“Trolley Rides in the City and Country”

David Gifford
11 min readJul 8, 2021

“To Charming Rural Scenery, Beautiful Lakes and Majestic Rivers Via Detroit United Railway” — A guide from 1903–1904

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No railway system in the world, whatever the scope of its operations, has its lines radiating from a more delightful center than is the famous “City of the Straits,” or penetrating a tributary territory more charming. The true annals of its history invade the domain of romance, tradition and quaint folk lore. For the purposes of this article it suffices to say, that there is no city upon the continent that has so many unique attractions in the present, or is identified in so interesting a way with the past.

Belle Isle, the like of which is immediately accessible to no other great city, is a setting of emerald in silvered waters. The river with its magnificent sweep, alive with pleasure craft and teeming with commerce, is a delight to the eye whether for beauty or business.


The city is distinctively one of those surpassing combinations of bountiful nature and artistic adornment, that must be seen in order to be appreciated. To this end we have made every arrangement to care for all guests desiring the pleasure. For smaller parties there is provided the elegant and perfectly equipped observation car, Yolande, already known far and wide to the travelers for pleasure. It makes five daily trips of 2 hours each from Cadillac Square and the Soldiers’ Monument, the first at 9 a. m. and the last at 5 p. m. a fare of 25 cents being charged for each passenger per trip.

There is the same treat in store for the Larger crowds that come to this Mecca of excursionists. Through our agencies opportunity is given them to make arrangements before reaching here, and on doing so they will be met at boat or train by the number of special cars required. Everything of entertainment to the visitor is pointed out and explained by one who knows, and the panoramic view runs the gamut from the oldest reminders to the imposing improvements and enterprises of the new century.


From Detroit to Trenton nothing but old and historic ground is traversed, yet it is alive with all the energy and enterprise of the twentieth century. The start is from the City Hall and its garden spot in the “heart of the city. On the way you pass one of the most artistic and symmetrical public buildings in the world, erected on the site of old Fort Shelby. To the left as you move down the river are enormous industrial institutions that have invaded the once aristocratic and exclusive district. To the right you see the former home of the late Gov. Baldwin, the stately residence of Senator Alger. ex-Governor of Michigan and ex-Secretary of War. the grounds of the lamented “Zach” Chandler, among the immortals in our national history, and the old home of Gen. Lewis Cass who arose to eminence in an epoch preceding the war.

Old Fort Wayne hails back to the earliest days, and while one of the best equipped of our military posts, suggests peace and contentment rather than war in its delightful and restful surroundings. Along the way arc the great soda-ash institutions, the quaint old village of Ecorse. that perpetuates the ancient habitat; Wyandotte, which is a miniature Pittsburg. and Trenton that looks out to the lake. Here you can connect with the Ferry to Grosse Isle, a charming spot skirted by the two channels, also with the Michigan Central the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern and the Detroit Southern Railroads. Time each way 1 hour, 10 minutes; fare for round trip, 35 cents. Service on this Division every 20 minutes from 6 a. m. until 8 p. m., after that at less frequent intervals.


There is no more charming trip than that offered by the Orchard Lake division, out the busy Grand River Avenue, along the old plank road that used to connect the metropolis with the capital, through a fertile and prosperous farming region to the solid old town of Farmington. and on to Northville in a more rugged setting of nature, a village that duplicates the prettiest of New England’s settlements, yet has all the rush and go of a commercial age. The running time each way is 1 hour, 30 minutes; Single fare 35 cents. Connections with the Plymouth and Northville electric line, and the Pere Marquette Railroad. Cars either way every hour from 6 a. m. to 11 p. m.

