The Pere Marquette Railroad

Pere Marquette is the name of a state forest, river, and even a shrine in Michigan but did you know it was also the name of a railroad both past and present in Michigan?  Here is the story-

It was incorporated on January 1, 1900 as the Pere Marquette Railroad from the merger of several Michigan railroads, the most prominent being:

The company was reincorporated on March 12, 1917 as the Pere Marquette Railway.

 1907 wreck

On July 20, 1907 an excursion train of 800 passengers from Ioniia  to Detroit collided near Salem with a freight train, killing 31 and injuring 101. The accident apparently happened because of a hand-written schedule on unlined paper whose columns did not line up, and were misread by the freight crew. The Interstate Commerce Commission investigation also cited various safety violations including use of pine instead of oak for car walls and an omission of steel plates required for mail cars. This remains Michigan’s worst rail disaster.

Routes and current disposition of them

Ludington Division — Saginaw to Ludington, Michigan (Partially now part of the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail, the line between Baldwin and Ludington is in use with Marquette Rail with the rest of the line removed in 1991; the ferryclosed in 1990)

  • Petoskey Division — Grand Rapids, Michigan to Bay View, Michigan (Line in use by Marquette Rall between Grand Rapids and Manistee and with the Great Lakes Central Railroad between Grawn and Williamsburg, with the rest abandoned in 1982)

Car ferries

 Pere Marquette 18

On September 10, 1910, Pere Marquette 18 was bound for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from Ludington, Michigan, with a load of 29 railroad freight cars and sixty two persons aboard. Near midnight, the vessel began to take on massive amounts of water. The captain dumped nine railroad cars into Lake Michigan, but there was no use—the ship was going down. The Pere Marquette 17, traveling nearby, picked up the distress call and sped to assist the foundering vessel. Soon after they arrived, and before the Pere Marquette 17 could come alongside, the Pere Marquette 18 plunged to the bottom of Lake Michigan with the loss of 28 lives; there were 33 survivors.

Yes, the Pere Marquette also has a rich railroad history in Michigan.

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