"Railroad Specials" in Michigan

The Ann Arbor railroad track was laid into the city of Ann Arbor on May 16, 1878 and by June 1st. regular passenger and freight service was underway. And by June 20,1878, the first SPECIAL excursion train was run from Toledo, Ohio to Ann Arbor.

Specials were offered by the railroad for important events, large groups, or private individuals, as most celebrities and dignitaries of that era had their own private cars. Special rates for group outings of 1 to 2 cents per mile, depending on the amount of passengers to be carried and the policy of running Specials apparently proved successful.

The Owosso Argus Press reported that a Special train was run from Owosso to Byron for the unveiling of the Ellen May tower monument, for the round trip fare of 55 cents.

One popular and very plush resort hotel was the Royal Frontenac Hotel, owned, operated and built by the Ann Arbor Railroad at Frankfort, Michigan in 1899. Resort specials were offered by the railroad during the summer months. These night trains were made up of mostly baggage cars and Pullmans arriving in franfort soon after sunrise from such far away places as Detroit, Toledo, Cinncinatti, Cleveland and Chicago. These resort trains were patronized mostly by the well-to-do from Illinois and Ohio and the railroad pushed their Lake Michigan property and urged vacationers to come to Frankfort. Illustrated pamphlets were printed by the railroad which proclaimed the benefits of the marvelous properties of the Frankfort Mineral Springs and baths, but you could stay at the luxurious royal Frontenac hotel, Where your dreams come true.

Also during only the summer months there was a short line between Frankfort and Beulah that consisted of a locomotive and a single open vestibule wooden coach for picnicers and vacationers. Since there wasnt a wye at Beulah, the little train would run forward to Beulah and in reverse back to Frankfort. They could make 5 to 6 round trips per day, acquiring the nickname The Ping Pong because of its manner of operation.

The Frontenac hotel was destroyed by fire in 1912 and the Resort Specials soon disappeared. By the 1930s the passenger business was past its peak and the Ann Arbor tried to continue its policy of Specials to help off-set the rapid decline of the regular daily service.

Vacationers could also continue to Kewaunee and Manitowoc, Wisconsin by way of the Ann Arbor Carferry.

Of all the Specials offered by the railroad, perhaps the best remembered were the Football Specials run in conjuction with all the home games of the University of Michigan . Because the rail yards were so close to the Stadium, it was very convenient for the fans. These special trains lasted for about 65 years, beginning in about 1900. Trains ran south from Owosso and north from Toledo to Ann Arbor. As the Football Specials gained popularity, other railroads began to participate in sending trains to the football games by turning theirs over to Ann Arbor crews at Toledo, Ohio (P.R.R., C&O, B&O and at Milan, Michigan (Wabash) and at Durand (Grand Trunk).

By the 1970s , Specials had all but discontinued and so only fond memories remain of the billowing smoke, the hissing steam, all the bells and whistles.

Sometimes "things go terrribly wrong", even with "Specials".

Please check out the Knight Templar Wreck and the Circus Train Wreck

Shiawassee County History