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Barring last minute hitches, the new $59.6 million Bay County Water Treatment Plant is slated to open Aug. 24 and begin pumping fresher Lake Huron water to about 90,000 customers here.

RAIL TO WATER: Old D&M Railroad Now Site of Saginaw-Midland Waterlines

First Whitestone Water Now Slated to Flow Aug. 24; Tests to Take 2 Weeks

August 14, 2015       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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What goes around, comes around, as the saying goes.

A strange quirk of history is about to be recorded: where railroads once steamed water will now follow the same approximately 50-mile route into Bay City.

Barring last minute hitches, the new $59.6 million Bay County Water Treatment Plant is slated to open Aug. 24 and begin pumping fresher Lake Huron water to about 90,000 customers here.

Actually, according to Midland historical sources, the intake two miles off Whitestone Point in 1946 was laid 50 feet below the surface--tapping a stream of even more pure Lake Superior water flowing into Lake Huron.

Testing the new system to get the bugs out will take about two weeks, according to officials of the Bay County Department of Water and Sewer.

Everybody asks: will we be able to taste the difference? The water should taste better, very possibly, since occasional taste and odor problems have plagued the old system that draws its supply from about four miles into Saginaw Bay.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has rated Bay City's source water, the Saginaw Bay, as being "highly sensitive and highly susceptible to potential contaminants.

'This rating does not indicate the presence of any actual contamination in the Saginaw Bay source, nor in the final treated water that is supplied to our customers. Approximately one-half of the supply systems that were assessed had this same rating."

The S-M corporation states that it "provides limited treatment and basic disinfection of Lake Huron water before it is transmitted to households, businesses and industry."

The Saginaw-Midland Water Supply System's line south from Whitestone Point follows the old track of the Detroit and Mackinac Railroad.

Today, Lake State Railway operates the D&M's main line between Bay City and Alpena as well as the ex-New York Central trackage between Linwood and Gaylord.

The S-M was organized in 1946, replacing the former source in the Saginaw River in Saginaw's case and the Tittabawassee River in the case of Midland. The system is rightly proud, stating:

"Because of the foresight of the leaders of both cities, Saginaw and Midland benefit from having one of the best raw water sources in the world.

"The Great Lakes contain one-fifth of the world's fresh water supply. This great source water is pumped daily to both cities where treatment is provided to produce potable water. Potable water is water that does not contain objectionable pollution, contamination, minerals or infective agents and is considered safe for human consumption."

Since Bay City declined to participate in the 1946 partnership, the Bay County system will be a customer, not a partner, in the S-M water supply, but of course will share the same high-quality water.

After the D&M railroad discontinued service in 1992, the rail right-of-way from Whitestone south to Bay City was acquired by the water system.

A 72-inch pipe and a 60-inch pipe run parallel to each other on the old rail right of way to a branch and junction pumping station in Monitor Township on Three Mile Road.

The Detroit and Mackinac Railway (D&M), informally known as the "Turtle Line", was a railroad operating in the northeastern part of the state.

The main line stretched from the southern hub at Bay City to its northern hub at Cheboygan. It operated from 1894 to 1992.

The D&M's earliest predecessors were the Bay City and Alpena (1882) which built a line from Bay City north to Alpena, Michigan 124 miles, and the Alpena and Northern, which operated a short line north from Alpena to LaRoqcue, 38 miles.

Then the D&M extended the line north to Cheboygan, at the Straits of Mackinac, a total of about 197 miles.

The main product transported by the D&M was timber from the vast northeast Michigan forests and the D&M built spurs and branch lines to serve the forested areas.

The D&M mainline from Bay City to Alpena offered sleeping car, and meal services between Detroit and Alpena in the 1930's. The Michigan Central operated the trains between Detroit and Bay City.

By the 40's the meal services had disappeared and by 1950 the sleepers and Detroit connections were gone. By 1955 the D&M was all freight. On the main from Alpena to Cheboygan, a single motor train lasted until sometime in the 40's.

As the availability of forest products became scarce and economic conditions deteriorated the D&M was sold to thee Lake States Railway Company in 1992.


1882 - This Detroit and Mackinac Railway began in 1882 as the Bay City and Alpena Railroad.

1883 - BC&A renamed as the Detroit, Bay City & Alpena Railroad.

1893 - The Alpena and Northern Railroad incorporates on July 28, 1893, with the intention of building a 85-mile line from Alpena to Mackinaw City, on the south shore of the Straits of Mackinac.

1893 - On November 18 the A&N opens a line from Alpena to LaRocque (now Hawks); about 38 miles.

1894 - The DBC&A Railroad, operated from Bay City northward to the Lake Huron port of Alpena, 124 miles, is reorganized into the Detroit and Mackinac (D&M) on December 17, 1894.

1895 - On April 16, 1895, the A&N is purchased by the D&M and ceases to exist as an independent company.

1896-1910 - The timber resources of northeastern Michigan were fully utilized and the D & M expanded its trackage northward from Alpena to Cheboygan. The line prospered, and even built a stone passenger depot in Harrisville. The D&M also built many spur lines into tracks of adjacent timberland. One spur, in service for many years, served the limestone quarries of Rogers City.

1976 - In March, 1976, the D&M purchased segments of the Penn Central Railroad, from Bay City to Kawkawlin, and from Sallings (south of Gaylord) to Mackinaw City. The portion of the line from Kawkawlin to Sallings was purchased by the State of Michigan and operated by the D&M.

1992 - Adverse economic conditions continued to affect railroad operations in the northeastern United States. The Detroit & Mackinac is sold to Lake State Railway.


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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
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