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Charles Conn Michigan Railroad Collection, 1913, 2005, and undated

9 cubic feet (in 13 boxes)

The collection includes 20,000 images, in various formats, of mostly Michigan railroad-related topics, as well as people, scenic views, bays, towns, fires, inside and exterior views, Camp Custer, World War I and II military, and lumber camps.

This is a collection of 41,1056images in various photographic formats, booklets, CDs, and databases of digital images and information. Most of the images were taken or collected by Mr. Conn although some small groupings of images were given to him by other senior railroad enthusiasts over time. The collection is physically organized by format and intellectually by topic. Most of the topics are railroad-related, engines, companies, lines, stations, and others are of people, scenic views, bays, towns, fires, inside and exterior views, Camp Custer, World War I and II military, lumber camps, notably, Day Lumber Company, Emmet Lumber Company, Yuill Brothers Lumber, and some unidentified lumber camps, the Cadillac Handle Company and the Antrim Iron Company.

The first part of the collection includes original images or scans (either positive or negative) that have been made into slides or negatives. This includes 13 boxes of slides (1 slide box), slide negatives and negatives (approximately 5.5 cubic feet in 6 boxes), a few photographs, glass-plate negatives of various sizes (2 cubic feet in 4 boxes), and booklets of reproduced images (approximately .5 cubic foot in 1 box). These materials are organized by format and then by alphabetically by topic. Most of the items are undated. Dates noted by the photographers are 1913-1914, 1916, and 1918. A few miscellaneous items, possibly related to the photographers have been retained in the collection (see Box 12, Photograph, 1918, and Letter, 1916.)

While most of the collection is in very good condition, a number of the slides suffer from peeling emulsions and cracks, as well as other damage, which are noted on each individual negative’s sleeve. Also, because of the damage the glass-plate negatives sustained, not all of them were scanned.

The second part of the collection includes databases of the digitized images and identifying information about the images. A copy of the database called Michigan Railroad.accdb is divided into Conn and Conn Neg, and a copy of the TIFF files, called MichiganRailroad, which is organized by subject, are both available in the Clarke reading room (as of October 2012) as well as on the archivist’s office computer. The TIFF files are organized by general subjects so the link between the two databases is not always obvious to a non-railroad enthusiast. Mr. Conn reused identifying numbers, so everything related to one location has the same number, which may mean multiple railroads in one city. There is also a hard drive for preservation purposes.

Processing Note: Only a few extremely badly damaged glass-plate negatives were withdrawn with Mr. Conn’s permission from the collection.


Charles Conn Slide collection, 2002, and undated

1 cubic foot (in 1 box)

The collection includes 3,100 black and white and colored slides of Michigan railroad companies, vehicles, tracks, wrecks, depots, workers, and Michigan towns.

The slide collection includes approximately 3,100 mostly black and white, but with some colored 35 mm slides of Michigan railroad companies, their cars, engines, tracks, wrecks, depots, workers; Michigan towns on railroad lines, and the people, organizations, events, and buildings in them; logging camps, their crews, trains, kitchens, big wheels, and river jams; ships and boats; special trains and train cars; and miscellaneous. Towns well documented in the collection include: Charlevoix, Deward, Ellsworth, Flint, Gaylord, Honor, Midland, Petoskey, and Traverse City, Michigan. Lumber companies well documented in the collection include: Stephan’s Lumber Company, Waters, Michigan, and Yuill Bros. Lumber Company, Vanderbilt (Mich.). Two negatives of an unidentified railroad depot and an inventory to the slides completes the collection.

Michigan is abbreviated “Mich.” in the box and folder listing.


John C. Hepler Papers, 1923-1983, and undated

.25 cubic feet (in 1 box)

Essays by Hepler.

The collection consists of fourteen essays written by Hepler between 1937 and 1980, as well as correspondence relating and reactions to the essays. These essays range in content and style from academic to newspaper feature articles. Topics including ROTC, educational philosophy, Michigan authors, nineteenth century periodicals, and Zimbabwe received serious attention from Hepler. Topics such as fairs in Saginaw (Michigan), the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company, pioneer life in Leelanau (Michigan), the steamer Beeghly, as well as his own life, are well researched but less thorough. Photographs of Zimbabwe and research material are also included in the collection.


