The Detroit United Railway

as written by Robert Michalka

Printing Delayed – Updated Estimate will be posted in Spring 2018.

The Rochester Historical Commission presents: Rochester and the Detroit United Railway

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Rochester and the Detroit United Railway is a story of the Flint Division of the Detroit United Railway (DUR) and the communities along the DUR Flint Division route.  Spanning some 300 pages, this beautiful hardcover book contains over 150 photographs, many never previously published, railway maps and even a copy of an actual train schedule from 1927.  In addition to this rich historical archieve, ten short stories have been included about people, places and unique features along the DUR.  Not only is this fascinating book about Rochester, but it also features other communities along the DUR: Detroit, Royal Oak, Stoney Creek, Washington, Romeo, Almont, Imlay City, Lake Orion, Oxford, Ortonville, and Flint. 

The arrival of the Michigan Central Railroad in 1872 connected Rochester to Detroit, providing fast passenger and efficient freight service.  Rochester was no longer isolated and it was now possible to receive freight and ship products beyond the local area. The Michigan Air Line Railway reached Rochester in 1879 from Richmond and connected Rochester to Pontiac in 1880.

With railroad service, the town grew.  The downtown area was well established and industry was thriving with flour mills, two grain elevators, a knitting mill, paper mill, sugar mill, foundry, and numerous small industries.  Roads had been improved, but remained inadequate, as they were often impassable due to poor weather conditions.  A round trip to Detroit with a horse and buggy took the majority of a day with two days needed for a horse and wagon.

In the 1890s, a new type of railway was being built called the “electric interurban railway”.  These railways were intended to supplement the steam railways by providing fast, frequent, and local service for passengers and light freight.  One of these electric railways arrived in Rochester in 1899, changing regional transportation and the way of life for many people.  The Flint Division of the Detroit United Railway joined Rochester with Royal Oak and Detroit to the south; Romeo, Almont and Imlay City to the northeast; Lake Orion, Oxford and Flint to the northwest.  The Detroit United Railway altered the face and history of Rochester, Michigan.  The DUR was a major employer, providing frequent and fast passenger and freight services.

A note about the Author:

Robert Michalka is a life-long resident of Rochester, Michigan.  Having been employed by the Rochester Paper Mill and now retired superintendent for the Adrian & Blissfield Railroad, he is an avid railroad enthusiast.  His passion for trains began as a small child when an engineer on a steam locomotive waved to him at the Main Street railroad crossing in Rochester.  This experience and many more would inspire Robert to begin his collection of DUR-related materials.  He has painstakingly assembled this narrative over the past twenty three years, traveling as far as Arizona to collect film negatives to complete this project.  A dedicated member of the Rochester Historical Commission for the past twenty five years, Robert’s work is a testament to historical preservation and education.