In 1848, the Railroad Depot in Hillsdale was located in the middle of Railroad Street (today’s Carleton Road).
A misinterpretation by an early Hillsdale historian has resulted in decades of misinformation regarding the Detroit, Hillsdale, and Indiana right-of-way granted through the City of Hillsdale. The train trestle that crossed Broad Street near the Fairgrounds and headed southwest was not "30 ft. high." The span was 30 feet, crossing over Broad Street, with a height of 13.5 feet.
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. CLICK HERE for more information on this railroad accident.
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 Central was reported as employing 2,699, while Michigan Southern Railroad had 2,700 men.
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.
The Detroit, Hillsdale, and Southwestern Railroad line was nicknamed the "Huckleberry Line" and was known for stopping at highways and roads in order to allow automobiles the right of way.
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.”
At one time, rainbow trout from the ponds at Cold Springs was sold to the Lakeshore and Michigan Southern Railroad lines for their dining cars.
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."
In 1899, the Smith House (located in what is now the Miller Building), boasted in the Hillsdale Standard, that their "casino is the best in the City." During that era of catering to the train-traveling public, Hillsdale offered a number of gambling establishments, as well as at least two or three "houses of ill repute."
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 again."
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, Michigan. CLICK HERE to read about the Hirsch greenhouses.
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