Ann Arbor Railroad (1895–1976)

Ann Arbor Railroad (1895–1976)
Ann Arbor Railroad
System map
Reporting mark AA
Locale Michigan and Ohio
Dates of operation 1895–1976
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)
Headquarters Toledo, OH (early years), St. Louis, MO (1925-1963), Dearborn, MI (1963-1976)
The cover from the Ann Arbor Railroad and Steamship Lines 1911 passenger timetable

The Ann Arbor Railroad (reporting mark AA) was an American railroad that operated between Toledo, Ohio and Elberta and Frankfort, Michigan (approximately 294 route miles) with train ferry operations across Lake Michigan.



The railroad company was chartered September 21, 1895, as successor to the Toledo, Ann Arbor and North Michigan Railway.[1] In 1905, it was acquired by the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railway (DT&I), which went bankrupt three years later and had to sell off the Ann Arbor.

For many years the Ann Arbor was owned by the Wabash, but Wabash gave up control in 1963 as part of it's absorption into Norfolk and Western. The DT&I, by then itself owned by the giant Pennsylvania Railroad, once again gained control in 1963. The combined DT&I and AA were operated as independent subsidiaries of the PRR, but suffered from the parent company's ill-fated 1968 merger with the New York Central. Upon the resulting Penn Central's 1970 bankrupcy, the GT&I and its Ann Arbor subsidiary were sold off to private investors.

The Ann Arbor Railroad also owned a subsidiary, the Manistique and Lake Superior Railroad (M&LS), from somewhere shortly after that line's origin in 1909 until it was abandoned in 1968.

After itself going bankrupt in 1973, the Ann Arbor ceased operations as a railroad on April 1, 1976, when the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) temporarily took over. Since Conrail only wished to operate the south end of the AA, the state of Michigan acquired the entire line, and operations were transferred to the Michigan Interstate Railway, a division of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), on October 1, 1977. The state eventually privatized this entity, selling it off in pieces to several different short line railroad companies.

On October 7, 1988, a new Ann Arbor Railroad began operating the portion south of Ann Arbor; the Great Lakes Central Railroad now serves the remaining portions of the line. Some sections have been abandoned: from Yuma to Elberta and Frankfort (approximately 45 miles), about 10 miles in Shiawassee County, Michigan (in 3 discontinuous sections), and the trackage around the now-demolished Cherry Street Station in Toledo.

Train ferries

The Ann Arbor's Lake Michigan train ferry fleet started in November 1892 when the Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern Michigan Railway acquired its first two boats, Ann Arbor 1 and Ann Arbor 2. At its height, the AA served four ports on the west of Lake Michigan:[2]


Altogether, eight boats were built for service with the AA and one was leased from the Grand Trunk Milwaukee Car Ferry Company.[2]

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