A Brief History of The Depot
The Final Run
by Jeff Timlick
February 25, 1999
In loving memory of Clayton Timlick, a Grand Trunk Western R.R. engineer for 36 years.
The crowd began to gather at the setting of the sun, To welcome home their hero as he made his final run.
His life was like a train ride, he would travel day by day, Often calling, "All Aboard!" to all those along the way.
His hands, once strong and steady, Now shook beneath the strain, As he pulled back on the throttle to slow his moving train.
The lonesome whistle's mournful cry could be heard around the bend - the engine's final tribute to an old and faithful friend.
Now safely in the station as the end was drawing near, he shut down that grand old engine, mourned by those he held so dear.
Then came this proclamation as he closed his final run, "his journey has not ended - it's now only just begun!"
There is so much more to life than our mortal eyes can see; all those who trust in Jesus will live eternally.
Life's often like a train ride, people come and go away; all begin and have an ending; but in our hearts he'll always stay.
The village of Durand was built up around the railroads in the late 1870′s. Durand Union Station was designed by Spier and Rohms and originally built in 1903. Eighteen months thereafter it was almost completely destroyed by fire and was rebuilt in 1905.
This was a very busy station as the Grand Trunk Western and Ann Arbor Railroads crossed at grade there. During the early 1900′s when the railroad industry was at its peak, 42 passenger trains, 22 mail trains, and 78 freight trains passed through Durand daily. Durand Union Station handled approximately 3,000 passengers per day, making it a prospering hub of the industry.
America came into maturity riding the rails. The railroad helped build, shape, and define the America we live in today. Railroads helped open the frontiers to settlement, and soon after, to industrialization.
The decline of rail traffic started at the end of WWI and culminated in 1974 when Grand Trunk determined it could no longer justify the cost of maintaining the station and it was abandoned. The old depot’s destruction appeared imminent, but the community rallied to save it and in 1979 the City purchased it for $1.00. Since then, it has become the State Railroad History Museum.
Durand Union Station itself reminds us of the golden years of railroading. The Depot captures the rich essence of railroading during its reign of glory. The building contained a formal dining room as well as a snack counter complete with swivel stools and a rack of comic books selling for a nickel each, you could also buy a daily paper from a nearby newsboy. A large postal box collected the mail, which was sent by rail to its destination.
The second floor of the building held railroad offices and a sleeping area for train crews. The lower level of the massive depot, once the second busiest train station in Michigan, has been renovated to its original grandeur.
Terrazzo floors gleam, beautiful oak trimmed windows provide views of the surrounding tracks, and the restored ticket cage is reminiscent of the turn of the century. Because of its unusual Chateau Romanesque architecture, the Durand Depot has gained prominence as one of the most photographed train stations in America.
Passengers still walk the corridors of the depot to board their train. The Amtrak Blue Water eastbound to Port Huron and westbound to Chicago make daily stops at the Durand Union Station. Thirty or more freight trains pass the station daily providing for excitement and photo opportunities for rail fans on a regular basis.
All the activity proves that while waiting on the depot platform, people can still experience the sights and sounds of railroading and imagine what it was like decades ago.
The depot is also the State Railroad History Museum, an educational and entertaining source of Michigan’s rich railroad history. The museum gallery features new exhibits several times per year to pay tribute to the colorful heritage of the railroader, and to the contribution of Michigan’s railroads to lumbering, mining, agriculture, and industry. The Museum Information Center and Archives contains a wealth of railroad information for rail enthusiasts, researchers, and genealogists. Included in the collection are photographs, ledgers, technical railroad information, union materials, and a variety of other documents pertaining to railroading in Michigan.
For a first-hand look at railroading of yesterday and today, Durand Union Station is an interesting and exciting place to visit.