Historical Collection


The Great Lakes Railway Historical Collection (the “Collection”) consists of photographs, negatives, videos, books, maps, timetables and other historical documents and materials related to past and present railroads of the Great Lakes Region. The purpose of the Collection is to preserve these materials for use by others both now and in the future for research, book writing, lectures and general information. The scope of the Collection includes all railroads, currently in operation or historical, operating in the States surrounding the Great Lakes and the Province of Ontario.

The Collection was formally created in 2015. Currently, the bulk of its materials are the railroad photograph collection of Byron Babbish.

This includes approximately 26,000 35 mm color slides (Kodachrome) and black and white negatives as well as 5,000 color negatives taken by him in the Great Lakes Region. A large number of the prints made from the negatives also reside in the Collection. Most of the slides and negatives have been scanned and are thus also in digital format. The railroad book collection of Byron Babbish is also part of the Collection as are some railroad items such as signs, rulebooks, maps and railroad equipment.

The Collection also houses the railroad photograph collection of William R. Dewey, Jr. consisting of 274 2” X 3” black and white negatives of steam locomotives taken in the Great Lakes Region between 1937 and 1940. The railroad timetable and book collection of James Sellgren is also part of the Collection as is historical documents and material from Art Single on the now abandoned Boyne Valley Railroad. Scanned slides from the Richard R. Andrews railroad photograph collection of some Michigan railroads are also part of the Collection’s digital catalog.

The purpose of the Collection is to provide a warehouse that others may use to donate their historical railroad collections to that is a safe place that will be maintained for active research and writing by a fellow enthusiast. The ultimate goal of the Collection is to have such a large collection of Great Lakes Railway materials, all organized, cataloged and digitized, that a public or private library or museum would be interested in assuming it so that it is kept inperpetuity by professional archivists.

The curator of the Collection is Byron Babbish. He has maintained his collection of railroad slides, negatives, photographs, books and materials since 1975 when he started photographing trains in the Detroit area and later expanded to photograph trains in all of Michigan and southeastern Ontario. He has dozen of books published on railroads and railroad topics utilizing the photographs in the Collection. He has worked on a railroad as an engineer and conductor . He also works at the Father Edward J. Dowling S.J. Maritime Historical Collection located at the University of Detroit Mercy Library as a volunteer helping with the organization and maintenance of that collection of Great Lakes shipping photographs and materials. Photographs in the Dowling Collection of Great Lakes railroad car ferries have, with their permission, been scanned and are now included in the Collection’s digital catalog.

If you are looking for location to donate your Great Lake railway materials for future safekeeping and use by others please consider The Great Lake Railway Historical Collection. Contact Byron Babbish at manistique@gmail.com for more information.