The Ann Arbor Railroad Company: Navigating Financial Management Through Per Diem Reports



The Ann Arbor Railroad Company, once a pivotal player in the Midwest's transportation network, utilized per diem reports as a cornerstone of its financial and operational management. These reports, exemplified by the historical document depicted in this article, were essential tools for tracking the usage of railcars and calculating the associated charges for their use by other carriers.

Per diem, a term derived from Latin meaning "per day," refers to the daily charge levied by a railroad for the use of its railcars by other companies. This system of charges was crucial for the Ann Arbor Railroad Company, which was chartered on September 21, 1895, as a successor to the Toledo, Ann Arbor and North Michigan Railway.

The company's strategic location, built from Toledo, Ohio, northwest to Frankfort, Michigan, was designed to move freight across Lake Michigan, bypassing the congested rail yards of Chicago and was as much a steamship line as a railroad, with its car ferries playing a vital role in its operations. From 1910 to 1968, the company operated more car ferry route-miles than miles of railroad, showcasing its unique position in the industry.

The per diem report from the Ann Arbor Railroad Company, dated from the early 20th century, details car numbers, days in use, and per diem charges for a specific month.

The meticulous record-keeping evident in the report underscores the importance of accurate financial tracking for the company.

R. E. Randerson, identified as the Superintendent of Car Service, indicating his responsibility for overseeing the use and financial accounting of the railroad cars, is addressed to Toledo, Ohio, which was a significant location for the company's operations.

This type of reporting system allowed the Ann Arbor Railroad to manage its assets efficiently, ensuring that each car's usage was accounted for and appropriately charged. This was particularly important for a company that faced financial challenges throughout its history. The Ann Arbor Railroad went through several periods of bankruptcy and ownership changes, reflecting the volatile nature of the railroad industry during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Despite these challenges, the Ann Arbor Railroad was at the forefront of car ferry design and innovation, from the first wooden-hulled vessels to the most advanced car ferry to ever sail Lake Michigan. The company's ferries were designed to operate year-round, even in the challenging ice conditions of the Great Lakes.

This level of detail was necessary for the company to navigate the financial complexities of the railroad industry, ensuring that it could charge accurately for the use of its assets and maintain its financial health.

Today, the legacy of the Ann Arbor Railroad continues, with the modern incarnation of the company operating as a Class III short line railroad based in Toledo, Ohio, and managed by Watco.

The current operations still reflect the historical importance of the Ann Arbor route, with a focus on freight transportation and serving the automotive industry, among other customers.

Trains Magazine
Clarke Historical Library
Ann Arbor District Library
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.