Thursday, August 10, 2017

Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company (Part -1)


“Let’s Talk a Little About 45 Years of Service”

By Scott W. Bundschuh

Both parts of this story on the Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company came about totally by accident. From my writing perspective, this type of research and story is way out of my comfort zone. As each of you know, I usually write about lighthouses, lifesaving stations and those men/women who put their lives on the line. The reason, I decided to take this type of story on is, I kept hearing from some of my devoted readers and my spouse I should try to write about something: “NEW.”  After careful consideration and talking a little more about this with my spouse and after a couple of days of pondering what my next move was. I figured what the heck, let’s go for it! I’m hoping all of you enjoyed reading something a little different from what usually appears in my monthly contribution to this outstanding newspaper.

So how did this all started. One afternoon, I was sitting in my favorite recliner and I had just finished going through some of my research notes. After looking them over again, I decided it was time start outlining what I was going to write about and how this story was going to be put together. As I continued to work through my outline, I couldn’t help wondering if this type of story I was now going to put pencil to paper was going to be HIT” or simply a “FLOP!” Hopefully the feedback I will get from some of you will be positive once you read through my story titled: “Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigational Company.” (Let’s Talk A Little About 45 Years of Service”)

The Early Years of Michigan Railways

In the early years of the short line railways along the: “Territory of Michigan” the: “Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company” began operations approximately three to four years after 1900’s. What struck me is these type of local/state railways and navigation companies during the early part of the 1900’s played an important role in the early development of other mainline railway transportation companies and the early years of shipping in/along the lower certain portions of the: “Territory of Michigan.”

Author Notes:

            On the 26th day of January 1837, Michigan became a state just a little after 12:00 p.m.”

Alabaster Township (Historical Perspective)


In 1837, Alabaster Township was named after a variety of gypsum that was discovered by American Geologists: “Douglass Houghton” & “Bela Hubbard.” These types of deposits were found beneath the clear waters of Saginaw Bay. In 1866, Alabaster Township was established and is part of Iosco County. According to historical state records from the U.S. Census Bureau the township takes up twenty-one point one square miles of land. The population at that time was listed as 487.  

Author Notes:

“Douglass Houghton from the 21st day of September 1809 to the 13th day of October 1845, was an American Geologist and Physician. He was primarily known for his early exploration of Michigan’s: “Keweenaw Peninsula. He was also Michigan’s first State Geologist."


On the 21st day of September 1809, Douglas Houghton was born in Troy, New York to Judge Jacob Sr. & Mary Lydia (Douglass) Houghton. Based on some records I read through in Ancestry.com, the Houghton’s had six children (Four boys: Alured, Alexander, Richard and Jacob Jr., and two daughters: Lydia and Sarah Houghton.) Douglas died at the age of thirty-six, on the 13th day of October 1845. He was laid to rest in Elmwood Cemetery located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.





 Author’s Notes:

“Bela Hubbard from 23rd day of April 1814 to 13th day of June 1896 was a naturalist, geologist, writer, historian, surveyor, explorer, lawyer, real estate dealer, lumberman and civic leader during the early development of the Territory of Michigan.”

Alabaster, Michigan is situated along the shores of: “Lake Huron” is the: “Historic District of Alabaster, Michigan.” Sometime in 1891, the: “Western Plaster Works” had several processing facilities, a few shops and several offices that housed some of its key personnel. During that same year, an out of control fire destroyed all the key mining structures. How that devastating fire started is still in question and why it occurred is still open for debate. From all the records I went through, those same structures that were lost during the fire were reconstructed within a


In 1898, the “Western Plaster Works” changed its name to the: “Alabaster Company.” Approximately four years (1902) later, the “Alabaster Company” was incorporated and the name was changed to: “United States Gypsum Corporation.” In 1904, the: “Historic District of Alabaster, Michigan” or the District” as it was known during the early years of the “Territory of Michigan,” had a very large open pit gypsum mine called the: “Alabaster Gypsum Quarry.”

 Also, situated within the “District” were some outbuildings and thirty-six homes that were constructed on four hundred plus acres of prime real estate. Each of those new homes were constructed as a: “Story and half wooden frame houses with gable roofs.”

Author’s Note:

            “During the mid-1990s the elevated tramway and associated structures were completely demolished.”

Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company


on the 30th day of June 1904, the: “Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company” was incorporated and began short line operations. The railway continued service for forty-five more years. The Chicago Lumber Company were the original owners of the steam powered barge known as the: “M. T. Greene.” In 1905, the main office and those in charge of the company were:

  • M. T. Greene, Chicago, Illinois
  • J. G. Keith, Chicago, Illinois
  • W. A. Avery, Detroit, Michigan

Author’s Note:
“The M. T. Greene was built on the 5th day of October 1887 under U.S. Registry No.: 91944. Ownership changed on the 28th day of February 1928. On the 19th day of March 1928, the steam barge caught fire four miles north of Bridgeburg, Ontario while on the Niagara River. The fire was so bad the vessel was deemed a total loss.”

On the 27th day of March 1905, located in Chicago, Illinois, the “Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company” were the new owners of the steamer barge that was built by: “W. R. Linn, located in Gibraltar, Michigan.” Two years (1906) later, the “Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company” opened a rail line from Alabaster to Alabaster Junction which at that time was close to: “Tawas City, Michigan.”

