Name index
Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo Interurban
Grand Rapids, Holland, and Chicago Interurban
Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, and Muskegon Interurban
Interurban overview.

Name index

An index of the names and graduation years of Godwin alumni from 1927 to 1971 has been completed. Left clicking on a name will take you to the annual page for that person. In those years where no annuals presently exist - 1932 to 1936, and 1943, you will be taken to the class photograph, and if that doesn't exist, the graduation name list. In a few cases even these don't exist. There is still some confusion with class year 1931.

For now I am primarily interested in errors. In almost all cases the names were taken literally from the annual pages, and if those were not available, from the class lists in the graduation announcements. Yet even there, differences in spelling for same names occur. e.g., one sees "Vandenbrink" and "Vanden Brink" even amongst members of the same family. In other cases there are typos in the lists or annual entries. In a few cases these were corrected.

Please contact me if you see any problems with the list.

Left click below for the index.

Name index

Interurban overview

A Wikipedia piece on interurbans defines them as so:

The term "interurban" was coined by Charles L. Henry, a state senator in Indiana. The Latin, inter urbes, means "between cities". The interurban fit on a continuum between urban street railways and full-fledged railroads. George W. Hilton and John F. Due identified four characteristics of an interurban:

* Electric power for propulsion.
* Passenger service as the primary business.
* Equipment heavier and faster than urban streetcars.
* Operation on tracks in city streets, and in rural areas on roadside tracks or private right-of-way.

The definition of "interurban" is necessarily blurry. Some town streetcar lines evolved into interurban systems by extending streetcar track from town into the countryside to link adjacent towns together, and sometimes by the acquisition of a nearby interurban system. There was a large amount of consolidation of lines following initial construction. Other interurban lines became, effectively, light rail systems with no street running whatsoever, or they became primarily freight-hauling railroads due to a progressive loss of their initial passenger service over the years.

In 1905 the United States Census Bureau defined an interurban as "a street railway having more than half its trackage outside municipal limits." It drew a distinction between "interurban" and "suburban" railroads. A suburban system was oriented toward a city center in a single urban area and served commuter traffic. A regular railroad moved riders from one city center to another city center and also moved a substantial amount of freight. The typical interurban similarly served more than one city, but it served a smaller region and made more frequent stops, and it was oriented to passenger rather than freight service

Interubans were mostly, but not exclusively, Midwest phenomena, existing between about 1900 and 1930. By 1930 the Great Depression, cheaper cars, and more and better roads, put most interurban systems out of business, and those same forces were beginning to affect railroad passenger service. Only WWII kept railroad passenger service viable for another decade or so. In their heyday, one could ride interubans great distances, as shown in a map of the southern Michigan interurban system below.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.

A famous publicity photo - if only in interurban circles - shows an interurban car outpacing a biplane, doing something like 97 miles per hour in the process. Although not always geared in that way, interurban cars could indeed go very fast in open, flat areas.

The extent of the interurban system in lower Michigan in and around the mid 1920s can be seen in the image below.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.

Three interurban systems started - or, depending on your point of view, ended - in Grand Rapids. The map below shows the three systems, the Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo, the Grand Rapids to Holland and Chicago, and the Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, and Muskegon.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.

The inland route indicated, meaning no Grand River crossings for the two southern routes, did not happen for some reason. Perhaps because it would have required a number of crossings over the Grand Rapids and Indiana and the New York Central tracks, which would have required expensive trestles. Or perhaps it was because a bridge across the rive was required in any case for the Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, and Muskegon line.

At its peak one could get to most of the major cities in lower Michigan by interurban. By the late 1920s automobiles were beginning to have a dramatic affect on interurban and passenger train ridership, and many interurbans failed. The Division Avenue Bus Line began in the 1920's, provided the transportation between about 68th Street and Grand Rapids left vacant when the interurban went bankrupt in 1928.

