• Amtrak to Detroit, and the old Michigan Central Station

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in the American Midwest, including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas. For questions specific to a railroad company, please seek the appropriate forum.
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in the American Midwest, including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas. For questions specific to a railroad company, please seek the appropriate forum.

Moderator: railohio

  by Tadman
 
In update to my previous post about MCS being used in the new movie Crossover:

Motor Trend this month tested a BMW and an Infiniti, and the photos were mostly shot at MCS, including the opening photo in large format. No inside or trianshed shots, just out front.

  by Steven B
 
Engineer James--

Amtrak used Michigan Central Station from May 1, 1971 to Jan. 5, 1988. As you stated, Conrail had its own closing events. But, Amtrak was the last railroad user of the building. There are countless sources that document this. For starters, go to the "Archives" website for the Detroit Free Press and you can find many articles documenting Amtrak's use of the MC Depot.

http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Arc ... on=keyword

One such article begins like this:
A GOLDEN AGE ROLLS TO AN END AS TRAIN DEPOT SHUTS ITS DOORS
December 31, 1987

When train No. 353 leaves Detroit for Chicago at 11:40 a.m. Tuesday, Michigan Central Depot at Vernor and 16th Street will close its classic doors for the first time in its 75-year- history -- perhaps for good. Michigan's finest monument to the golden age of railroads, with its cavernous waiting room and 68-foot-high pillars, will lie silent as Amtrak, the station's last tenant, moves its passenger operations to a new temporary facility next door on W. Vernor...

  by Gilbert B Norman
 
I learned of this photo album reviewing another site; while preservationist interests would like to have the structure preserved, it appears such would be a little more involved than rounding up a cadre of volunteers with scrub and paint brushes.

http://www.seedetroit.com/pictures/mcsweb/index.htm
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Tue May 06, 2008 10:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

  by pdxstreetcar
 
news video of the station just before closing...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbtyUsnrY2I

my thinking is that there is one and only one thing that will save this building and that is turning it into a casino with hotel in the tower above. there are already 3 other casinos in detroit all within a few miles of MCS plus another one in windsor, canada.
MCS is in a terrible location for a station or just about any other use. and on top of that there is little demand for anything in detroit, especially a few miles out of downtown.

  by Noel Weaver
 
Interesting pictures and videos although I would not have the "guts" to go
inside this building to get them.
This is a classic example of bygone days when the railroad station was at
one time the center of activity in almost every place that it served.
Classic old time and big former New York Central station at a main
location. There were enough offices and people working in them to keep
this building humming 24/7. Today operations are much more centralized
and are conducted with only a fraction of the employees of bygone days.
A facility like this can't sustain inself with just a hand ful of passenger
trains in and out each day. The cost of maintenance and heating alone
has to be astronomical and the taxes unreal too.
There were a number of other locations on the New York Central that also
had large buildings for their passenger station with a lot of office space
on upper floors. Most of them are no longer with us and the few that
remain are generally not used for railroad purposes. Cleveland is a good
example of one that was a Union Terminal but the New York Central was
the basic operator and the building is still maintained and used for
offices although I don't know if any railroads still have offices there. At
one time this building was the location of most railroads off line traffic
offices, a look at the building directory was like a who's who among
railroads. Utica, New York has a beautiful building that is still the station
for Amtrak with a station staff but the upstairs office space is mostly used
by the city and the building is well maintained and a classic example of
the bigger city station.
The northeast corridor still has some nice classic stations: Washington,
Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark and New Haven among them.
The interiors of these statons are probably worth the time, effort and film
in recording.
Noel Weaver

  by John_Perkowski
 
Moderator's Note:

Expect this thread to move in the next couple days. I have to ask Otto where the right place is.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Kansas City has had two railroad architecture based buildings preserved. The first is Union Station; while the Great Hall and the North Waiting Room are fully preserved, the offices are as modern as anything in the city. The US Postal Service, in a small irony, has taken over the Railway Express Agency loading docks as their Kansas City general offices, and again, everything deeper than the skin is as modern as it gets for an office facility.

The KCT terminal roundhouses are also preserved, as part of the DST Systems complex. Again, the turntable and leads are there, but inside the doors is a modern office building.

In both cases, there was a business case which justified preservation

  by peconicstation
 
Just to clarify a couple of notes on Detroit Commuter Rail Service.

There were 2 routes that lasted into the (fairly) recent past.

The larger of the 2 was the former GTW service between downtown Detroit and Pontiac. These trains used a station next to the Ren. Center
and ran 3 peak round trips. In the 1970's the service was turned over to an operating authority, SEMTA (Southeastern Michigan Transporation Authority) and the service was cut to 2 peak round trips, and came off in mid-1983. The equipment wound up going to Pittsburgh for it's PATrain Commuter Service (which since has been dropped).

The GTW also ran specials along it's suburban route for the JL Hudson Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Shoppers Specials during the Christmas Shopping season.

