Early Railroads Built on Sunday When the Courts Were Closed
On September 14th, 1869, the first spike was driven for the let of the Peninsular Railroad to connect Battle Creek and Charlotte. The Peninsular would become Grand Trunk Western just four years later, and connected Sarnia, Canada with Port Huron and Chicago.
Railroads were crucial to local economies, but were also responsible for a lot of early "NIMBY" cries: ("Not in MY back yard!")
The Grand Trunk line put Battle Creek at junction of two railroad lines connecting the east coast with Chicago and made shipping for local industries easy. Newspaper accounts tell of huge crowds, with politicians and city leaders from east and west of Battle Creek coming to town on the existing Michigan Central Railroad for the big occasion, as that first spike was driven.
A few years later, Grand Trunk became one of Battle Creek's largest employers as shops were moved to Battle Creek from Port Huron, first 1882, and then in 1907.
Mary Butler, of Heritage Battle Creek writes, "Early railroad building was an adventure. When Hall Street residents learned the track was coming through their front yards, they objected. However, railroad management arranged for track to be laid on Sunday when courts were closed and residents could not get injunction to stop construction. The law stated that as soon as an engine passed over track, the installation was permanent. So, as soon as track was laid, an engine covered the new track. Residents had no recourse."
A third railroad known as the Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee came through Battle Creek with their line from Allegan southeast to Dundee and through track rights to Toledo. Interurban lines also served the City.
Grand Trunk expanded west to Climax in 1870, and onward to Chicago.
In 1912, residents who objected to the tracks going through their yards were shown to have good reason for their reservations. A train left the tracks and destroyed a home.
The Grand Trunk Depot was built in 1906 In 1907, the Battle Creek Grand Trunk Depot began its passenger services. The depot continued to operate until 1971, when Grand Trunk Western Railroad handed its passenger services over to the newly formed Amtrak. In 1988, through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Community Action purchased the depot and began renovations to make it suitable for office space while maintaining its historical integrity.
There's nothing left of Hall Street. West Hall Street existed where East Dickman Road is today. West Hall Street was going to be the route of a business loop from the east side of Battle Creek, but instead it became a parking lot for Post Cereal's semi trailers.