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Coopersville and Marne Railway Rare Mileage Excursion ~ May 12th, 2013

by Elizabeth Guenzler

This was the second of the May 2013 series of rare mileage excursions, organized by Bart Jennings and sponsored by the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum. But first, the drive from Grand Haven to Coopersville had to occur. So after meeting Chris in the hotel lobby and having breakfast, we started out.

The former Pere Marquette station in Grand Haven, Michigan. Built in 1927, it is currently the home of Creason, Weber and Curtis Family Dentistry.

The sign for the Grand Haven station. Chris then drove us to where Pere Marquette 1223 is displayed.

Restoration Project sign for the steam engine and two cabooses.

The history board for Pere Marquette 2-8-4 1223, sister to 1225, which is at the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso.

Pere Marquette 2-8-4 1223 built in 1941. 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. It was retired in 1951 and moved to New Buffalo 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. The City of Grand Haven won the bidding process and, 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 in September 1981. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

The front of the steam engine.

The railway's name.

Along with Pere Marquette, the City display includes Pere Marquette auto boxcar 72222 built in 1946. When retired, it was used as a storage facility in the Chesapeake & Ohio's Saginaw 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.

Two cabooses, Pere Marquette steel cupola A986 and Grand Trunk Western wooden cupola 779915, round out this display. A986, built in 1941, 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. It was retired in 1981 and donated to the City of Grand Haven by the Chessie System in 1983. 77915 was built about 1894 for the Grand Trunk Railway 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.

Beside the display is the Grand Haven coaling tower, built in 1925 by the Grand Trunk Western, is 79 feet tall and holds 300 tons of coal. There was one other station to see before we continued on our way.

The former Grand Trunk station, built in 1870 as the western terminus of the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Roadroad. It served passengers until 1955. The City then purchased it in 1967 and leased to the Tri-Cities Historical Society. The two of us then drove to Holland.

The Pere Marquette Railway station in Holland, built in 1926 and served both the Pere Marquette and Chesapeake and Ohio. Restored, it is now the Louis and Helen Padnos Transportation Centre, which is a stop of Amtrak's Pere Marquette route.

As we drove from Holland to Coopersville, our route took us through Zeeland as Amtrak Train 371, the Pere Marquette, was making its way to Holland and points west.

The former Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Muskegon station in Coopersville, built 1902, which is the home of the Coopersville and Area Historical Museum.

The historical plaque about this station.

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

The Grand Haven, Grand Rapids and Muskegon Railway freight office which was moved from Spring Lake.

We then arrived at the Coopersville and Marne Railway, checked in with Sarah Jennings and started to look around the yard.

Coopersville and Marne Railway History

The Coopersville & Marne Railway Company was incorporated on July 13th, 1989. The initial purpose of those involved was to purchase the old Grand Trunk right-of-way between the towns of Coopersville and Marne, just to the northwest of Grand Rapids. The idea was to preserve the track for future use and to provide vintage passenger service. The purchase was made on December 14th, 1989. Most of the cost was covered by the sale of shares of stock in the Company.

The line has a long history. It was chartered as the Oakland and Ottawa Railroad Company on April 3rd, 1848. The purpose was to build a railroad from "Oakland via Fentonville to Lake Michigan in Ottawa County". The railroad was merged with the Detroit and Pontiac Railroad Company in 1855, and the name was changed to the Detroit and Milwaukee. The track through Marne and Coopersville was first laid down in the summer of 1858. The first train into Grand Rapids arrived there in June 1858, with the first train into Grand Haven arriving there in September of that year.

There were some additional corporate changes, and in May of 1928 the railroad became part of the Grand Trunk Western Railroad Company. In 1987 the Central Michigan Railway Company purchased most of the line, and it is this company that sold the line to the Coopersville & Marne. Later on our railroad also purchased the rest of the line from Marne into Grand Rapids. The Coopersville and Marne Railway Company began operations on July 4th, 1990, using a leased locomotive, a leased passenger car and a borrowed caboose. The traffic that summer was enough to warrant obtaining the use of a second coach. In 1991 we leased a third coach, and in 1992 we leased one additional coach. We now have four coaches, with room for 300 passengers. In 1993, in conjunction with the Coopersville Downtown Development Authority, we obtained a new train boarding area and a small depot in downtown Coopersville.

