Ann Arbor Railroad (1895–1976)

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Ann Arbor Railroad
HeadquartersToledo, OH (early years), St. Louis, MI (1925-1963), Dearborn, MI (1963-1976)
Reporting markAA
LocaleMichigan and Ohio
Dates of operation1895–1976
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
The cover from the Ann Arbor Railroad and Steamship Lines 1911 passenger timetable

The Ann Arbor Railroad (reporting mark AA) was an American railroad that operated between Toledo, Ohio, and Elberta and Frankfort, Michigan (about 294 route miles) with train ferry operations across Lake Michigan. In 1967 it reported 572 million net ton-miles of revenue freight, including 107 million in "lake transfer service"; that total does not include the 39-mile subsidiary Manistique and Lake Superior Railroad.


The railroad company was chartered September 21, 1895, as successor to the Toledo, Ann Arbor and North Michigan Railway.[1] In 1905 it was acquired by the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railway (DTI), which went bankrupt three years later and had to sell off the Ann Arbor. The company ended its last passenger train, a once a day in each direction train from the AA's Toledo station to its Frankfort boat landing, on July 19, 1950. Major stops on the route besides the end points included Ann Arbor, Durand, Owosso and Cadillac. The passenger side was hampered by the limited number of noteworthy cities en route and the fact that all but the Durand Union Station were in cities in which trains for connecting points were at different stations from the AA station, thus necessitating some surface transportation for transfer between train stations.[2][3][4]

For many years the Ann Arbor was owned by the Wabash Railroad, but Wabash gave up control in 1963 as part of its absorption into the Norfolk and Western. The DT&I, by then itself owned by the giant Pennsylvania Railroad, again gained control in 1963. The combined DT&I and AA were operated as independent subsidiaries of the PRR but suffered from the parent company's ill-fated 1968 merger with the New York Central. Upon the resulting Penn Central's 1970 bankruptcy, the DT&I and its Ann Arbor subsidiary were sold off to private investors.

The Ann Arbor Railroad owned a subsidiary, the Manistique and Lake Superior Railroad (M&LS), from somewhere shortly after that line's origin in 1909 until it was abandoned in 1968.

After itself going bankrupt in 1973 the Ann Arbor ceased operations as a railroad on April 1, 1976, when the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) temporarily took over. Since Conrail only wished to operate the south end of the AA, the state of Michigan acquired the entire line, and operations were transferred to the Michigan Interstate Railway, a division of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), on October 1, 1977. The state eventually privatized this entity, selling it off in pieces to several different short-line railroad companies.

On October 7, 1988, a new Ann Arbor Railroad began operating the portion south of Ann Arbor; the Great Lakes Central Railroad now serves the remaining portions of the line. Some sections have been abandoned: from Yuma to Elberta and Frankfort (approximately 45 miles), about 10 miles in Shiawassee County, Michigan (in three discontinuous sections), and the trackage around the now-demolished Cherry Street Station in Toledo.

Train ferries[edit]

The Ann Arbor's Lake Michigan train ferry fleet started in November 1892 when the Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern Michigan Railway acquired its first two boats, Ann Arbor 1 and Ann Arbor 2. At its height, the AA served four ports on the west of Lake Michigan:[5]


Altogether, eight boats were built for service with the AA and one was leased from the Grand Trunk Milwaukee Car Ferry Company.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Powers, Perry F. (1912). A History of Northern Michigan and Its People. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. p. 179.
  2. ^ Official Guide of the Railways, January 1950, Ann Arbor section
  3. ^ American Rails, "Ann Arbor Railroad"
  4. ^ "A Brief History". Central Michigan University—Clarke Historical Library. February 5, 2010. Archived from the original on February 3, 2013. Retrieved October 19, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Zimmermann, Karl (1993). Lake Michigan's Railroad Car Ferries. Andover, New Jersey: Andover Junction Publications. pp. 32–51. ISBN 0-944119-11-5.

Further reading[edit]

  • Meints, Graydon M. (1993). Michigan Railroads & Railroad Companies. MSU Press.
  • Middleton, William D.; Smerk, George M.; Diehl, Roberta L., eds. (2007). Encyclopedia of North American Railroads. Indiana University Press. pp. 125–26.

External links[edit]