Century-Old Streetcar Tracks Uncovered Below Rochester's Main Street
The tracks were part of the Detroit United Railway, and what is now downtown Rochester was a trolley car hub 'back in the heyday.'
Historians in Rochester knew it was likely. And this week, their predictions were confirmed.
Workers on the Main Street Makeover in downtown Rochester uncovered on Thursday what still remains of the Detroit United Railway tracks in Rochester.
The tracks were found north of University Drive near the Rochester Medical Center and Paint Creek bridge.
Rochester City Manager Jaymes Vettraino promised at the start of the Main Street Makeover in the spring that history would be uncovered. In fact, local historians were pretty sure the tracks still existed.
According to Deborah Larsen, a member of the Rochester Avon Historical Society and author of Home Town Rochester, the tracks uncovered this week were laid in 1899. The DUR rail line stretched from Detroit to Flint and carried freight like milk for dairy farmers. It also transported people who wanted to come to the city — Detroit — to shop and dine.
This particular spot in Rochester was a hub for the DUR and also for the Michigan Central Railroad, which is now the Paint Creek Trail. The tracks crossed at this exact location of the discovery.
A power house and car barn for the railroads existed where the Atallah Heart Center is now, Larsen said. Look closely at photos of the uncovered railroad tracks taken this week; you will see that the tracks curved to allow cars to go into the car barn for repair.
'Window into the past'
The last trolley car pulled out of Rochester on this track in 1931. "In its heydey in the 20s, there were 62 cars entering and leaving Rochester every day," Larsen said.
During World War II, most of the tracks were stripped for iron. Larsen said she doesn't know for sure why these tracks on Main Street were left in place, but she is guessing that the intersection of the railroad tracks at this spot made it difficult to remove.
"This is another window into the past," Larsen said. "We were almost certain the rails were still there. But none of us can remember those days, so it's exciting to get a glimpse of what's there."
As part of the Main Street reconstruction work, the rail tracks will be removed; the city has been diligent with preserving and displaying the historical findings.
For more photos and to stay up-to-date with historical findings, follow the Rochester Avon Historical Society on Facebook.