By 1892, three railroad lines served the city:
Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad
The G.R. & I was the first to enter Traverse City on Nov. 15, 1872. It leased a 26-mile spur from Traverse City to Walton Junction for 46 years from the Traverse City Rail Road Co. until the local company dissolved in 1918.
In 1873, it started a daily express train south that left Traverse City at 8:30 a.m., and arrived in Grand Rapids at 5 p.m. and Kalamazoo at 6 p.m. Its service here peaked about 1900, when it ran up to six passenger trains a day during the summer, and carried in thousands of summer visitors a year on "resort specials."
It also established a cross-lake car ferry service to Manistique and constructed the Traverse City, Leelanau and Manistique Railroad in 1903 from Traverse City to Northport in a failed attempt to boost revenues. The Pennsylvania Railroad, which always had a controlling interest in the G.R. & I., took it over in 1921.
The Chicago and West Michigan Railroad
The first C&WM; train rolled into Traverse City on Sunday, July 8, 1891. A special train from Traverse City, with 100 local citizens and a brass band on brightly decorated flatcars traveled out to Beitner Station, south of town to meet it.
The C&WM; was the result of an 1881 merger of the Michigan Lake Shore Railroad and three smaller lines linking Pentwater and other west Michigan villages. It didn't have a depot until it bought land along West Bay from Morgan cannery just east of Union Street and adjacent to the Hannah, Lay grist mill south of there. In 1899, the C&WM; consolidated with the Flint & Pere Marquette and the Detroit, Grand Rapids & Western to form the Pere Marquette Railroad.
The Manistee & Northeastern
The first MN&E; train pulled into the Traverse City depot on June 29, 1892. Hannah, Lay & Co. donated its dock front and depot grounds and local citizens purchased the rights of way from Carp Lake to Traverse City. The Manistee logging firm of Buckley and Douglas founded it in 1887 to go deeper in the forests for hardwoods.
Within a few days of its arrival in Traverse City, it linked the city to Manistee with stops at Carp Lake, Hatch's Crossing, Fouch, Solon, Cedar Run, Lake Ann, and Interlochen. Its passenger service peaked in 1915 with 190,000, but freight service declined with the demise of the lumber era.