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Coopersville & Marne Railway 5/12/2013

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I met at my room and we stopped at McDonald's for breakfast before going to explore Grand Haven on this very cold and windy morning.

The Pere Marquette Grand Haven station built in 1927 and is currently the home of Creason, Weber and Curtis Family Dentistry. Next we went over to the railroad display here.

The railroad display in Grand Haven.

Pere Marquette 2-8-4 1223 built by Lima in 1941. It hauled heavy wartime traffic, including the Pere Marquette's premiere expedited freights, 40 and 41. Its weight, however, restricted it and all the other Pere Marquette Berkshires to the lines from Toledo, Ohio, to Saginaw, Michigan, Detroit to Grand Rapids, Michigan and Grand Rapids to Chicago, Illinois.

When the Pere Marquette was absorbed by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway in 1947, 1223 was assigned C&O number 2657 but never bore the new number as it had not been paid off at the time and the merger agreement stipulated that equipment still under trust remained in Pere Marquette livery. 1223 was retired in 1951 and moved to New Buffalo, Michigan to be scrapped, although it survived until 1960 when it was repainted and moved to the state fairgrounds in Detroit.

In 1980, Michigan state fair officials decided to sell 1223 and the city of Grand Haven won the bidding process. With the help of the Michigan National Guard, as well as the Grand Trunk Western and Chessie System railroads, 1223 was moved to Grand Haven on 1st September 1981 then added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

Pere Marquette box car 72222 built by the Ralston Steel Car Company in 1946. It was later retired and used as a storage facility in the Chesapeake & Ohio's Saginaw, Michigan freight yard. It was donated to the West Michigan Railroad Historical Society in Grand Rapids by the Chessie, and is on loan to the City of Grand Haven.

Pere Marquette caboose A986 built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1941 and was regularly used on the Pere Marquette's nightly freight that passed through Grand Haven which was known as the "Cannonball" from its service to the Campbell Wyant & Cannon Foundry Company in Muskegon, which was once the largest producer of auto castings in the world. A986 was retired in 1981 and donated to the City of Grand Haven by the Chessie System in 1983.

Grand Trunk Western wooden caboose 77915 built by the railroad in 1894 for the Grand Trunk of Canada and was then transferred to the Grand Trunk Western. It was rebuilt in 1925 and donated to the City of Grand Haven in 1980.

The coaling tower built in 1924. In 1869, the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railway purchased the river frontage at this location and placed their operations at this site. Structures located here included a turntable, a grain elevator, an engine house, a freight warehouse, an icehouse, a depot and a water tank. The railway underwent a series of mergers and was eventually obtained by the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, although the subsidiary retained an independent identity. In 1902, railroad began car ferry service at this site. the In 1924-25, the railroad upgraded its Grand Haven facilities, building a 50,000 gallon water tower and this coaling station.

When in use, the structure contained a hoist that provided coal to locomotives through the two steel chutes projecting from the structure. An electric motor in the adjacent engine house powered the system. In 1933, Grand Trunk Railroad transferred its ferry service to Muskegon and the coal tipple fell into disuse. In 1949, the ferry dock in Muskegon collapsed and Grand Trunk briefly re-activated the site. However, diesels replaced steam locomotives in the 1950's and no further operations took place at the tower. The steel hardware was eventually removed. Grand Trunk ceased passenger operations to Grand Haven in 1955 and in 1975, it ended freight service and abandoned the track.

The coaling tower is built from reinforced concrete, standing 79 feet high and covering an area 38 feet by 30 feet. The structure includes a large coal storage section along with a small gabled unit above that at one time housed the hoist machinery. Adjacent to the main structure is small single-story reinforced concrete power house building. The first floor is constructed from ten concrete piers that define three bays on the longer sides and two on the shorter. The bays are composed of arches running from pier to pier. Some bays are entirely open, while others are filled with a concrete panel. A wide horizontal concrete belt course above the arches defines the base of the structure's second level. This level has bays aligned with those on the first story, with all containing recessed rectangular planes without windows. This level originally contained coal storage. The wider central bay continues upward to form a third story with a gabled concrete roof.

