When the Depot was constructed, it predated the widespread use of dining cars. Passengers on longer journeys could only find food at the stations they stopped at. Durand Union Station included a dual-use Restaurant and Diner, in the room the museum gallery currently resides. The restaurant was designed to the standards of the rest of the Depot’s opulence. Its menu and staff were carefully constructed to feed passengers quickly, as most had only thirty minutes between trains.
The Diner, separated by a dividing wall, was a much less fancy affair. A large U-Shaped counter sat in the center of the room to serve as many railroad employees and local residents as possible. If you look at the floor in the museum gallery, you can still see the circular grooves carved into the floor from years of diner stools! The diner specialized in food that was quick to cook, like hamburgers and hot dogs, or cold sandwiches that were easy to grab quickly. It was a common site to see a train stopped outside the depot, with its crew quickly dashing in and out of the Diner for a cold lunch and a hot thermos of coffee.
As dining cars became more prevalent on the rails, the usage of the Depot’s restaurant declined, leading to its removal during the late 1920s. Its old room saw use as a telegraph room, and later, an office. The diner continued to operate as Durand was still an active station with plenty of staff to use it. It closed at the end of the 1960s when Grand Trunk Western transitioned its business out of Durand.
Henry Earle Riggs
Henry Earle Riggs, born in 1865, was the chief engineer of the Ann Arbor Railroad from 1890 to 1895. Under his leadership, the Ann Arbor was completely reconstructed from hastily-built rail into a transportation line that ranged from Toledo all the way to Frankfort, where ferries shipped railcars across Lake Michigan.
After his tenure with the Ann Arbor, Riggs worked as a consultant for most of the major rail operators in the state, as well as public utility companies. In 1912, Riggs became the professor of civil engineering at the University of Michigan, serving in that role and as chairman of its engineering program until 1930, when he retired and started a private civil engineering practice. In 1937, he received an honorary doctorate in engineering from the University of Michigan. Riggs passed away in 1949.
In 1997, with the support of the Riggs family, the research library in the Michigan Railroad History Museum was named after Henry Earle Riggs in dedication to his impact on Michigan’s railroading history.
M. Jean Sloan
Dr. Marie Jean Brinkman Sloan was an educator, lawyer, and crucial part of the history to save the Depot. Prior to her arrival in Durand, Sloan earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in History and Education Administration and Supervision from both Marygrove College and Wayne State University, respectively. She notably earned two doctorates within a week of one another in 1966, completing both a Ph.D. in Education from Wayne State and a Juris Doctorate from the Detroit College of Law. She was named the first ever Distinguished Alumni Award winner from her undergraduate alma mater, Marygrove College in Detroit.
Dr. Sloan taught in Detroit and Germany before taking a researcher role in the US Office of Education in 1967. While in Washington DC, she taught graduate classes in education at the Catholic University of America. In 1969, the then Dr. Brinkman married Peter Sloan, a lawyer and local politician from Michigan. The Sloans then moved to Flint, where Jean took a position as an administrator with the Flint public schools.
In 1975, Dr. Sloan became the first administrator to hold a doctorate in the history of the Durand Area School System. She served in a variety of positions but is most widely known as the long-time and beloved principal of Robert Kerr Elementary School, retiring in 1997. Despite all of her academic and legal accolades, Jean considered her work with young people to be the defining actions of her life. A devout Catholic, Sloan also served as an educator or coordinator for many religious studies programs around the state, including at St. Mary’s in Durand.
During the bicentennial, the Sloans became heavily involved in the efforts to save the Depot from the wrecking ball. Working alongside founders like Norma Ward, Margaret Zdunic, and many, many others, Jean became the first president of the board for the Durand Railroad Historical Museum, operating the baggage car museum. When the depot was saved, Sloan continued to support Durand Union Station as a passion project for the rest of her life. Jean Sloan passed away in 2008, and is now the namesake of the Depot’s conference room in her memory.