OUR CHARLOTTE TRAIN is part of the Grand Valley Rail Road that ran from Jackson to Grand Rapids and was completed on January 1. 1870. At that time, two major railroads controlled rail traffic between Detroit and Chicago: the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern (controlled by “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbuilt in New York), and the Michigan Central (controlled by a consortium of Boston bankers). When the Southern built a feeder line to Grand Rapids from their mainline in Kalamazoo, The Michigan Central leased the Grand Valley line (from their mainline in Jackson) to compete for the same trade. Six years later, the Commodore bought the Michigan Central, gaining a monopoly on all rail transportation in the Detroit/Chicago region.
Vanderbuilt’s company became the New York Central and later Penn Central and Conrail. Conrail sold this branch-line to the Grand Trunk Western who sold it to the Charlotte Southern in 1999. The Charlotte Southern provides freight service between the Grand Trunk to the north, and the Eaton Farm Bureau Cooperative on M-50. The Old Road Dinner Train makes a leisurely 2-hour round trip through historic Charlotte and the countryside east of town.