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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Taking the Train

Taking the Train

GRHC - July 6th, 2011

The Detroit, Grand Haven, and Milwaukee railroad provided the first rails to Grand Rapids, in 1858, and the only rails until 1869. After the Civil War, Grand Rapids was given a land grant to subsidize the construction of rails between Petoskey and Fort Wayne, Indiana. The rail between became known as the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad (GR&I). The Rails were demolished in 1961 to make way for US-131. 



The Detroit, Grand Haven, & Milwaukee railroad provided the first rail service to the city in 1858; it was rail between Detroit and Grand Haven, and a steamboat across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee. The locomotive was low-hung, and the operator sat behind the boiler, exposed to weather, sparks and heat. Passengers sat on top in open coaches that must have reminded them of stagecoach travel. It was the only railroad providing service to the city until 1869.

After the Civil War an 850,000-acre land grant subsidized the construction of a rail link north to Petoskey and south to Fort Wayne. With the establishment of the Grand Rapids & Indiana line in 1869, and the railroads construction of Union Station, the city became a hub for regional traffic.

In 1900 excursion trains operated by the Grand Rapids & Indiana line, known as the GR&I, would bring, on a single Sunday, about 2000 shoppers and sightseers to Grand Rapids from Indiana and Southern Michigan. Railroads continued to grow—by 1913 over 13 million passengers traveled on the GR&I line alone.

A new Union Station built in 1900 was demolished 1961 for construction of the US 131 freeway. About that time Grand Rapids lost all passenger rail service for at least a decade. When Amtrak restored the Grand Rapids-Chicago line the city was no longer a hub but the end of the line where a small waiting room, open only in the morning, serves 7:30 travelers.

Full Details

TitleTaking the Train
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, train, Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad, WYCE, GR&I, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, radio, Podcast
Pubdate StringJuly 6th, 2011

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