Todd and Denver Todd's Railfan Guide to

In General
Getting Here


In General

Location / Name:
Grand Haven MI

What's Here:
Two vintage depots.
Pere Marquette Steam Engine #1223.
Coaling Tower
Two Cabooses and a Pere Marquette Boxcar

GPS Coordinates: 43.064903, -86.234054 (Downtown - Washington Ave and Harbor Drive)
ZIP: 49417
County: Ottawa
Phone AC: 616

Scanner Frequencies:

Access by train/transit:

The Scoop:

Coming to Grand Haven is a similar experience to going down 89a through Sedona AZ.  No matter how many times you have been here, or the time of the day or the year, everything looks different depending on the sun.  If you love sunsets over the water, you don't have to travel to the west coast of the U.S.   With that said, Grand Haven is a wonderful place to live and visit, and in my short time in Grand Haven, the people I met couldn't be nicer.

Train Activity: one train in each direction.  The NB train comes thru in mid-morning, and the SB during the mid-to-late afternoon.  This is good news for us railfans, because it used to run at night :-(   The 52 mile long Michigan Shore RR, based in Muskegon MI, passes through Grand Haven to interchange with CSX at West Olive MI.  Muskegon's last railroad moves approximately 7,000 carloads of freight a year, mostly sand and chemicals (from the Muskegon Chronicle).

If you ever have the opportunity to catch a train coming through by day, US31 does a very good job of following the tracks south to Holland, until you reach Van Buren St, where the tracks finally veer off to the right (as you are heading south).

A spot of bad news, as the hobby shop pictured below, Harbourfront Hobbies, closed over the summer of 2016.  This joins the oodles of others, such as Yorktown Hobbies in Cockeysville MD in 2013, and Chesterfield Hobbies in Midlothian VA in 2012 (to name but a very few, ones that I frequented).  At least Klein's (Cockeysville MD) is still around, and their in store prices are better than most prices on EBay (dunno how they do it! - but they have a huge internet presence.)

For local bus service, Harbor Transit has been providing Grand Haven with transportation since 1975.  The address for their office is: 440 North Ferry Street, Grand Haven, MI 49417.  Their phone number is:(616)842-3200.

Hotel suggestions: Denver says he prefers the Best Western Beacon Inn

Food suggestions:  Several of the best pizza places around are shown on the map, as well as many of the other places to eat.  There are also bunches of other places to eat along both the US-31 and M-104 corridors coming in and out of Grand Haven.

Thanks to Denver Todd for his help with this and many of my new railfan guides.  Since Denver lives here, he worked like the devil to prove the information for this page, which is ALWAYS the hard part!  :-)

Websites and other additional information sources of interest for the area:

Aerial shots were taken from either Google Maps or www.bing.com/maps as noted.  The screen captures are made with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it! 

Additional pictures and information are always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! Contact info is here

Getting Here

Grand Haven is on the west side of Michigan on Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the Grand River.

From either the north in Muskegon, or the south, as in Holland, it's US 31.  If you're coming in from the east such as Lansing or Grand Rapids, take I-96 to the M-104 exit, exit 9.  Take 104 west till you hit Grand Haven.  At first, 104 will be Cleveland Ave when you get off the interstate, but will turn into E Savidge St in Spring Lake.


click here for the above map in PDF version


  Ex GTW Depot

GPS Coordinates: 43.06701, -86.22617
N Harbor Drive across from Washington Ave

The ex Grand Trunk Western Station (former D,GH&M Rwy) was built in 1870.  The station now serves as The Grand Haven Historical Society Transportation Museum.   A newer GTW station was built in the late 1960's (?), just north of the old station.  It now serves as a clubhouse for the Grand Haven Sailing Club.


  Ex Pere Marquette / C&O Depot

GPS Coordinates: 43.067038, -86.226132
Jackson Ave at North 4th Street


Looking north     Looking South

Grade Crossing Adjacent to the station


The three following sights are all located at a park on North Harbor Drive, known as
"The Pere Marquette 1223 Project at Chinook Pier" (N 43.06779, W 86.23081)

  Ex Grand Trunk Western Coal Tower

A video that contains a number of pictures from the construction of the coal tower is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmIoyOJIO84&feature=youtu.be


  This picture is from the video

  Ex Pere Marquette Steam Engine #1223

Pere Marquette Berkshire (2-8-4) Class N-1 #1223, was built in 1941 by the Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, OH.   It is the sister engine to #1225, a restored locomotive owned and operated by the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, MI


  Assortment of Freight Cars

Included in this small collection are:
     Pere Marquette caboose #A986
     Pere Marquette boxcar #72222
     Grand Trunk Western Caboose #77915

    Bridge 1

GPS Coordinates: 43.070695, -86.223992
Picture taken from Cohu Drive, looking south

    Bridge 2 - Swingbridge

GPS Coordinates: 43.07582, -86.21961

  Picture taken from Cohu Drive, looking north

  Harbor Transit

GPS Coordinates: 43.066240, -86.215314

  Grand Haven Fire and Police Department HQ

GPS Coordinates: 43.062540, -86.224725

It seems as if not very much is too far from the tracks running through Grand Haven, and the Public Safety headquarters building is no exception.  The police are on one side, and the fire department is on the other side of the building.  The building is a block away from the tracks.

