West Michigan Railroad
|Dates of operation||1995–|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Headquarters||115 Industrial Drive, Paw Paw, Michigan|
The West Michigan Railroad (reporting mark WMI) is a former shortline railroad subsidiary of Pioneer Railcorp. It began operations in 1995, replacing the bankrupt Kalamazoo, Lake Shore and Chicago Railroad (reporting mark KLSC) on an ex-Pere Marquette Railway line between Hartford and Paw Paw, Michigan. That company had taken over operations in 1987 from CSX Transportation.
The railroad is now owned by Hamilton Haitford Group, LLC.
The Toledo and South Haven Railroad, a predecessor of the Pere Marquette Railway, opened the line from Paw Paw west to Lawrence in October 1877 and to Hartford in March 1883, as an extension of an older line from Lawton to Paw Paw. It was initially built as 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge; the successor South Haven and Eastern Railroad standard gauged the line (along with an extension from Hartford to South Haven) in April and May 1899. The Pere Marquette gained control in April 1903, but the line temporarily left that system when the Kalamazoo, Lake Shore and Chicago Railway leased it in April 1907, intending to electrify it as an interurban. Michigan United Railways leased the line from 1911 to 1916; operations then reverted to the KLS&C until 1925, when the Pere Marquette took it back, having never been electrified. It abandoned the segment from Lawton to Paw Paw in 1942, and in August 1987 the Southwestern Michigan Railroad d/b/a Kalamazoo, Lake Shore and Chicago Railroad began operations between Paw Paw and Hartford. (Hartford to South Haven has also been abandoned.)
Pioneer Railcorp subsidiary West Jersey Railroad Co. operated a Salem County-owned line between Swedesboro and Salem, New Jersey from September 1988 until May 1995, when the lease was reassigned to the Southern Railroad of New Jersey. Three months later, the West Jersey began operating, under a directed service order, the line of the KLS&C, which had entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 1993 and suspended operations in May 1995. In October the West Jersey Railroad changed its name to West Michigan Railroad, and later that month it bought the line. As of the fall of 2011, the railroad from Hartford to Paw Paw is all but abandoned. A filing with the Surface Transportation Board dated December 19, 2012 and numbered STB Docket No. AB-1107X requested abandonment of 10.67 miles of the line from Paw Paw west to a point west of 56th Street on the west side of Lawrence, Michigan. As of January 2013[update] a group of local officials is considering converting the rail line into a rail trail patterned after the nearby Kal-Haven Trail.
Pioneer Railcorp sold the capital stock of West Michigan Railroad Co., effective at the close of business November 3, 2015, to an unaffiliated non-canier entity, Hamilton Haitford Group, LLC, and PRC, therefore, is no longer in control of WMI. The new owners have identified a dozen potential customers who have expressed interest in hauling freight along the line.
- George Woodman Hilton, American Narrow Gauge Railroads, Stanford University Press, 1990, pp. 427-428
- Edward A. Lewis, American Shortline Railway Guide, 5th Edition, Kalmbach Publishing, 1996, pp. 330, 362
- Interstate Commerce Commission, Washington, D.C. (1995-10-10). "JP Rail, Inc., d/b/a Southern Railroad Company of New Jersey--Notice of Exemption--Operation of Salem Branch Rail Line in Salem County, New Jersey." Finance Docket No. 32700. Federal Register, 60 FR 52689.
- Smith, Rod (2013-01-23). "Van Buren County Officials Considering New Recreational Trail between Paw Paw and Lawrence". Kalamazoo Gazette. Retrieved 2013-02-16.
- Daniel A. LaKemper (November 5, 2015). "West Michigan Railroad Co. -Abandonment Exemption - Van Buren County, MichiganSTB Docket No. AB-1107X" (PDF). Retrieved 16 November 2015.
- Garrod, Paul (14 December 2015). "Paw Paw-to-Lawrence rail line purchased for freight hauling". The Courier-Leader. Vineyard Press, Inc. Retrieved 17 December 2015.