Trail History

The Paint Creek Trail was the first non-motorized rail-to-trail in the State of Michigan.The Detroit and Bay City Railroad Company was organized on May 16, 1871. The first passenger train arrived in October 1872. The Village of Rochester utilized the railroad to ship farm products and Avon Township utilized all five miles of the railroad for various product shipments as well. A flag-station of the railroad was located in the Goodison area of Oakland Township at Goodison’s mills. Orion Township’s principal shipping point for the rail line was located in Orion Village. The Detroit and Bay City Railroad Company later became known as the Michigan Central Railroad Company. Subsequently, prior to becoming the Paint Creek Trail, the rail line was known as the Penn Central Railroad.  Penn Central Railroad abandoned the line in the 1970’s and subsequently filed for bankruptcy.

Photo of Penn Central Train
Penn Central Train in the early 1970’s. Photo courtesy of the Oakland Township Historical Society and photographer Edward R. Noble

In 1981, the Trailways Commission was formed for the purpose of purchasing the abandoned Penn Central Railroad.  In 1983, 10.5 miles of railroad was purchased for $450,000.  Half of the money came from the Michigan Land Trust (now Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund) and the other half came from the four original trails communities, prorated based on mileage in each community.

For more information regarding the acquisition and development of the Trail, watch the following YouTube video produced by the City of Rochester Hills in 2013:

One Comment:

  1. Thanks for the history!! Trail users today are so lucky to have these long stretches of previous railroad lines. When I ride, I imagine the workers working on the RR, and the trains, and what it must’ve been like during those times. It is funny to think that those working on the RR had no idea what their lines and bridges would one day be used for. Are we ever lucky!!! And the Paint Creek is one of the best trails ever – right in our own backyard!!!!

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