|The History of the Former...
GRAND BELT STREETCAR LINE
As with many of Detroit's transit routes, the former GRAND BELT line also had a history that dated back to the
early 1900s. But unlike many of the other routes that began as streetcar lines, the original Grand Belt streetcar
route differed quite a bit from the bus route that would succeed it for sixty-one years.
Although the former route #20 Grand Belt — cancelled by the city's Department of Transportation (DDOT) bus system
in 2009 — traveled a substantial portion of its route along the city's "Grand Boulevard" roadway, the former Grand Belt
streetcar line, however, never operated along Grand Blvd. Nevertheless, the Grand Belt bus line can still trace its
history back to this original streetcar route.
THE D.U.R. YEARS:
The original Grand Belt line began as a new streetcar route built by the former Detroit United Railway (DUR) — the
privately-owned streetcar company in operation prior to the city take-over in 1922. It was one of the last new rail lines
constructed under the DUR. The Grand Belt line began service on Nov. 30, 1916, and operated via a belt-shaped
route that included new trackage along E. Forest, Milwaukee and Ferry Park streets. The new line also took over the
service of the Junction Avenue Belt line — which began its operations on Oct. 28, 1914.
According to DUR route information publications from the late-1910s, the heavy traveled Grand Belt route began at the
east side city limits at E. Warren and Bewick, and operated via the following route:
E. Warren, Cadillac, Forest, Gratiot, Mt. Elliott, Milwaukee (return via Baltimore, btwn Lincoln and Brush), Lincoln,
Holden, Ferry Park, Fourteenth, W. Warren, Junction (SB via 35th, btwn Devereaux and Michigan back to Junction), to
Fort Street where it looped at Clark Street.
Because the Grand Belt line was constructed after a 1911 "Day-to-Day" permit agreement was reached between the
City and the DUR, the ownership of any DUR trackage built after 1911 could fall into the city's hands at any time,
pending voter approval. The authorization to purchase these rails was granted by Detroit voters on April 4, 1921.
Consequently, portions of the Grand Belt route, including new trackage built along Milwaukee, Baltimore, Lincoln,
Holden, Ferry Park, Junction and 35th streets, were seized and purchased by the city, forcing the DUR to lease those
portions of the route from the city in order to continue operating its cars over those rails. The city, under its competing
municipally-owned operation (launched on Feb. 1, 1921), was now able to extend its new Clairmout line over portions
of the Grand Belt route starting on Jan. 15, 1922.
Other changes initiated by the city would also have an affect on the Grand Belt route. In December 1921, the city's
"short-lived" municipal operation (M.O.) and the DUR entered into a joint-service operating agreement on six of the
Initial plans were for the Grand Belt line to also be included in a joint-service operation. The city had intended to use
the joint-operation on Grand Belt to provide branch service for the city-operated cars along new trackage the city was
building along Linwood and McGraw streets. Instead of turning at Fourteenth, the city cars would continue along Ferry
Park to Linwood, then via Linwood, McGraw and W. Warren to Junction.
Although the trackage along McGraw Street was still under construction, thus delaying a joint operation, it appears that
on March 8, 1922, the M.O. began some service on a McGraw line from Ferry Park and Linwood to McGraw and Grand
River. As it turned out, the joint service operation initially planned for Grand Belt would not be necessary, as the city's
newly-launched Department of Street Railways (DSR) took-over all DUR city operations on May 15, 1922.
THE EARLY D.S.R. YEARS:
On June 26, 1922 (shortly after the city took over the lines), the Grand Belt was merged with the short McGraw line and
rerouted along the now completed McGraw street trackage. The Grand Belt now operated via Linwood, McGraw and
W. Warren to Junction, instead of Fourteenth and Warren.
Meanwhile, the east-side portion of the route was extended six-tenths-of-a-mile east of Bewick via new trackage built
along E. Warren that now connected to the new DSR Shoemaker Carhouse at St. Jean. A new turn-around loop just
south of the carhouse — the St. Jean Loop — would become the new east-end terminus for the Grand Belt line.
In April 1926, the DSR entered into a financial agreement with the Ford Motor Co. to construct an Eagle Avenue
underpass, which would allow the DSR to extend its streetcars westward underneath a large span of railroad tracks to
access the Ford River Rouge auto plant in Fordson, MI (which became part of Dearborn in 1928). This major project
also included two streetcar terminal yards to be constructed on Ford Rouge property along Miller Road.
