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Charlotte Southern Rare Mileage Excursion ~ May 13th, 2013

by Elizabeth Guenzler

After a good night's sleep, I was ready for today's rare mileage trips, the third and fourth of the weekend, organized by Bart Jennings and sponsored by the Southern Appalachian Railway Museum. I met Chris in the lobby and we drove the short distance to Charlotte and had breakfast. We then checked in with Sarah Jennings and had time to look around before boarding time.

The former Michigan Central Station in Charlotte, built in 1902.

Trackside views of the station.

Intricate glasswork in the windows.

Also here is the former Grand Trunk Western station which was built in 1885 and closed in 1980.

Canadian National SD70M-2 8958 leading a westbound freight comes through Charlotte, which is the junction between Canadian National and Charlotte Southern.

Charlotte Southern Railroad History

The Charlotte operation of the Old Road Dinner Train operates on the Grand River Valley Railroad that once ran from Jackson to Grand Rapids, completed on January 1st, 1870. The railroad arrived from the southeast during autumn 1868 and was extended on to Hastings to the northwest by Spring 1869. When the GRV was built, the two railroads were competing for Detroit to Chicago traffic. These railroads were the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern (controlled by Cornelius Vanderbilt), and the Michigan Central {controlled by a consortium of Boston bankers}. Each of these two railroads were building to try to gain an advantage. The LS&MS soon built a line to Grand Rapids and the Michigan Central responded by leasing the Grand Valley Railroad to get into the same market. Six years later, the Commodore bought the Michigan Central, gaining a monopoly on all rail transportation in the Detroit/Chicago region. The Michigan Central formally merged the GRV in 1916. The railroad eventually became part of the New York Central, then Penn Central then Conrail. Not needing this duplicate route, most of the line was abandoned by Conrail in 1976. The three miles of track at Charlotte was sold to the Grand Trunk Western, who quickly sold it to the Charlotte Southern in 1999.

Charlotte Southern Rairoad

The Charlotte Southern Rail Road began operating January 1999. It is 3.25 miles long and its major commodity is grain. Charlotte Southern provides freight service between the Canadian National to the north and the Eaton Farm Bureau Cooperative. The CHS is owned by the Adrian & Blissfield Rail Road Company. The Old Road Dinner Train makes a leisurely two-hour round trip through historic Charlotte and the countryside east of town.

The sign for the Old Road Mystery Dinner Train.

The trian reversing to the boarding area.

Charlotte Southern 44 ton switcher 3 (ex. Bay Colony 411 1986, nee Danvile and Mt. Morris 1 1956) on the point of the excursion train.

Reversing by the grain elevator.

The Michigan Central station as seen through the window of the train. Soon we were at the site of the first photo runby.

The train reversing into position on a beautiful spring day.

Charlotte Southern 3 leads the train on a photo runby.

Blossoms were out in full in this part of Michigan. I had not travelled much in other parts of the country other than the Pacific Northwest at this point, and was rather surprised to see this, when the blossoms of this type had been at their peak in April back in Lynnwood, Washington. I was then able to photograph the consist of our train.

Charlotte Southern 44-tonner 3 (ex. Bay Colony 411 1986, nee Danville and Mt. Morris 1 1956).

Charlotte Southern bar-lounge-snack bar 2502 "Battle Creek" (ex. VIA 3018, exx. CN 3018, nee CN 5615).

Charlotte Southern coach 5206 "Butternut Creek" (nee CN 64-seat coach 5206). This was the coach that Chris and I chose.

Charlotte Southern power car/baggage car 5074, built 1949. We reboarded and rode to the next runby location.

The train reversing for the runby.

Our Charlotte Southern train performing photo runby at Fulton Lumber Company.

The train at a grade crossing with an old railway hotel in the backtround. Everyone reboarded for the return trip to Charlotte and Chris and I left for Clinton but stopped in Jackson first.

Grand Trunk Western 4-6-2 5030, built 1912, and has been displayed at R.A. Greene Park in Jackson since 1957. In 2020, it was sold to the Colebrookdale Railroad in Boyerstown, Pennsylvania for restoration.

The "Train Car of Terror" in Onsted, near Irish Lake along Highway 12 between Jackson and Clinton. This was part of the Stagecoach Stop Amusement Park which opened in 1968 and closed in 2008. The owners re-branded the car as "Train of Terror". Its history is unknown.

Grand Trunk Western caboose opposite the former Stagecoach Stop Amusement Park. We drove the rest of the way to Clinton for the afternoon's excursion.

This excursion on the Charlotte Southern had been very enjoyable and the start of a fun day of riding three small Michigan railroads.