Prior to using the Ren. Center station these trains used Union Station, that was on Fort Street downtown, and was featured in the movie,
Detroit 9000 (after the station was abandonded).


The 2nd route was Detroit to Ann Arbor. This route was run by the former Michigan Central RR, and continued to use the MCS through the Penn Central and Conrail years. The service was simply one peak hour round trip.

After Conrail, the service was turned over as a 403-B Amtrak service called to Michigan Executive. This ran as a peak hour round trip, and as ridership declined, it was then run only as a morning in bound run, with one of the regular Chicago-Detroit runs being used for the PM trip.


There have been many plans to reuse the MCS building, including one to have the city use it as a consolidated city office building.


................and yes, Amtrak served MCS from the time of it's creation until 1988.


Ken

  by Gilbert B Norman
 
An additional note to Mr. Peconic's material regarding Detroit commuter service, to my best knowledge, the GTW service was the last regularly scheduled service to be operated with steam locomotives. As I recall, such was the case until about 1959.

If I may be permitted to note, my first steam powered ride in this life was also my first train ride; New Haven to Westerly (likely an I-4, fellow NYNH&H hands) during July 1946. My final regularly scheduled North American steam powered train ride was likely The Washingtonian, on the CV Montreal to White River, during August 1956; Europe was during 1960. Last world-wide was during 1967 in Thailand.

  by Noel Weaver
 
I visited the Grand Trunk Western in late 1959 not long before the end
and at that time there were still two steam powered passenger trains out
of Brush Street Station in Detroit. One went all the way to Durand and
the other to Pontiac. I rode to Durand and back the next day with a
friend and this was my last regular service ride behind steam power.
At the time steam was still active at all three terminals mentioned above
and the power was spotless right up till the end.
Great memories and a few movies too.
Noel Weaver
  by Otto Vondrak
 
carajul wrote:Does Amtrak still serve Detriot, MI?
Whenever I want to know where a railroad goes, I usually check a map. Try www.amtrak.com for that information, let me know what you come up with.

-otto-
  by NellieBly
 
Amtrak operated quite an interesting variety of equipment to/through the MC station. Although I never rode the through train to Buffalo via Canada, I did ride the "Lake Cities" (as I believe it was called), one of the three daily Chicago -- Detroit trains that for a few years in the 1980s ran through Detroit to Toledo (as I recall, a reverse move was necessary at the MC station to do this). We had an F40 and three or four Amfleet cars when I rode the train in 1982. I connected to the "Lake Shore" in Toledo, riding the Slumbercoach to Albany and switching to a coach for the ride to Boston (to date, my only trip "all the way" on the B&A).

I think the through service to Toledo may have lasted until 1995. Anybody recall?

The abandonment of the MC station largely resulted from the state of Michigan's interest in extending service out the Grand Trunk to Pontiac. This would have required a reverse move to get to the MC station, and with the train to Buffalo (and the railroad to Buffalo) gone, the MC station simply wasn't on the way to anywhere. Operation to/from the Trunk via Milwaukee Junction meant that a new station could be built right on Woodward Ave (Detroit's main thorofare), although when I rode through from Pontiac to Ann Arbor last summer, boardings/alightings at the "downtown" Detroit station were pretty light.

  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Of possible interest to those participating at this topic:

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=51208

Re:

  by jsmyers
 
John_Perkowski wrote:Moderator's Note:

Expect this thread to move in the next couple days. I have to ask Otto where the right place is.

<snip>

In both cases, there was a business case which justified preservation
Don't move it. The business case is all about Amtrak. I'll elaborate in another post.
  by jsmyers
 
The amount of incorrect information being repeated in this thread is troubling. I know Detroit. It my favorite city. I'll correct the record, but it makes me wonder how many incorrect things I read about other lines and cities in places that I'm not as familiar with.

Let the corrections begin:
Engineer James wrote:Yes, I used to live on the near the line Amtrak Used. NS from Detroit to Kalamazoo....
Served by 4 trains daily, 3 Wolverine and the Blue water, then u also have the Pere Marquette, but that now does not serve detroit.
The Blue water does not serve Detroit. It shares the Michigan Central line with the Detroit trains until Battle Creek, Michigan and then takes the Grand Trunk line to Port Huron.
Engineer James wrote:MCS... No, Amtrak never used MCS, Conrail was the last opertor of MCS
We've been over this. Amtrak did serve passengers at the station. I don't believe they used the office building.
Engineer James wrote:Mr Mourn, who also owns the Trenton Railway, also the old Belle isle Toll bridge, which my become a new rail line to belle isle.
His name is Matty Moroun. The Detroit International Bridge Company is his company. I don't know if it owns any operating railroads, but James has some facts mixed up about the bridge. The bridge to Belle Isle is not a toll bridge. He owns the Ambassador Bridge. There is not rail line to Belle Isle. There was some discussion about converting the Michigan Central rail tunnel under the Detroit River to highway use and building a new tunnel to take double stack trains. The highway conversion is a no go, and I don't know any current talk about building a new tunnel. The state of Michigan and Ontario province are working on planning a new river crossing. Moroun's company is trying to keep their monopoly by twining their bridge.
Engineer James wrote:there has been talk a lot of Detroit Police wanting to renovate the old building, but detroit is in a pickle when it comes to funds... so the plan was cancelled. In that plan, amtrak would have worked the lower 2 floors, and started using MCS, again, but the plans fell through.
That plan was DOA, but it never included the return of passenger trains to the facility (unfortunately...more on that later)

