The Plainwell Central

In the early 1990’s an enterprising fellow by the name of Jeremy Christian bought a 1/3 of a mile length of track in Plainwell on a "quit claim" deed. This track was part of the ex-NYC line from Kalamazoo to Allegan and Grand Rapids , south and east of the plastics factory in Plainwell, Preferred Plastics. I believe that at one time, Essex Wire owned this stretch of line and simply walked away from it when they left the area. While the southern end of the track was overgrown and long disused, the northern end was still in use in the 90’s, the Conrail local having to use this track to put hopper cars of pellets into the plastics company spur. Jeremy organized it as the Plainwell Central Railroad, at the age of 18. This youthfulness caused a ruckus and he had a visit from the FRA, but he got whatever approvals were necessary.

At one time, I cleared out the whole line and used it to test out my very first speeder, appropriately enough an ex-NYC motor car. That was back in the spring of 1995. Here’s a photo of that speeder test ride.

In the clearing of the line, I found that there was a second spur that ran into the southern end of the plastics factory but it was long disused and totally overgrown. I mean really overgrown – mature trees growing between the rails. An old flat car was down next to that spur in the woods. At some time it had been pushed off the track and left to rot. I couldn’t find any plates or markings to give any clues as to its history. Here’s a photo of that flat car.

Jeremy charged $40 a car for the plastics company to use his track. It wasn’t a high volume operation – maybe 6-8 cars a month. A few years went by and he decided to raise the price slightly. In retaliation, the plastics company then found a way to unload their cars on the “main” without using the Plainwell Central to push the cars into the siding. No more revenue could be obtained for the little railroad. There were simply no other industries that could justify using rail transport.

Jeremy moved up to Sault Ste Marie. Eventually he lost interest in railroading and put the Plainwell Central up for sale. After a couple of years on the market, a deal was made with Preferred Plastics. In December 2002, the scrappers tore up the track to fatten the coffers of the Plastics Factory. The flat car was torched. Fortunately the two ex-Pennsy concrete whistle posts that once protected the depot and a road crossing plus an old harp-style switch stand were saved. And so ended the story of the Plainwell Central Railroad.

More Plainwell Central Photos

Plainwell Railroading Page

Last Edited by JMW 01/28/18