The History of The 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 and Marne. Later on the C&M Ry. 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 usually is pulled by a 125 ton General motors SW9 switcher locomotive, number 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 operation is carried out for the most part by volunteers. These people must complete an appropriate training program before they may participate as a member of the train crew. Other volunteers help us with track work, equipment maintenance, ticket sales, painting, and the like.
During the summer months, we run regular trains on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Prior to Easter, we run our Bunny Trains on Saturdays. Other theme trains are the Troop Trains for Memorial Day, the Great Train Robbery, The Famous Pumpkin Train, and The Santa Train. And, of course, throughout the year we run our charters for a variety of groups for a variety of reasons.
The Coopersville & Marne Railway does run some freight service during the year on a portion of our line between Marne and Grand Rapids.
As you look around our property in downtown Coopersville, you will see some other equipment. We do have a smaller back-up locomotive, a wrecking crane, some cabooses, and various track equipment to help us keep our track in shape. We even have a switch tower, which was moved to Coopersville from Greenville, Michigan, and restored. You may even spot a steam locomotive (not running)!
We hope that if you're in the area, you'll stop by and ride with us. If you've already ridden with us, we hope you enjoyed the trip!