  Old Fire House

GPS Coordinates: 43.063125, -86.225476

  Brass Map

GPS Coordinates: 43.064995, -86.234385

I am a map person, so I could not help myself from being impressed with the amount of work that has gone into fashioning a scale replica of the Grand River from is't humble beginnings in the interior of Michigan.  If you're in the downtown area, you have to stop by and check it out!



Being that there is only one train a day, there really isn't much need for signals, so you won't find many.  I was lucky to spot one when taking pictures of the Pere Marquette depot.  It is a yellow approach signal for the bridges on the southern side of them, and looks more amber than it does yellow from a distance.


On the north side of the bridges for the SB approach, the signal is just to the north of 3rd Street, adjacent to the bottom of the exit ramp from US-31.

Meanwhile, Back in the Park.....

GTW Bridge Approach Signal

 tThis signal for many years guarded the east-west approach to the Grand Trunk Western swing bridge over the entrance to the Spring Lake channel.  This electrified signal with it's colored lights indicated to the engineer of the train wheteher the bridge was open to water traffic or closed and lined up for the railroad and was safe to bring the train across the bridge.  The tracks and swing bridge were removed in the 1970's.  The signal was donated by the Village of Spring Lake to the city of Grand Haven in 1981.  It could display red over red, or green over red.



WRRS Model 5 Autoflag "Wig-Wag"

This disappearing Banner type Autoflag was designed to be placed at the side of the road, with the banner overhanging the roadway, plainly visible to approaching traffic.  This signal was installed at the Pennoyer Street grade crossing in Grand Haven in the 1920's by the Pere Marquette RR.  It was replaced by more modern type signals in 1978.  The signal is now electrically activated and operates for one minute on the hour from 9am to 9pm daily, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  It was donated to the city of Grand Haven by the Chessie System in 1982.


The Michigan Shore RR at Washington & 7th Streets.  Picture by Mike Kamys of Chicago on 7/14/2015 around 11:45am.  This is a bit unusual, for Denver tells me this train usually runs at night.

A couple of shots of a day freight at Fillmore Rd on April 18th, 2016, also by Mike Kamys.

The maps below come from the Genesee & Wyoming's website for the Michigan Shore RR: http://www.gwrr.com/operations/railroads/north_america/michigan_shore_railroad
The map of Michigan comes from their PDF of the state.

  Click on the thumbnail if you want a higher resolution version of the whole state map as shown above.



Unique Grade Crossings

A lot of the grade crossings in Grand Haven are quite unique as you can see from the picture below.  It's not too often that we see traffic lights mounted to the railroad grade crossing structures.  The top view is only a half a block away from the hobby store on Washington.

The Grade Crossing below is at Washington and 7th Street, near the hobby shop.  This is the same intersection as above with the picture of the MS train, looking the other way (the train is coming from the left).


Another typical grade crossing in the downtown area, this one is at Washington and 7th looking south, near the Harbourfront Hobbies & Craft shop.

Along the Boardwalk

A beautiful place to take a walk at almost anytime of the year.



Found on Washington near N Harbor Drive


Harbourfront Hobbies and Crafts

GPS Coordinates: 43.061642, -86.222806
707 Washington Ave,  Grand Haven, MI 49417,  (616) 842-2910


the Grand Haven Musical Fountain

Built in 1963, it was the largest water fountain at the time.  Shows run Memorial Day through Labor Day.  Check out the Grand Haven website here for the latest information:



Station Like Building

Over in Spring Lake, at first glance, it may appear like a real railroad structure, but it is not.  Nevertheless, it's interesting to take a picture of.  The building is a modern, state of the art office building built in recent years for a medical group.  It is situated near the path of the old GTW Tracks that headed into GH but were pulled up years and years ago.  Perhaps that's why they adopted a RR theme.  It is on 104 off my map to the right.

Historical USGS Maps



I love trains, and I love signals.  I am not an expert.  My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page.  This is something I have fun with while trying to help others.  My webpages are an attempt at putting everything I can find of the subject in one convenient place.  There are plenty of other good websites to help me in this effort, and they are listed in the links section on my indexa page, or as needed on individual pages.  Please do not write to me about something that may be incorrect, and then hound the heck out of me if I do not respond to you in the manner you would like.  I operate on the "Golden Rule Principle", and if you are not familiar with it, please acquaint yourself with how to treat people by reading Mathew 7:12 (among others, the principle exists in almost every religion).  If you contact me (like some do, hi Paul) and try to make it a "non-fun" thing and start with the name calling, your name will go into my spambox list! :-)

Please Note:  Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.

If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct.  Once in a while, an error may creep in, especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names.  Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these locations.  I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words", and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the railfan over a simple text description of the area.  Since the main focus of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  Since most of us railheads don't have just trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other significant historical or geographical feature.  While some may feel they shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the 1830's!!!  

My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning.  Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented.  Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost!  I belong to AAA, which allows you to get local maps for free when you visit the local branches.  ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the railroads on them.  If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.  Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.

Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! BE NICE!!! Contact info is here

Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.


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Last Modified 24-Oct-2016