Railfan Sites in Michigan

A self-guiding railfan tour

Railfan, railfan--where do you see trains in Michigan?

Mapwork: If you're going to be looking for railfan locations, you'll need an industrial strength map resource. I definitely recommend you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work. You can find information here about Railfan Maps that are available.

Cities And Sites

(1) With thanks to Joseph Oates, who winters in the south, and spends warmer times as a camping vagabond, driving around recording railfan site data. We hope to hear more from him in the future.

Another source of info is Todd's Railfan Guides to Michigan, which is a pretty comprehensive site (note that it was last updated in 2015), with photos, maps and text railfan guide info.

DURAND (August 7, 2020)

In Michigan, few railfan locations are as well-known as Durand. This was the crossing of the Grand Trunk Western’s Huron - Chicago and Detroit - Grand Haven/Muskegon main lines; GTW also had a branch to Bay City. For good measure, the Ann Arbor’s Toledo - Frankfort main also crossed here. The GTW’s line to Grand Rapids was sold to Central Michigan Railway in the late 1980s and was later truncated to Owosso.

The Amtrak “Blue Water” runs daily between Chicago and historic Port Huron once a day in each direction. The branch north is Huron and Eastern (HESR), which is owned by Genesse and Wyoming. Tuscola and Saginaw Bay is now called Great Lakes Central (GLC). There is no more coal going anywhere through Durand as most of the coal burners are shut down or serviced via Lakestate through Flint to the east of Durand. Central Michigan Railway is no more as that was taken over by HESR.

Durand Yard (owned by CN) but worked by HESR. It is northwest of the crossing, but it is very security conscious, and is not a railfan location.

The place to watch trains in the area is at the famous station. From I-69 northwest of town, take exit 118, and go southeast on MI-71/Monroe Road. This will take you to Durand road, and you should take a right to go south. After crossing the tracks/south end yard lead, take a left onto Main Street. Cross the same tracks twice more, and take a right onto Russel St. then a right on Ann Arbor St. to get to the station. Don't worry if you miss a street name, because there are excellent Amtrak signs to the station.

Since you'll be north of the station, you might consider some other locations for morning CN trains. The 1905 Durand Union Station has been restored and serves as Amtrak's waiting room. It has museum displays inside and a model railroad with limited operating hours. Depot View Park, near the business district, is also a possibility for photos. Eats are available at a number of establishments. However, unless you're concerned about photos, the station is the place to watch trains in the area. Be advised, however, that the Port Huron - Chicago main is hot, and you should be alert at all times.

The Railroad Days festival is held each May, usually the weekend after Mothers Day.

Mike (mike31_48823@yahoo.com) provided this updated information to us.

GRANDVILLE (July 30, 2002)

Grandville is a southwest suburb of Grand Rapids, and the CSX line thru town carries Canadian Pacific and Amtrak beside its own CSX freights. It's a pretty busy line, and one that offers interesting variety.

From I-196, take exit 70A to MI-11/Wilson Avenue SW/28th Street SW. Go right on MI-11 for just one block, and then take a right and go south on Wilson Avenue SW. In the area of the tracks, the Grandville Post Office has a public parking lot that offers good, off-railroad property access for photos and viewing. Double track thru the Grand Rapids area ends here, at mile point 6.0, and the signals for the switch are in clear view.

Frograil thanks Steven F. Shick for the information about this railfan site.

HILLSDALE (August 29, 1999)

A county seat of some 8,000 folks, Hillsdale is also the home of an engine facility for shortline Indiana Northeastern. It's right downtown, and the tracks run east-west.

With thanks to Joseph Oates, who winters in the south, and spends warmer times as a camping vagabond, driving around recording railfan site data. We hope to hear more from him in the future.

THREE OAKS (November, 1999)

The TRAINS Magazine issue for November 1999 has a photo of the ex-Michigan Central station in this small town of about 2,000 souls. At the station there is a lot of green grass, some benches, and a picnic table is also visible. This is a somewhat different place to watch trains, as the railroad is owned by Amtrak and all trains are, therefore, passenger trains. Currently, TRAINS reports that 13 trains a day go thru here, and since most of them are in daylight hours, this seems to be a good spot to see the latest in what Amtrak has to offer. However, bring fast film, as this trackwork is being upgraded physically and electronically to allow for 110 mph trains!

Three Oaks is in the extreme southwest corner of the state. From I-94, take exit 4, US-12, and head east for about 5 miles. US-12 goes right thru town, and in the center of the village, go north on Elm Street. The tracks are about 2 blocks north of US-12, and you'll easily find the station.

[Note: This material was adapted from info provided by TRAINS Magazine in November of 1999. If you don't subscribe to TRAINS, well, you should. It's an excellent publication. Get on its web site here.]

WIXOM (December 4, 2001)

From I-96 south of the town, take exit 159 and go north on South Wixom Road. You'll go by a Ford assembly plant on your left. There is an industrial spur track entering the plant, and it comes from the CSX main to the east. In the village of Wixom, the street will T with Pontiac Trail. On the northwest quadrant of the intersection with the CSX tracks, South Wixom Road and Pontiac Trail is a parking lot for an ice cream parlor. There's a gazebo in the lot, and a large, old grain elevator is close by. Plenty of calories and trains, all in the same spot!

Bob Thatcher provided the input for this posting.

WYOMING (July 30, 2002)

From I-196 southwest of Grand Rapids, take exit 72, and go over the tracks to Chicago Drive SW. Take a right on Chicago Drive towards Grand Rapids. You'll parallel the CSX Wyoming Yard, and then change to a more easterly bias. About 7 blocks east of the point of the bend itself, take a left to go north on Judd Avenue SW. Judd ends at the northeast end of the yard, and the area has become a popular railfan location. There is plenty of off-railroad property for photos and viewing.

Frograil thanks Steven F. Shick for the information about this railfan site.

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