Pere Marquette 2-8-4 1223 waits for a green signal that will never come. Next we drove down towards the harbor but had to make another stop.

The former Grand Trunk station, built in 1870 as the western terminus of the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railroad. It served passengers until 1955. The City then purchased it in 1967 and leased to the Tri-Cities Historical Society. From here we drove to the harbor walk and parked.

The waves were crashing against the rocks at the Grand Haven Lighthouse established in 1839.

You could have ridden a surf board on the waves coming into the Grand Haven Harbor this cold and windy morning. From here we drove down to Holland.

Pere Marquette station in Holland built in 1926, used by Amtrak's Pere Marquette trains. From here we drove to east of Zeeland to wait for westbound Pere Marquette Train 371. Our wait was not long.

Pere Marquette, Amtrak 371, sped its way towards its first station stop of the morning at Holland. We thene drove north to Coopersville, from where our trip today would be starting. We first went to see another station.

Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Muskegon interurban car 8 "Merlin" built by Barney and Smith in 1902. The line operated from 1902 to 1928 and was built and operated by Westinghouse, Church and Kerr.

The Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Muskegon station in Coopersville built in 1902. We drove over to the train's station parking lot then checked in with Sarah Jennings, as you do on all of the rare mileage trips Bart does.

Coopersville & Marne Railway

Before we look around the railroad let us first look back in history.

The History

The route of the Coopersville & Marne Railway began as the Oakland and Ottawa Railroad Company on April 3, 1848. The charter of the company was to build a railroad from "Oakland via Fentonville to Lake Michigan in Ottawa County". The company stayed independent for only seven years and was merged with the Detroit and Pontiac Railroad Company in 1855, forming the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad. The track through Marne and Coopersville was completed during summer 1858, with the first train west into Grand Haven arriving there in September 1858.

The Detroit and Pontiac Railroad was the sixth railroad to receive a charter from Michigan and second to actually operate trains. The railroad actually traces its history back to the first chartered railroad in Michigan, the Pontiac and Detroit Railroad. Nothing came of the Pontiac and Detroit Railroad so in 1834 the state granted a new charter to the Detroit and Pontiac Railroad. Four years later, the D&P began operations over the twelve miles of track. The railroad finally reached Pontiac in 1843, thirteen years after the state first granted it a charter.

In 1860, the Great Western Railway, a Canadian company, took financial control of the D&M after it defaulted on debt payments. The Detroit and Michigan entered receivership in 1875 and was consolidated into the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railway in 1878 when it was purchased by the Great Western. The railroad now owned a 189 mile line stretching from Detroit to Grand Haven on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.

By 1882, the road was under the ownership of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada when the GTP acquired the Great Western. Eventually, in May 1928, the railroad became part of the Grand Trunk Western Railroad Company. During the 1980's, the Grand Trunk Western began to abandon or sell off branch lines in Michigan and sold off this line as a part of a package of lines that became the Detroit & Mackinac and the Central Michigan shortline.

In 1987, the Central Michigan was created and after a few years of operations, abandoned most of the Grand Rapids to Muskegon route. To try to save part of this route, the Coopersville & Marne Railway Company was incorporated on July 13, 1989 and the line between Marne and Coopersville was sold on December 14, 1989. The Coopersville and Marne was seen as a more fitting moniker. Run by volunteers using several former commuter coaches on its train, with heritages of Delaware, Lackawanna and Western and Canadian National. The coaches are restroom-equipped for passenger convenience. The normal diesel power is former Grand Trunk Western Railway SW9 7014. The railroad also handles limited freight service, interchanging cars at the old St Mary's Cement siding, just west of the Ann Street Yard.

The Railroad Yard

Now we will look around the rail yard in Coopersville.

