Christmas Trains in Michigan
Before highways and motorcars crisscrossed Michigan’s mitten, residents relied on trains for transportation. And the first railroad track in the state, the Erie and Kalamazoo line, opened in 1837—except it had a slight problem. People waited four months before the first locomotive engine arrived, so they had to board and ride horse-drawn cars along the track.
From that day until the turn of the 20th century, railroads and interurban lines managed to serve residents very well. Times changed once Henry Ford introduced his gas-powered Model T automobile, and made it affordable for middle-class families to own one. Public transportation began dying slowly until streetcars no longer rolled through cities. Michigan still has almost 4,000 miles of railroad track, useful in moving goods long distances, besides trucks on the interstates.
Trains still transport crowds of people, especially during the holiday season. Not all people know that there are two sites in Michigan with holiday trains, offering the younger generation a taste of travel that their grandparents and great-grandparents would remember. The excitement of hearing the shrill whistle and ‘All aboard’ of the conductor, the steam rising from the engine, the rattle and sway of the train cars -- all this is guaranteed to make special memories for the holidays.
Here’s a few spots of fun sure to please your family. Call before you go, and make sure if you need to reserve your spots!
The Santa Train - Coopersville and Marne Railroad
Coopersville to the Village of Marne, Michigan
Meet Santa during the train journey in vintage cars! Every child will be escorted by Santa's Elves to sit and chat with Santa Claus, and receive a gift. The Polar Express, written by Grand Rapids native Chris Van Allsburg, will be read as well. The Santa Train runs on Saturdays and Sundays from November 26 until December 24. Tickets: Adults $19, Seniors $18, Kids (2-12) $17, Kids under 2 free. Call 616-997-7000 for more info. Check the website at www.coopersvilleandmarne.org
Crossroads Village, Flint, Michigan
Crossroads Village operates holiday trains within the complex. Huckleberry Railroad runs two steam locomotives, No. 464 - a Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-2 K-27 class Mikado type built in 1903 for the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. The second is No. 152 - a Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-6-0 "ten-wheeler" built in 1920 for the Alaska Railroad. 2016 tickets for the village including the 40 minute train ride are: Adult (13-59) $15, Senior (60+) $14, Child (25 months - 12 years) $12, 24 months and younger are free. Village Only tickets are: Adult (13-59) $10, Senior (60+) $9, Child (25 months - 12 years) $8, 24 months and younger are free. Enjoy costumed villagers, live entertainment, model trains and craft demonstrations, holiday music and visits with Santa. November 25-27, December 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 20-23, 27-30 from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m.
Huckleberry Railroad Departures take place at 5:00 pm, 5:50 pm, 6:40 pm and 7:30 pm. Additional trains, if necessary, depart at 8:20 pm, 9:10 pm, and 10 pm.
Crossroads Village is also open Mondays for a "Drive-Through ONLY" on December 5, 12, 19, 24, 26 and Christmas Eve, December 24 from 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm. $5.00 per vehicle (cannot accommodate buses)
Check the Huckleberry Railroad website for more details.
The North Pole Express - Steam Railroading Institute
Owosso to Ashley, Michigan
photo: Steam Railroading Institute
The Steam Railroading Institute operates the Pere Marquette Railway No. 1225, a 2-8-4 Berkshire type built in 1941 by the Lima Corporation. The North Pole Express trip consists of a one hour run from Owosso, Michigan to the Village of Ashley with a two hour layover to participate in Ashley's Country Christmas events, followed by the one hour run back to Owosso.
Visit the Steam Railroading Institute website for more details about scheduling and pricing. Most trips sell out well in advance.
The Christmas Express - Little River Railroad
Coldwater to Quincy, Michigan
photo: Little River Railroad
The Little River Railroad operates two steam locomotives, No. 110 - a 4-6-2 Pacific type built in 1911, and No. 1 an 0-4-0T tank engine with frame and wheels built in 1908. The Christmas Express runs from Coldwater to Quincy, Michigan on a 1 hour and 45 minute trip with a 30-minute stopover in Quincy to move the locomotive to the other end of the train for the return trip.
Check the Little River Railroad website for more details.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Lake Effect Living photographs
are the work and property of Sharon Pisacreta.