John Speller's Web Pages Chicago & Grand Trunk Railway

John Speller's Web Pages - US Railroads
Chicago & Grand Trunk Railway
The 335.27-mile Chicago & Grand Trunk Railway (later part of the Grand Trunk Western Railway), a subsidiary of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, runs from Chicago to the Canadian border at Port Huron, Michigan, where it connects with the Grand Trunk Railway to Toronto and Montreal. There were additional lines between Port Huron and Detroit and between Port Huron and Toledo -- one of these, running 60 miles from Port Huron to Detroit, was the first part of the system to open in October 1860. When the line first opened the youthful Thomas Edison of Port Huron obtained permission to sell newspapers and confectionery on the trains, and he soon built up a profitable business that provided the funds to launch his career as an inventor. At first the Grand Trunk Railway relied partly on other companies' lines for through service to Chicago, and it was only in 1880 that they had a complete main line from Port Huron to Chicago.

Originally the line from Chicago to Port Huron was built to the 4 ft. 8 in. gauge, while the line on the Canadian side was the Canadian "Provincial" gauge of 5 ft. 6 in. As long as Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario were connected only by a ferry service, the break of gauge was not a problem since people had to change trains anyway. Furthermore, the gauge on the Canadian side had been changed to 4 ft. 8 in. by 24 October 1891, when the tunnel under the St Clair River connecting Port Huron with Sarnia opened. The tunnel was 6,025 feet long, 2,290 feet of which were under the St Clair River, and cost $2,700,000. A 1903 movie of a train traveling through the tunnel from Sarnia to Port Huron may be seen here. As the fumes from steam locomotives in the tunnel were overpowering the line was electrified in May 1908. The original tunnel was dynamited and replaced with a new one which opened on 5 May 1995. The "International Limited" used to run through from Chicago to Toronto, but was withdrawn due to declining ridership in 2004. Today, sadly, the Amtrak train from Chicago terminates at Port Huron, and the Canadian ViaRail train from Toronto terminates at Sarnia, so passengers have to travel from Port Huron to Sarnia across the Blue Water Bridge by road -- a singularly inefficient and unnecessary arrangement which hopefully will not continue for ever. The tunnel is still heavily used by freight trains, and a video taken from the cab of a locomotive traveling through it may be seen here.
Map of the Chicago & Grand Trunk Railway in 1887
First train through the St Clair tunnel between Port Huron and Sarnia, 24 October 1891
Locomotive No. 79 outside the roundhouse in Durand, Michigan on 31 July 1909. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Postcard view of the first locomotive under repair at the newly opened Grand Trunk Western shops in Battle Creek, Michigan, 1909. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
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