Sheffield had chartered the HRR as a response to Schuyler’s double-cross at about the exact same time that George Bliss had been removed as the president of the Western Railroad.  As Bliss calculated his campaign to launch the Michigan Southern, somehow he secured financing from Sheffield (either Bliss had already made Sheffield’s acquaintance through his construction of the Northampton Railroad or Ogden had brought these two men together), and with Sheffield’s money came Henry Farnum as Superintendent and John Jervis as Chief Engineer.  

An 1850 Map of the Michigan Southern and the various roads along the southern shore of Lake Erie. All roads shown are either constructed (alternating black and white) or planned (two parallel lines). Note there are only four “trunk lines” from the Atlantic. From north to south these are: New York Central (from Boston/Albany); New & Erie (New York); the Pittsburgh & Philadelphia, i.e., the Penn (Philadelphia); and the Baltimore & Ohio (Baltimore). Ogden’s G&CU’s route is shown. This map should give one pause at the scale of gamble that Ogden was taking in the summer of 1848. (Online)

With his route through Indiana already secured with his acquisition of the Northern Indiana, Bliss had only to effect a connection between the two routes at the Michigan/Indiana border.  The MS’s charter stated that the road was to terminate at Lake Michigan in New Buffalo, but as the MC was already there and making its way along the lake to the border, it made little business sense to construct a duplicate route.  Therefore, Bliss favored a more direct route straight to the tip of Lake Michigan, with the hope of beating the MC to that point and thereby, physically blocking its competitor from entering Indiana. The Michigan legislature approved the change with the proviso that the Southern’s route extend at least to the St. Joseph River before crossing the border.  On December 10, 1850, the MS reached Coldwater, MI, and headed for the Indiana border.  During this time, the MC had finally reached Michigan City only five weeks earlier on October 31, but with the loss of the Northern Indiana, it was stalled at the border, for it had no legal authority to construct tracks in Indiana.  Bliss (and Ogden), therefore, had completely outflanked the MC and owning the Northern Indiana, moved quickly to consolidate his route into Chicago by laying tracks straight to the tip of Lake Michigan.  Boston’s MC was left in a very compromised position, requiring some sophisticated action from its owners if the MC was to regain the initiative.

The Routes of the Michigan Central and Michigan Southern: 1846-1852.


Harlow, Alvin F. Steelways of New England. New York: Creative Age Press, 1946.

Harlow, Alvin F. The Road of the Century. New York: Creative Age Press, 1947..

Pierce, Bessie Louis. A History of Chicago– v.2. New York: Knopf.  1940.

Stover, John F. Iron Road to the West: American Railroads in the 1850s. New York: Columbia University, 1978.

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

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