Branching off at Farmington Junction, you speed into the rolling ground of Oakland county, rich in soil, passing in review the forest and groves, great orchards that rise and dip with the graceful slopes, vineyards, blooming gardens, green meadows, fields growing to the harvest, model rural homes, and a veritable cluster of sparkling spring-fed lakes nestled amid ver-shadowing hills. Among the many are Orchard, Pine, Cass, and Sylvia, which, with the scores of others, form a constellation of lakes which with their environments, is the verdict of travelers, have nothing to compare with them, unless in Switzerland. At Orchard Lake is the Military Academy of that .name, a lovely spot, with its clean groves, handsome buildings and vine-grown “castle.”

The run on to Pontiac is through as variable a bit of scenery as can be found anywhere in the same distance; then the new state fair grounds, the eastern insane asylum, an imposing model of its kind, and the wealthy, cultured and substantial old city of Pontiac, attractive in its present as in its past history. Time between Detroit and Pontiac by this division. 1 hour, 55 minutes: fare, 35 cents one way. Cars either way every how from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Connections with the Grand Trunk Railway and Pontiac, Oxford & Northern Railroad at Pontiac


It is out Woodward avenue, broad, clean, adorned on either side by grand old trees, velvety lawns and many magnificent homes; among them that of the late Gov. Pingree. the late David Whitney. Col. Hecker. D. M. Ferry and others of more than local fame.

Touching the limits is Highland Park with its well-known race track, fine hotel, cozy homes and imposing trees of willows, elms and maples. Just beyond are the golf links, followed by Palmer Park, a munificent gift to the city from Hon. Thomas W. Palmer, former president of the World’s Fair, minister to Spain. United States senator and conspicuous in other public service, whose splendid summer home overlooks the park. This is the widely known Log-Cabin farm, the cabin and its contents being a never-ending delight to lovers of the antique and its associations. Thence through an arching avenue of trees to Royal Oak, an enterprising suburb appropriately named. The rut to Birmingham is beguiled by ideal rural scenery, and the village itself, with its quaint old “tavern.’ the homes of retired farmers surrounded by the beauties of rural home life, the gorge with its stately trees and winding stream, affords a visit that is never forgotten. From here to Pontiac is “up hill and down dale.” not only demonstrating the possibilities of electricity as a motive power but showing farms and suburban homes that can be surpassed nowhere in an agricultural district. The time by the route is 1 hour, 30 minutes, and the fare 25 cents one way. Time and distance considered, to and from Pontiac over the loop formed by the two lines reaching it, is a trip that challenges comparison and the entire cost of 60 cents is a mere pittance compared to the enjoyment received. Cars via Pontiac Division half hourly, except the first morning car and after 7 in the evening, thence hourly until 11 p. m. Connections with the Grand Trunk Railway and Pontiac, Oxford & Northern Railroad at Pontiac


Cars from Detroit to Flint follow the direct Pontiac line to Royal Oak and there diverge. From Royal Oak. you pass through such villages as Clawson, Big Beaver and Troy to Rochester, a fascinating study in past and present, with its old flouring mills, its great knitting mills, its big beet sugar factory, its old homes and new, and the grand country about it. Beyond this, on the main line, comes Goodison. Rudd’s Mills. Orion on Orion Lake the famous place of assemblages and summer resorters. with its hotels, cottages, yachts and lighter craft, a summer place deserving all the praise given it; through enterprising Oxford. Ortonville. Goodrich and Atlas to the terminal. Flint is one of the biggest little cities in the world. It is not only handsome, but has endless interest in its varied industries and enterprises. Time, either way, 3 hours; fare each way, $1.00. Cars every hour; connections with Pere Marquette and Grand Trunk Railroads.

Justice to the attractions of the division require mention of the branch to Romeo, leaving the main line at Lake Orion Junction. It penetrates a thickly settled and very old country for this part of the world, its excellence attested in fine school houses and churches, highly cultivated farms and “homey” homes. Stony Creek and Washington give attractions to the way. And when Romeo is reached, you find a place that stands apart in its day and generation, because of its nicely distributed wealth, culture, good taste and that admirable form of aristocracy that rests on merit. Time, 2 hours. Fare, 50 cents, one way. Cars every hour. The Grand Trunk Railway connects at Romeo.


