the Pennsylvania (GR & I), but the tracks were taken up in 1991; it has had a post office since 1848, was incorporated as a village in 1866 and as a city in 1935.

Courtland Twp

The portion of the Grand Trunk (TS & M) running through the township had two stations: Sheffield, on the east side of Myers Lake Road just north of 15 Mile Road, with a post office from 1891 to 1906; and Evans, on the west side of Redmond Avenue just south of Benham Street, with a post office from 1888 until it was discontinued at a date yet to be determined (after 1909). The railroad was abandoned in 1946.

Oakfield Twp

The portion of the Grand Trunk (TS & M) running through the township also had two stations: Harvard, which remains as a settlement on Harvard Avenue about a quarter mile north of 15 Mile Road, and which had a post office from 1888 to 1934; and Lincoln Lake, a flag station and post office on the northwest corner of Lincoln Lake Avenue and MacClain Street from 1901 until it was discontinued at a date yet to be determined (after 1909). The railroad was abandoned in 1946.

Alpine Twp

Nothing abandoned. The two station stops in this township are on the Grand Elk (Grand Rapids & Newaygo, Pere Marquette, C & O) out of Grand Rapids, Alpine, at Seven Mile Road, with a post office from 1862 to 1937; and Englishville, at Ten Mile Road, with a post office from 1856 until it was discontinued at a date yet to be determined (after 1909).

Plainfield Twp

The Comstock Park station was at the junction of the Pere Marquette and the GR & I, in the very southwest corner of this township. The latter track was abandoned and removed in 1991. Comstock Park has had a post office since 1848; some early train schedules referred to it as North Mills Station, from its sawmill on Mill Creek. To the north and east were stations at Belmont, which has had a post office since 1869 and where the first railroad agent was hired in 1870; and at Childsdale, at Childsdale Avenue and House Street, which had a post office from 1900 until it was discontinued at a date yet to be determined (after 1909).  The station here was sometimes known as the Childs Mills Station, after the sawmill and paper mill built here.

Cannon Twp

No rail service in the history of this township.

Grattan Twp

CSX (Pere Marquette) sold its Greenville subdivision, 32 miles from Elmdale to Greenville, to the Mid-Michigan R.R. on December 18, 1976. The only trackage in Grattan Twp. was about a mile and a half in the very southeast corner, with a station at Vergennes, or Moseley, on the north side of Four Mile Road about half a mile east of Lincoln Lake Avenue. Vergennes had a post office from 1837 until 1909.

Walker Twp

The Grand Trunk (Detroit, Grand Haven & Milwaukee) and the Pennsylvania (GR & I) both passed through Walker Twp. on the way from Grand Rapids to Muskegon. Just inside Ottawa Co., in Tallmadge Twp., at a point just southeast of where the Coopersville & Marne (the Grand Trunk until 1976) still crosses Hayes Street (Four Mile Road), the two railroads crossed, with the Grand Trunk passing over the Pennsylvania on a still-existing trestle. 

The Central Michigan Railway purchased the entire Grand Trunk Western line from Durand to Muskegon on September 4, 1987, later selling the local portion west of the Saint Mary’s Siding along Pannell Street to the Coopersville & Marne.  The Grand Trunk had no station stops west of Grand Rapids in Kent County, and none until it reached Berlin or Marne in Ottawa Co. 

The Pennsylvania had a stop at Kinney Station, on Kinney Avenue just south of Three Mile Road.  Kinney had a post office from 1887 until it was discontinued at a date yet to be determined (after 1909).  The Pennsylvania discontinued passenger service from Grand Rapids to Muskegon in 1950 after running a Beeliner (single motorized car) on it for some years, and Conrail sold the line to Grand Trunk in 1976; it seems to have been effectively abandoned about 1961, when the construction of the I-96 freeway did not provide sufficient clearance for trains. 

The 1961 county map shows the railroad with its original route, while the 1962 map indicates the Pennsylvania ends just short of the rest area on the south side of the new freeway.  In the southern portion of the township, the New York Central (Lake Shore & Michigan Southern) as early as 1878 had a station at Eagle Mills, a sawmill settlement 3 miles from Grand Rapids, on the north side of the Grand River just where the track turned to go over the bridge. The entire line from the Grand Rapids Gypsum Company mines to Allegan was abandoned in 1973. The track crossing through the busy Chessie Wyoming yards was removed at that time.

