Coopersville & Marne Railway
The Coopersville & Marne Railway Company was incorporated on July 13, 1989. The initial purpose of those involved was to purchase the old Grand Trunk right-of-way between the towns of Coopersville and Marne, just to the northwest of Grand Rapids. The idea was to preserve the track for future use and to provide vintage passenger service. The purchase was made on December 14, 1989. Most of the cost was covered by the sale of shares of stock in the Company.
The line has a long history. It was chartered as the Oakland and Ottawa Railroad Company on April 3, 1848. The purpose was to build a railroad from "Oakland via Fentonville to Lake Michigan in Ottawa County". The railroad was merged with the Detroit and Pontiac Railroad Company in 1855, and the name was changed to the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad. The track through Marne and Coopersville was first laid down in the summer of 1858. The first train into Grand Rapids arrived there in June of 1858, with the first train into Grand Haven arriving there in September of that year.
There were some additional corporate changes, and in May of 1928 the railroad became part of the Grand Trunk Western Railroad Company. In 1987 the Central Michigan Railway Company purchased most of the line, and it is this company that sold the line to the Cooperesville & Marne. Later on our railroad also purchased the rest of the line from Marne into Grand Rapids.
The Coopersville and Marne Railway Company began operations on July 4, 1990, using a leased locomotive, a leased passenger car, and a borrowed caboose. The traffic that summer was enough to warrant obtaining the use of a second coach. In 1991 we leased a third coach, and in 1992 we leased one additional coach. We now have four coaches, with room for 300 passengers.
In 1993, in conjunction with the Coopersville Downtown Development Authority, we obtained a new train boarding area and a small depot, in downtown Coopersville.
Three of our coaches originally were commuter cars, two from the East Coast (DL&W), and one from the Canadian National Railroad. The coaches are heated in the cold weather, and cooled by opening the windows when it is warm. Plans are in the works for air conditioning in some of the cars. The coaches are restroom equipped for passenger convenience.
Our train is usually pulled by a 1950's era,125 ton General Motors SW9 switcher locomotive, #7014. This locomotive had been owned by the Grand Trunk Western Railway and served in Battle Creek, Michigan. The 1200 horsepower diesel engine turns a generator, which feeds electricity to the traction motors, which are geared to driving wheels. As much as possible, we stress vintage operation of the equipment, including proper dress for members of the train crew.
Our operations are carried out by our all-volunteer staff. Men and women must complete our industry-approved training program in order to perform the duties of Brakeman, Conductor or Locomotive Engineer. Our craftsmen volunteers maintain our vintage equipment and our fourteen miles of track. Experienced volunteers also work in guest services and ticket sales. The EnterTRAINment is provided by paid local actors and musicians.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays from May through September, we operate our popular EnterTRAINment Excursions. Beginning three weeks prior to Easter we offer Bunny Trains on Saturdays and Sundays. Other theme trains are: The Veteran’s Free Troop Train on Memorial Day, The Great Train Robbery in July, The Famous Pumpkin Train in the fall and The Santa Train closes out our season. Charter service is available for groups of thirty or more at any daytime that is not already booked, during our operating season.
During the entire year, The Coopersville & Marne Railway operates a busy freight service for our customers along the track from Coopersville into Grand Rapids.
As you look around our property in downtown Coopersville, you will see other equipment and historic buildings. We have a GE 50-ton, center cab which we use as back-up locomotive and in-yard movements. Other non-working diesel locomotives are lined up on one of our sidings as well as our ex-CN, 1912 Baldwin Steam Locomotive. Various cabooses are used either as an office or are awaiting future restoration. Other equipment on site is used for on-going track maintenance or historic preservation.
We have an ex-Interurban Railroad station that was moved by house movers to its present location from Spring Lake, MI for a distance of about 25 miles. About a block east of that building is a historic switch tower that we moved here by flatbed truck from Greenville, MI. for a distance of about 45 miles. We also have a watchman’s shanty that used to be in Grand Rapids, MI.. Our new train station is in the remodeled, former Lemmon Chevrolet building at 306 E. Main Street. It will open in the fall of 2016.
We hope that if you are in the area, you’ll stop by and ride with us. If you’ve already been aboard, we hope that you enjoyed the journey.