Date of Defense




First Advisor

Dr. Michael Chiarappa

Second Advisor

Dr. Kristin Szylvian


The city of Cadillac, Michigan, incorporated in 1877, was founded as the village of Clam Lake in 1871. Like many others, the town sprang up along the right-of-way of the north-bound Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad, initially as a camp site for the railroad construction crews working through Wexford County. Sixteen years later, Cadillac became a stop on the Toledo, Ann Arbor & North Michigan Railway, which ran northwest from its namesake cities to the Lake Michigan shoreline.

For the next 97 years, Cadillac was served by trains running along these two sets of tracks, though the actual ownership of each track would change repeatedly. This near-century of dual-road operation has left Cadillac with a rich rail tradition. Now, only the former Toledo, Ann Arbor & North Michigan route survives, the ex-Grand Rapids & Indiana track having been abandoned and removed in the 1980s. Today, Cadillac's railroad heritage is slowly, but surely, fading away.

This paper seeks to support a two-part thesis: First, Cadillac has been profoundly affected by its two rail lines, in terms of population, politics, and prosperity. Second, the city is in danger of losing the structural legacies left by these railroads due to inadequate preservation efforts that can be - indeed, need to be - improved.

The first portion of this work will focus on the actual arrivals of the city's lines in the latter part of the 19th century: When did they come, Why did they come, Where did they come from, and Where were they going to? The second section will look at each line's zenith in Cadillac during the first half of the 20th century, continuing up to the end of rail passenger service in the city shortly after World War II. The final portion of the paper will explore the end of these railroads as dynamic forces within Cadillac, and the successes and failures in retaining the physical remains of the two roads, as well as suggestions on how to ensure the preservation of Cadillac's most important railroad structures.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only