Before 1850, the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad had intentions of building through Byron, but the people of the village were so sure that the road would have to be built through this area they asked an unreasonably high price for the right of way, the result being that the railroad was laid five miles northeast of Byron, eventually bringing into existence the villages of Gaines and Durand, and at the same time blasting all hopes of Byron ever becoming a city.
The Railroad Company first known as the Toledo and Ann Arbor was made up of corporations in order to issue first mortgage bonds which had to be sold to push the railroad north from Ann Arbor . In time this was re-incorporated as the Ann Arbor Railroad. The citizens of Byron saw their previous mistake and pledged a bonus of $15,000 and the right of way for the Ann Arbor to be built through Byron in 1885, but it was too late to make Byron the center it should have been.
Around 1904, Fred and Henry Meier ran a dray in Byron, hauling freight from the elevator and delivering oil to the stores, which was shipped in barrels to the elevator. Bread came to Byron in large hampers and was taken to the stores by dray around 1910.
Byron Elevator and Depot (Destroyed by fire May 29, 1909)
Soft and hard coal and coke was shipped in on coal cars, unloaded and stored in coal sheds to the east of the track. Behind the coal sheds was the stockyards which was a very busy place. Any animals shipped were driven in by helpers and loaded here.
Fred Kelsey, George Downing and Jay Skinner were stock drovers. Calkins and Augsbury who bought the Roger Haviland farm north of Byron, fed lambs who were shipped in in the early fall and out early the next spring. Bill Schad who married Kittie Haviland also did the same thing on the Haviland farm before it was sold to Calkins and Augsbury. One time 20 double decks of lambs were loaded out one evening. Three helpers drove 600-700 head at a time and $1.50 was paid for a full days work on Saturday.
Across the track from the stockyards to the east and back in a field stood an old slaughter house owned by Orlando Lee and rented in 1909 by Oscar Eddy when he purchased the meat market from John Crawford. Later this was torn down and rebuilt across the road from the Fosket farm on Braden Road . Mr. Eddy used this until the mid thirties. Another slaughter house stood east of the present elementary school building down by the pond and was rented from Floyd Downing. This was torn down.
For many years the railroad was a thriving business, two passenger trains a day each way and many freights. Around 1911, gasoline powered motor coaches called “the Potato Bug” came into being to care for extra passenger service. One started at Toledo and came as far as Ann Arbor ; here a second one started and came to Owosso ; while a third started at Owosso and ran to Mt. Pleasant , sometimes making two trips a day each way. Anyone in the country who wished to go to Cohoctah, Howell, Durand, Owosso, Byron or just for a mile or two only had to walk to the nearest crossing and the “Tater Bug” would pick them up and in due time return them to their destination if they so desired.
"Potato Bug" at the Durand Train Depot
Much grain, feed and lumber arrived on the freights. Practically everything used in the village and countryside came on the railroad. With the coming of the automobile and trucks fewer people traveled by rail; produce of all kinds began to be moved by truck rather than shipped, and one by one the passenger trains were taken off the road and freight service became limited. The last passenger train to go through Byron on a regular run was in July 1950. In August 1958 the railroad closed its depot and freight house and retired its agent, Clarence Wiggins, who had been their agent here since 1915.
In recent years, the Ann Arbor railroad was sold to the Tuscola Saginaw Bay line and trains still run through Byron.
Byron Elevator and Depot in 1916 (Rebuilt after 1909 fire)