In many states the interurban right of ways were shared with power company transmission facilities. It is no coincidence that the Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo track is now occupied by high voltage towers. The tracks themselves were torn out and sold, with the exception of a few streets, where they were simply paved over. Hills existed on 34th and maybe 35th streets up through at least the 1950's. When the roads were leveled later on the rails and track ties were still there.

During their period of operation, interurbans were not allowed to cross standard railroad tracks at grade level. So elaborate tresses had to be built to get the interurban cars up and over any railroad tracks, and provide enough clearance for the trains to go under them. The trestles were large, probably expensive, and typically made of wood, as the ca. 1910 photograph of an interurban climbing a trestle near Galesburg, MI, shows. Interurban motors were quite powerful, and unlike standards railroad trains, interurban cars could negotiate substantial inclines.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.

The Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo line used a steel section of bridge to cross 28th street and the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad track.


Like railroads, the quality of the depots on interurban lines varied widely.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

1905 - unknown location.

On the left, above, is the Oakleigh Street, Grand Rapids, MI, interurban depot. What was inside is unclear. There's no obvious chimney, so maybe it wasn't even heated. Just enough to get passengers out of the weather, if not warm? It's doubtful there would have been a station agent. Depots like this were also at Cutlerville. When the interurban systems failed, it's likely that depots like this one disappeared quickly, without a trace, since they didn't even have foundations.

On the right, above, is the second station at Berlin, MI - the first burned in 1913. A brick structure, with both passenger and freight section, and clearly manned by station agent. The station was clearly of the same quality as smaller stations on most standard railroads. The building still exists in year 2012 as a restaurant.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

Waiting room - Indianapolis - 1905.

Coaches and Equipment.

In addition to standard passenger coaches, there was a variety of rolling stock used for things like construction, repair, snow plowing, and special kinds of delivery. A few examples are shown below.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

Above, an interurban coach - built 1914 for Michigan United Traction Company. The image above, right, shows the interior. At the right, in front, is a sign saying "St. Louis Car Co." Lower down, one could buy the Grand Rapids Herald for 3-cents. The seats were covered in leather, and appear to be quite comfortable. On the larger cars, a smoking section was located at one end of the car.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.

As is always the case, the rich and wonderful, and-or the bigwigs at a company, could travel in a style unavilable to those of lesser means. The custom coach shown above is a private car named Josephine. It was built in 1903, and allowed the important person a wonderful view out a large window. Looking at the chair, it's not clear whether slaves fed the important person grapes or wine.

The interurban track that ran south, west of the old Rackett swimming pool (apparently filled in as of year 2000), started operation in 1916, and ceased operation in 1928.

In route, the interurbans on this line sometimes reached speeds of over 80 miles per hour. The tracks were built to heavy rail standards - 80 pound rails - and the route between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo was straight much of the time. The coaches were up to 70 feet long, weighed as much as 67 tons, and were among the largest used on any of the numerous interurbans of the time. Below is an article from the May 16, 1914, issue of "Electric Railway Journal" describing the coaches on the Grand Rapids - Kalamazoo line.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

The line never could be made to work at 2,400 volts, for practical reasons, and the voltage was dropped back to 1,200. Low voltage D/C has a short range - Edison started building a D/C system in NYC, but it required a power plant every few blocks. Using single phase A/C, which would have eliminated the need for costly substations for converting A/C to D/C, did not occur with any real success. By the time the technology was adapted for used on interurban cars,the systems mostly had D/C in place, and for compatibility reasons, that meant that new lines would also have to use D/C, or complicated and expensive schemes for using for A/C and D/C. With higher voltages, lower line losses, longer range, and the relative ease of going from high voltages to lower ones, a lot of interurban system overhead would have been eliminated, and the coaches could have been run for very little. Alas, the timing was such that this never happened. The technology of year 2013 would make this a solved problem, but the interurban systems are probably gone forever now, except for a few light rail systems here and there that one could either call trolley or interurban systems. The definition is blurred in year 2013 because of the enormous urban sprawl around the US, which often means that one city or town never really ends before the next one begins.

