The Interurban


In 1899 the Common Council of Marshall granted a franchise for the construction of an electric railroad over and upon the streets of the city, the road to extend from Battle Creek to Jackson, a distance of forty-seven miles. The system later extended from Kalamazoo to Detroit where it made connections with other lines.

In 1902 the Electric Railway Company purchased the Lee and Steele property on the north side of State Street between Grand and Eagle streets (now Walter's Tire Shop and Shell Station) for the purposes of building a Depot.
Later in the year, after much discussion, the city council voted to route the interurban track around the south side of West End Park (Fountain Circle) rather than straight through it as the railway company intended.

Part of the franchise included the paving of State Street. Construction of the tracks was slower than planned but on June 7, 1902, the first train to run on the new tracks arrived in Marshall at 5:00 P.M. It was not run by electricity but steam and consisted of five flatcars. The train got as far as the fire station (now Herman's Marshall Hardware) and was stalled by dirt in the tracks.

Steam Engine on State Street

On March 31, 1903, the Electric Railway Company ran a car up and down State Street. It was evidently the intention of the company to attempt to hold the franchise by means of this lone car. However the car was not new and modern but an old car from the Jackson Street Railway and it could hardly be claimed that the line was fully equipped and in running order because one car ran up and down State Street a few times each day.

The Electric Railway Company had ten days from March 26, 1903, to accept an amended franchise and until that time came the city could not do anything to prevent the running of the car up and down the street. The Electric Railway Company managed to amend the franchise and the first car ran to Battle Creek on Saturday April 11, 1903. The name of the car was the "Battle Creek" No. 32. A local newspaper reported the events as follows:

Saturday at about six o'clock occurred an event long prophesied and long anticipated by the citizens of this and neighboring towns. On that day the work and planning of many months was brought to completion and joy reigned supreme in the hearts of the Marshallites. In other words the first interurban car rolled majestically through the city to Battle Creek. The cars handsomely finished and equipped for the comfort of the passengers are spacious and commodious being thoroughly up to date in every way.

The car returned from the first trip around 7:30 and the regular service started Sunday when cars ran every 30 minutes, a car in each direction every hour. The traffic was heavy all day, crowds of people arriving in this city from Albion and Battle Creek.

On many trips passengers were obliged to stand, the seating capacity being taxed to the utmost extent. The present rate to Battle Creek and Albion is eighteen cents. No extra charge being made for the additional mile and a half between Marshall and Battle Creek in comparison to the distance from this city to Albion.

The first car Monday morning passed through at 6 o'clock and 40 passengers were on board. The regular schedule was not followed on Monday as the cars are supposed to run west on the hour, and east on the half-hour but this irregularity will be adjusted in a short time.

Operation of the passenger service on the Jackson-Kalamazoo branch of the electric railway was discontinued at midnight on December 1, 1928 (Official notice). Actually a note from a local paper indicates it was slightly later:

The last interurban passenger car to come through Marshall before the passenger service was discontinued was a half-hour late. It goes at 11:45 P.M. Central Time. It failed to leave Marshall until 12:15 A. M. this morning. A high school boy, living in Marrengo, had made up is mind to take the last car home and have the distinction of being the last person to take an interurban out of Marshall but the car proved to be so late that he gave up his plan and caught a ride home.

A portion of the old Depot baggage room still remains as part of the Walters' Shell Station at the rear of 216 West Michigan and a careful check will disclose a part of the old Depot incorporated into the inside of the Shell Service Station. The Depot was located at 220, 218 and 216 West Michigan.

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Excerpts of "A history of Marshall"
used by permission from
Richard Carver, all rights reserved.

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© 2010 Maggie LaNoue,

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