34 Structures, steam railroad and paddlewheel riverboat.
There’s nothing like a train to carry you back to a simpler time. Imagine what a ride on the Huckleberry Railroad can do. Each 40-minute journey behind our authentic Baldwin steam locomotive takes you along the shores of Mott Lake, down a stretch of the historic Pere Marquette roadbed and back into the heart of Crossroads Village. Grab the kids or your favorite travel companion and listen for the call of the engineer’s whistle. The Huckleberry Railroad is just around the corner. At your Genesee County Parks.
The narrow-gauge railroad’s collection of cars includes 11 original and replica wooden coaches plus a classic red wooden caboose. The train is pulled by one of two restored coal-fired locomotives built by Baldwin Locomotive Works.
HISTORY OF THE HUCKLEBERRY RAILROAD LINE
The Huckleberry Railroad was so named because it ran so slow, a person could jump off the train, pick a few huckleberries, and jump back on the train with minimum effort.
The Huckleberry Railroad began operating in 1857 as part of the Flint Pere Marquette Railroad Company. The Flint Pere Marquette Railroad Company was organized on June 22, 1857. The branch of the Pere Marquette from Flint to Otter Lake (15 miles) was constructed under the Flint River Railroad Charter and opened in 1872. It later was known as the Otter Lake Branch. Eventually the track was extended by another 4.5 miles from Otter Lake to Fostoria, for a total of 19.5 miles from Flint to Fostoria.
Pere Marquette was absorbed by the C&O (Chesapeake and Ohio) Railroad. The C&O merged and other railroad lines merged with the B&O to become the Chessie System. The Chessie System is now known as CSX.
LOCOMOTIVES (#152 AND #464)
Currently, the Huckleberry Railroad operates three locomotives. #152 and #464 are the primary locomotives that serve the Huckleberry Railroad. At this time, the #464 locomotive is out of service as it is undergoing renovations. The Huckleberry Railroad #152, formally known as #2 locomotive, is a 4-6-0 (wheel arrangement) built in June of 1920 by Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the Alaska Engineering Commission (AEC). The AEC purchased #152 and the Tanana Valley Railroad to further its task of building the Alaska Railroad.
The Alaska Railroad was a three-foot gauge railroad and ran out of Fairbanks to the coal mines of Nenana, and the gold rush town of Chatanika. Once the standard gauge main line of Alaska Railroad was completed, the AEC dissolved, and its property transferred over to the Alaska Railroad.
In 1943, #152 was transferred from storage at the Alaska Railroad to the U.S. War Department in Seattle, Washington. Later, #152 was sold to the Davison Scrap Company in Stockton, California. It was purchased by Hal Wilmunder, relocated to the Antelope & Western in Roseville, California, and renumbered as #152. In 1963, it went to the Camino, Cable, & Northern. When Camino, Cable, & Northern shut down in 1974, Mr. Wilmunder sold #152 to Keystone Locomotive Works. In 1975, the Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission purchased #152 and began the restoration process.
After restoration was completed on #152 locomotive in 1976, it was put into service at the Huckleberry Railroad. Of the locomotives operating since the beginning of the Huckleberry Railroad, #152 is the only locomotive still in active service.
After proudly serving the Huckleberry Railroad for 14 years as the primary locomotive, #152 was in need of a major repair and overhaul. In January of 1990, #152 went down for service, and the newly rebuilt locomotive #464 went into service.
There were several changes made to the #152 locomotive. New windows were cut and installed in the front of the cab. The cab was stained with a deeper color to give it a more realistic look, and the red paint on the locomotive was changed to black to give the locomotive cab a more traditional appearance. After four years of repair and restoration, #152 began regular service in December 1994.
As with any historic site or attraction, special care has to be given to preserving the relics and history of such a gem so that it can continue to exist for the community to enjoy for many more years. This restoration and inspection process is required on steam locomotives after every 1492 days or 15 years of operation.
The project required the locomotive be completely disassembled, the boiler removed, cleaned and inspected, every piece, part, nut and bolt scrutinized and then needed repairs completed before being reassembled for a final inspection and testing. It’s a lengthy and costly process that would not have been possible without the help of the C.S. Mott Foundation. The Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission would like to extend their gratitude to the C.S. Mott Foundation for their generous support of not only this project, but of several Parks and Crossroads Village projects over the last 50 years. In 2016 the C.S. Mott Foundation granted the Genesee County Parks just over $1million to complete the inspection and restoration of engine #152 so that the Huckleberry Railroad could continue carrying passengers for years to come.
Starting in 2016, the railroad staff at Crossroads Village disassembled the engine. Then, the legendary Strasburg Railroad in Strasburg, PA was contracted to perform the boiler inspection and repair. With the boiler returned, staff continued putting the pieces back together on this 1920 Baldwin steam locomotive. The project was completed much faster than the anticipated five years thanks to the hard work, dedication and expertise of the staff in the railroad shop.
Locomotive service #464 was built in 1903 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. #464 was the final “mudhen” in an order of 15 locomotives delivered with Vauclain Compound cylinders, Stephenson Valve Gear, and a slope back tender. A few years later, the Rio Grande, converted #464 to simple cylinders and slide valves. Later in its life, #464 was again converted to its third set of cylinders, now with Walschaerts Valve Gear and piston valves.
The #464 spent most of its life under the ownership of the Rio Grande. It hauled freight and may have performed helper duties. During its time with the Rio Grande, it also served in the Rio Grande Southern in the 1940s and was used as the yard switcher out of Durango, Colorado, in the 1950s. In 1973, Knotts Berry Farm, in Buena Park, California, purchased #464 and used it for one year. Due to low clearance of the counterweights, along with a declining mechanical state, #464 was sidelined.
In the fall of 1994, #464’s sword hanger (part of the suspension system) broke down. At that point, it was taken out service so that the locomotive wheels could be replaced and repairs could be made to the sword hanger and the water tank. #464 re-entered service in July 1995 after a complete rebuild.
The Huckleberry Railroad operates three locomotives, two cabooses, one hopper car and a motor car (Speeder). Each and every coach, caboose, and car is unique in its origins and history.
HUCKLEBERRY RAILROAD RENTALS
If you’re interested in renting the Huckleberry Railroad, please call 810.736.7100, ext. 6. The rental fee includes a 40-minute ride that takes you past some of the most scenic areas around Mott Lake, Crossroads Village, and the Genesee Recreation Area. Rates are as follows:
- $3,500.00 minimum, non-operating day
- $600.00 minimum, operating day