Friday, 29 May 2015

SNAPSHOTS: Pere Marquette Depot, Bay City


Trains are a big deal to me. I gues that's what happens when you grow up with an old disused railway line running through your home town (thanks to 1960's Beeching cuts) and with the National Railway Museum not only being free, but on your doorstep in York, train love was bound to happen. While Michigan is lacking in the public transport yet along having a decent train service around and about, I remain enchanted admittedly to old railway/railroad stations. I guess that's why the Michigan Central here in Detroit appeals to me as a train lover rather than a fan of it's abandoned state.

So for me, I love to imagine the days before the car of getting around by stream train. For people and goods the railroad was a vital life line between towns and cities and Bay City, a city here in Michigan, it was no different. From here you could travel to a couple of miles to Saginaw, further to Detroit, into Ohio or even to Chicago. Bay City's own train station was once abandoned but has found new life has a community resource facility, proof that stations can always have a second, or even third life. So when we were up in the area last year, a wander to the train station when I had time to kill was bound to happen.

Depot Depot

The Pere Marquette Depot opened in 1904 and seemed to have been at the displeasure of many. As the Bay City Times reported:
"the exterior, with it's tile roof, and odd surroundings, presents a quaint appearance and many will probably say upon looking at it from the street, that it is not good enough for this city". 
Whether it's appearance was loved or hated, the station still saw the arrival and departure of over 30 trains daily in it's early years. Travellers were greeted with a two story waiting room, marble flooring and walls, a gentleman's smoking room and a ladies waiting room. 

Operated until 1937 by the Pere Marquette Railroad Company it was then acquired and merged by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad in 1947. Sadly by this time rail travel was in decline on both sides of the Atlantic and the station closed in 1951. While the station found a second life as a terminal for the Greyhound bus company, they vacated in 1969 and the station was abandoned. It wasn't until 2003 when the Great Lakes Center Foundation purchased and restored the depot - rebuilding the tower, canopy and porte cochere which were all removed by Greyhound. It's now home to two local Bay City committees.

As someone that came from a rural town that demolished both the railway tracks and it's station, it's great to see old former stations finding new leases for life, if only the same could be side for the Michigan Central Station. Maybe one day.

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