Erie & Michigan Railway Equipment


  • Steam Locomotives: Two (2)
  • Freight Cars: One Hundred & Twenty-four (124)
  • Work Equipment: Six (6)

Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Co. (Management)


Below I’ve listed the: “Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company” board of directors, general & vessel agents, and others that were part of the railway & navigation company along with their other office locations. These listings by locations were during the early years of operations:

New York Area:

  • Hewitt Boice, Chairman of the Board Office: Kingston, New York
  • Chas. R. Brown, President, Office: Kingston, New York
  • F. A. Keith, General Agent, Office: Buffalo, New York

Chicago, Illinois

  • Otto Bismarck Englisch, Vice President, General Manager - Director, Office: 184 LaSalle Street, 9th Floor.
  • A. N. Eastman, General Attorney, Office: 184 LaSalle Street, 9th Floor.
  • A.W. Dowler, General Freight & Passenger Agent: Office: 184 LaSalle Street, 9th Floor. Illinois
  • G. A. Platz, Auditor, Office: 184 LaSalle Street, 9th Floor.
  • John Prindiville & Son, Vessel Agents, Office: 184 LaSalle Street, 9th Floor.

Alabaster Township, Michigan

  • Thos F. Robinson, Superintendent Railways
  • Captain P. F. Powrie, Superintendent Boat Line
  • A.C. Hebel, General Agent

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

  • C. F. P. Pullen, Treasurer
  • E. A. Herzbers, General Agent

Other Supporting Locations

  • Chas. F. Duncombe, Secretary, Office: Fort Dodge, Iowa
  • P. A. Rider, General Agent, Office: Cleveland, Ohio
  • C H. Newman, General Agent, Office: Superior, Wisconsin
  • Aug. Vanselow, General Agent, Office: South Chicago
  • O. S. Coate, General Agent, Office: Detroit, Michigan
  • C. E. McCaugland, General Agent, Office: Sandusky, Ohio
  • F. A. Keith, General Agent, Office: Erie, Pennsylvania

In 1929, the “Historic District of Alabaster, Michigan,” also contained the short line railway that was built on an elevated marine tramway that ran a little over a “1.5 miles” out into the deeper portions of Saginaw Bay.

Quick Stop & Discussion Point


Before we go on with this story let’s stop and discuss a one of the key board members who made up the governing group of: “Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company.” The first board member I will talk about is: “Otto Bismarck Englisch, Vice President, General Manager & Director” of the: “Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company”

Otto B. Englisch (The Early Years)

On the 20th day of April 1873, Henrietta W. & August welcomed into the world, Otto Bismarck Englisch. From all the historical records that were available, Otto’s birthplace was listed as: “Calumet, Michigan” located in the county of: “Houghton.” The earlier years of Otto’s young life were spent in and around his home town of Calumet. The 1880, United States Census Records listed Otto’s age as: “Seven years old,” and his family was still living in Houghton County, Michigan. Thirteen years (1893) later, Otto B. Englisch married, S. Alice Knobe. Based on what I know so far, the couple moved prior to 1910. The U.S. Census listed the couple also lived in Chicago, Illinois, Cook County, from 1910 through 1930. In one of the documents I came across both Otto and S. Alice were both association with the: “Daughters of the Revolution.”

Author’s Note:

            Towards the end of this story, I will talk a little more about Otto Bismarck Englisch and the troubles he had with the legal system.”

Otto Bismarck Englisch passed away on the 20th day of October 1935, in Beverly Hills, California and was laid to rest in: “Oak Wood Cemetery.”

The “Carrier”


The “Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company” was constructed along the northeastern portion of the southern peninsula of the: “Territory of Michigan.” Early records state the short line railway and navigation company was also known as the: "Carrier." During those early years of operation, the railway & navigation company was noted as a: “Single-track, standard-gauge steam railroad.” The main line of the railway extended some four point three miles in a southerly direction from the Alabaster Junction (Near Tawas Point, Michigan) to Alabaster, Michigan.

Author’s Note:

            The “Carrier” had a small stretch of main line track that ran from Alabaster Junction to East Tawas and Standish. The navigation company served vessels that traveled from Alabaster, Michigan to other sea ports along the shores of Lake Huron.”

The “Carrier” also had a little less than two miles of yard tracks and few local sidings. It also operated along a roadway that embraced some: “6.090 miles” of track. Ere was also some: “1.2 miles” of yard tracks and several sidings located in Alabaster, Michigan which at that time was also owned by the: “U.S. Gypsum Company.”

Author’s Note:

            “In 1901, U.S. Gypsum Company was founded. Their headquarters was once located in Chicago, Illinois and their main industry was listed as Building Materials.”

The mainline and the remaining of its “0.655 miles” of yard tracks, which included each of the sidings was leased from the: “Detroit & Mackinac Railway Company.” On the 30th day of June 1917, miles of track linked to the short line railway was listed as just a little over: “Four Miles.” This also included a mainline that was just a little over: “1.5 miles” and it was also leased from the: “Detroit & Mackinac Railway Company.”

Operated or Leased


  • Leased from the Detroit & Mackinac Railway: 4.3 miles Alabaster Junction to Alabaster, Michigan
  • Purchased from United States Gypsum Company: 1.7 miles at Alabaster, Michigan

On the 1st day of January 1948, the “Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company” return some of their Alabaster, Michigan Branch Railway Lines back to the: Detroit & Mackinac Railway Company.” In 1949, the “Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company” ceased operations.

An Era Ends


On the 1st day of January 1970, “Erie & Michigan Railway & Navigation Company Inc.” a “Domestic Prit Company” was again incorporated in the “State of Michigan.” In 2008, their address was listed as: “2025 Douglas Drive, Tawas City, Michigan, 48763.” On the 7th day of May 2009, the business was: “Dissolved” after forty-four some odd years after being incorporated.

What’s in Part 2

            Part 2 of this story revolves around some additional research I did on Otto Bismarck Englisch, some of the other board members and a deeper dive into the railway and navigation company. As all of you know, this type of story takes time to develop. I still have a bunch of research material to read through and put together. Hopefully each of you will enjoy reading Part 2. When the next installment will appear is September 2017.