With maybe two stops, the coaches could average 55 miles per hour between GR and Kalamazoo, which rivals the downtown to downtown time that can be achieved in year 2012.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

The image above is a builder's photo of Michigan Electric's 802, one of the coaches that plied the run between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo between 1915 and 1928. It's likely the view at the left is of the back of the coach, since neither the headlight nor the "cow catcher" is seen Like steam engine companies, the St. Louis coach company took one or more photographs of each completed coach. Where these photos have survived, they have a lot of historical value, because they show the coach when new, and not the battered wrecks they often were just before being scarped.

The second image shows a coach being constructed at the St Louis Car Company. It is not the same coach as shown at the left, but shows how the coaches were typically constructed. Sadly, the plans for the series 800 coaches that went from Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo were apparently only thrown away recently. They would have been of great value to those attempting to restore a coach.

By Pantlind Hotel.

By Pantlind Hotel.

Pantlind Hotel - 2012.

Car 810, above, was one of seven especially large coaches, and had a smoking parlor in the back. These coaches were as heavy as passenger cars used on standard gauge railroads, and are probably the biggest ever built for interurban use. The photos in the top row, middle and left, dated 1922, are the same, but cropped differently somewhere. The one on the left shows just enough more of the building behind it to identify it as the Pantlind Hotel. The image at the right is the Pantlind Hotel in year 2012, and one can see the ornamental work along the roof line matches that of the photos at the left and middle, top row. It's not clear whether the car is sitting on Pearl or Monroe. Monroe is more likely, given the long roof line of brown brick. Some kind of convention was in progress at the time. The image at the left, bottom row, shows the old Pantlind Hotel, and streetcars or interurbans on two sides, suggesting it was long a stop for public transportation, no doubt dropping off passengers from Union train depot. The image at the right, bottom row, shows car 810 entering Grand Rapids.

On the right, bottom row, above, car 810 is arriving in Grand Rapids in November, 1915. It is going from left to right, based on the electric pole.

The image above shows a car on a Jackson/Battle Creek line, but it's likely that the Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo line was very similar in appearance. One can see the third rail on the bottom far right of the photograph. In the more practical, less densely populated world of the 1915 to 1930 time period, a rail with 1,200 volts of D.C. was tolerated. Lethal, fences apparently did exist in many places in an attempt to keep people off the right of way. Built in 2004, if the land could be found, an OSHA approved electric interurban would be hopelessly expensive.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

The photograph above, left, shows the shoe arrangement for the third rail. They were designed in such a way as to strip ice from the rail in the winter, and only one had to make contact with the rail in order for the car to move forward. This helped the car to get across breaks in the third rail - at depots for example.

Above, right, is an insulator on which the third rail was mounted. This one was found a ways south of 122nd Street, as the street numbers come out of Kalamazoo, on the Grand Rapids - Kalamazoo line. These are still commonly found along the right of way after 86 years, albeit it is less common to find one today that is not broken in some way. Apparently salvagers had no use for them and just tossed them to the side of the right of way. No doubt collectors have now gathered whatever unbroken ones that still exist.

It's possible that the interurban had an effect on the development of the area along Division Avenue, between about 28th and 44th Streets. Starter buildings, located near 32nd Street just south of the old Burger King, and near about 42nd Street, sitting by themselves, and intended to be the nucleus of rows of stores, like the old Burton Heights, Many of the streets in this same area were begun in the 1910 to 1920 time frame. It's likely that the intent was to use the interurban to get people to and from work in Grand Rapids. The stretch between 28th and about 44th streets was in reality a large real estate development effort, but until 1936 there was not a great deal of industry in the area.

For a capsule summary of the Michigan Electric Railway company, a view of what the Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo interurbans looked like, and a fascinating description of what happened to many of them, see Michigan Electric Railway #28. The story is similar in other states, and a number coaches have been spared total oblivion by spending years as cottages, restaurants, chicken coops, and storage sheds. Car 28 was used as a cottage. That, and the ingenuity, imagination, and skill of those railroad museum workers who have restored and rebuilt what is left of many.

