A very specific City of Hillsdale Common Council Ordinance passed on Aug. 15, 1871, detailed the exact route the proposed Detroit, Hillsdale & Indiana Railroad would take through town. Excavations so that the rails were level with the road, how wide the railroad bed would be and the acceptable grade for slopes were included in the document. 

 The trestle at the north end of the hillsdale county, mi fairgrounds

The trestle at the north end of the hillsdale county, mi fairgrounds

But there was a problem. The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad had already established itself in the city and ran between the two streets that would eventually be named East St. Joe and West St. Joe. The new Detroit, Hillsdale & Indiana needed to cross the railroad and streets on South Street before proceeding along the north edge of the Fairgrounds. The solution was to build a trestle. This was an impressively long bridge that went 30 feet before it even reached Broad Street, where it continued about 13 1/2 feet above the street. (This relatively low height caused the near beheading of a poor Forepaugh Circus worker who was riding on top of a circus wagon one Saturday night.) The trestle finally came safely back to street level approximately at the corner of Sharp and Budlong streets where the Detroit, Hillsdale & Indiana had its depot.

The trestle solved the problem of how to get the Detroit, Hillsdale & Indiana trains over the streets and Lake Shore tracks, but it was a nagging safety concern, hard to maintain … and not attractive. There may also have been a bit of nudging to eliminate it by Chauncey Ferris, who owned much of the land at its western edge and would have preferred being able to break it into lots to sell. The whole thing was settled in 1881 when the Detroit, Hillsdale & Indiana leased its tracks to the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern. The latter revised the trackage through Hillsdale, removing the trestle in the process. The city fathers breathed easier, the aesthetically offensive bridge no longer spoiled the appearance of Hillsdale for those coming from the south and Ferris was free to profit from the sale of his property.

JoAnne P. Miller 2015