West Michigan Railroad
Overview
HeadquartersSaugatuck, Michigan
Reporting markWMI
LocaleHartford, Michigan
Dates of operation1995–
Technical
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length4.23 miles

The West Michigan Railroad (reporting mark WMI) is a shortline railroad in southwest Michigan. 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.

Traffic on the West Michigan Railroad consists of chipped rubber, plastic pellets, methanol, and corn oil.

The railroad has been owned by Hamilton Hartford Group, LLC since 2015.

History

KLSC locomotive in 1988
KLSC locomotive in 1988

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.[1][2] (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.[3] 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.[2] 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.[4] As of January 2013 a group of local officials is considering converting the rail line into a rail trail patterned after the nearby Kal-Haven Trail.[5]

Pioneer Railcorp sold the capital stock of West Michigan Railroad Co., effective at the close of business November 3, 2015, to an unaffiliated non-carrier entity, Hamilton Hartford Group, LLC, and PRC, therefore, is no longer in control of WMI.[6] The new owners have identified a dozen potential customers who have expressed interest in hauling freight along the line.[7] Work on plans to lay new rails along the abandoned portion of the line, returning rail service to Lawrence and Paw Paw, are currently underway.

Locomotives

Number Type Build Date Status Notes
4 EMD SW9 11/1951 Out of service Ex-Leelanau Scenic Railroad. Exx-Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. Named "Village of Suttons Bay".
850 ALCO C420 7/1966 Out of service Ex-Iowa Interstate Railroad, Exx Lehigh and Hudson River Railroad.
921 EMD GP18 12/1959 Out of service Ex-Norfolk and Western
1017 ALCO T6 1/1969 Out of service Ex-Cargill. Exx-Newburgh & South Shore Railroad. Last ALCO locomotive built in the United States.
1397 EMD MP15AC 1/1976 In service Ex-Union Pacific Railroad. Exx-Soo Line Exxx-Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad.
1416 EMD MP15AC 3/1980 In service Ex-Union Pacific Railroad. Exx-Soo Line Exxx-Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad.
1512 EMD SW1200 3/1960 In service Ex-Michigan Air-Line Railway. Exx-Coe Rail. Exxx-Grand Trunk Western Railroad
2480 EMD CF7 6/1956 Out of service Ex-Clinton Terminal Railroad. Exx-Waccamaw Coast Line Railroad. Exxx-Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Originally built as an EMD F9.

References

  1. ^ George Woodman Hilton, American Narrow Gauge Railroads, Stanford University Press, 1990, pp. 427-428
  2. ^ a b Edward A. Lewis, American Shortline Railway Guide, 5th Edition, Kalmbach Publishing, 1996, pp. 330, 362
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Smith, Rod (2013-01-23). "Van Buren County Officials Considering New Recreational Trail between Paw Paw and Lawrence". Kalamazoo Gazette. Retrieved 2013-02-16.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.