After losing Tecumseh, rails project finds support in Traverse City


Riders will enjoy the Wheels to Rails tour in Traverse City.

A recent graduate of Spring Arbor University has found support and success with her idea to offer rail bike tours in the Traverse City area after plans to start her business in the Tecumseh area fell through.
When Macie Hefron of Grand Ledge was a 20-year-old junior in college, she came up with the plan that merged her passion for bike riding and her love of railroads into Wheels on Rails Tecumseh, a business that hoped to feature rail bike tours in the Tecumseh area.

Hefron worked for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Office of Rail and when she saw rail bike tours happening in east coast and west coast communities, she thought they could be a hit in Lenawee County. Her boss at MDOT suggested Tecumseh.

She contacted the Southern Michigan Railroad Society (SMRS), a nonprofit railway museum with tracks in the Tecumseh area, and received permission to use the idle rails that run from Russell Road near the Fire Station and travel south along Raisin Center Highway. 

However, as she continued negotiations with SMRS, difficulties in communication and coordination as well as changes in what SMRS wanted led her to rethink her choice. She ultimately decided it would be difficult to come to an agreement with SMRS.

“I was so set in stone on opening in Tecumseh, and honestly, I was really excited about it. I thought it was a great little area to open and I was actually going to partner with a guy at a winery,” said Hefron. “It was unfortunate.” She said many people from Tecumseh reached out to ask her why she’s not opening here after seeing a story about her Traverse City venture on MLive.

She feels that perhaps she was not taken seriously due to her youth and her gender. “I just think that being a woman in the railroad industry, it’s been challenging because it’s an industry that’s so heavily filled with men,” she said. “I think the railroad wanted to get more out of me than I was willing to give them. It was sad, because I was really excited, and I worked really hard for the Tecumseh area.”

Despite her disappointment, she said she learned important lessons during that time that helped her when she began talks with Great Lakes Central Railroad in Grawn, Mich., which is owned by MDOT. “They’re allowing me to do this because they saw the passion that I had at the start, and I think that’s really special,” she said. She has since been inundated with news organizations that want to write about her business idea. “My little idea that I was torn down about in 2020 has turned into something so much bigger, and I can’t wait to talk about Great Lakes Central, the railroad I’m working with. I can’t wait to just praise them for working with me, and MDOT, and all the people that have been on my side,” said Hefron. She worked with federal and state agencies to get Wheels on Rails approved for operation in the Traverse City area.

She expressed her appreciation for her boss and her team at MDOT for their support along the way, as well as for everyone who believed in her idea. “I’m in awe of all the people that have supported me at the state and federal levels, especially my boss. He’s been a huge cheerleader, a huge asset,” she said. “He’s the one that really started my railroad passion in general.” She left her job in August to pursue her business full-time after saving her money to fund rail bikes that she will rent until she acquires enough capital to buy her own, and has also applied for grants to assist the venture.

Her company’s website, and Facebook page, Wheels on Rails LLC, share information on how to book a rail trip on a tandem bike for two or a quad bike for four. “We’re booking so fast,” she said. “We’re almost 70 percent booked for the summer.”

Originally from Grand Ledge, she will move to Traverse City in May to operate Wheels on Rails.

“It feels absolutely incredible,” Hefron said of her success. “I’m just really excited to bring it to the state. It’s been a long journey.”


Tecumseh Herald


110 E. Logan St.
P.O. Box 218
Tecumseh, MI 49286

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