The Upjohn Railroad  

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The spur from the Pennsylvania Railroad to The Upjohn Company manufacturing complex in Portage was installed early in the construction of the site in the late 1940s. Most of the construction materials and steelwork were brought in by railroad. From movies taken of the construction, it appears that the first Upjohn switcher, a new GE 25-ton unit, did not show up on site until the initial construction was well under way. Before then, railroad cars were moved around by a bulldozer so construction materials could be unloaded at the right place.


At the start of manufacturing, 91% of inbound shipping, not including coal, was by rail. This means that practically everything came in by rail. Boxcars and TOFC were used to send out Upjohn finished products to five distribution centers - New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland. However, in 1973 trucking took over all ground shipping to the distribution centers. The rail spur continued to handle inbound materials, solvents and coal. By 1984 the percentage of inbound shipping delivered by rail was still 75% when including coal.  The amount of coal delivered at that time was 165,000 tons a year. It was stockpiled at the rear of the facility and taken to the power-house every day using a small fleet of Upjohn-owned open hoppers.


When the first switcher became too small for all the work, a more powerful 44-ton GE machine, previously used by the U.S. Navy, took over in 1977. Photos of both are shown below. The original locomotive was stored in the Building 41 south-east warehouse bay for many years, finally being transferred to a Monsanto facility in Missouri in the late 1990's. The second Upjohn switcher was replaced in the early 2000's by a larger Alco unit.

In July 2009 at the White Creek Railroad, a 7 and 1/2 inch gauge railroad in Cedar Springs, I ran across this working model of the second Upjohn switcher in it's Upjohn paint scheme. It was made by Tom Briggs, a former Upjohn machinist, around 1970. It runs on 2 x 12V lead-acid batteries, is remote controlled and can pull several scale freight cars.

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