The photographs below show a few more views of Michigan Electric 28 during the process of restoration.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

Standing, Norm Krentel

Orange paint is being applied in the left hand photograph. It was decided at some point in time that orange was the easiest color to see, and it became the standard color for interurban coaches, in part or in full.

The photos below show some roof line work done and being done on coach 28 at the Illinoise Railway Museum, about July 28, 2014.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

Work progresses on coach 28 as of late July, 2014, but apparently a lot remains to be done. Contributions to the project are always welcome, at the Illinois Railway Museum. One of the biggest items still needed is a set of powered trucks. Salvages always destroyed these to get at the copper. Where a suitable set of powered trucks will come from to complete the restoration remains to be seen.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

A mail car used on the Cleveland Electric Railway, in an April 11, 1908, photograph. The inside was set up like a standard railroad mail car. A mail contract would have provided good income for the line, and in later years even kept some railroad passenger trains running.

Construction equipment included special purpose cars, as show below. By 1908 most kinds of construction equipment was available in a portable - meaning movable - form. When a totally new track was laid, steam shovels could help with the cuts and fills, cement mixers with the construction of bridge abutments, culverts, and cattle crossings, and pile drivers for areas of loose soil, where secure supports were needed. All of these things were standard equipment by the end of the interurban building era.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

Stone crusher - 1908.

Track laying - 1908.

Standard work car - 1908.

Concrete mixer - 1908.

Large snow plow - 1904.

Large snow plows - 1904.

Snow cleared - 1905.

Platform locomotive car - 1904.

Special work car - 1908.

A unit like the special work car above would be used for anything from laying track and bridge pieces to creating cuts and fills along new track construction. It could reach just far enough beyond the end of the car that when place at the end of the track, all the functions necessary to put new track in place could be performed.


Interurban lines had to spend a great deal of money for power, which was really only coming into its own in 1900, when some of the earliest systems were being built.. None were able to run from A/C, perhaps largely because of compatibility problems with the vast amount of D/C that was already in place, which would have meant that in some cases high voltage A/C from a power company could have been stepped down for use on a line. In some cases the A/C power was not available anyway.

As a result, many of the interurban lines had to build power stations of various kinds to provide the D/C power used - 600 to 1200 volts. Some of the buildings were prototypical, in that, as shown below, they had a tower where the lines from a power company would be attached, and would run down to a genset - an A/C moter driving a D/C generator, which produced power for the line.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.

In other cases, a complete coal fired power plant was used. A generating station in Fruitport, MI, is shown below.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

Water tower.

The photograph on the left, first row, is a historic view of the Fruitport generating station. In part, the tracks shown lead to a car barn right next door, as shown in the middle photo, bottom row. "Development" has compeletely overtaken them today, and even by satellite one cannot discern that they ever existed.

In year 2012 the buildings above houses a company named Modular Systems. Looking at the photograph in the first row, above, at the right, the main tracks were located to the left, about one quarter mile. The main track bed can still be seen in aerial photos.

The photograph above labeled "water tower" contains a view of the track and a railroad car that brought coal and other supplies to the generating station. In most cases, power from a local power company was used instead to run a motor-generator pair to create the D/C needed for the lines. In this case a regular railroad line brought coal to the facility, and it was otherwise run like a small power plant. Being small, the cost of the power must have been very high indeed. The inside of one plant on the GR-GH-M line is shown below.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.

Whether this 1902 photograph is the inside of the Fruitport plant is not known here. These plants had to run, or at least be on standby, 24 hours a day, even when there was not much revenue being generated by the line. Being relatively low voltage D/C, the power did not travel far, and these "sub stations" had to be located at many places along a line.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.

January 25, 1908

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One can sense the huge size of the power plant in the photograph above of the Farmington, MI, plant. The role of central power plants was still evolving. It was probably not realized how expensive it would be, on a cost per kilowatt basis, to run a plant like this. Sadly, the means were not available in the early days of the interurban to use A/C power, and home power was only becoming common. When the means to run interurbans directly on A/C became available, it was both too late because of a changing world, and and too expensive to do a retrofit.