Grand Rapids Twp

The New York Central (LS & MS) line to Allegan went through the southwest portion of the city. Its small brick freight house still stands on Fulton Street, W., and the route was used to put Wealthy Street through from Indiana Avenue to Garfield Avenue. The last surviving couple miles of track served the Domtar (Grand Rapids Gypsum) plant on Butterworth Street beyond the Coca-Cola plant, and was finally removed in the mid-1980’s. The portions of the rail-bed, which have not been built over, serve as the Kent Trails bike trail as far as Byron Center.

The Conrail (Pennsylvania, GR & I) track, which ran parallel to the Grand Elk (Pere Marquette, CSX) north and south through Grand Rapids’ west side, was removed about 1990 as the railroads agreed to consolidate their services on one track. This facilitated the removal of track in the downtown area so that the VanAndel Arena could be built just north of the old Union Station, the “Blue Bridge” could be converted to pedestrian use, and Grand Valley State University could proceed with its building plans on the near west side. The city used the old rail bed to expand and extend Seward Avenue from Fulton Street north to Leonard.

Fuller Station was a passenger transfer station located on the southwest corner of the double diamond formed by the intersection of the GR & I and the Pere Marquette with the Grand Trunk, on the south side of Ann Street at Indian Mill Creek. The station was built on the north bank of the creek, and was named after the Fuller & Rice Lumber Company, which was located north of Ann Street. The Grand Trunk also had a line that split off from its main line just south of Ann Street, and ran down along the east bank of the Grand River to its freight yard south of Sixth Street and its landmark brick passenger station at Michigan Street, where the U.S. Post Office was built in 1961. Another freight spur split to the east at Coldbrook Street and ran down along Bond Avenue, serving the former Berkey & Gay factory (now apartments) and the Grand Rapids Press until the 99-year lease ran out in 2005. The southernmost trestle that formed part of the “Y” at Monroe and Sweet was removed in 2009. Additional freight spurs ran north and south on both sides of Taylor Avenue just north of Leonard; traces of these tracks can be seen on the west side of Taylor at Caledonia and on the east side of Taylor at Sweet.

The “Dummy Line” which operated on a spur from the CSX (Pere Marquette) main line at Eastern Avenue in a northeasterly direction to Ramona Park at Reeds Lake was removed in the 1940’s. The rail bed has been built over, but can still be detected along Ramona Street near Kalamazoo Avenue, along the bottom of the hill between Adams Street and Boston Street, and along Hiawatha Drive near Hall Street.

A station flag stop known as Dewey appears on the map in the 1907 Michigan Manual. It was on the Grand Trunk in Grand Rapids Township about a mile west of the Ada Township line. This would be in the area of Crahen Avenue just north of Fulton Street. No further information has been found about it.

Ada Twp

The village of Ada has had a post office since 1837, and the Detroit & Milwaukee R.R. came through in 1853 and built a station.

Vergennes Twp

The Greenville subdivision of the CSX (Pere Marquette), sold to the Mid-Michigan in 1976, has a little over six miles of track running south to north in the eastern portion of Vergennes Township.

Wyoming Twp

The former Wyoming Township included the city of Grandville, which has had a post office since 1834 and a station on the CSX (Chicago & West Michigan, Pere Marquette) since 1872. Grandville was incorporated as a village in 1887 and as a city in 1933. The South Grand Rapids station was located near Burton Street, approximately where the Grand Elk (Conrail, Pennsylvania, GR & I) continues south to Kalamazoo and the Kent, Barry & Eaton (New York Central, Michigan Central) line splits off to the southeast. It had its own post office from 1888 to 1904. Continuing south on the Grand Elk, Fisher Station or Fisher’s Station had a depot from 1870 at the 54th Street crossing, and a general store on the northwest corner of Fisher Avenue and 54th which stood into the 1970’s.  Its post office operated from 1871 to 1903.

There were numerous spurs and sidings in Wyoming and southwest Grand Rapids, which have now been removed.  Traces of these can be found throughout the area, for instance: the spur to the old picric acid plant at Clyde Park and 44th Street, which split off the Pennsylvania north of 44th Street and actually had a working crossing with signals on the US-131 freeway for about ten years after the freeway was built! Then there was the spur which split to the northwest from the main line south of Burton Street, crossing Plaster Creek (the trestle is still there, just east of McKee Avenue), Burton, McKendrick, and Clyde Park. Conrail also had taken over the old interurban track from the area of Wealthy and Front, with a bridge crossing the river south of Wealthy, then crossing Market, the CSX main line, and Chestnut, passing under the Oxford Street bridge and finally crossing Curve and Hall streets with numerous tracks.

