The Michigan Line is Norfolk Southern's post-Conrail entry into South Central and Southwest Michigan. It was once part of NYC's Michigan Central Detroit-Chicago mainline, and as recently as the 1950's saw seven passenger trains each way between those two cities.

The Territory

Under Conrail it was single tracked between CP-West Detroit and CP-Townline (creating the Townline Industrial Track out of the old #2 track), and through most of its rural portions across the gentle hills of Southern Michigan. Conrail sold the former No. 1 westbound main track between West Detroit and CP Townline to Amtrak in the early 1990's. Amtrak owns it; Conrail dispatches it and pays Amtrak for the 1 or 2 freights that run on it each day. At the time of the sale No.2 main was downgraded to the "Townline - Livernois Industrial Track", and only used from Townline to Lonyo Ave., with the rest of it between Lonyo and West Detroit left to deteriorate and rust away.

The portion of the Conrail Michigan Line is used primarily by Amtrak trains going to Detroit, and the occasional freight train going directly to North Yard from Elkhart. As an example, ML441 would go that way, along with NS train 48E and 49E, which originate/terminate at North Yard, as well as the empty multilevel trains bound for North Yard.

Canadian Pacific trains also use the Detroit end of the Michigan Line, running directly from the tunnel westward past West Detroit to a new connection from the Michigan Line main at milepost 5.4 in east Dearborn, called CP-LOU, to the CSXT Detroit Subdivision. This new connection allows CP trains to skip the congestion between West Detroit and Delray and at Rougemere Yard, providing a much shorter route for the operation of their traffic through Detroit. CSXT calls their end of the connection "Michigan Avenue".

The Conrail Townline Industrial is much busier than the parallel Michigan Line as far as Conrail traffic is concerned. It is now used by trains coming from the west that either work Livernois or are moving south to River Rouge Yard. Freight trains heading eastbound on track #2 at Townline will get a restricting or a stop indication at CP-Townline and need permission from the Livernois Yardmaster to get onto the Townline Industrial (sometimes refered to as simply "The Industrial") and then a route through the yard; "One in the west, one in the south", etc.

An occasional train will turn south at CP-Townline onto the Junction Yard Secondary toward River Rouge Yard at CP-YD on the Detroit Line. This is, in effect, a short cut that circumvents Livernois Yard. However, only Locals to the Rouge Steel Plant or to the Detroit Salt Mine from River Rouge Yard are regular users of the Junction Yard Secondary.

The Norfolk Southern portion of the Michigan Line west of CP-Townline sees 3 to 7 manifest and multilevel trains each day, plus assorted local trains called at Wayne, Jackson, and Kalamazoo. NS has rehabbed Jackson Yard and appears to be generating new business there.

Locations of note (East to West):

The Trains

Conrail train DWEL (Detroit Wayne-Elkhart) is accelerating westward out of the siding at CP-Chelsea on an August 1993 evening after waiting on Amtrak 352 to clear the main. He has had time to work the Jiffy Mix plant in the village of Chelsea, and has still more work to do at Jackson. The Jiffy Mix work has since been assigned to WDWA-20.

Photograph Copyright 1993-2002 Jeff Knorek

Traffic volume on the Michigan Line is light and is dominated by Amtrak and road locals during the day. Most road frieght traffic occurs during the windows provided by Amtrak's Michigan corridor service to/from Chicago. Train symbols that ply all or part of the Michigan Line include:

Norfolk Southern

  • 20N (TV-20N) Chicago Ashland Ave - Detroit Livernois Occasionally runs via Michigan Line
  • 21N (TV-21N) Detroit Livernois - Cicero IL/BNSF
  • 27G Detroit North Yard - Chicago Proviso Occasionally runs via Michigan Line
  • 27V Detroit Wayne - Voltz MO Mixing Center
  • 28G Chicago Ashland Ave - Detroit Wayne
  • 28K Chicago Calumet Yard - Detroit Wayne
  • 28V Voltz MO Mixing Center - Detroit Wayne
  • 29A Kansas City MO - Detroit Jefferson Ave Occasionally runs via Michigan Line
  • 48E (ELST) Elkhart IN - Detroit Sterling
  • 49E (STEL) Detroit Sterling - Elkhart IN
  • 68T (MGL) Portage IN - Detroit River Rouge....Steel Empties Occasionally runs via Michigan Line
  • 69T (GLM) Detroit River Rouge - Portage, IN....Steel Loads Occasionally runs via Michigan Line
  • 54Q Adrian MI - Harrisonburg VA....Grain Loads
  • 55Q Harrisonburg VA - Adrian MI....Grain Empties
  • 58J Albion MI - Valdosta GA....Grain Loads
  • 59J Valdosta GA - Albion MI....Grain Empties
  • B18 (WDWA-18) Wayne Local Called at 0200. Switches the frame track, body plant and the docks. Usually lays in on Sunday mornings.
  • B44 (WDWA-44) Wayne Local aka Wayne 44 Called at 1300. Does the same as the 18 job but usually does a mid switch on the dock excluding sun and mon. The 44 usually works 7 days depending on the docks with Sunday being the lightest day, loading the dock only once. Monday is the second lightest day with loading the dock only once plus working the frame and body.
  • B20 (WDWA-20) Wayne-Chelsea turn aka Wayne 20 Called at 0700. Working limits are from Townline to Chelsea. Works Jiffy Mix in Chelsea M-W-F. The 20 will work on Sunday if needed.
  • B28 (WDLA-03) Jackson MI - Lansing MI...M-F...mostly coil cars for the Holt steel distribution facility.
  • B36 (WDLA-01X) Jackson MI - Lansing MI...Sa-Su...weekend symbol for B28
  • B46 Jackson MI - Battle Creek MI (Battle Creek Turn)...M-F...Serves Post, Kellogg's, and the Albion grainery.
  • 48J (ELJA)...Elkhart IN - Jackson MI
  • 49J (JAEL)...Jackson MI - Elkhart IN


  • 350 Chicago - Detroit
  • 351 Pontiac - Chicago
  • 352 Chicago - Pontiac
  • 353 Detroit - Chicago
  • 354 Chicago - Pontiac
  • 355 Pontiac - Chicago


  • YDLV-4 (Livernois Yard Job) This train is known as Z618 to CSX during the week, and Z617 on the weekend. He works Dearborn Steel, and to do so he gains access to the CSXT Terminal West Industrial Track off of the CSXT Detroit Subdivision at Michigan Avenue. It is very likely that he uses CP-LOU now, bypassing Rougemere.

    Data provided by John Krattanger, Wayne "King" Kuhl, Kevin Burkholder,
    Jim Harlow, Ian, Marcus U. Dogg, and Bob Frey.

Dispatching and Radio Chatter

The Michigan Line is dispatched by the Conrail Detroit Line Dispatcher from CP-Bay City Junction west to CP-Townline. It is dispatched by the NS Michigam Line DS from CP-TOWNLINE west to CP-LEVITT at milepost 116.3 in Battle Creek. West of Battle Creek it is dispatched by the Norfolk Southern Kankakee Line DS

  • 161.070......Conrail Detroit Line DS
  • 160.800......Norfolk Southern Michigan Line DS
  • 161.800......Norfolk Southern Kankakee Line DS

Michigan Line Stuff

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This website and all contents herein Copyright 2002 by Jeff Knorek except where noted.