The Mystery of the Niles & Buchanan Railway

The Niles & Buchanan Railway, mapped below in white, was a proposed, but evidently unbuilt interurban railway between the namesake towns in southern Michigan.

Interurbans at the turn of the 20th century, and for a few decades following, were all the rage in railroad construction in the United States, and connected small towns with small cities, and through various disconnected systems, one could even travel regionally. 

However, they were not at all profitable, and this was before many of them were purchased by auto manufacturers, who had an obvious vested interest in converting many of those systems to buses. As such, the holistic view of the interurban is a curious piece of railroad history, but to say it changed the industry in any lasting way is a stance hard to defend; they were both predated and outlasted by most steam railways.

From our Abandoned & Out-of-Service Railroad Lines Map

There were also numerous interurbans that were never fully completed, as was the case with many steam lines as well. In 1907, the Niles & Buchanan project became part of the Southern Michigan Electric Railway. 

But I can't find any sources that confirm or deny whether it actually operated or not, and given that lack of information, I'm inclined to believe the line never got past grading.

Below is one of the only mentions of the railway I could find.

From the Buchanan Record, August 2nd, 1907.

Still though, over 100 years after the fact, its still quite visible on satellite imagery. So if anyone can shed further light on this mystery, we would love to hear from you!

Thanks as always for reading!


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