Shaytown by Joel Dinda

Shaytown, photo by joeldinda.

A few years ago we ran an old photo of a Shay Locomotive on Michigan in Pictures. The other day, I came across this photo in our Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr. Joel writes:

I was wandering around the local backroads a few days ago when I spotted this sprawling barn and these tall grasses; seemed like a possible photograph….

Further research about the location turned up an unexpected gem. Seems that Shaytown was named for Ephraim Shay, inventor of the classic narrow-gauge lumbering locomotive, who became famous after bestowing his name on this corner. Recovering railfan that I am, I knew who he was, but hadn’t recognized the local connection.

Near as I can tell, Shay owned this property for four years or so shortly after the Civil War, where he ran a sawmill and (probably) a general store. Those are gone, and to all appearances the existing barn and house were built by later owners.

Nonetheless, a delightful surprise. Unfortunately, and despite the truck parked in the yard, both the house and barn seem to be abandoned.

Check this out nearly lifesize and also in his The Showcase slideshow.

2 thoughts on “Shaytown

  1. Ephraim Shay, inventor of Shay Locomotive, was my great grandfather. I will be attending his 150th Birthday celebration in Harbor springs July 15-16. Can you give me the exact location of the Shaytown buildings in this picture? Near Ionia? Muir?I plan to visit the area after the event. Four years ago I found Shaytown Road and took a picture of the street sign..Don’t think I could find it again without help……….D.C. Morrill


  2. Sure. The barn is (Shaytown was) at the corner of Clinton Trail (Michigan M-50) and Shaytown Road in rural Eaton County. I took the photo from Shaytown Road.

    The nearest big town is Vermontville, but that’s a poor starting point. The location’s about halfway between Lake Odessa and Charlotte on M-50. The best exit from I-69 is Charlotte/M-50 (head west a mile, then north); from I-96 it’s Ionia/M-66 (head south ~10 miles on M-66 to M-43/M-50; turn left, then right when they fork a couple miles east).

    Hope that helps.


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