Ann Arbor Streetcars 1890-1925

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Ann Arbor Streetcars 1890-1925

Unread postby Michael » Thu Jul 16, 2015 5:35 pm

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Re: Ann Arbor Streetcars 1890-1925

Unread postby AARR » Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:38 pm

Amazing that the AARR track, although the spurs are unused, still remain mostly intact from nearly 100 years ago.
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Re: Ann Arbor Streetcars 1890-1925

Unread postby Ypsi » Thu Jul 16, 2015 8:30 pm

Here is a piece I wrote 3 years ago (My first semester of college.. man I'm getting old :lol: :P ) On specifically the "Ypsi-Ann" which connected Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor (technically on street cars you could get all the way from Detroit to Jackson and even beyond).

This paper totaled just over 6 papers and earned me an A-, my professor did say it would have been an A+ if I had cited sources throughout. I did cite sources, and have great ones from my local historical society, however I did not have the time or patients to put them in the entire paper. Regardless he did like the paper a lot as it was a more relaxed history of the line and other information on street cars, including portions that I was able to create a story with. So here is that unedited from what I turned in. Fair warning you don't have to read this but if you do I hope you enjoy. (I made the font smaller so it doesn't take up more space on the page, feel free to do what you need to read it if the font is too small.

Imagine that you are a male student at the Michigan State Normal College (now known as Eastern Michigan University) in Ypsilanti Michigan, and you are just hanging around in between classes, trying to impress the girls on campus. All of a sudden, you hear a rumbling, then an interurban car rolls to a stop nearby, and off steps a group of male students… directly from the neighboring University of Michigan. The male students start walking over, eyes on all the pretty girls hanging around campus. As they approach the girls, you start to stare them down. After words are exchanged, including looks up and down the Michigan State Normal College girls, a rumble breaks out between the boys from Ypsilanti, and the boys from down the road. Oddly enough this was a common scene on the campus of the Michigan State Normal College, but those are stories for another day, the real story here is how the University of Michigan students were able to get to Ypsilanti to flirt with the cute girls of the Michigan State Normal College. (John H. Goodman, p. 7)

The University of Michigan students were able reach Ypsilanti by one of the most modern forms of transportation in the late 1800’s, by riding an interurban on the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor Street Railway. The Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor Street Railway, known as the Ypsi-Ann for short, ran its first train on the streets of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor on January 9th 1891. The Ypsi-Ann was revolutionary in linking the cities of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor as part of an interurban network that could take you from Detroit to Lansing to Grand Rapids. There were many aspects of the Ypsi-Ann that made it a revolutionary street railway system, from the speed of the transportation to how much closer it helped neighboring communities become. In this research paper we will look at why the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor Street Railway was formed, where and how street railway service operated, how the street railway changed the lives of the people in the community’s that they connected, and why the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor Street Railway shut down.

Take another step back in time, the year is 1890, you are a citizen of Ypsilanti Michigan, and a football fan of the Michigan Wolverines. It is November 1st, 1890, and it is game day for football fans. The main focus of the day for you is of course the big football game in the neighboring town of Ann Arbor, however you have a problem: how are you going to get to the game? There are a few options for you, however none of them are particularly appealing. The first thought that comes into your head is to just walk, however it is a rather chilly day, and you cannot risk getting sick and missing a day of work. The next plan you come up with is to take the train from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor, but that would require a walk from your home on Packard Street all the way down the Michigan Central depot on Cross Street, wait for the next train to Ann Arbor, and then pay as much as 25 cents to ride for a short 15 minutes from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor. Your last hope is to find an omnibus or someone with a carriage that is going to Ann Arbor for the day, but then you risk the chance of not being able to find a way back to Ypsilanti after the football game. Frustrated, you decided to just stay home and read the score in a local newspaper later in the week. There must be a better way to get to the Washtenaw County Fair Ground in Ann Arbor to see your beloved Wolverines play on a crisp November day.

