Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad

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Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad
Detroit Toledo & Ironton Herald.png
Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad system map (1918).svg
DT&I system as of 1918
Reporting mark DTI
Locale Michigan and Ohio
Dates of operation 1905–1983
Successor Grand Trunk Western
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad (reporting mark DTI) operated from 1905 to 1983 between its namesake cities of Detroit, Michigan, and Ironton, Ohio, via Toledo. At the end of 1970, it operated 478 miles of road on 762 miles of track; that year it carried 1,244 million ton-miles of revenue freight.

Early history[edit]

D&LN logo
old DT&I Railroad map

In 1901, the merger of the Detroit and Lima Northern Railway and the Ohio Southern Railway formed the Detroit Southern Railroad.[1] This company was purchased at foreclosure on May 1, 1905, by Harry B. Hollins & Company of New York, which reincorporated it in the state of Michigan under the name of the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railway.

The president of the Detroit Southern, Samuel Hunt, was to remain as president of the reorganized road but died suddenly on May 15, 1905. George Miller Cumming, a New York City lawyer who was formerly first vice-president of the Erie Railroad Company and the former chairman of the board of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad, was elected president in June and served for one month.[2] F. A. Durban was elected president in July but resigned in November, and replaced by Eugene Zimmerman.[3] Cumming and Durban continued to serve as officers under Zimmerman's presidency.

The DT&I went bankrupt in 1908, but remained solvent until it was purchased by Henry Ford in 1920. Ford recognized the strategic importance of the line to his automobile business; the line connected Dearborn, Michigan, to all of the major east-west rail lines in the Midwest. This gave Ford direct control over shipments of raw materials and finished goods to and from his factories in Dearborn. The line thrived and saw numerous improvements under Ford's management. But Ford sold the line in 1929 to the Pennsylvania Railroad after becoming disgusted with interference and over regulation from the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Ann Arbor Railroad[edit]

In June 1905, the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railway took control of the Ann Arbor Railroad (AA), which they purchased from Rudolph Kleybolte & Co.[4] The acquisition connected Toledo with Frankfort, Michigan, and essentially doubled the DT&I system. But the 1908 bankruptcy forced the DT&I to divest its acquisition.

In 1963, the DT&I, by then a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad, once again gained control of the AA. The Ann Arbor lines became part of Conrail in April 1976, and were facing abandonment. In October 1977, they were purchased by the state of Michigan, which intended to preserve rail service over its tracks. Subsequently, the state divested itself of the lines and remnants of the AA are now owned and operated by several short line railroad companies (including one with the same name as the original).

Work Train, circa 1921

The Pennsylvania years[edit]

The line operated as an independent subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1929 until 1970. In 1955, the line replaced its steam locomotives with diesel locomotives. It did however, have a short-lived operation using heavy-electric boxcab locomotives. The concrete catenary masts of the electric years survived for decades after de-electrification, as it was deemed too expensive to demolish them. Several of them may still be seen in southwestern Detroit suburbs. The DT&I relied exclusively on diesel locomotives built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division. The new diesel locomotives were painted bright orange throughout this period, though the specific design and placement of the railroad's logo varied with time.

The later years[edit]

In 1968, the DT&I's parent company, the Pennsylvania Railroad, merged with its longtime rival, the New York Central Railroad, to become the Penn Central, which declared bankruptcy two years later and sold off the DT&I to private investors. In 1980, the DT&I was acquired by the Grand Trunk Western Railroad (GTW). Under the GTW, the DT&I locomotives were painted in the red and blue livery of the GTW, but retained the DT&I logo. In December 1983, the DT&I was completely assimilated into the GTW.

End of service on southern portion[edit]

Detroit, Toledo and Ironton at CP Hill in Melrose Park in April 1985

In April 1982, a collapse in Royersville Tunnel (the only tunnel on the old DT&I) prompted GTW to shut down the line between Jackson and Ironton. The tunnel had suffered collapses many times in the past but limited remaining business south of Jackson and the operational problems of the tunnel led to GTW's decision. At the same time, GTW bypassed the steep and treacherous Summithill section between Bainbridge and Waverly by rerouting trains onto Chessie System trackage from Washington Court House, Ohio to Waverly, then back onto the former DT&I to Jackson. In 1984 all operations south of Washington Court House were suspended, the Jackson Shops closed, and the track dismantled.

A short section of the DT&I main west out of Jackson is still in place serving as a connection from industries to the only remaining line into Jackson. A short section of the DT&I north from the junction with the B&O Southwestern near Greenfield is still in place to serve local industry. Portions of the line between Greenfield and Washington Court House were purchased by Washington Court House with the intention of creating a rail-trail, but they were unable to acquire enough conjoined sections to build a trail.

Central and northern portions[edit]

1925 DT & I RR caboose on display at Henry Ford Museum

GTW continued to operate the northern and central portions of the former DT&I as part of their network for many years. The DT&I trackage from Springfield to Lurray (near Washington Court House) was sold by GTW to the West Central Ohio Port Authority (formerly Clark County - Fayette County Port Authority) January 18, 1991. This section was then operated in conjunction with the former section of the B&O Toledo Division from Lurray to Washington Court House by the Indiana and Ohio Railway, a division of Railtex. In 1997, GTW sold the former DT&I from Dundee (Diann) Michigan to Springfield, Ohio to the Indiana and Ohio Railway. Included in the sale was trackage rights from Dundee to Flat Rock, MI over the old DT&I. Railtex was merged into RailAmerica, which was then purchased by Genesee & Wyoming. G&W operates the former DT&I from Dundee (Diann) Michigan to Washington Court House, still as part of their Indiana and Ohio Railway.

Cities and towns along the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton[edit]

Old DT&I Railroad shop, Jackson, Ohio.

The following is a list of the major cities and towns along the DT&I:



Also, DT&I trains served Cincinnati, Ohio over trackage owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad.


  1. ^ J. E. Landrum (1998-01-07). "A Brief History of the DT&I". The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad Historical Web Site. Retrieved 2013-02-23. 
  2. ^ The Railroad Gazette, June 9, 1905. Vol. 39, No. 26. p. 610.
  3. ^ Scott D. Trostel. The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad: Henry Ford's Railroad. Fletcher, Ohio: Cam-Tech Publishing, 1988. p. 66.
  4. ^ New York Daily Tribune (PDF). June 9, 1905  Missing or empty |title= (help)


External links[edit]