Pere Marquette :A Michigan Railroad System before 1900

  • Model: BK-20-967


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Hardbound, 200 pages, published by Michigan University Press

This book certainly covers new ground in that it details the life histories of the three major lines that were merged to create the Pere Marquette in 1900.  Previous works by the author include Michigan Railroads & Railroad Companies, Railroads for Michigan, and The Fishing Line: A History of the Grand Rapids & Indiana RR.

This is the first detailed history available for the PM predecessor lines, previously documented only somewhat by Paul Ivey's book of many years ago and in official documents. 

The book is very well organized and documented as most scholarly histories are. There is a smattering of station photos, but the real strength of the illustrations is in the many old and new maps that describe in graphic detail what is written about. I really enjoyed them. This is a real strong point of this book. So many railroad histories talk of locations but don't give maps--this one does.

Included is a full chapter on biographies of the men who were instrumental in the creation of these lines that eventually came to form the PM of the 20th Century. Tables obviously compiled from annual reports tell much about traffic and finances.  Great corporate flow charts illustrate all the many small companies that were incorporated into the three lines that eventually became PM.

For anyone interested in the PM, this has some very valuable background.  It certainly clarified many things for this author.  I think the book will be valuable to those who are tangentially interested such as I, or those who have a more intense interest.

As an interesting note, the C&OHS archives has the corporate papers for most of the PM predecessor railroads in its collection.  Unfortunately, they are not scanned, and can be used only by the researcher doing so at Clifton Forge. A free digital download of a finding guide for the corporate records collection is available on at catalog no. DS-19-362 or by calling 540-8962-2210.  This guide lists each railroad and describes the content of the records in the collection.


The Pere Marquette Railroad has not one but two histories—one for the twentieth century and one for the nineteenth. While the twentieth-century record of the Pere Marquette Railroad has been well studied and preserved, the nineteenth century has not been so well served. This volume aims to correct that oversight by focusing on the nineteenth-century part of the company’s past, including the men who formed and directed these early roads, and the development of the system. The Pere Marquette Railroad was formed in 1900 by a merger of three Michigan railroad companies and lasted forty-seven years, disappearing in June 1947 by merger into the maw of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. Prior to the 1900 merger, the Pere Marquette Railroad’s predecessors made up a motley collection of disconnected and unaffiliated short, local rail lines. After the financial panic of 1893, and with some commonality of ownership, the companies worked together more closely. Before the end of the decade, the three main railroads—the Flint & Pere Marquette; the Detroit, Lansing & Northern; and the Chicago & West Michigan—had decided that the only way to maintain solvency was to merge. Using a plethora of primary sources including railway timetables and maps, this work lends insight into the little-known corporate business history of the Pere Marquette Railroad. 

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