Abandoned Rails of Niles

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(Forwarded from the Elkhart, Niles & Lake Michigan Railroad)

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Former NYC/Conrail street trackage. Photo by Jeremy Harris, October 2007.

Niles, Michigan was once the home of many railroads: the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & Saint Louis, the Elkhart, Niles and Lake Michigan Railroad, Michigan Central Railroad, the Saint Joseph Valley railroad, and the Michigan Air-Line Railroad, to name a few. Today, only the Norfolk Southern and AMTRAK travel through town.

See also Jackson to Niles.

The map at the link below contains brief histories for each of the abandoned lines. Please view it to learn more about this city in Michigan.

cool site wish there were more pictures and some older pictures what the yard looked like in the 40's

Tim Shanahan
Kalamazoo, MI
2/15/2009

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I been trying to search/genelogy on my dad's railroad career and I know he start to work for a railroad company in cass county Michigan. I would guess it would be 1918 to 1922. I hope you can help and give me some contact info that may help me.

I know there is a Niles connection, my granddad lived there.

Dora
Naples, ID
12/5/2009

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I come from a railroad family. My gandfather and two of his brothers came from Michigan City (on a daily basis) on the air-line to work in the NYC shops in Niles. My grandfather was what was referred to as a "car knocker". He repaired the big engines...the cars...and went out if there was a wreck to clear the tracks. My uncle Ben (his brother) was also a car knocker. My grandfather's other brother (who's railroad occupation I never knew) went on to found one of the biggest construction companies in Michigan City (Tonn & Blank).

My father and his brother worked on the railroad as well. My father was a brakeman & freight conductor. My uncle (I never knew what his job was) went on to be one of Niles' more prominent doctors and podiatrist. I never followed in my father's footsteps. I know he really wished that I had.

Niles' train legacy came to an end with "poor decision making" on behalf of the city government being the greatest cause. The largest classification yard in the world at one time was gone with most of it's business going on to the Robert Young Yard in Elkhart, Indiana.

Michael
Niles, MI
12/11/2009

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I grew up in Niles and I remember all the railroad connections. Our scout troop used to walk along the tracks from our house on Cass St. to the Ft. St. Joseph Rock and back. Our troop leader, Mr. Willard, lived out near the round house. We would walk to Plym Park through the tunnel where the old inter-urban ran. We would go to F.O.P. park and play on the railroad trestle over the St. Joe River. There was a hobo jungle not far from our house at 214 Cass St. and sometimes the hobos would come by looking for some work or a handout. Sure are a lot of memories now if I hear a train whistle because I used to go to sleep hearing them. Who from Niles my age(60) and even younger can't remember the viaduct near the depot? My grandfather worked at French's Paper Mill. I remember when the train used to pick up freight there too.

Ricky Riddle
Friendship, TN
1/22/2010

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I visit the fallen flags web site often, there are many old photo's of steam and diesel engines on there one shows part of the shops building with a building to the left which to me looks like a freight house or something. That building still stands today but has been sided and it red I have no clue what it was. I am in Kalamazoo I have several photos I took from 2007-2009 of the buildings and things still there. I have one 8x10 black and white photo of a NYC steam engine on the turntable at Niles with part of the roundhouse in the background, but I have no scanner to get the image on the Internet. Here is the link to fallen flags. I wish I could get a hold of the people if still alive to get permission to get prints for my collection.

Tim Shanahan
Kalamazoo, MI
8/14/2010

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I follwed the street line to Indiana. it connected to another abandoned rail.

Justin
Brighton, MI
11/7/2011

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Michael, you might go to the Niles Library and ask for "An American Colossus" by William Taylor, Jr. It is a treasure of Niles railroad history including photos, several seniority lists.

While in Niles please checkout the Big 4 Railroad historical marker in Riverfront Park next the railroad trestle. We dedicated this marker in May 2009.

