The arrival of the iron horse dynamically change the lives of everyone. For the first time human beings has an effective and efficient means to move large quantity of good over land. Until railroads became an option, horse pulled wagons had to laboriously do the job.
A single engine pulling a dozen or more cargo cars moved vast amounts of building materials and merchant goods in a fraction of the time it would take for a wagon train to travel from one part of the country to the next.
While steam power trains got their start in Europe in the first decade of the 1800s, it wasn't until 1826 that the first steam train was built in the United States by John Stevens. Four years later, Peter Cooper built the first steam train engine that operated as a common-carrier, which set the infant railroad industry in motion. The George Pullman tapped the potential of the growing passenger business, introducing the line of Pullman sleeping cars.
When Michigan joined the Union in 1837 with its sparse population, it was considered the far west territory of the U.S. What opened up the State to expansion was the lumber boom which took off in the late 1860s. However, it was another decade or so before trains began to penetrate into the woods to haul lumber back to the major congregation of mills near shipping ports, like Bay City and Saginaw. And, it wasn't long thereafter that passenger service was available and small railway stations began cropping up in large and small communities.
Railways kept Michigan's lumber mills thriving by allowing them harvest timber from the deep forests. The railways dominated heavy hauling and sustained a large passenger busines until the 1960s when the interstate roadway system was built. Railroads still represent a major player in the hauling of bulk materials over long distances.
The first commercial railway system in Bay County started in 1867. It connected Bay City and Saginaw taking a route along the east side of the Saginaw River. Before this, trains loaded with logs ran routes from the deep forests hauling logs to the mills along the river. Passenger trains soon followed and for the first time people were able to quickly travel long distances inland. Horse and buggy trips to Detroit that took a day or more to make could be accomplished by a train trip in only hours. The rapidly changing environment and the birth of mechanization must have been an amazing experience for the early pioneers that lived during this time period.