BTW RE: Movies: A number of films have used the building as a location in the last 5-6 years, including Transformers.
pdxstreetcar wrote:MCS is in a terrible location for a station or just about any other use. and on top of that there is little demand for anything in detroit, especially a few miles out of downtown.
MCS is where it is so that it could serve trains from Canada without a backup move. Michigan Central quickly became part of the New York Central, and in 1913, the water level route was effectively split into a northern route and a southern route between Buffalo and Chicago. The southern route went through Cleveland, the Michigan Central station was a major stop on the the northern route. Amtrak's current name for the Michigan trains to Detroit is "Wolverine" which was the name of a NY-Chicago train that took this route. The MCS still has this advantage with respect to the tunnel. The neighborhood that the station is in (Corktown) is actually a healthy and gentrifying place. It is significantly held back by land speculation surrounding the old Tiger's Stadium and the aforementioned bridge and tunnel. The public sector wants control of a bridge, and the private company buys up any land they can get their hands on to prevent that from happening. That is the primary reason that a trucking company owns an old passenger train station...to prevent the construction of a competing bridge.

The MCS is closer to downtown Detroit than the existing station location (1.5 vs 3 miles). Noticing the pdx in your handle makes me want to compare it to Portland Union Station, which is a similar distance from the traditional CBD of Portland (1.5 vs 3/4 mile) and next to an area that has recently gentrified. The difference is that Portland doesn't have dueling land speculation for a major new highway and they built MAX and your namesake streetcar.
Noel Weaver wrote:Most of them are no longer with us and the few that remain are generally not used for railroad purposes.
The tower wasn't actually built for railroad purposes. It was built as a speculative office building that would also house some railroad functions. Michigan Central was trying to start an uptown in that area. They failed. Remember that MCS opened at the same time (1913) as GCT in NY, which did spur an uptown. Less than a decade later, various automotive business interests developed New Center, which is near the current Amtrak station. Michigan Central moved into the building before it was finished not only because of the fire at the old station, but also because they didn't have tenants for the upper floors. They never built those floors out. Any plan to resuse the station would either get rid of the tower portions of the building, or would convert then into a non-railroad use. A hotel and conference center make the most sense to me.
peconicstation wrote:Prior to using the Ren. Center station these trains used Union Station, that was on Fort Street downtown
Grand Trunk never used the Union Station. The station was called the Brush Street Station. It was moved up the line to the east when the RenCen was built. Union station was used by Penn, Wabash, and others. Detroit had three main stations: Michigan Central, Union, and Brush. Michigan Central was part of the New York Central system, and Brush was solely used by Grand Trunk.
NellieBly wrote:The abandonment of the MC station largely resulted from the state of Michigan's interest in extending service out the Grand Trunk to Pontiac. This would have required a reverse move to get to the MC station, and with the train to Buffalo (and the railroad to Buffalo) gone, the MC station simply wasn't on the way to anywhere. Operation to/from the Trunk via Milwaukee Junction meant that a new station could be built right on Woodward Ave (Detroit's main thorofare), although when I rode through from Pontiac to Ann Arbor last summer, boardings/alightings at the "downtown" Detroit station were pretty light.
This is absolutely correct from my experiences. I'd only add that all of the stations in SE michigan see pretty light passenger counts, because there are so many stations. Between the end of the line and Ann Arbor, there are 6 stations in 61 railroad miles, but because of the bend in the line, they are effectively much closer together. I'd also add that the state of Michigan is planning to build a major new station on the opposite side of the tracks from the current station on Woodward. Though there are good things about this plan, I'll go into the reasons that I think the MCS is better in a follow up post.
  by MACTRAXX
 
Everyone: Good insight from all on the historic Michigan Central station in Detroit-and how the building has fallen into a state of disrepair that may not be reversible.

Peconic: After the SEMTA/GTW commuter trains discontinued operation in the early 80s the coaches ended up at Metro-North. I recall that MNCR only placed the circle M logo and their name on them-the color scheme as well as the Detroit-area town names that those coaches were named for remained. I do not know where the cars ended up after MNCR withdrew them following the electrification of the Upper Harlem Line and their 80s Bombardier coach purchases.

The GP9 locomotives were sold to the MBTA in Boston-They as well kept the SEMTA color scheme and were lettered "mbta" in SEMTA's lettering type.
They had a long service life for the MBTA which I believe still uses them for work train service. They have never been used in PATrain service as far as I know.

Amtrak needed a smaller facility in Detroit explaining the move back in the late 80s to their current location.

MACTRAXX