South Lyon, MI Depot
East End/Grand Trunk Side; South Lyon, MI Depot

South Lyon is about 30 miles NW of Detroit. The Detroit Lansing and Lake Michigan completed tracks through South Lyon, and on to Lansing, Ionia, and Howard City  in 1871. In 1876, this railroad was reorganized as the Detroit, Lansing and Northern.  (DL&N map) (DL&N timetable) Late in 1899, it became part of the Pere Marquette Railroad. Under PM ownership, the line became part of a heavy-duty main line between Detroit and Chicago.

The Grand Trunk built its tracks through South Lyon in the early 1880's. This route was started as the Michigan Air Line. Organizers hoped to build a line from Port Huron to Chicago, and lease or sell it to the Grand Trunk of Canada. Rails were laid from Richmond to Romeo in 1869, and another section was started, building west from Jackson. But before this scheme got too far, the New York Central bought out the local owners. Effective February 1871, the Michigan Air Line was leased for 999 years to the Michigan Central. The part of the Air Line between Jackson and Niles was completed in 1871, but was NOT to become competition for the NYC line to Chicago. It was just another branch line of the Michigan Central.

The route east of Jackson had not been built, leaving the tracks between Richmond and Romeo an isolated, dead-end branch line. Michigan Central had little interest in the route. It was spun-off as a separate railroad, allowed to go bankrupt, and sold at foreclosure in 1875. It was bought by the Michigan Airline Railway, which was controlled by the Grand Trunk. The line was extended slowly, finally reaching Jackson in 1884.

Waiting Room Interior, South Lyon depot
Waiting Room Interior, Now the Museum

In 1909 the old South Lyon depot, from the early 1870's, burned. A new Union station was built at the junction of the Grand Trunk and Pere Marquette tracks. The design was a  "Witch's Hat" style depot , also used a few years earlier for the depot in Saranac, MI.

It appears that South Lyon was not a very busy depot. By 1940, only two Pere Marquette trians per day were stopping there. A Grand Trunk timetable from 1906 shows only 4 trains a day. From 1925 to 1953, GT passengers could travel between Jackson and Richmond on a one-car, self-propelled Doodlebug". The last passenger train to serve it, a GTW mixed train, stopped there in 1955.

In 1976, the City of South Lyon purchased the depot and moved it to McHattie Park, south of downtown South Lyon. It now serves as the home and museum of the South Lyon Historical Society. The "freight house" at the back of the depot was built in 1984 to provide additional room for the museum. Both buildings have basements used for archive storage. There is also an ex-C&O wooden caboose on the museum grounds.

South Lyon Depot at McHattie Park
C&O/PM side and East End

South Lyon Depot Under Construction
Depot under construction, 1909

For more on South Lyon, see the RRHX South Lyon page.

Photos by Alan Loftis

October 1999, Updated Oct. 2004
Louis Van Winkle
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