Salem Area Historical Society

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The Railroads of Salem Township

Did you know there was at one time more than 1 railroad in Salem?

If you have any history of the Railroads in Salem, please contact us at so that we can copy the material and add it to our archives.

Salems first railroad was the Detroit and Howell. Its beginning was surrounded in controversy and Salem was in the middle of it.

In 1864 the Michigan Legislature passed Avt.#49 wich made it lawful for certain townshipsin Wayne ,Washtenaw and Livingston counties  to pledge credit not to exceed 5% of assesed valuation. In 1866 a petition of 31 Tax payers petitioned for a meeting to vote on financial assistance for the railroad. 257 electors met at a barn of the township clerk Wm.B. Mead . Two resolutions written for the terms and  conditions were voted on.This called for 4 miles of track and a Depot and when bonds would be issued. There were no printed ballots  only scraps of paper with two different wordings :For Aid for RR in Salem Twp - Against Aid for RR in Salem Twp ,and : The Loan YesYes - The Loan No  .    To be continued

Predecessors  of todays railroad

Detroit and Howell Railroad
Detroit, Howell and Lansing Railroad
Detroit ,Lansing and Lake Michigan Railroad
Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad
Detroit, GrandRapids and Western Railroad
Pere Marquette Railway
C&O Railway
Chessie System
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Salems other Railroad

In 1877 James M. Ashley bought the grade and franchise of the Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern and formed the Toledo and Ann Arbor .By 1880 the line to Ann Arbor was finished and that same year he formed the Ann Arbor and North Eastern to build a line from Ann Arbor to Pontiac hoping to pickup Toledo bound traffic off the Grand Trunk there and at South Lyon from the Detroit Lansing and Northern. The line to SouthLyon was completed by 1881 but never went any further. Ashley sold the rightaway to Pontiac to the Michigan Air Line which was building a line to Jackson.
The road bed heading north from Ann Arbor veered northeasterly going through Northfield Township and a small community called Leland  it continued on coming into Salem Township crossing Dixboro road south of 5 mile onto the E.S. Worden farm and a station was located there at 5 mile road. The line continued diagonally through sections 18 and 7 crossing Pontiac trail north of 6 mile road and about a quarter mile east of Pontiac Trail it turned due north and ran straight into South Lyon.
The Salem community of Peebles corners was just east of the Worden Station at 5 mile and Pontiac Trail and would eventually change its name to Worden.
Salem South Lyon and Northfield residents probably made use of the line to AnnArbor but the Freight traffic Ashley had expected never materialized. He had already turned to the north and built up through Whitmore Lake to Howell and on to Durand. His sights were set on running to a Lake Michigan harbor at Frankfort.
Ashley was a shrewd businessman in building his railway. He would acquire land for free or by giving out free passes or just building over the property and letting the landowners sue him .No accounts of problems in Salem Township were recorded but by 1891 Ashley had decided to abandon the South Lyon spur. Residents upset about the "Rumor" on March 28, 1891 an unruly crowd tore up some Ann Arbor track and after heating it red hot in a bonfire bent them around some telegraph poles. Ashley was quick to use this hostile sentiment as a way to avoid court.The next morning, Sunday, an Ann Arbor RR train with a hundred men and a string of flat cars arrived in South Lyon and apon leaving town they pulled up the track and loaded it on the flat cars as the train left town. The track was removed to the junction just south of Leland where the road already headed north to Durand and northern Michigan leaving Worden and Leland without a Railroad. Salem Townships other Railroad disappeared that day
Few traces of the old grade still exist but on 7 mile about a quarter mile east of Pontiac Trail you can still see the old grade on the north side running towards South Lyon.
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