By 1873, a lumberman from Alma, Michigan; Ammi Wright, built a railroad to carry timber from St. Louis—about three miles east of Alma—to Saginaw where his line connected with the Flint and Pere Marquette. Mr. Wright’s line was the Saginaw and St. Louis and prospered as forests of central Michigan were cut to serve the needs of the industrializing nation. The Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad created another line, the Saginaw and Grand Rapids, presumably to extend the Saginaw and St. Louis Railroad west to eventually connect the two cities in its title using the existing Saginaw to St. Louis line as part of its route. By 1879, the Saginaw and Grand Rapids extended its lines as far west as Lakeview. Six Lakes is about six miles east of Lakeview so railroad service began here in 1879. In 1883, following a bankruptcy, that line was reconstituted as the Saginaw and Western. About six years later, they extended their tracks to Howard City. From Howard City, the Saginaw and Grand Rapids used the tracks of Grand Rapids and Indiana to get their trains 34 miles south to Grand Rapids.
The Saginaw and Western was owned or controlled by the Detroit, Lansing and Northern and was not always a profitable operation since the stands of trees along its line had been cut by the 1880s. It went into bankruptcy in the financial panic of 1893. In 1897, the Detroit, Lansing and Northern merged with the Flint and Pere Marquette and the Chicago and West Michigan to form the Pere Marquette. That railroad, in turn, was taken over by the Chesapeake and Ohio in 1929 and merged into the C. & O. in 1947. That line became CSX Transportation twenty years later.
In the 1890s, the Saginaw and Western cooperated with the Grand Rapids and Indiana to run through passenger trains from Saginaw to Grand Rapids. It was a four-and-one-half hour journey with early morning and late afternoon departures from each city and all trains stopped for travelers in Lakeview. This through passenger train service stopped, I believe, shortly after the creation of the Pere Marquette since they had a more direct Saginaw to Grand Rapids line, one that went west from Saginaw to Edmore than southwest to Greenville and on to Grand Rapids.
The Pere Marquette line west of Alma was a granger railroad without substantial freight or passenger traffic. By 1910, the only passenger trains serving the residents of Six Lakes were a westbound Lansing to Big Rapids train, an Ionia to Big Rapids train and one eastbound train from Big Rapids to Lansing. By the 1930s, the only service was a six-times-a-week mixed train that made a round-about trip from Greenville to Big Rapids. Howard City never developed into a major metropolis. Indeed, the eleven miles a rail west from Lakeview to Howard City was pulled up in 1943 but the line from Alma to Lakeview passing through Six Lakes survived until 1974.
Six Lakes is an unincorporated village in Belvidere Township of Montcalm County. The area was settled in 1876 by Hiram Clark and Dr. J. B. Daniels so the railroad arrived shortly after the first residents. A post office was established in 1878. The railroad museum in Six Lakes does not, apparently, maintain a website.
Architect: Unknown to me
Date of Construction: Presumably later Nineteenth Century
Use in 2015: Railroad museum open several hours each week-end
during the summer
Track in front of the depot: Freight rail service ended in 1974 and the
rails were removed. No attempt has been made to create a rail-trail.
Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Register of Historic Places: Not listed
Photograph: Ren Farley; August 15, 2012
Description prepared: July, 2015
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