|Hidden behind this doll house like exterior, is the
former GR&I depot. Additions to both ends conceal the shape of the depot
building itself. However, out back, on the track side placement of the doors
and windows shows some clues to the history of this building.
In 1857 the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad had won a
land grant to build a railroad from Grand Rapids to Traverse City. By 1869
they had made very little progress and the state ordered the railroad to
surrender its charter. Desperate to save their railroad, the Indiana interests
behind the GR&I, turned over construction of the line to the Continental
Improvements Co., which was controlled by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The
land grant was written focused on 20 miles of track north of Grand Rapids
(thus including Rockford). It had to be completed by July 1869 or the whole
deal was off. So construction by the Continental Improvements Co. started
in Grand Rapids and proceded 20 miles north. It was completed just in time.
After that, the construction proceded north and south from Kalamazoo. The
Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad was completed from Fort Wayne, IN through
Kalamazoo, to north of Grand Rapids, MI in 1870. The Pennsylvania took the
land grants and had a nice feeder to their main line. Construction continued
north, reaching Cadillac in 1871, Petoskey in 1874, and finally Mackinaw
The GR&I was absorbed into the Pennsylvania RR in 1921.
The line was operated by Pensy successor, PennCentral, but the line north
of Grand Rapids was not selected for inclusion in Conrail.
The Michigan Department of Transportation bought the entire
GR&I line from Grand Rapids to Mackinaw City in 1975 and contracted the
Michigan Northern Railway Company to operate the route. In the mid 1980's
state money ran out and the line was abandoned. The right-of-way is now the
White Pine Trail.