The ticket cage in the Depot’s passenger lobby is an original Grand Trunk Western piece, but not THE original cage of Durand Union Station. Traveling by rail was dominant from when the Depot was built in 1903 through the 1920s, with more than 3,000 people passing through the Depot’s halls a day. After the rise of the automobile, the rail industry saw a steady decline. The advent of the Interstate Highway System and Commercial Air Travel in the 1950s further devastated the passenger rail industry.
Nobody is quite sure -when- the original ticket cage at Durand Union Station was replaced, but it is clear from the markings on the floor that a much larger one was once part of the Depot’s lobby. It was not uncommon for the Grand Trunk to swap elements of its stations as service was increasing or in decline. To their credit, the railroad thought to find a ticket counter of similar age and design to send to Durand.
While the citizens of Durand largely agreed that their Depot needed saving from the wrecking ball in 1974, time was of the essence in determining a use for the station. At the same time, Amtrak had been established to provide passenger service across the United States, with the proposed Blue Water Line between Port Huron and Chicago set to start in September. Had the Depot been demolished, Amtrak’s station in Durand would have been a simple shelter. To Norma Ward and the rest of the Depot Committee, this was a horrifying thought.
Everyone seemed to agree that the Depot should remain a passenger station. In the early days of Amtrak, there were no lights on the rail platform or parking lot. Norma and others would come down to the station twice a day, using the headlights of their cars to light the way. The Lobby had no heat, so kerosene heaters were brought in during the winter to keep waiting passengers warm. Amtrak’s loyalty to Durand and its Depot were crucial to the early years of restoration. The Depot had a reason to stay upright and open as long as Amtrak was interested in using it. Over the next decade, the Depot slowly underwent renovations and found its purpose as a museum.
Amtrak remains Durand Union Station’s oldest tenant in the building, operating passenger rail in Durand uninterrupted since the start of the Blue Water Line. Passengers leave for Chicago at 8 in the morning and return at 9:30 at night every day. The train runs 365 days a year, unless inclement weather physically prevents the train from moving. Durand Union Station is an unstaffed Amtrak facility, meaning no ticket agents are on site to assist customers. Those wishing to ride the rails can purchase tickets from the kiosk in the lobby, over the phone at 1-800-USA-RAIL, or online at amtrak.com.