My Town Monday: Ann Arbor Railroad

By the late 1800s, Howell was already being served by an East/West train rail that ran from Detroit, to Lansing and then on to points north.

Howell thought it would be a great idea to have a second rail line through the city. The first one had brought great growth and more growth had to be a good thing.

Some years before, a rail line was proposed to run from Toledo to Ann Arbor and then onto the North. (Places north of Lansing in Michigan were pretty sparsely populated for a long time, and in fact, many areas are still thinly populated, with the exceptions being resort towns like Mackinaw City and Traverse City.) Many railways at the time included “Northnern” in their name.

The Ann Arbor Railway ended it’s northern run for years in South Lyon. But the ex-governor of Toledo had long planned to see the rail line continue to the North.

The residents of Howell raised $20,000 to get the Ann Arbor Rail Road to come through Howell. Apparently it worked. I can’t find any exact accounts at this point as to what happened with the South Lyon branch of the line, but at some point the line was removed. It was called the Toledo and Ann Arbor Western line. The Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern line went North out of Ann Arbor, through Whitmore Lake, jogged west in Hamburg (to Zukey Lake.) and then headed on up through Howell and North to Durand, a large railroad town.

The Ann Arbor Railroad (apparently) stopped running any passenger lines in 1950-1. It is now a shipping line, with a main office in downtown Howell.

About 20 years ago, the Ann Arbor railroad became the Tuscola and Saginaw Bay Rail line under a conglomerate company. On railmaps of Michigan, the line is TSBY (though I prefer Ann Arbor Rail Road and my bias is evident in the name I chose to use throughout this piece. =)

The Ann Arbor railroad, paritcularly the station on Wetmore Street in Howell, has seen new life in recent years. During big events, such as one of the many festivals in Howell, the line comes to life with dinner rides and short trips. During the Christmas season, there is a Santa Train that takes kids to “the North Pole” to see Santa.

The Ann Arbor railroad, in general is the quieter line, and the one that’s nicer to live next to. Since I’m one of those ‘wealthy’ people who has their pick of where to live in town, I’ve ended up at different times living next to both the Ann Arbor and the CSX, the two active rail lines in Livingston County. I will never, ever live next to the CSX again. I would rather live in some, dark broken handy-man special in the middle of nowhere (or even Folwerville) before I voluntarily live next to the CSX. Noisy, noisy train with it’s WHOO-WHOO thirty-nine times when Monk (or anyother TV detective) is explaining what really happened… Yeah. No. Never again.

Next week, antoher of Livingston County’s three rail lines! And maybe pictures. I would have had pictures, but today got a bit derailed (ha!) when the brakes failed on my car. I’m fine, car’s fine, but my afternoon was ruined.

Check out other My Town Monday posts at Travis Erwin’s site.

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