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Brownell and Hopkins

Ghost Stations on the Kal-Haven Line


train-schedule-1876-2
Kalamazoo Gazette, 21 May 1876.

Incorporated in April 1869, the Kalamazoo & South Haven Railroad Company (K&SH) quickly began constructing a forty-mile stretch of track that would connect Kalamazoo with the Lake Michigan shoreline and the village of South Haven. The K&SH line was completed in 1870 and leased to the Michigan Central, which ultimately merged with the Kalamazoo & South Haven Company in 1916. Passenger trains traveled the route until 1937, but freight service continued until the early 1970s before the line was finally abandoned. The old railroad bed has since been transformed into the Kal-Haven State Park Trail.

Kalamazoo & South Haven Line

The Kalamazoo & South Haven Railroad followed a northwesterly route out of Kalamazoo toward the village of Alamo before passing through well-known places like Gobles, Bloomingdale, and Grand Junction on the way to South Haven. But the train made a couple of additional stops in Kalamazoo County before it reached Alamo, places that have long since been forgotten. These were the rail stops once known as Brownell (or Brownell’s Station) and Hopkins (or Hopkins Station).

“On three hours’ notice the property holders of Grand Prairie and vicinity, to the number of sixty, met at Brownell’s Station to take into consideration the protection of their property from fire.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 27 October 1871

brownell-3-1600
Brownell’s Station (Kalamazoo/Oshtemo township line). Kalamazoo County map published by F.W. Beers & Co., 1873. Local History Room

Brownell’s Station

Four miles northwest of Kalamazoo, the train approached the North 12th Street crossing (now North Drake Road). This was known then as Brownell’s Station, or simply Brownell. According to the 1873 atlas, a small depot stood on the east side of North 12th Street along the south side of the tracks on property belonging to David W. and Magdalen Brownell in section 6 of Kalamazoo Township. Newspaper listings document activity at Brownell’s Station as early as May 1871, soon after the railroad line was opened. Residents on the Grand Prairie road and surrounding area found Brownell’s Station to be of great convenience. The station was clearly marked on the 1916 topographical map, and remained known until at least 1939.

“—A car loaded with logs ran off the track on the South Haven road near Brownell’s yesterday and ditched several cars. The passengers were loaded into box cars and brought in.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 9 September 1881

brownells-station-tackaburys-atlas-1884-1200
Tackabury’s atlas of the State of Michigan, 1884. University of Michigan Library

Hopkins Station

1920_Hopkins_station_adjusted-400
Credit: Sue Hodapp, Kal-Haven Heritage Trail

After leaving Brownell’s Station, the K&SH line continued in a west-northwesterly direction for another mile or so before curving sharply northward toward Alamo. Soon after the curve came another stopping point where the tracks crossed West ‘G’ Avenue, west of North 10th Street, on property belonging to Laban and Susan L. Hopkins. This was known as Hopkins Station, or simply Hopkins, although not to be confused with the village by the same name in central Allegan County.

Like Brownell, Hopkins Station was established during the early 1870s, although little else is known about it. According to the 1873 Kalamazoo County map, a small depot (pictured here) was probably located along the west side of the tracks on the north side of West ‘G’ Avenue. It’s possible that the two rail stops may have later been combined into one, most likely Brownell, although Hopkins Station remained a familiar name on the land for quite some time.

“It is stated that the stations of Brownell and Hopkins on the South Haven road are to be consolidated into a station located midway between them.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 13 May 1879

hopkins-3-1600
Hopkins Station (Alamo/Oshtemo township line). Kalamazoo County map published by F.W. Beers & Co., 1873. Local History Room

“Twenty car-loads of apples, including upwards of 3,000 barrels, have been shipped from Hopkins station on the Kalamazoo & South Haven railroad so far this season.”

Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph, 17 November 1886

Unlike the stations in larger villages along the route, trains only stopped at Brownell and Hopkins if signaled to do so. Both, however, served as convenient passenger boarding stations for area residents and local farmers who loaded fresh fruit and other produce bound for markets in Kalamazoo and South Haven.

Today, nothing exists of those once familiar places on the land, except for notations on scarce maps, published railroad timetables, and the few precious stories told by those who recall those places.

 

Written by Keith Howard, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, July 2023.

Sources

Books

History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan : with illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers
Durant, Samuel W., comp.
Philadelphia: Everts & Abbott, 1880
Call Number: H 977.417 H67W

Next stop Kalamazoo! : A history of railroading in Kalamazoo County
Hager, David C.
Kalamazoo Public Museum, 1976
Call Number: H 385 H144

Michigan place names: the history of the founding and the naming of more than five thousand past and present Michigan communities
Romig, Walter.
Wayne State University Press, 1986
Call Number: H 917.74 R765W


Articles

“Railroad excursion picnic”
Kalamazoo Weekly Telegraph, 24 May 1871, page 2

“On three hours’ notice…”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 27 October 1871, page 3

“Michigan Central Rail Road time table”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 21 May 1876, page 2

“A child of Philip Yagley…”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 5 February 1879, page 4

“It is stated that the stations of Brownell and Hopkins…”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 13 May 1879, page 4

“Railroad washouts”
Kalamazoo Telegraph, 5 January 1880, page 4

“Mr. H.W. Coddington…”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 4 April 1880, page 5

“A car loaded with logs ran off the track…”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 9 September 1881, page 4

“Killed on the track”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 16 March 1888, page 1

“Struck a gravel bank”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 12 June 1890, page 4

“William Chamberlain hurt”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 18 September 1900, page 1

“Foxy college students”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 21 December 1902, page 3

“Second crop berries”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 20 November 1904, page 2

“Big auction of stock”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 25 March 1906, page 16

“Brownell man’s pony is stolen”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 29 October 1915, page 3

“Burning bridge halts M.C. railroad traffic”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 29 March 1923, page 9


Documents

“The railroad history of Kalamazoo”
Stoddard, Arthur
Kalamazoo, MI. [s.n.], 1948
Call Number: H 385.09774 S867


Maps

Map of Kalamazoo County, Michigan, 1873
F. W. Beers & Co., 1873

Tackabury’s atlas of the State of Michigan, 1884
Tackabury, George N. Detroit, 1884

Map of Kalamazoo County, Michigan, 1890
Wm. C. Sauer, C. E., 1890

Railroad map of Michigan, southern peninsula (Kalamazoo County)
Published by Rand McNally, Chicago, 1910.

Map of Kalamazoo County, Michigan, 1910
Geo. A. Ogle & Co., 1910

Plat book of Kalamazoo County, Michigan: compiled from surveys and the public records of Kalamazoo County, Michigan
Glen C. Wheaton, ?
Rockford, Ill.: Thrift Press ; Kalamazoo, Mich., 1928
Library of Congress Geography and Map Division. Washington, D.C.
Call Number: G1413.K2 T3 1928

 

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