In 1890 your ways of getting around Ypsilanti as well as to neighboring cities were very limited. Ann Arbor has had an established street railway system since 1888, so Ypsilanti was a couple years behind the larger city neighboring them to the west. All this changed in 1890 when a business man from New York by the name of C. L. Haines was brought in to help plan and construct a new street railway system in Ypsilanti. Thus, the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor Street Railway was born. When the idea of creating a street railway in Ypsilanti was first floated, many people stated that Ypsilanti was not a big enough city to support its own interurban. In 1890, Ypsilanti was a city of approximately just under 7000 people, the city of Ann Arbor had a population of nearly 10,000 people. Having a street railway that only operated in Ypsilanti did not seem to be a very viable option for the city of Ypsilanti because of the small population size. With this in mind C. L. Haines figured out a solution, if the new interurban system was able to link Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, there would be more than double the population of just Ypsilanti to draw riders from. Operating between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor would provide to be enough people to justify building a new street railway, and it would be able to have enough costumers to support itself. It was settled, a new street railway would be created to link the city of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, including the two collages that called the cities home.

The construction of the Ypsi-Ann started in October of 1890, and was done by The Haines Company based out of New York. The Haines Company, led by C. L. Haines whom was brought in to initially plan the new street railway, was contracted by the city of Ypsilanti to build a street railway to connect with the existing system in Ann Arbor. After breaking ground in October, it only took the crews just over 2 months to complete the first line of the Ypsi-Ann. The first completed segment of the Ypsi-Ann ran from downtown Ypsilanti west to Packard street, the line ran west on Packard to Wells Street just east of Ann Arbor. This segment of the Ypsi-Ann was formally completed on December 19th 1890, and the first regularly scheduled train ran on January 9th, 1891. The trains of the Ypsi-Ann originated in Ypsilanti along Michigan Avenue, where a car barn was constructed for storage and maintenance of the interurban trains. The Ypsi-Ann worked its way west down Packard Street, to the end of its line at Wells street, for a total length of just over 7 miles long. In his original plans, C. L. Haines did want the line to extend farther into Ann Arbor, and connect with the existing street railway system already in Ann Arbor, however the Ypsi-Ann was operating with steam driven interurban cars. The city of Ann Arbor did not want a wooden steam powered interurban making a lot of noise as it rolled down their “peaceful streets”, or scare the horses also roaming the streets of Ann Arbor. Because the peaceful streets of Ann Arbor could not be disturbed, interurban riders that wanted to continue riding into the city of Ann Arbor had to get off the Ypsi-Ann on the boundary of Ann Arbor at Wells Street, and walk a couple blocks to the nearest station for the interurban line that ran to downtown Ann Arbor. This practice was continued until 1896, when the Ypsi-Ann came under electric power. After the Ypsi-Ann modernized with the conversion to electric powered interurban trains, both systems could be linked and no transfer was required going between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. In 1896 the Ypsi-Ann extended its tracks into the city of Ann Arbor to actually connect downtown Ypsilanti to downtown Ann Arbor for the first time.

When the Ypsi-Ann started operations on January 9th 1891, a train ran every 90 minutes. This freedom was ultimately the game changer for connecting Ypsilanti to not only Ann Arbor, but the rest of south east Michigan. Soon after the Ypsi-Ann had established itself as a reliable form of transportation, it was able to connect to other street railways and expand. By the year 1898 the vast network of street railways had expanded to the point that you could easily take an interurban all the way from Detroit to Grand Rapids. This was made possible in part by expanding systems, mergers, and buyouts among the street railway companies across Michigan. A major buy out that helped expand the Ypsi-Ann, and link Detroit to Ypsilanti and beyond happened when the Detroit, Ypsilanti, and Ann Arbor Railway purchased the Ypsi-Ann, and created a nearly 40 mile route from Detroit to Ann Arbor. Even after the Ypsi-Ann was purchased and became part of the Detroit, Ypsilanti, and Ann Arbor Railway, the railway still maintained the nickname of “Ypsi-Ann”, at least where it operated between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. This much larger system would allow for much more transportation freedom for the citizens of all towns on the route. This new larger system also allowed you to travel around many parts of southeastern Michigan without switching trains multiple times. Travel was sped up, more efficient, and more hassle free than ever. Having the systems linked would allow students from the University of Michigan to go visit the pretty girls at the Michigan State Normal College, a Football fan in Ypsilanti the chance to go see the University of Michigan play in Ann Arbor, or even a baseball fan in Ypsilanti the chance to go see the Tigers play in Detroit. Not only were people more free to travel between local cities on this larger street railway system, they could also do so affordably. Although exact fares are not documented very well, the starting fare on the Ypsi-Ann was 10 cents (Schramm,, and would go up depending on how far you traveled, but it was never high enough to cause customers to not want to ride. All of these factors combined made the Ypsi-Ann the best way to get around southeastern Michigan on its day.