Our operations are carried out by our all-volunteer staff. Men and women must complete our industry-approved training program in order to perform the duties of Brakeman, Conductor or Locomotive Engineer. Our craftsmen volunteers maintain our vintage equipment and our fourteen miles of track. Experienced volunteers also work in guest services and ticket sales. The EnterTRAINment is provided by paid local actors and musicians.

During the entire year, The Coopersville & Marne Railway operates a busy freight service for our customers along the track from Coopersville into Grand Rapids.

The train board for the week of May 10th to 23rd.

The ornate clock by the station/office.

Canadian National 4-6-0 1394 built 1913 (ex. Steamtown 13985 1988, exx. F. Nelson Blount 1969, exxx. Edaville Corporation 1395 1965, exxxx. Canadian Nationa 1395, nee Canadian Northern 1935). Originally used for passenger service, the 4-6-0s were among the first to operate into Edmonton on the Canadian Northern and became the workhorses that helped open up the Canadian Prairies.

Tuscola and Saginaw Bay RS-1 2394 "Corkpine Express" (ex. Sabine River and Northern 402, exx. Vermont Railway 402, nee Rutland 402). Built 1951.

Coopersville and Marne NW2 5208, nee Chesapeake and Ohio

The NW2, RS-1 and 4-6-0 in the shop area of the Coopersville and Marne Railway.

Chessie System caboose 903583.

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

Coopersville and Marne (CMRY) SW9 7014, nee Grand Trunk 7014 - the motive power for today's trip.

The railway's emblem on the cab.

Chesapeake and Ohio baggage car 268, originally a 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.

United States Army Whitcomb switcher 20 (ex. United States Army 7676, exx. USA Corps of Engineers 2024, nee United States Quartermaster Corps 2044 1941).

Canadian National coach 5180, later VIA and sold to the Michigan State Trust in 1983.

CPMY steel caboose 75009 (ex. Grand Trunk Western 75009, nee Santa Fe 1574).

CPMY coach 4345, nee Delaware, Lackawanna and Western 4345.

CPMY coach 4, nee Canadian National 4974.

CPMY coach 4445, nee Delaware, Lackawanna and Western 4445.

CPMY 60-seat coach 6 (ex. Wabash 1803, nee Kalamazoo, Lake Shore and Chicago).

The SW9 was then moved to the front of our train.

CPMY coach 3 (nee Kalmazaoo, Lake Shore and Chicago 703).

The Coopersville and Marne switcher tower which was originally in Greenville, Michigan.

Our train for today's excursion. It was then time to board the train but before we left, I had time to take some interior pictures.

Both ends of CPMY coach 4345.

CPMY coach 4445.

CPMY coach 4974.

CPMY coach 1803, former Wabash. Before we left, Bart asked if anyone would like a cab ride. I was the first to say "yes" so I quickly de-trained and hurried to the locomotive for this rare and special opportunity.

Myself in the cab of Coopersville and Marne SW9 7014.

Leaving Coopersville yard.

On Grand Trunk Western tracks en route to Titusville, the first runby location.

Approaching a grade crossing.

The Coopersville and Marne engineer, Don, at the controls.

Titusville had been reached. I had enjoyed my ride a lot and reluctantly climbed down from the cab and joined the photo line for the runby.

The train reversing for the first photo runby.

The runby at Titusville. The train then reversed for some static shots.

Our Coopersville and Marne train posed at Titusville. We reboarded and went a short distance for the next runby.

This was MP 168.0 - the interurban crossing where the Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Muskegon Interurban railway crossing was located.

The sun came out as the train performed a second runby here.

CPMY caboose 75009 bringing up the rear at MP 168.0.

Crossing Sand Creek on the way to Marne.

At Marne was Pullman sleeper "La Reine" (ex. prviate owner, exx. Pennsylvania Railroad track maintenance 493827, exx. PRR 8651, nee Louisville and Nashville "La Reine"). Owned by Western Michigan Society for Industrial Heritage.

In addition, Maine Central combine 501 (ex. Henry Ford Museum,, exx. Otter Valley Tourist Train in Procter, VT, nee 470 Railroad Club) was also here at Marne and owned by the same group.

CPMY SW9 7014 was then switched to the other end of the train for the return journey to Coopersville. Chris and I relaxed on the way back and upon our arrival, started the drive to Lansing but had several stops to make along the way.

Click Here for Part 2