No resident of or visitor to Detroit, should miss the trip to Mt. Clemens by the Shore Line of the Rapid Railway System. It skirts one of the prettiest stretches of water on the globe. You start out Jefferson avenue, that began to penetrate the forests when Detroit was founded. Time and progress made it one of the aristocratic residence sections of the city and the encroachments of trade and traffic have failed to dethrone it. Traversing it you pass the homes of the late Senator McMillan; Judge Brown, of the United States supreme bench; Gen. Duffield. who won his honors in two great wars; and many who rank as captains of industry in the world of affairs. You look to Belle Isle past the bridge that spans it and run thence through trees, lawns and a flanking of beautiful homes, old orchards that soften the vista to the enlivened river, to the Country Club, its home, its location and its equipment as perfect as money and taste could provide. Beyond is Grosse Pointe the wealthy suburb of Detroit, rich in all that nature can show and adornment suggest. Thence the like shore Is skirted, the kaleidoscopic pictures of the water on one hand, of groves, green meadows and an ever-changing land view on the other. You travel through a series of surprises via the old town L’Anse Creuse to Lakeside, a favored place with fishermen, bather* and boatmen. A two mile run through a pretty sect ton reaches Mt. Clemens, known to the world for its baths, hotels, gay metropolitan ways, hospitality and immense summer population. This trip consumes one hour and a half; fare one way, 30 cents. Can every hour. Connections at Mt. Clemens with Main Line of the Rapid Railway Electric System and Grand Trunk Railway.


From every point of view this is an exceptionally interesting trip. In the city you run through Gratiot avenue, once a familiar Indian trail in the lake district, now a veritable beehive of business. Passing the pretty suburb of Leesville your run is through a level but prolific country, the monotony being varied by villages and old time road houses until Mt. Clemens is reached, where junction is made with the Shore line of the Rapid Railway System. Beyond this interest and fascination never flag and numerous villages add to the attractions. At New Baltimore is the power house. From Anchorville to Algonac are Fair Haven and Pearl Beach, commanding a view to be found nowhere else. Algonac is a delight to the fisherman whose blood runs red, and from here launches are to be had for the American channel Walpole Island, the world-lamed Flats, and all of the many hotels and club houses within reach. Beyond the supreme beauty of the trip is sustained, for it keeps in sight the St. Clair River, its banks adorned with delightful homes, pretty cottages and summer resorts. Marine City and St Claire are both exceptionally handsome places of commercial importance and enterprise. Port Huron needs no introduction to the world, for by all the legitimate methods of progression she has made her own good name. From here there is a ferry every hour to Sarnia, city railway lines to Gratiot Beach, Huron Beach and Keewahdin Beach.

To shorten the time from Detroit to Port Huron for those with whom this is a consideration, there is a cut-off from Anchorville. The time by the short route is 2 hours, 55 minutes and by the old, 3 hours, 25 minutes. Round trip by either route $1.50. One way 90 cents. Cars leave Detroit every hour for Port Huron from 7 a. m to 8 p. m . and every half hour for Mt. Clemens, between 7 a. m. and 7 pm. Grand Trunk Railway. Pere Marquette Railway and Boat Lines for up the lakes, connect at Port Huron.


To ride over our Windsor and Amherst burg division is to find an enjoyment that no other system can offer. It b just across the river, yet it introduces you to a foreign soil. The scenery is just such as belongs to the vicinage of Detroit, but you breathe restfulness from the air. and find us sympathetic suggestions in all the surroundings. There are the quaint old homes, the public inns at with royal meals are honestly served, the quiet villages, the springs. “The Willows” and the constant reminders of former centuries In quiet villages like that of Amherstburg, where the soothing life seems as though it should be read from the annals of our early history. You can find no counterpart for this trip, it takes but an hour each way and the single fare is but 30 cents.