This branch line, nicknamed the Pumpkinvine Railroad by locals in Indiana, was the realized part of a larger dream to build a railroad from Bay City through Battle Creek and Sturgis, Michigan, Goshen, Indiana and on to Danville, Illinois, then possibly further west to St. Louis, Missouri. Only the portion from Battle Creek to Goshen was actually built and operated.
Goshen, IN to Sturgis, MI was originally The Sturgis, Goshen and St. Louis Railway Company, a purchased property of Canada & St. Louis Railway Company. The line was leased to the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway Company, in perpetuity, on February 1, 1890.
Sturgis, MI to Findley, MI was originally The Battle Creek and Sturgis Railway Company, incorporated November 14, 1889. They succeeded the Sturgis and Battle Creek Railway Company. The portion of the line of this company between Sturgis, Michigan and Findley Michigan, 7.19 miles, was leased to the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway Company, in perpetuity, on February 1, 1890, the balance of the line being leased, at the same time, to the Michigan Central Railroad Company.
Not surprisingly, these railroads had much in common, including investors, directors, and management.
The LS&MS was consolidated into the New York Central Railroad in 1914; the NYC was merged into the Penn Central Railroad in 1968.
The line was Abandoned in three sections:
- Findley to Sturgis, Michigan, possibly before 1960
- Shipshewana, Indiana to Sturgis, Michigan in 1960
- Goshen to Shipshewana, Indiana in 1980; tracks removed in 1982
It apparently was never part of the Conrail system.
The line from Goshen to Shipshewana is easy to trace in satellite photos as many parts have been converted to a rail-trail for hiking and biking. The line from Shipshewana to Sturgis is a bit more challenging as visual clues are fewer and further between, and much of the right-of-way has reverted to adjacent farms in the last 50 years.
The alignment shown on the map thru Sturgis, MI is an educated guess. Here there was an interlocked crossing of another LS&MS line (later NYC, then Penn Central, Conrail, now Norfolk Southern), and the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railway (part of the Pennsylvania System, later Penn Central, Conrail, and now abandoned).
Thanks to Randall Bosma for contributing information about this route.