Brand new C-424, C&M 314 among other older C&M units
An Introduction to the
Chicago & Mackinac Railroad
Back to Top of
Page
Home

HISTORY:
The Chicago & Mackinac Railroad (C&M) represents what could have been.  It is a fictional
joint venture with the Pennsylvania, Soo Line and  Canadian National railroads to provide a
"Bridge" from Canada and Northern Michigan to Chicago and the West.   It was formed to
bypass much of the rail congestion surrounding the other routes, mainly around Chicago
but also around the Metropolitan Detroit areas.  

The goal of the Chicago & Mackinac Railroad is to facilitate timely, efficient and cost
effective east and westbound rail movement from the north and east to Chicago and the
West.  In the 1960's, it was no secret that the Pennsylvania Railroad was trying to divest
itself of it's line in Western Michigan (the old Grand Rapids and Indiana line and if they were
successful, the Chicago & Mackinac could have been a reality and it might have looked
something like this!


LOCALE:
Much like the real-life Detroit & Mackinac Railroad, which never made
it all the way to it's namesake Detroit, the Chicago & Mackinac has yet
to make it all the way to Chicago, however, if prosperity ever hits, a
direct Chicago connection could materialize.  The southern terminus
of the C&M is currently Fort Wayne, Indiana where it's main interchange
is with it's financial partner, the Pennsylvania Railroad, where other
connections include the New York Central, the Wabash and all Western
railroads.  The northern terminus of the C&M is Mackinaw City, Michigan
where the C&M makes connections to St. Ignace, in Michigan's Upper
Peninsula, via the Chief Wawatam.  
                                                                        
 Click to Enlarge

"THE CHIEF":











The "Chief" is (was) a railroad car ferry that runs year round from Mackinaw City to St.
Ignace.  The Straits of Mackinac was home to several railroad car ferries through the years
starting in 1882, however the most famous and long lasting was the Chief Wawatam.  The
Chief was build in 1911 and ran through 1984 when it was finally retired.

Because of Mackinaw City residents complained about the Chief's smoke and soot, in the
Spring of 1968, the Chief was temporarily retired.  It was replaced by the railroad car barge,
The Manistee, which was powered by the tug Muskegon.  The experiment failed when the
operations was confronted by ice in December.  The Chief, equipped with an ice breaking
hull, resumed its duties in January 1969.

The Chief had 4 tracks and a 26 car capacity.  It was 339 feet long and was of steel
construction.  Rail cars were loaded from the front and was fitted with staterooms for
passengers.  The Chief's final run was on August 21, 1984.


LOCALE (continued):
At St. Ignace, the C&M connects with the Soo Line who in turn, interchanges with all of the
Canadian and Northern Michigan railroads, including the DSS&A, the LS&I, DM&IR,
Canadian National and Canadian Pacific.                            

The current C&M is modeled from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Mackinaw City.  It utilizes the
ex-PRR tracks from Fort Wayne to Traverse City and the ex-C&O (ex-Pere Marquette)
tracks from Traverse City to Petoskey, Michigan, then back to the ex-PRR to Mackinaw
City.  Major cities modeled are Grand Rapids, Comstock Park yard (just north of GR),
Cadillac, Traverse City, Petoskey and Mackinaw City, with various other sidings and
industries along the way.


ERA / MOTIVE POWER:
The Chicago & Mackinac is currently set in 1967, just prior to the Penn Central merger of
1968.  The railroad has functioned for years using second-hand ALCO 1st generation
motive power.  However, because of it's unsurpassed customer service and a very
aggressive sales force, the C&M has recently experienced an increase in on-line car
loadings as well as an increase bridge traffic.  To help accommodate this increase in
business, the C&M has ordered new motive power, in the form of ALCO C-424's.  


LAYOUT DESIGN:
The original Chicago & Mackinac was housed in a 1,200+ square foot Michigan basement.  
Typically 12 or more crew members would operate the layout.  The design of this, the
Second C&M has been ongoing for several years and has proven difficult to fit into a
fraction of the space occupied by the original railroad.  It now resides in the better part of a
two car garage in Pleasanton, California.  

The layout room was completed in early 2004 (all walls were insulated, sheet-rocked and
painted, an insulated ceiling was installed and an outside vent gas heater along with an air
conditioning unit were also installed. Finally, I added four extra electrical circuits to the
existing electrical box.  Layout construction began shortly thereafter, in February 2004.  

The layout is multi-leveled, and is a partial mushroom design.  There is approximately 300'
of mainline track.  It was designed for freelance prototypical operations and is a point-to-
point layout with staging (interchange) at each end and interchange with other railroads
along the way.  The south staging, Fort Wayne, is a six track loop with additional stub end
tracks.  The north staging is the boat ferry at Mackinaw City with several stub end tracks.  

Besides the staging yards, the C&M interchanges with the Ann Arbor Railroad in Cadillac
and the C&O in Traverse City.  When the railroad is complete, there will be a short branch
line to Kalkaska, Michigan, a branch line out of Petoskey to the town of Harbor Springs and
an interchange with the Manistee & Northeastern (plus a branchline) out of Traverse City.


OPERATIONS:
The first operating session took place in June 2005, about 18 months after the start of
construction.  The railroad will concentrate on keeping it's joint venture partners happy by
keeping the mainline full of bridge traffic, however, the newly acquired customers in local
industries need to be serviced also.  Although there has been a decline in overall rail
passenger service, the C&M prides itself on providing top-of-the-line passenger
transportation.  Scheduled passenger trains could include the morning commuter, the local,
The Resorter (an all Pullman train from Chicago to Mackinaw City) and the Night Mail (yes,
the C&M has one of the last Post Office mail contracts ever signed!).

The C&M is powered by EasyDCC with all wireless throttles.  It utilizes CC & WB made from
library card pockets and 3X5 cards.  Waybills are color coded by loading type to assist
operators in proper loading and routing of cars.   The first timetable has been developed.  
All unscheduled trains currently run as extras.

More information to follow as the railroad progresses.

Thanks for checking us out.  We look forward to seeing you again.

The Chicago & Mackinac Railroad
From the smoke, you see why the locals wanted to retire the Chief Wawatam.