Railroads in Michigan


Railroads have been vital in the history of the population. Trade of rough and finished goods in the state of Michigan. While some coastal settlements had previously existed. The state’s population, commercial, and industrial growth further bloomed with the establishment of the railroad. The state’s proximity to Ontario, Canada, aided the transport of goods in a smooth east-west trajectory from Lake Michigan’s. Then eastern shore toward Montreal and Quebec. Major railroads in the state, before 20th-century consolidations, had been the Michigan Central Railroad and the New York Central Railroad.

The history of railroading in Michigan began in 1830, seven years before the territory became a state, with the chartering of the Pontiac and Detroit Railway. This was the first such charter granted in the Northwest Territory and occurred the same year the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad began operation. The first steam locomotives operated in early 1837, with an average speed of 10 miles per hour (16 km/h).

Railroads in Michigan

Railroads continue to operate in the state of Michigan, although at a reduced level. Michigan is served by 4 Class I railroads: the Canadian National Railway, the Canadian Pacific Railway, CSX Transportation, and Norfolk Southern Railway. These are augmented by several dozen short line railroads. The vast majority of rail service in Michigan is devoted to freight, with Amtrak and various scenic railroads the exceptions.


There is Amtrak passenger rail service in the state, connecting the cities of Detroit, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Flint, and Port Huron to Chicago, Illinois. The three routes taken together carried 664,284 passengers for revenues of $20.3 million during the fiscal year 2005–2006, a record. The Pere Marquette and Blue Water services receive funding from the State of Michigan. For the fiscal year 2005-2006, this was $7.1 million.

The contract for FY 2006-2007 is for $6.2 million because of improving revenues and patronage over the past year. The Federal Railroad Administration has designated the Detroit-Chicago corridor as a high-speed rail corridor. A 97-mile (156 km) stretch along the route of Blue Water and Wolverine from Porter, Indiana to Kalamazoo, Michigan is the longest track owned by Amtrak outside of the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak began incremental speed increases along this stretch in January 2002. By 2012, trains were regularly running at the planned top speed of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) between Porter and Kalamazoo.


Michigan had not had commuter rail service since 1984 when Amtrak discontinued the Michigan Executive, which ran between Ann Arbor and Detroit. SEMTA had discontinued the Grand Trunk Western’s old Pontiac–Detroit service the year before. There are currently two new proposed systems under consideration. WALLY, backed by the Great Lakes Central Railroad and a coalition of Washtenaw County agencies and businesses. It would provide daily service between Ann Arbor and Howell. The other, a proposed project by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, would provide daily service between Detroit and Ann Arbor with stops in Ypsilanti, Detroit Metro Airport, and Dearborn.


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