When power became available from the Croton and Rogers dams, and later, Hardy Dam, it was used to power the GR_M_H line. The stand alone power stations were then used as standbys, no doubt at huge cost. Sadly, the line would have been profitable with as few as 5 passengers or so per run but for the huge overhead costs, including power and interest on construction costs. The line's power plants were too small to be of interest to a power company, yet required 24/7 operation even to serve as backup power. Sadly, central power companies were just coming into their own at this time, and even residental power was new and novel

Power for the Grand Rapids - Kalamazoo line apparently used a set of what were for the time quite high volage lines - 72,000 to 110,000 vots. There was an interplay between the power companies of the day and the interurban lines. In 1915 or so, when the line was being built, houses, towns, factories, etc., were only beginning to be wired. Power companies built dams, and then had to figure out what to do with the power. For now, it appears that Consumer's Power built a transmission line between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo with the express intent of suppying power to the interurban line. The piece on the left, below, explains some of this:

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

June 1, 1915.

Three phase towers - 1908

The piece states the line could use power supplied by way of Lansing and Battle Creek, which was apparently also generated by dams. In the event the dams could not supply the power, say in the late summer months, steam power plants at the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo ends of the line could provide backup power. At points along the line substations would convert the A/C to D/C, albeit at a large cost, but A/C interurban systems simply weren't available at the time. Even the Boston MTA used D/C well into the 1960s, and might well yet - 660 volts, which is surpisingly close to the voltage used by the interurban systems some 40 to 60 years earlier.

This all makes sense, whether it is exactly right. It is unlikely the power company lines would follow just the route they do but for the needs of the interurban cars. Whether the transmission towers one sees today are the original ones is not completely clear, but photographs of the interurban depots suggests they are. And once the interurban failed, the power company simply kept the right of way and the lines, which are valuable in their own right in a day when it is almost impossible to site either a railroad track or a transmission line because of all of the legal hoops.

The situation seems to be that there was complicated interplay between the interurban systems and the power companies - it's even possible that in some cases the interurban lines provided a rallying point for evolving power companies, since the interban lines were the only thing for a while that used any appreciable amount of electricity. In true chicken and egg fashion, once the power was available, other uses were quickly found, and the same lines that provided power for the interurban lines could supply other uses. In time, higher capacity generating facilities and higher capacity power lines were needed, leading to the systems we have today.

The piece on the right, above, shows steel towers, called poles in their day, being preassembled before shipment. Two sets of three-phase power were accommodated, witht the "guard wire," or ground, along the top of the towers. Towers like these were used along the GR - Kalamazoo line, and carried 72,000 to 100,000 volts, quite advanced for 1915. In the early 1950s the towers carried lines with 150,000 volts. One could hear the corona buzz. Galvanized, the towers appear to be in excellent condition on that line, now after almost 100 years.


Maintenance of the interurban systems was likely little different than that of any other rail system, and included repair of coaches because of collisions. One item needing routine repair was the motors. The source above states that the motors and control battery weighed about 16 tons in the large coaches used on the GR <--> Kalamazoo line, or about 4 tons per motor. In the photo below one sees some kind of work being done on a couple of rotors.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

Fruitport, MI.

Fruitport, MI.

Wheaton, IL - yards and shop, 1905.

Wheaton, IL - shop interior, 1905.

In the photo at the left one can see a coach behind the right hand door. In the photo at the right one can see the activities in that part of the maintanence area. Like the railroads, lathes of many sizes were needed for everything from turning wheels to fixing parts on things like the air break system. The work was actually quite skilled, and the workers had to keep tolerances within a few mils.

Alas, the rotor work would not have to have been done with near the frequency it was, because the motors were D/C, if someone had figured out how to run the lines using A/C. Someone like Nikola Tesla would likely have been able to solve the problem, but at in this time frame he was no longer involved in such practical problems. Had the problem been solved, interurban power houses with motor-generator sets would not have been necessary, and this too would have saved the lines a great deal of money. With routes in place, and lower maintenance and power cost all around, the systems would have been very cheap to run. Sadly, one will never know now. It's impossible to believe that interurban systems like these will ever be built again in the US.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.

