Expressway for Industry – Detroit & Toledo Shore Line

The corridor between Toledo and Detroit contains several rail lines. The area was a who’s who of Northeastern railroad giants. Within the corridor existed the small but highly efficient short line, the Detroit & Toledo Shore Line (reporting mark DTS). The line lasted until 1981 when it was absorbed into one those giants. During its existence the 47-mile double track line was continuously busy and profitable, paying dividends to its owners on a regular basis.

The DTS was formed from a failed interurban line in 1899. In 1902 the Grand Trunk Western (GTW) and the Clover Leaf (Toledo, St. Louis and Western Railroad) purchased the line. The GTW wanted direct access to the East-West interchanges in Toledo while the Clover Leaf (later Nickle Plate) wanted access to the growing industrial complexes of Detroit. Once acquired, the line was quickly upgraded to GTW standards.

From an early GTW map

As a bridge route with a lot of traffic from the parent roads, the DTS grew and was very profitable even in times when other roads had trouble. During the height of the steam era the line relied on a small fleet of Mikados and Consolidations for most of its main line work. When the line moved to diesels it purchased all EMD units. The DTS purchased its first diesel in 1950 (SW7) and its last in 1953 (GP7). In the end, the entire diesel fleet was 16 units consisting of SW7, SW9 and GP7 units. This fleet would serve the line until 1981 without change.

Typical DTS GP7 in later paint scheme.

DTS trains were not limited to DTS trackage. Through trains ran at various points on the GTW with some going all the way to Flint and Port Huron. The GTW also ran through trains over the DTS through to Toledo. In 1981 GTW purchased the 50% from Norfolk Southern and the line became part of GTW as the Shore Line Subdivision.


The DTS handled a large amount of traffic reporting 243 million net ton-miles of revenue freight in 1960. The DTS never handled a single passenger and was a freight only line for its entire existence. Although the line was double tracked, the line did suffer from traffic issues due to its crossing other roads in the congested corridor, especially in West Detroit at Ecorse Jct., NS Bridge, CSX Delray, and the Dix Ave. interlockings.

DTS #76 GP7

Models of the DTS GP7 and some freight cars are available in N and HO. O scale has a few freight cars. Modelling the DTS could be done on a small or large scale. The DTS served several industries at various points on the line plus had its through freights for operational interest. Occasional flashes of GTW GP38 and GP40 could be introduced to break up the scenes and provide visual interest.

Atlas HO GP7 with DTS paint scheme

If you are not into operations, the DTS is a great subject. Its double track main could easily be put into a continuous running layout with a yard to allow trains to arrive and depart. Any number of scenes could be included to give viewing and photo interest. A quick search found the following three track planes which would work on a 4×8 in HO or 2×4 in N scale. These are from the Michael Fischer’s Track plans webpage.

Simple double track loop with small yard and some industries.
Split layout to provide additional visual interest and additional yard space.

Additional information and photographs are available on-line from a variety of sources. Some I found very enjoyable include:

2019 UPDATE!

Mr. Charles Geletzke

I recently had the opportunity to meet Mr. Charles Geletzke, Author of several books and expert on the Detroit & Toledo Short Line at an operating session.

Charles H. Geletzke Jr. and Wilbur E. Hague’s book, The Detroit & Toledo Shore Line Railroad “Expressway For Industry”, is the complete history of the D&TSL from 1897 through inclusion with Grand Trunk Corporation in 1981 with one additional chapter bringing reader up to 2011. The 264 page book contains 271 b&w and color photos, maps, drawings, statistics, stories, anecdotes, Dispatcher’s Train Sheets, equipment rosters, lists of structures, bridges, and customers served. The ONLY book ever written on the Shore Line!

I found Mr. Geletzke full of insight and colorful stories about the D&TSL and other railroads. He is also just a genuinely friendly and trusting person and yes, I had to buy a couple of his books! I look forward to working with him again at another operating session.

Author: Marshall Stull

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