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Railroad Memories from the Early 1900s


Railroads played a dominated role in the industrialization of the United States and in the lives of people during the late 1800s and early 1900s. In Leslie Arndt's book, "The Bay County Story -- Footpaths to Freeways," he captures a great deal of this early railroad history of which the recollection of Mrs. Harriet Gustin Campbell appear below.

The Bay County Story - Footpaths to Freeways, book, Leslie E. Arndt (pg. 210)



"Recalling early 1900 railroad days for Bay City, veteran resident Mrs. Harriet Gustin Campbell reports:

"The height of luxury was to train-ride to Detroit in a parlor car equipped with large, roomy, plush-covered swivel chairs. A portor would take care your luggage, and on entering Detoit brushed your hat and coat with a whisk broom. The Chicago train was equipped with sleeper and dining cars."

The Pere Marquette tracks lead right into town center on Jefferson Street. Many times I entered Bay City in this way after a visit to Detroit aunts. The fare to Detroit was listed at two cents a mile, or a total of $2.18 for the 109 miles. To sit back in your parlor car seat and look out the window at the passing scene of fields and forests, or farmhouses and the tiny villages, was a restful treat. The day coaches were more likely to be dirty, sooty, and crowded with 'tired' mothers, fretty children and lunch boxes.

The interurban cars to Saginaw, Flint or Detroit often were the least expensive means of travel. They were large, noisy and bumpy, but they took you to your destination, picking up and discharging passengers along the way.

Before Henry Ford invented the tin lizzie, you would board the D & M train at the depot at Jerrerson and Fifth for the ride to Linwood Beach, 13 miles north. I was a 'regular' since our family summered there 1902-27. The beach became a favorite spot for Sunday School picnics, which were all-day events. The 'stand' furnished the best hot dogs, homeade ice cream, sodas, sundaes and a luncheonette. Down by the bay was a pavilion for dancing, swings, and picnic tables, and a big bath-house."

- Railroad History Tid-bits -

1867: First railroad in Bay City connected it to East Saginaw. James Birney and A.S. Munger were prominent figures in its construction.

1868: First railroad into Wenona (West Bay City) was completed as an extension of the Jackson, Lansing and Saginaw Railway. Henry Sage and C.C. Fitzhugh were prominent figures in its construction.

1873: The Michigan Central Railroad built a route connecting Detroit, Vassar and Bay City, and built a railroad bridge spanning the Saginaw River.

1876: Michigan Central completes northern route that connecting Bay City and Mackinaw.

1897: Detroit and Mackinac Railroad connecting Bay City, Pinconning, Turner, East Tawas, Harrisville and Alpena.

1911: Detroit, Bay City and Western Railroad (aka - "Handy Railroad") connecting Bay City, Akron and Caro.

1913: The number of passenger train arrivals and departures numbered thirty-one.

1964 (Mar 19): New York Central Beeliner was the last last passenger train service out of Bay City, when it departed for Detroit. Passenger records show: 124 paid, 17 passholders, and 31 half-fares. Times reporter David Miller who was aboard, and later become managing editor, file this historical account:

"Past boarded-up depots and the 'ghosts' of depots it went, past a million memories of railroad enthusiasts and former partrons whose only mode of transportation was the train, now being steadily wiped out by long ribbons of super highways and traffic lights."

Subject Notes

Leslie E. Arndt
Author, Bay City Times' reporter and local historian.
None a this time.
People Referenced
Arndt, Leslie
Birney, James
Campbell(Gustin), Harriet Mrs.
Fitzhugh, C.C.
Ford, Henry
Miller, David
Munger, A.S.
Sage, Henry
Subjects Referenced
Akron, MI
Alpena, MI
Bay City
Bay City Times
Caro, MI
Detroit, MI
Dancing pavilion
Detroit & Mackinac RR (D&M)
Detroit, Bay City, Western RR
Det., B.C., Western RR Bridge
D&M depot
East Saginaw, MI
East Tawas, MI
Flint, MI
Handy Railroad
Harrisville, MI
Interurban cars
Jackson, Lansing, Sag. RR
Linwood Beach
Michigan Central RR
New York Central RR Beeliner
Pere Marquette RR
Pinconning, MI
Saginaw, MI
Turner, MI
Vassar, MI
Wenona village
West Bay City
Related References
None at this time.
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.