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Southern Michigan Railroad Society Rare Mileage Excursion ~ May 13th, 2013

by Elizabeth Guenzler

Chris and I arrived in Clinton for the second of today's rare mileage excursions, organized by Bart Jennings and sponsored by the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum. I was excited to ride this small operation, which heretofore I was not familiar with.

A Brief History

The Southern Michigan Railroad Society operates a 13.65 mile rail line from Lenawee Junction north ward through Raisin Center to Tecumseh to Clinton. It operates tourist trains from May through September on the five-mile long Clinton to Tecumseh part of the line. It also operates a limited number of trips south of Raisin Center, 6.5 miles south of Tecumseh.

Palmyra & Jacksonburgh Railroad

The railroad was originally built as the Palmyra & Jacksonburgh Railroad in 1837. In April 1933, a charter was granted to the Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad Company to construct a railroad from Port Lawrence (now Toledo) to Adrian and then across Michigan to the Kalamazoo River and thus to Lake Michigan. The E&K reached Adrian in 1836, becoming the first railroad to reach into the Michigan Territory. With the obvious benefits of new railroad technology, the Palmyra & Jacksonburgh Railroad Company (under the control of the Erie and Kalamazoo) received a charter to construct a branch railroad 46 miles long from the E&K north through Tecumseh, Clinton and Manchester into Jacksonburgh (now Jackson). The line reached Tecumseh on 1838, but suffered financially and came under State of Michigan control in 1844. It was sold to the Michigan Southern in 1846, which again began construction, reaching Clinton in 1853, Manchester in 1855 and Jacksonburgh in 1857. This makes this railroad the first branch line railroad off the first railroad in Michigan.

On the corporation side, the Michigan Southern Railroad consolidated with the Northern Indiana Railroad in 1855 and became the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad in 1855. In 1869, the MS&NI consolidated with the Lake Shore Railway, creating the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway. In 1915, the New York Central incorporated and consolidated with almost a dozen railroads, including the LS&MS. By 1938, the expansion of highways caused a reduction of passenger and freight traffic, and passenger service was discontinued in 1939. Starting in 1963, tracks were removed between Jackson and Clinton, and the Jackson branch was eliminated. The 13.65-mile line from Lenawee Junction to Clinton continued limited freight activity under Penn Central, but Conrail filed for abandonment of the line in 1981.

The line was saved in 1985 when the Southern Michigan Railroad Society purchased the Clinton Branch and transformed it into an operating railroad museum. During the acquisition of the line, the Norfolk & Western Railroad operating the Detroit to Fort Wayne mainline of the former Wabash removed the crossing at Raisin Center, thus isolating the SMRS trackage.

The Trip

The Southern Michigan Railroad Society (SMRS) building and museum housed in the former Clinton Engines building.

SMRS 44 ton switcher 10 (nee Detroit and Mackinac 10 1942) which was acquired by the group in 2012.

SMRS 44 ton switcher 75 (nee Western Maryland 45) switching at the small yard and coupling up to the caboose in readiness for our trip.

The society's speeder.

Chicago, South Shore and South Bend Railroad coach 1 built 1926 which was the rear of our train, consisting of SMRS 44 ton switcher 75, Penn Central caboose 19882, New York Central pipe gondola open car DC 4 and Chicago South Bend and South Shore coach 1. I then boarded the train.

My ticket for this afternoon's excursion.

Views of each send of CSS&SB coach 1.

Moving to the open car was a perfect place to photograph one of the two diamond crossings on SMRS tracks.

The open car where I spent the entire journey and loved every moment of it.

The SMRS train made its way out of Clinton bound for Tecumseh and Raisin Centre.

We were soon out in the countryside as evidenced by the farm equipment in a field.

The South Shore coach in front of the open car.

I had seldom seen concrete mileposts before and this had L 12 on one side and J 30 on the other.

Crossing the tranquil and beautiful Red Millpond, a lake created by the River Raisin in 1907 with the construction of the Tecumseh Dam. This was Milepost 11.5.

Crossing the River Raisin.

Sign for Yard Limit and Railroad Crossing One Mile as we enter Tecumseh.

The Tecumseh water tower. We stopped at a road crossing and detrained for a static photo stop and break.

Views of the train in Tecumseh before I walked down to the station.

The former Lake Shore and Michigan South / Detroit, Toledo and Milwaukee station, built 1885. It was closed to passenger and freight traffic by 1930 and moved to the current location to save it from demolition in 1986.

Diamond crossing of the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railway in the street in Tecumseh. Everyone re-boarded the train and we continued to the railway's small siding when the crew decided to stop and switch some cars with the switcher that was powering our train.

Southern Michigan Railroad Society Plymouth switcher 1 (nee Albion Hayes), the group's first locomotive acquired in 1985.

This water tank had to be moved before switching could commence.

This one-of-a-kind GMD-3 hydraulic switcher was built in 1963 (ex. GMD demonstrator 275, exx. South Simcoe Railway, exxx. GM 1128, nee McKinnon Industries)

SMRS 75 switching between Tecumseh and Raisin Centre.

The GMD-3 was one of the pieces of equipment that needed switching.

SMRS caboose 19851 (ex. Conrail 23821, exx. Penn Central 19851, nee New Haven 626). The switching jobs complete, we continued our way.

Pat of the River Raisin on this glorious spring day.

Crossing the River Raisin bridge, built in 1896, at MP 4.4.

There were several people enjoying the open car.

The SMRS train making its way to Raisin Centre.

Another concrete milepost - L 7.

The reverse of the post was J 35.

The former approach signal for the former Norfolk Southern {Wabash} railroad crossing as we entered Raisin Centre.

Raisin Centre, MP 2.2, at the former crossing of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern and the Wabash route from Detroit to Fort Wayne. This was our terminus for the trip today.

The Norfolk Southern main line across the road. An interlocking tower used to be located here.

Looking down the other way along the Norfolk Southern main line.

Southern Michigan Railroad Society open car, made from a New York Central pipe gondola car.

Part of our train at Raisin Centre.

The end of track. We returned to Clinton and drove over to Adrian but that is the subject of the next travelogue.

A sunny, spring day, riding in an open car with friends and acquaintances on new and rare mileage and having the time of my life - what could be better?