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Thompsonville’s train history recognized with historical marker

A historical marker for the Thompsonville Junction is near a red caboose and old railroad lines that cross.
Kendra Carr
/
Interlochen Public Radio
A new marker has been dedicated in honor of the intersection that formed Thompsonville in Benzie County.

There was a time when railroads were the way that most everything got around.

A portion of rail that connected Frankfort to Toledo and the Traverse City area to Chicago is called the Diamond Crossing.

That's because the way the two railroads create a diamond shape in the center of the crossing.

Two railroad tracks meet to create a diamond where they cross. The lone rail sits in front of a red caboose.
Kendra Carr
During the 19th century, the Pere Marquette and Ann Arbor railroads crossed in Thompsonville at the Diamond Crossing.

Last Saturday, the Michigan History Center recognized it with a historical marker.

Dr. Charles Kraus is the researcher that put together the application for the marker.

“Like many things that happened with the railroads, the railroads came to a place and suddenly something sprouted, a village sprouted.”

What sprouted from the Diamond Crossing was the Village of Thompsonville.

“Before the Diamond Cross existed, there was no Village of Thompsonville”

From raw materials, to manufactured goods, and people, everything moved by an intricate web of rail lines.

“If you read the early newspaper clippings about Thompsonville, it was one of the fastest growing communities in this northwest-lower area of Michigan,” says Dr. Kraus. “There were articles about, ‘Thompsonville going to be the next county seat,’ and ‘Thompsonville is going to be bigger than Traverse City’ because it was just expanding very rapidly.”

 View of the historical marker and Thompsonville Junction Caboose from the approximate location of where the diamond crossing was located during its use.
Kendra Carr
View of the historical marker and Thompsonville Junction Caboose from the approximate location of where the diamond crossing was located during its use.

The tracks were used until the 1980s, when the railroad service ended.

Dr. Kraus heard about the Thompsonville Junction from a Benzie Area Historical Society tour. When he went looking for railroad tracks, the Diamond Crossing was covered in weeds.

“I almost tripped over it and the actual rails of the Diamond Crossing are there. They’re not in the position where they were when it was functioning as a rail crossing– they’d been moved,” Kraus says. “I began to think, ‘Somebody must have thought this was pretty important to save it.’”

That led him to ask the Michigan History Center for the historical marker.

“That steel diamond is the last remaining bit of the Thompsonville Junction Era,” says Krause. “There's no more rail cars or rail lines.”

The Diamond Crossing historical marker is located on Thompson Avenue next to the Red Caboose and Betsie Valley Trailway in Thompsonville.