Beginning June 5, 1927, the Grand Belt line began providing service to the new DSR streetcar terminal yard at the
Ford Rouge Plant. During shift change, a handful of Grand Belt cars would turn west off Junction onto Dix Road
(renamed W. Vernor, c. 1929) and follow along the Baker car route to the Miller Road South Yard loop — one of two
terminal yards located across the street from the plant. Service by the Grand Belt line to the Ford Rouge facility would
continue on well into the DSR/D-DOT bus years.
MAJOR GRAND BELT ROUTE CHANGE:
By 1931, a major route change for the Grand Belt line had been implemented by the DSR, after the routes followed by
the Grand Belt and the Crosstown (Warren and Forest) streetcar lines were swapped east of Mt. Elliott. The
Crosstown line — which previously traveled along Forest Avenue, but then turned south onto Mt. Elliott, to Kercheval,
Concord, Lafayette, and Field to E. Jefferson Avenue (near the entrance to the Belle Isle bridge) — was rerouted, and
would now continue east along Forest, Cadillac and E. Warren to St. Jean. The Grand Belt car line would now
continue south along Mt. Elliott, along the former Crosstown route to Field and E. Jefferson.
As a result of this route reassignment, Grand Belt now formed a "belt-shaped" route around the central city, operating
along Mt. Elliott on the east, Milwaukee, Ferry Park and McGraw streets along the north, and Junction on the west. The
Crosstown now followed a more across-the-town route along Warren and Forest avenues.
A glance at a DSR route map from the streetcar era would reveal that the Grand Belt line now intersected with every
DSR streetcar route at least once, except for the Oakman line — another belt line to the north. During the post-war
years, Grand Belt headways averaged four minutes during peak hours and 12 minutes during the base.
The Grand Belt line was considered a medium-to-heavy traveled route, and daily carried hundreds of auto workers to
their jobs. It serviced numerous auto and auto-related manufacturing facilities along its route, including the Hupp
Motor Car Co. (Milwaukee and Mt. Elliott), the Fisher Body plants (along Mlwaukee), the GM Headquarters Bldg., the
Cadillac (Clark Street) Plant (near Junction), and the Timken-Detroit Axle Co. at Fort and Clack streets, in addition to
branch service to the Ford River Rouge plant in Dearborn.
THE FINAL STREETCAR YEARS:
By the arrival of the early post-war years, the Grand Belt's days as a streetcar line would soon be numbered. Effective
June 24, 1948, the Grand Belt streetcar line was converted over to motor bus operation — thus becoming the DSR's
sixth streetcar line to be abandoned after the war.
Although most of the route initially remained unchanged after the conversion to buses, one major change occurred on
the west end of the route. Under the motor bus operation, Grand Belt service along Junction Avenue was immediately
discontinued and its coaches rerouted to continue along McGraw Street to the route's new terminus at the Wyoming
Terminal Loop on Wyoming just south of Michigan Avenue. As a result, the extended Grand Belt service to the Ford
Rouge plant was also rerouted, and now operated via Wyoming and Eagle to Miller Road.
The former Grand Belt service along Junction Avenue to Fort Street was immediately reassigned to the Clairmount
streetcar line, which up until then terminated at Junction and Michigan Avenue.
For more on the Grand Belt route's years as a Detroit bus line see...... "GRAND BELT"
Information for the above article was compiled from numerous sources including the 1980 publication "DETROIT'S STREET RAILWAYS
Vol II: City Lines 1922-1956" by Schramm, Henning, and Dworman (Bulletin 120 - Central Electric Railfans' Association), and from Jack E.
Schramm articles found under "Detroit's DSR, Parts 1 thru 3" published by Motor Coach Age Magazine. Information was also obtained
from miscellaneous artifacts courtesy of the Stan Sycko collection. Grand Belt route map illustration by Richard Andrews.
© 2007 – www.DetroitTransitHistory.info (TXV 11-26-14)
NOTE: MOST PHOTOS, IMAGES AND CHARTS HAVE BEEN REMOVED AND CAN BE VIEWED ON ORIGINAL WEBSITE PAGE
To visit original website version of this page see: www.detroittransithistory.info/Routes/GrandBeltRail.html
|Grand Belt rail map (illustrated by Richard Andrews) and 1941 DSR streetcar route info all courtesy of the S. Sycko Collection
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