Paris Township/Kentwood Twp

The Conrail (Michigan Central) line to Jackson, which enters the territory of the former Paris Township from the northwest at the Division & 28th crossing, has been completely removed beyond the 44th Street & Kalamazoo Avenue intersection.  On the southeast corner of that intersection was Bowen Station, also called the Crosby P.O., and had a post office from 1870 until it was discontinued at a date yet to be determined (after 1909). The line continued on a straight diagonal through the township, and the portions that were not lost to development are now the Paul B. Henry Bike Trail. The track remains in place from Division Avenue to just short of 44th & Kalamazoo, but is no longer used, having served the former Steelcase property in that area. In 1976, Conrail removed the tracks on this line east of Vermontville in Eaton County to all the way to Eaton Rapids.  The railroad was leased to a short-line minority railroad company, the Kent-Barry-Eaton line, which hauled about 48 cars a week from the grain mill in Vermontville to the main lines in Grand Rapids. That firm abandoned operations on June 30, 1983.

The CSX (Chessie, C & O, Pere Marquette, Detroit, Lansing & Northern) line to Detroit comes out of Grand Rapids, passing the former station at Oakdale Park, which served the area between Eastern Avenue & Oakdale Street south and east to the Kalamazoo Avenue crossing. Oakdale Park had its own post office as well, from 1888 to 1894, when it became Station F of the Grand Rapids post office.  The C & O retained a small passenger shelter and stop at the Kalamazoo Avenue crossing until Grand Rapids-Detroit service was discontinued on April 30, 1971.  About 4 miles to the east, another station was located at East Paris, on East Paris Avenue between 32nd and 36th Streets. It had its own post office from 1875 until 1914.

Cascade Twp

The Grand Rapids Eastern began operations in 1993 and was purchased by RailAmerica in 2000. It has 47 miles of track, from the Saint Mary’s Siding west of Alpine Avenue to Lowell. A portion of it, between Ada and Lowell, passes through the far northeastern corner of Cascade Twp. along the Grand River and Grand River Avenue. The CSX also passes through the township farther south, with former stations at Whitneyville, which had a post office from 1849 to 1909; and at McCords, which was on the 1850’s stage line from Hastings to Ada, then received a station on the Detroit, Lansing & Northern in 1888, and had its own post office from 1888 to 1947.

Lowell Twp

Lowell Twp. continues to have three rail lines. The Grand Rapids Eastern travels along the Grand River as far as the city of Lowell, then becomes the Mid-Michigan Railroad to Ionia. The Mid-Michigan also purchased the 32-mile Greenville subdivision of the CSX from Elmdale to Greenville on December 18, 1987, which passes through Lowell at Main Street and served the King Milling Co.  Lowell has had a post office since 1851, was incorporated as a village in 1861, and as a city in 1960. From at least 1898-1907, there was a station at Pratt Lake, 3 miles south of Lowell on the Lowell & Hastings Railroad, later the Greenville subdivision. In the southwestern portion of the township, the main CSX line passes through for about two miles between McCords and Alto.

Byron Twp

North Byron or Scudderville had a post office from 1862 until 1903. Its station on the New York Central (LS & MS) was located on the northeast corner of 64th Street at the rail crossing.  Byron Center has had a post office since 1869, and had a station on the New York Central until the line was abandoned in 1973. The Grand Elk (Conrail, Pennsylvania, GR & I) line had stations at West Carlisle (76th Street & Clyde Park), which had a post office from 1884 to 1910; and at Ross Station, on 100th Street between Burlingame and Clyde Park, which had its own post office from 1871 until a date that has yet to be determined (after 1909).

Gaines Twp

From 1870 on, the Michigan Central (Grand River Valley Railroad) had a station at Dutton, which was originally called Hammond Station. The settlement also had its own post office from that year until 1966.

Caledonia Twp

The K B & E (New York Central, Michigan Central, Grand River Valley RR) had a station at Caledonia, which has had a post office since 1843 and was incorporated as a village in 1888.

Bowne Twp

CSX (Detroit, Grand Rapids & Western, Pere Marquette) had a station at Alto, so named because it is the highest point of land between Grand Rapids and Detroit. Alto has had a post office since 1851. To the east is Elmdale, on the Kent-Ionia county line, which was the junction point for the Pere Marquette and the Lowell & Hastings. The Pere Marquette bought the latter road and abandoned the portion between Elmdale south to Freeport in Barry County in 1936. The Greenville subdivision ran north 32 miles out of Elmdale, which had its own post office from 1889 to 1940. Three miles south of Elmdale on the line to Freeport was Logan, with its own post office from 1881 to 1906.

June 17, 2011



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