Herb & Donna Ochenryder
Niles, MI
11/11/2011

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Been in Niles since 1955, my grandfather worked for MCRR and others as a foreman of a "gandy gang". I have a few of his tools including lock, gandy bar and others. Fond memories of the old steamers rumbling through town.

Mike Loupee
Niles, MI
7/27/2012

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I wish I knew what the buildings were behind the roundhouse in that one photo. The foundations are still there but that's it. I am very much into the history of this long abandon yard would like to get any photo's of the yard in it's prime or any people still alive that used to work for the NYC. I wish I could find photo's of the old water tower and coal tower. I am adding my email address if anyone wants to contact me on any information. Thanks! Tim.

Tim Shanahan
Kalamazoo, MI
7/27/2012

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my uncle bill welsh and my father where both mcrr employees. i hired out in 1968 retired 2009. more than half the rail i rode as an engineer is gone. dad told me about taking train south bend to barron lake. where was that rail?

kelly patrick
niles, MI
8/21/2012

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http://www.michiganrailroads.com/RRHX/Stations/CountyStations/BerrienStations/Niles/NilesTerminal.htm

Anna
Niles, MI
10/8/2012

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There is a cool book titled "An American Colossus" by William Taylor Jr. It even has RR call out schedules of who worked on the RR. The MCRR, later the NYCRR. Lots of pics. You can get the book for $30 at the Niles Fort St. Joseph Museum now housed in the former City Hall on Main St. Niles.

Mickey
Niles , MI
1/30/2013

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My grandpa (just passed away) owned roundhouse in Niles. My dad now owns it. I don't know if you still want info on it but I saw a couple comments about the buildings in the back. The red one was just like a shed that held parts, tools etc. The one next to it that is all boarded up is where they built parts. The hotel in the front is actually where the workers would stay. Its definitely a neat place.

Alicia Betchek
Niles, MI
12/8/2013

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when old steam engine was sold for scrap it was made road worthy and my father fired it to Englewood yard Chicago were it sat in scrap yard south of the mains when I hired out in 1968 it was still there. it was hardwired to plumbing of niles roundhouse for many years and its boiler used to heat building.

kelly patrick
niles, MI
12/8/2013

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I am working on a book that will have a chapter on the Air Line between Niles and Jackson and the connecting Niles-South Bend line. I would like to communicate with someone who is an expert on the western end of the Air Line, especially between Cassopolis and Niles and South Bend.

John Guidinger
Jackson, MI
1/2/2015

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I am the "Michael" who posted before. One of the large buildings on the round house site was the old "ice house" where ice from Barron lake was stored for the refrigerated box cars as well as the community. I have my grandfather's handmade tools from the time he worked at the roundhouse.

Yes I am old enough to remember the bridge at the Niles station. My dad used to take us kids down there when he picked up his paycheck at the station. We ate the blackberries that grew up against that old bridge. I have a few old photos from the 20's and 50's of the station, steam engines, workers and reunion gatherings at the station.

Michael G. Blank
Niles, MI
2/25/2015

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I need to get some pictures of the bridges and load them, they're the best part.

Tim
Niles, MI
8/28/2015

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Tim....you need to come up to the white st.

and Thomson rd. Intersection. Approximately

400 feet south of the intersection is a bridge

that spanned over part of the classification

yard. It is the last of its kind in the world.

It is concrete and crumbling. It is on the

National Historical registry of bridges.

Michael G. Blank
Niles,, MI
8/28/2015

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Does anybody know if it's possible to get access into that building behind the roundhouse, the rectangular one? I work for the railroad now (Elkhart) and love the history of various older buildings. I've been inside of the old ice house building and would really like to see the other buildings if possible!

Kyle
Mishawaka, IN
12/1/2015

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My husband's Dad was the yard master in niles or many years. William "Red" Rossow.

Emily
Charlotte, NC
12/3/2015

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Shortened Link: http://a-r.us/60h
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