The photograph above shows an inspection house in Muskegon. Seeing the many brooms, the coaches were probably cleaned out as well as generally inspected for road worthiness.

Decline and abandonment.

The decline of the interurbans came suddenly, victims of both the Great Depression and the rise of the automobile. Partly the product of the kind of investment fad that was so common during the construction era of the railroads, when enthusiasm often got ahead of good business sense. So the interurbans had little financial cushion when competition from the automobile and a failing national economy started to put pressure on ridership.

Many lines went bankrupt, and were sold for scrap. The coaches were often sold for a dollar, sans motors and trucks. Still others were burned, to get access to any metals of value, a fate suffered by many trolleys too. Below are examples of what happened to some of them.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

In the bottom row, above, are two cars, 806 and 808, converted by Consumer's Power to be bunk and dining cars, respectively.

After a line failed, the line was often auctioned off to a scrap dealer, which would destroy everything in an attempt to find some items of value. The track was eventually torn up and sold for scrap. If 60 pound track was used, there was about a ton of steel every 50 feet, assuming both sides of the track rail. Exceptions include road crossing, where it would have been too disruptive to remove the track. At 34th Street, the track was sitting by the side of the road in about 1960 when the road was flattened. Before that three was a significant mound in the road, and drivers could give passengers a thrill by taking the mound at speed, and having the passenger's stomaches come up to their throats.

Ties were usually left in place to rot, although presumably those living along the route took a few for yard work. I remember seeing them yet in 1950 as I walked to Godwin from Hillcroft. Concrete signal posts were still mostly in place, and in a few cases parts of the signals themselves that could not be easily ripped off were still there. Substantial buildings, like warehouses, geneating stations, and some depots were often subsequently used for other purposes. Wooden ones were either razed, or perhaps looted to some extent for their materials. None of the small ones seem to have survived. As shown above, most of the coaches met an inelegant end, serving as cottages, chicken coops, diners, work crew facilities for the power company, etc. The motors and trucks were apparently valuable, because the coaches were never sold with them.

All in all, whatever could be sold was sold, whatever could be carted off and used for something else was, and the rest was just left to decay. Worst of all, the right of ways were essentially abandoned. In some cases there are roads over them in year 2012. The road from Grandville to Holland occupies the land once used by a dual track interurban route. As a practical matter, these can never be replaced, as can not any other railroad track. There is simply too much population density everywhere today, and the legal and environmental challenges that attend any construction in year 2012 prevent almost anything from getting done.

What might have been

The interurban systems had a chance to replace the standard railroad passenger services in many areas. Routes that would later prove to be simply too expensive for the railroads given the amount of ridership. These routes would later be served by things like Greyhound Bus, and others like it.

What could have given the interurban systems the edge is their private right of ways, and the ability to move substantial numbers of small packages and other materials in a quick fashion. With the use of A/C motors, and the elimination of substations, the breakeven number of passengers for a run from, say, Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids might have been as low as five. But of course over time labor rates, and the costs of maintenance, would have risen, like it has for everything else. Given the competition was roads paid for by the taxpayers, the systems were porbably doomed no matter what they did, but in a few cases, like the Chicago area, could have become mass commuter systems. Valuable once towns and cities discovered that no matter how many roads they built there would always be traffic congestion.


Left click on the image below for a larger version.

The photograph above shows a steel bridge on the Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, and Muskegon line. It's hard to say what the orgin of the bridge is. It appears to be a standard railroad bridge, which would suggest overkill for most interurban lines. And this bridge only crosses a road.

Various lines were built to all different standards. The line from Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo was built to standard railroad specifications, because the cars sometimes weighed 85 tons, which was about the weight of a railroad passenger coach of the time. Others were simply light rail. Typically the coaches were bigger than streetcars, but not as heavy as the GR to Kalamazoo coaches, and could use lighter rail.