The Ypsi-Ann thrived during the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, however one invention was the main contributor to the fall of the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor Street Railway. The invention that helped contribute to the downfall of the Ypsi-Ann was mass produced 40 miles down the line in Detroit, the automobile. The mass production of the automobile made purchasing a car possible for many more people in the general population. When you can drive rather than have to take an interurban to get from place to place you were not restricted to the tracks like an interurban train was. Not only was the automobile more convenient, it was also faster than the interurban trains, and cheaper than an interurban train. Using a Model-T as a comparison to the interurban, you could go from Detroit to Ypsilanti in about an hour and a half to two hours riding a Model-T at a maximum of 40 miles per hour instead of closer to three or even four hours traveling on an interurban at around 10 to 20 miles per hour, you would also not have to stop in an automobile. With speed and convenience down, the Ypsi-Ann had two strikes on it, and the cost of riding the interurban versus driving a car would be the third. To go the distance of about forty miles using a Model-T, which according to Ford Motor Company got around 13-20 miles per gallon (Model T facts,, you would use about 2 gallons of gas. In 1910 the cost of a gallon of gas averaged to 7 cents a gallon, so to go 40 miles it would cost you about 14 cents. With a total cost of going 40 miles being only 14 cents, driving was competitive with the fare of the interurban, and if you were going farther than the 10 cents base fare, driving would be less expensive than buying an interurban ticket.

When all was said and done for the Ypsi-Ann, it had decreased travel times, united many cities, and carried thousands of passengers; But this was not enough to keep the trains running. The final train on the old Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor Street Railway ran in the year 1929, and service was replaced by busses. City busses have the ability to go more places as they are not confined to the rails of the street railway. City Busses also work on a much simpler infrastructure then the interurban system required, no coal powered power plant to generate electricity, no need to string electric lines above the streets, and there is less overall maintenance in keeping busses running compared to an interurban train. City busses were overall much more versatile and efferent then the street railways, which is why busses are still popular nearly 100 years later.

Finally let’s step into the year 1991. You are hanging out in the student center in McKinley Hall with your girlfriend, and many of your other friends. You decided to head outside to get some fresh air. When you step outside you see a city bus pull up, and off steps a bunch of male students from the University of Michigan, looking to do the same as the University of Michigan Students did 100 years earlier when they stepped off of an Ypsi-Ann Street railway interurban train.
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Re: Ann Arbor Streetcars 1890-1925

Unread postby Michael » Fri Jul 17, 2015 8:43 am

Great paper Ypsi. :)

I found some stuff about the Ypsi-Ann Interurban and finding old rails somewhat recently in both Ann Arbor & Ypsilanti
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Re: Ann Arbor Streetcars 1890-1925

Unread postby iandt » Fri Jul 17, 2015 8:31 pm

Great paper Ypsi, and excellent map as well! That basically represents the complete railroad scene in Ann Arbor at its peak, even down to the forgotten U of M electric railway. Of course, it has only declined from here, though even vestiges of the U of M spur, which has been endlessly mangled by new construction, are still visible.

I find it really interesting that the map even includes the MCRR gas plant spur diverging north from the main line just west of the station. This, in the early 1900s, continued over the Huron River to an Edison substation just on the otherside - a siding that was half bridge, which surely caught up to the railroad financially and had to be taken down.

I wonder if the streetcar system ran a few cars in a simple loop around the U of M campus for the convenience of its students, especially in the winter months. I'll have to do some snooping in the archives about this railway when I head back to school.
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