Rails through Rochester
Rochester Michigan had two railroads run through it. One was the New York Central that ran from the current rail line in Sterling Heights to Bay City through Lake Orion. The other was the Grand truck that Ran from Pontiac to Richmond through Romeo. Both of these railroads have a fascinating history.
The one that intrigues me the most is the NYC line which ran along Rochester Park and behind the post office and grain elevator. Back when I was a child there used to be a string of passenger cars on display behind the Post Office. The dining car was a restaurant that my dad would take me to eat at. It used to have the best hot dogs, at least that was what I thought when I was 4. The line itself was profitable up until it was abandoned in 1974. It was popular for passengers on vacation, who would take the line to Lake Orion (back when that was considered “Up-North”). This line also ran huge coal trains up to Bay City. I think I would have a good laugh today watching a stinky 100 car coal train rumble through Downtown Rochester at 15 mph. They had to go that slow due to the steep grade out of Rochester Valley. I always wished I could have seen one of those trains but we did not move there until 1984 and I was not even born until 1979.
The next railroad was the Grand Trunk which was really neat to watch as a kid. Back in the mid 1980’s my dad and I would go down below Rochester rd Bridge and watch the train go by. Their was one every weekday evening pulling a string of 18 to 20 rail cars pulled by a long hood GP 38 and also had a caboose at the end. Most of the freight cars, where from the Ford Romeo Tractor Factory and headed for Pontiac. Their were also smaller local trains that would switch the three sidings in Rochester (two of which were active when I was there). I remember my brother and his friends would tell me about how they would hop on the back of the trains and ride them to Pontiac (that’s how slow they went).
The first siding, in Rochester, was just past Crooks and Hamlin rd’s and was some kind of plant that would take 2 or 3 hoppers at a time. The next was west of the Rochester Road Bridge and from what I understand was for either a lumber yard or was farm related. And then on the east side of the Rochester Rd Bridge was the Ink factory that got one box car a week. The one on the west side of Rochester Rd you can still find remains of it way back in the bushes but watch your step.
In the late 80’s the Ford Factory stopped making tractors and stopped needing rail service. The traffic dwindled to just a few trains a week most of them just short switch jobs. I would listen in my bed at night and hear the horns of the train creeping through town. The busiest traffic was Northwest of Rochester around Romeo and Almont. There were some large grain and freight trains would cruise through from Port Huron and back. By the new millennium traffic had all but ceased and the line was abandoned.
I hope this helps you with your quest for Rochester Railroad history. Let me know if you find out anything in addition to this.