Motor Car Age Wipes Out Last Sign of Old Interurban Line

Copied from The State Journal – Lansing, Michigan – Sunday, July 27, 1952

Motor Car Age Wipes Out Last Sign of Old Interurban Line

US-127 Job Brings Back Memories

By Fred C. Olds, Journal Staff Writer

The big green interurban car was hitting a fast clip as it rounded the long curve at the Harper road crossing and started south down the straightaway toward Mason.

This was a “time” stretch and time was all-important for the Michigan United Railway’s limited runs, listed on the time card at 1 hour and 10 minutes for the 37 miles between Lansing and Jackson.

Dropping down the well-balasted grade the motorman advanced his controller and the miles began to fly as he edged the big car’s speed past 50, 60, 65 and up to 70 miles an hour.

Slower-paced autos and an occasional farm team traveling on the adjacent blacktop highway blurred past the car windows and a low-throated whistle beeped its mellow warning at rural crossings.

Pride of the Line

The Lansing-Jackson “limited” runs were the pride of the old M. U. R.’s interurban network reaching from Lansing to Jackson and westerly to Battle Creek and Kalamazoo.

From Lansing, divisions also ran east to Owosso and north to St. Johns. In its heyday the company listed 400 miles of line. But it has been only history for many years. The M. U. R. called it quits in these parts in 1929.

Bulldozers and huge earth-moving equipment even now are engaged, between Holt and Mason, tearing up the old M. U. R. right-of-way to provide room for the new divided highway on US-127.

Ironically, the automobile, which perhaps more than anything else served to destroy the interurban, now repossesses the latter’s “iron” road to speed its travels between Lansing and Ingham’s county seat.

Recalls Final Trip

Charles Grof, of 225 Shepard st., who for many years was a conductor with the company, made the last run May 27, 1929, on the St. Johns line. The last run from Owosso to Jackson via Lansing (a night run) came the following day.

That was 20 years after commencement of interurban service between Lansing and Jackson, with through service starting in November of that year, Mr. Grof recalls.

Work started at both the north and south ends of this division and, for a time, cars were operated between Lansing and Mason before the Jackson link was completed.

Service was then extended to St. Johns and then to Owosso. While the Lansing-Jackson line was being built, steam locomotives were used before it was electrified. The St. Johns run operated for a time, however, as a steam line, Mr. Grof recalls.

Roy Adams of Mason, at one time station agent there, remembers the difficulty the company experienced in putting rails through the city.

As was the case in many other communities of that era, merchants sought to have the interurban tracks built through the business section, but the company balked at such a move in Mason.

Finally, to forestall such action, the electric line organized as a steam railroad, giving it power to take right-of-way where needed and, armed with this, put its rails west of the business section on the west banks of the Sycamore creek. The station, part of which is used now as a Consumer Power company station, was located on W. Ash st. near the New York Central railroad crossing in Mason.

Day service was hourly on the Owosso-Lansing and Jackson-Lansing divisions, with alternate runs being “local” and “limited.” Service to St. Johns was on a two-hour basis during the day.

The lines also furnished freight service and passenger cars provided express service to Jackson and Owosso and carried mail on the St. Johns run.

Operated Street Cars Here

The M. U. R. later renamed the Michigan Electric Railway company, also operated the Lansing street car lines which halted operations on April 15, 1933.

The interurban line from Jackson traveled in Lansing on the street car rails from the corner of S. Washington and Mt. Hope ave., to the downtown section. It used the street car barns located where the city market now is, but heavy repairs to interurban equipment were made at the company shops in Albion.

The interurban depot was first located where the Lansing theater now stands, according to Mr. Grof. It later was moved to a building which is now part of the Sears Roebuck store, and then later across the street.

History is progress, someone has said. Which gives point to the fact that gasoline equipment is now engaged in tearing out the old traction line’s right-of-way toward Mason.

A Michigan historian termed the interurban “a transition in modern transportation” which caused people to travel a great deal more and educated folks to look upon travel, not as a luxury, but as a part of normal routine.


Motor car age wipes out last sign of interurban line-1952-07-27-Lansing, MI-map photoMotor car age wipes out last sign of interurban line-1952-07-27-Lansing, MI


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