Penn Central Transportation Company Records, 1835-1981 (majority within 1835-1960)

273 linear feet — 144 oversize volumes

Records of railroad companies, mainly Michigan lines, absorbed with the merger of the New York Central Railroad Company and the Pennsylvania Railroad Company into the Penn Central Transportation Company.

The nature of the records of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central Railroad reflects the recent history of the two companies. When the Penn Central Transportation Company was formed in 1968, the offices of New York Central--the junior merger partner--were dismantled and only a small percentage of records retained. Therefore, the extant New York Central records consist almost entirely of minutes and account books of a routine nature. By contrast, records of the Pennsylvania Railroad were relatively undisturbed by the merger and are today richer and more varied than those of the New York Central. The Penn Central records are most useful for their documentation of the growth of the railroad industry. They depict an industry in constant flux due to the opportunities for success offered by a burgeoning industry and the intense competition among railroads that resulted. A single volume of records often contains minutes of two or more railroads, reflecting either the failure of the original company or its takeover by or merger with another company.

Besides documenting the history of individual railroads and of the railroad industry as a whole, the Penn Central records are a good source on the economic and commercial development of Michigan and neighboring states, and provide insight into the rise and decline of various towns along the railroad. Minutes of New York Central subsidiaries, for example, contain discussions of negotiations with town officials over the proposed construction of tracks, bridges, depots, and the like. Similarly, the locality files in the Superintendent--Toledo Division series of the Pennsylvania Railroad records consist of correspondence and memoranda regarding improvements to, or the abandonment of, stations in small towns in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. This series also contains substantial correspondence files on Toledo, Detroit, and Grand Rapids.

Labor and social historians will find the Penn Central records useful in illuminating the lives of workers and in documenting relations between management and workers. More than 40 feet of labor relations files of the Ann Arbor Railroad include agreements between the company and unions, grievances, petitions concerning work rules and pay, wage and hour schedules, and circular letters. There are small series of labor relations files of other companies scattered throughout the collection. Researchers will also find information on the workplace and working conditions in the locality files of the Superintendent--Toledo Division series of the Pennsylvania Railroad; these files contain, for example, memoranda concerning clubrooms and sleeping quarters for workers in city depots.

There is very little technical material in the Penn Central records; photographs are likewise scarce. The most notable exceptions are in the car ferry files, found in three subseries of the Pennsylvania Railroad records: General Manager--Western Region, Vice-President and General Counsel, and Subsidiaries: Mackinac Transportation Company. The car ferry files include maps, plans, specifications, blueprints, and some photographs.

A large portion of the collection consists of records of small railroads that ran through Michigan or were based in Michigan. Records of these companies are brief, often including nothing more than articles of incorporation, a few pages or a volume or two of minutes, and perhaps some annual reports and financial records. Although many of these railroads were subsidiaries of either the Michigan Central Railroad, the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad, or the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, they have been filed under the parent company of which the sub-system was a part (New York Central, Pennsylvania, or Ann Arbor Railroad) to promote ease of access. Thus, for example, records of the Canada Southern Bridge Company, a subsidiary of Michigan Central Railroad, are filed under New York Central Railroad, the parent company of Michigan Central. Researchers uncertain of the parentage of a particular railroad should look in the subsidiaries section of the contents list under Ann Arbor, New York Central, and Pennsylvania Railroads. The railroads in each of these subsidiaries sections are arranged in alphabetical order.

Brief histories of individual railroads can be found in the "Green Books"--the annual reports of the New York Central Railroad Company and its subsidiaries. There are several published histories of the Pennsylvania Railroad in boxes 183 and boxes 155-157 and on microfilm in box 60.

A card file giving the date of incorporation, name changes, and parentage of subsidiaries of the Michigan Central Railroad, Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad, and the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad has been photocopied and can be found in box 1 of the collection. This folder also contains a list of records in the Public Archives of Canada of Grand Trunk and Great Western Railway system properties in the United States. Finally, there is a section of Aids, Gifts, Grants and Donations to Railroads Including Outline of Development and Successions in Titles to Railroads in Michigan by the Michigan Railroads Commission (1919).

Information in this finding aid concerning the histories of the various railroads was drawn from the collection itself, from sources compiled by the project archivists, and from the following published sources: William Frederick Dunbar All Aboard! A History of Railroads in Michigan (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969) and Henry E. Riggs, The Ann Arbor Railroad Fifty Years Ago (Ann Arbor Railroad Company, 1947?)