Railroad Town Jackson, Michigan

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1 Railroad Town Jackson, Michigan A Historic Pictorial of Railroads in Jackson County Michigan Douglas N. Leffler

2 THE RAILROAD ARRIVES IN JACKSON When Horace Blackman first pitched his tent on the banks of the Grand River in July, 1829, in an area of south central Michigan which was to be later named Jackson, little did he realize the profound impact that railroad transport would eventually have on the community in which he is credited with founding. In fact, in 1829 Mr. Blackman may not have ever heard the term railroad, since railroads were still in their infancy in the eastern United States and none had yet been built west of the Alleghenies. Within six months after his arrival in southern Michigan, Mr. Blackman s little settlement on the Grand River was established as the village of Jacksonburgh in honor of President Andrew Jackson. However, by 1838, the village simply became known as Jackson. By 1838 the little village of Jackson, as well as other communities in southern Michigan, had gained a substantial growth in both population and commerce and this growth prompted the establishment of numerous railroads in southern Michigan. The first railroad to reach Jackson was the State of Michigan-owned Central Railroad on December 29, This railroad had been chartered as the Detroit & St. Joseph Railroad Company in 1835 and was to run from Detroit westward through the second tier of counties (which included Jackson County) to "a point on Lake Michigan." Jackson was the western terminus of the Central line between 1841 and However, the road was soon extended to Marshall. During this time, Jackson served as a prominent passenger and hotel center and travelers heading further west or north transferred to stage coach lines. By 1846, the State-owned Central Railroad had been sold to the Vanderbilt interests and had become the Michigan Central Railroad, after which it was extended west towards Chicago, reaching that city in March In 1858, the Michigan Southern Railroad completed their construction of the Jackson branch (originally called the Palmyra & Jacksonburgh Railroad), and it terminated a block from the Michigan Central tracks in downtown Jackson. Jackson immediately gained a major competitive advantage over other towns since we were the only interior Michigan city which had two major competing railroads. The Michigan Central provided Jackson with direct connections to Detroit and Chicago and the Michigan Southern afforded a direct route to Toledo. The competition conducted between the two railroads (prior to Vanderbilt control of both roads) resulted in substantial savings in freight and passenger costs for Jackson passengers and shippers, and Jackson prospered greatly. One of the earliest locomotives seen in Jackson on the Michigan Central RR was #20, an early type locomotive, originally named Stag Hound. This photo dates from the 1850 s. 1

3 By 1914, when the photos above and below were taken, Jackson s freight yard was booming with activity. The locomotives shown above were either awaiting repairs or stored for scrap, as many older locomotives were in the process of being removed from the roster. In the photo below, Jackson s first roundhouse and turntable, which was constructed in the 1870 s is a flurry of activity. Within four years, this original roundhouse would be gone, replaced with a newer, larger roundhouse located just a few hundred feet south of this structure. 11

4 15 The yard at Jackson Junction also included complete car repair capabilities. Michigan Central caboose had en-countered significant fire damage in 1938 (upper left), but was rebuilt (above and left) to a like-new condition. Jackson car repair supervisor Harry Hamilton is seen posing on the steps of the after completion of lettering and numbering of the caboose (below).

5 In the photo to the left, an eastbound gas-electric motor car and trailer are seen stopped at the Napoleon depot on the Toledo Branch in the 1940 s. The gas electric car replaced a traditional steam locomotive and coaches in the late 1930 s to save costs, due to reduced passenger usage on the Jackson to Toledo train. The Napoleon depot still exists today and is an integral part of the Napoleon Feed Mill building in Napoleon. However, the track to Toledo has been gone since the late 1950 s. Two branch line trains are seen in the above two photos. To the left is a southbound freight in the mid-1930 s on the Cincinnati Northern Branch just south of Jackson where the line parallels M-50. The photo to the right shows the afternoon train to Grand Rapids just north of Parnall Road in Blackman Township in In one more year, this train would no longer be steam powered. The photo on the right shows Grand Trunk Western 2684, a class N-4-e consolidation wheeling the daily Pontiac- Jackson westbound freight just north of Jackson in the late 1940 s. The train has just cleared Cooper Street and is bearing down on GTW s M.A.L. tower where the Michigan Central line to Rives Junction (and thence to Grand Rapids and Saginaw) crossed the GTW. The 2684 was the last engine in this class, built in 1911 by Schenectady Locomotive Works for the GTW. 24

6 By 1964, the NYC cigar band paint scheme dominates the diesels running through Jackson. The only exception was Alco FA1 no (lower left), shown at the engine terminal in In the top left view an Alco FA sports the cigar band logo, as well as the E-units on The Michigan, as seen at the depot in the top right photo. Alco RS seen in the middle photo also has the newer logo, as does the Alco FA2 in the lower right photo. 51

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