The Detroit & Toledo Shore Line Railroad Company began as an interurban passenger carrier and quickly evolved into a “freight only” railroad, which was able to pay dividends consistently from its beginning in 1903 until its inclusion in the Grand Trunk Western Railroad in 1981.
This 50-mile Class One carrier produced most of its revenue by hauling bituminous coal north from Toledo connections to the industries of southeast Michigan and to western Ontario. Additionally, the products of the automotive industry (primarily General Motors) were transported from Detroit to connecting carriers in Toledo.
This double-tracked railroad in steam days operated as many as 25-locomotives at one time in only five different wheel arrangements. Completely dieselized in 1953 with a total of 16-EMD products, this carrier became CTC dispatched in 1968 and had a computer-controlled hump yard. Its steam locomotives were painted Biscay Green and its diesels were originally delivered in blue and yellow and reverted to the Nickel Plate scheme in 1962.
The Shore Line always hustled to move the freight! Its major competitors were the NYC, the C&O, and the PRR. Few people realize that Shore Line crews operated through from its center of operations, Lang, Ohio, with Shore Line motive power all the way through to Pontiac, Durand, Flint, and Port Huron. Likewise, GTW crews from these same points ran through to Lang.
From its beginning, the Shore Line was jointly owned by the GTW and the Nickel Plate, although the GTW was always the dominating carrier. The vast majority of the traffic originated or terminated on the GTW, while the Nickel Plate and its predecessor did little to furnish traffic for this small carrier.
The Shore Line was ALWAYS a highly maintained property and its workers had a great deal of pride. It trainmen and enginemen were the highest paid in North America; however, for much of the road’s history, its workers were some of the most militant in the industry. Beginning in 1922 when federal troops were called in to calm the effects of the Shopworkers’ Strike, to a work stoppage, which went to Federal Court in the 1960’s and could possibly have cost its participants and their families not only their livelihood; but their individual freedom, the Shore Line was at the forefront of national labor issues.
The Shore Line was always a “wintertime” railroad hauling coal while the lakes were frozen. As the importance of coal declined to the U. S. economy the “Expressway For Industry” sought other commodities to transport. In the end, it was coal once again in the form of unit trains to the power plants of southeastern Michigan that turned the tide.
The Shore Line was acquired in its entirety by the Grand Trunk Corporation in 1981 and today is the funnel for traffic moving out of eastern Ontario to the southeastern United States. And the black diamonds, yes they too continue to provide a majority share of the virtually “recession-proof” business that keeps the CN’s Shore Line Subdivision going 24-7 365 days a year.