Canadian National 4-6-0 1395, nee Canadian Northern 1935 built by Montreal Locomotive Works in 1913. Originally used for passenger service, they were among the first to operate into Edmonton on the Canadian Northern and became the workhorses that helped open up the Canadian Prairies. Superseded by heavier and faster locomotives on mainline service during the 1920's and 1930's, they continued on mixed and way-freight services until the general retirement of CNR steam in the late 1950s.

In 1959, 1395 was sold to the Edaville Corporation in Wakefield, Massachusetts. It was later transferred to the ownership of F. Nelson Blount and became part of the Steamtown Foundation at Bellows Falls, Vermont. In 1985, it moved with that collection to Steamtown in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It was later sold to a private individual and is now in the collection of the Coopersville & Marne Railway.

Tuscola and Saginaw Bay RS-1 2394, ex. Sabine River and Northern 102, nee Rutland Railroad 402, built by American Locomotive Company in 1951. It was sold to the Tuscola and Saginaw Bay in 1978 and named "Corkpine Express" the following year.

Coopersville and Marne NW2 5208, nee Chesapeake and Ohio 5208 built by Electro-Motive Diviison in 1949. After retirement, it went into the Muskegon Railroad Historical Society's collection and was then moved to the Coopersville & Marne.

This all-wooden "caboose" was on the property but I am unsure as to what "SBA" stands for.

Norfolk and Western caboose 55708 is actually Nickel Plate caboose 480 built by International Car in 1955.

Chessie System caboose 903583 built as Chesapeake and Ohio 90076 and privately-owned. In 2020, it was moved to Nunica, Michigan.

Chesapeake and Ohio wooden caboose 90845 built by Standard Tank Car in 1926.

The line of engines in Coopersville.

Coopersville and Marne Railway SW9 7014, nee Grand Trunk Western 7014 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1952.

Coopersville and Marne 50 ton switcher 3049, nee Dupont 3049 built by General Electric in 1957.

Chesapeake and Ohio baggage car 4345 built as horse car. Due to its deterioration and vandalization, it had reached a point where it was no longer viable for restoration and was scrapped in 2014.

Conrail 50 foot box car 279341.

The Grand Rapids, Grand Haven & Muskegon interurban combination depot from Spring Lake which was moved to Coopersville circa 1990.

Southern Railway maintenance-of-way caboose 910804, nee Southern Railway X2900 built by the railroad.

United States Army switcher 20, ex. United States Army 7676, exx. USA Corps of Engineers 2024, nee United States Quartermaster Corps 2044, built by Plymouth in 1941.

Chesapeake and Ohio maintenance-of-way crane and boom car 940066.

Wabash flat car 548 built in 1959.

Western Maryland flat car 2673 built by Greenville in 1953.

CSXT box car 130159, ex. Seaboard 10459, nee Railbox 10459.

Coopersville scene.

The train timetable board in Coopersville.

The replica Coopersville & Marne station built in 1990.

This switch tower came from Greenville, Michigan.

Coopersville and Marne coach 703, nee Kalmazaoo, Lake Shore and Chicago 703. The Kalamazoo, Lake Shore and Chicago Railway (also known as The Fruit Belt Line) operated on track laid between Kalamazoo and South Haven, Michigan. Much of the track has been removed and is now known as the "Van Buren Trail".

Coopersville scenes.

Our train is ready for our trip today.

Our Train for this trip

Coopersville and Marne SW9 7014.

Coopersville and Marne 60-seat coach 7010, ex. Wabash 1232, nee Kalamazoo, Lake Shore and Chicago built by American Car and Foundry in 1927

Coopersville and Marne coach 4974, nee Delaware, Lackawanna and Western.

Coopersville and Marne coach 4445, nee Delaware, Lackawanna and Western built by Pullman in 1920.

Coopersville and Marne coach 4345, nee Delaware, Lackawanna and Western 693 built by Pullman in 1920.

Coopersville and Marne caboose 75009, ex. Grand Trunk Western 75009, nee Santa Fe 1574 built by American Car and Foundry in 1927.

Click here for Part 2 of this story