Lake State Railway

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Lake State Railway
Lake State Railway logo.png
Reporting mark LSRC
Locale Michigan
Dates of operation 1992–
Predecessor Detroit and Mackinac Railway
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length 292 miles
Headquarters Saginaw, Michigan
LSRC SD40 and GP40s heading north along Neff Road near Mt. Morris in northern Genesee County, MI

Lake State Railway is a railroad operating in the Saginaw Valley and northeastern quadrant of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.[1] The railroad moves large quantities of aggregate and limestone, as well as coal, grain, and chemical products. Some of the company's largest customers include Dow Chemical Company, S. C. Johnson & Son, Lafarge, ConAgra Foods, Archer Daniels Midland, Conrad Yelvington, and Consumers Energy.


Lake State began operations in 1992 when it acquired all the lines operated by the Detroit and Mackinac Railway. One of the lines acquired was originally Michigan Central from Bay City to Cheboygan. Another line—originally D&M trackage—branched off in Pinconning and followed Michigan's eastern coastline to Rogers City. The trackage north of Gaylord to Cheboygan was abandoned shortly thereafter. While a few minor spurs were abandoned, no other mainline was until 2001, when its line past Alpena to Rogers City was removed.

In 2005, Lake State acquired 67 miles of trackage from CSX Transportation around Saginaw, Midland, and Bay City.[2] This trackage is operated under the subsidiary [[Saginaw Bay Southern] Railway].

In late 2011, it was announced that the SBS would merge with Lake State, with LSRC being the surviving company.[3] The merger was strictly for railway accounting purposes; LSRC functions today as an Interline Settlement System (ISS) carrier, while SBS functioned as a Junction Settlement (JS) carrier through CSX. Lake State will convert the former SBS lines to ISS. Following the news of the merger, Lake State has stopped painting the Saginaw Bay Southern logo on its locomotives.


Lake State Railway's Flint–Saginaw line (former SBS) is shadowed by several parks and walking trails. North of Saginaw, MI, the line passes through the Crow Island State Game Area. In Bay County, the main line splits into two branches. The west line extends north through the Ogemaw Hills and Jack Pine forests to Otsego County, Michigan and the city of Gaylord, Michigan. The east line shadows the western shore of Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay. This line runs along old US-23, serving the Gypsum quarries in Iosco County, MI and eventually street-running through East Tawas, MI. North of East Tawas, the line passes through the Huron National Forest, Harrisville, Michigan and Harrisville State Park. Near Alpena, MI, the line passes over the scenic Thunder Bay River. At the north end of the east line is Lafarge's cement plant and Lake freighter loading dock in Alpena, MI.

Including SBS trackage, Lake State interchanges with the Huron and Eastern Railway in Saginaw, Bay City, and Midland; the Mid-Michigan Railroad in Paines; and CSX in Mount Morris.

Motive Power[edit]

Lake State utilized the Detroit and Mackinaw Railway's all-ALCO roster, repainting a handful of Alco RS3, and ALCO Century Series locomotives in the Lake State blue scheme. Lake State's first acquisition was in November 1995—a former Norfolk and Western Railway ALCO RS-11. Keeping with the D&M tradition of numbering engines after the month and year of purchase, the unit was given the number 1195. Starting in 1998, eight units of Canadian National Railway heritage were added to the roster. Seven of these units are MLW M-420s, while the eighth is an HR412W #698.

Lake State Railroad named several of its locomotives after cities located on its line, such as #181 (City of Bay City, MI), #798 (City of Alpena, MI), #3564 (City of Tawas, MI), #1280 (City of Grayling, MI), #1195 (City of East Tawas, MI), #976 (City of West Branch, MI). In a similar fashion, the #975, #3563 and #371 were named after Lake Huron, Lake Superior, and Lake Erie. The most unusual nicknaming was of #3571: 'For the Gipper 2004' after the late 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.

LSRC EMD SD40 5921 returning to the CSX McGrew yard in Flint, MI

Since the acquisition of the Saginaw Bay Southern lines north of Flint, MI, the railroad has added around 20 used Electro Motive Diesel units and gradually retired their ALCO roster. The first of these units included 3 GP38Ms (modified GP35s of mixed heritages) from Western Rail (WRIX) in Washington state. An SD40 #5921 of Grand Trunk Western heritage was purchased from Larry's Truck Electric (LTEX). This unit is unique in that it doesn't operate north of Bay City, MI. The majority of the EMD units (10) are GP40M-3s and were acquired from First Union Railroad (FURX). All 10 share mixed Chessie System/Seaboard System heritage and were upgraded from GP40 to GP40M-3 by the Texas Mexican Railway. The next group of locomotives included 5 EMD GP40s of mixed heritage and one unique former Southern Pacific EMD GP40X; all 6 were acquired from Helm Financial Corporation (HATX). In early June 2013 two EMD SD40-2s were purchased from CIT Rail Resources (CITX). Both units were built as EMD SD40s and were later converted to Dash 2 standards. The 3062 was originally built for Union Pacific Railroad and the 3100 is of Southern Pacific Railroad heritage.


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