Interurban revisited

“THE DIG”


1902-1927 was the lifetime of the local interuban. It bridged the horse-and-buggy and auto/bus eras to provide convenient inter-city travel. By the late 20’s, the interurban was losing ground to motor vehicles, especially as roadways improved. In 1927, the Jackson-Wolf Lake line was abandoned. This meant that local stations had to be torn down or converted for other uses, bridges had to be removed, and track had to be torn up or buried below ground or roadway. We don’t know the schedule for achieving this, but today only a few relics remain. As mentioned elsewhere in this history, a few local building structures are recognizable as stations – Michigan Center and Lima Center – and a lone concrete bridge support from the Detroit-based DUR line can be spotted near the MCRR crossing on Page Ave.

Finding track

Finding abandoned track appears far more daunting. Any track not removed nearly 80 years ago in the rural areas over which the interurban roamed would surely have sunk into the ground by now. And yet, Jim Damaron, a Grass Lake rail historian, was able to locate such a “find.”

In September, 2004, Jim decided to walk the entire Jackson-Grass Lake “Boland” line looking for interurban artifacts. As he walked Page Ave. and approached Grey Tower Road (the ancestral home of the Boland family since the 1830’s), Jim noticed 20 ft south of the roadway what must have appeared an abandoned fencepost to all the other Page travelers over the decades ( Figure 1). But Jim knew rail track when he saw it, even if he couldn’t explain why it was stuck in the ground. He did note rusting fence strands at the base; it may have indeed served as a fence post during its history.

Removing the track presented a problem. This was private property, and investigation showed the owners were out of the country. It turned out that obtaining permission to recover this artifact took over a year.

“The Dig” itself occurred on Sept. 9, 2005, by Jim and his son Chris (Figures 2-4). As they approached the bottom of the 4-foot hole, they found a number of other interurban recognizable artifacts (Figure 4). These appeared to put a different light on the discovery. Was the historical collection a form of “time capsule” left by the track-removal crew?

Many thanks to Jim for the pictures!!!