A Glimpse of the SEMTA

I occasionally buy slides off a popular online auction site. OK, it’s eBay. I have a few favourite sellers that I follow, and one in particular sells a lot of Canadian slides at reasonable prices. I bid on whatever interests me – Manitoba and Maritime content in particular – and occasionally something odd catches my eye.

These three images definitely caught my eye. A Grand Trunk locomotive leading a five car passenger train? Yes, please!

A SEMTA train in Michigan
Ex GT 4950 leading a SEMTA train

What was SEMTA, you ask?

SEMTA was the Southeastern Michigan Transit Authority. It was started in 1967 and acquired several suburban bus lines to serve the Detroit area. The Detroit Transit History site has a lot of information on SEMTA‘s bus lines.

The Grand Trunk Western had been operating a commuter train between Detroit and Pontiac, Michigan since 1931. This operation was taken over by SEMTA in January 1974 and was colloquially known as the “Silver Streak”.

These photos were taken in Birmingham, Michigan in March 1975 by an unknown photographer.

Ex GT 4950 at the station in Birmingham, Michigan
Ex GT 4950 at the station in Birmingham, Michigan

GT 4950 was one of 11 GP18s owned by the Grand Trunk Western Railroad. 4950 through 4952 were equipped with steam heat for passenger operation.

The locomotive still has a big GT on it but there are small SEMTA decals on the nose and under the cab window.

I don’t know any details on the five coaches. I see the lead coach is still decorated for the Grand Trunk. Wikipedia says that SEMTA owned 23 coaches. If you look at the train in this photo from 1980, the two coaches on the rear of this post’s train look like the ones from 1980.

The SEMTA commuter rail service was discontinued in 1983.

Eventually SEMTA evolved into SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation), which continues to operate transit services in and around Detroit. It does not offer rail service.

Amtrak’s Twilight Limited and Wolverine trains began operating over this section of Grand Trunk rail on May 5, 1994. Today the Wolverine has three departures daily on this route between Pontiac, MI and Chicago, IL.

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