In 1848, the Railroad Depot in Hillsdale was located in the middle of Railroad Street (today’s Carleton Road).
In February 1856, the New York Times reported an "awful collision on the Southern Michigan Railroad … near Hillsdale, Mich." Due to the snow and cold, running "wild" and off schedule, the eastbound mail train was running with no headlight and both trains collided head-on. The mail train engineer survived, but expressed "a wish to die." "Carelessness of the railroad employees" was blamed. The Feb. 12, 1856, edition of the Hillsdale Whig Standard reported three people killed and four injured.
The competition between the Michigan Central Railroad and our Michigan Southern Railroad extended to the number of employees each had. In the Jan. 12, 1869, Hillsdale Standard, the Michigan Southern Railroad was reported as employing 2,700 men, while Michigan Central had 2,699.
The village of Camden was first started along the river to the north of the current village until a Mansfield, Ohio, to Allegan, Mich., railroad organization began buying land on higher ground, just south of the proposed village. By 1872, with active support from its citizenry, Camden had literally picked up and moved its village up the hill to the south. The panic of 1873 resulted in the railroad never being completed through Camden, although its proposed route continued to show on local maps for many years.
One of the nicknames for the Detroit, Hillsdale & Indiana Railroad was the “Tri-weekly,” since it went “down the tracks, then tried weakly to get back up.”
The May 21, 1895, edition of the Hillsdale Standard reported "a New York Central coach filled with children was attached to the fast moving train west last Wednesday. The little ones were foundlings bound for homes in the west."
A July 1902 edition of the Litchfield Gazette reported "the tender of the freight engine was off the track near the [Stock's] Mill Thursday afternoon, but several of the strong men of the village went down and lifted it back (on) again."
At one time, rainbow trout from the ponds at Cold Springs was sold to the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad lines for their dining cars.
In 1902 the New York Times reported the Lake Shore Railroad line has "two large greenhouses with competent florists in charge." One was at Mentor, Ohio, while the other was reported as being situated at Hillsdale, Mich.
The coming of the railroads brought great prosperity and opportunity to Hillsdale County. It also brought some rather unsavory characters to the area.
The last passenger train to leave Litchfield was an excursion train to Greenfield Village in 1952.
Carol A. Lackey