• Michigan Central Station

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by Gilbert B Norman
I need not swear, Mr. Skelly, I will simply recall.

Shortly after it was inaugurated during October 1974, I rode the Empire State Express from Detroit Michigan Central Station, through the Detroit River Tunnel, accross Ontario on the Canada Southern, X-ing the Welland Canal, and on to Buffalo Central Terminal. This was the historic route of NYC trains such as the Wolverine and Detroiter.

Enjoy a repeat of that trip today!!

  by TomNelligan
Amtrak used Michigan Central Station for nearly 17 years, until January 1988. See this Wikipedia listing:

  by Gilbert B Norman
Here is a photo site worthy of review:


  by LStJ&StL
The last Amtrak train to use Michigan Central was #353, the midday departure to Chicago, on January 5, 1988. F40PH 270 did the honors that day, hauling a train comprised of an Amcafe, two Amcoaches and a couple of ex-Santa Fe heritage coaches. Later that same day Amtrak started using a trailer on the site of the old Michigan Central coach yard as its Detroit station, a situation that lasted until 1994 when a new station opened on Woodward near the Fisher Building, along the Grand Trunk right-of-way; Amtrak service was extended up to Pontiac on the GTW at the same time.

If Michigan Central had an Amtrak heyday, it would have been in the second half of the 1970s. Between 1974 and January 1979 there was direct service to New York across Ontario on the Canada Southern, along with three daily departures to Chicago and the "Michigan Executive" between Detroit and Jackson, a 403b operation that was ultimately cut back to Ann Arbor and finally discontinued in 1984. In the summer of 1980 my dad took me on an Ann Arbor-Detroit round trip, and the "Michigan Executive" that night featured brand-new Superliner coaches- likely the most luxurious local passenger train ever to operate in Michigan. The train shed had been removed over two tracks in 1979 to allow for the operation of ex-C&NW bi-level equipment on the Executive- something that never transpired.

The office tower at Michigan Central was used by its builder, the Michigan Central Railroad, as well as successors New York Central, Penn Central and Conrail. Conrail moved out in the mid-1980's, sealing the building's fate.

MCS opened in 1913 before it was even finished, the result of a fire at the original MC Station down along the Detroit River, not far from Fort Street Union; the top floor of the office tower was never even plastered. MC's waiting room is probably the grandest public space in Detroit, but the building is absolutely gutted- a far cry from the place where Henry Ford once greeted Thomas Edison and Herbert Hoover when they visited the Motor City.

  by LI Loco
Gilbert B Norman wrote:Here is a photo site worthy of review:

Far cry from the place I boarded the Wolverine in 1960, coming home from my cousin's bar mitzvah. In its heyday, Michigan Central was a fitting partner for my destination station, Grand Central Terminal.

Side note: One of my fellow travelers that day was Frank Sinatra. "Old Blue Eyes" couldn't get a flight out because of a snow storm.

  by Engineer James
Well, I think Wikipedia is wrong, (NO offence), I know several people who were there when CR Closed it. Including my late grandfather... so maybe they did, i am just saying, to my knowledge, AMTK never operated out of MCS.

Not, to mention, my late granddad, worked mostly out of the Livernois Yard, but, again did pull the Admin cars after the ceremony, to Jackson. Then they went on from there.

  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:
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 NJTRailfan
I heard that there was a lot of retail and services in the old station such as an aid station, police sub station along with a post office while the retail sector had a barbar shop, a cafe/coffee shop, two resteraunts, a drug store (about the size of a Rite Aid) and some others in which I can't remember. Was the retail and services section as big as GCT in NYC?

  by hoborich
Detroit has no money for anything. They've closed several more fire companies, and closed several police stations. Vacant and abandoned homes and buildings pay no taxes.
I was born and raised in Detroit. I was a firefighter in Detroit during the 1967 riots. I have seen a lot of grandiose plans come and go over the years, but few have ever been completed. Sorry to be so negative. Just telling it like it is.
I used to go down to the MC depot, to the REA office, to pick up bees in the spring. They used to ship bees and other things in the express cars. I can recall seeing crates of baby chicks, crickets, and all kinds of stuff in the REA office.
I used to go down to the MC depot, to watch trains. I also went to the Fort Street Union Depot to train watch.
I hope they can save the MC depot, but it is pretty far gone, and Detroit has a poor track record when it comes to saving historic buildings. The downtown Hudsons building could have been saved. But it was a constant reminder of what Detroit once was, and never will be again. So it had to go.
The Monroe block of historic buildings could have been saved, but wasn't.
Well intentioned investors, and developers find it extremely difficult to get anything done in Detroit. They get shuffled from one office to another. They get hung up on, or their calls are not returned.
Oooops. Sorry bout the rant.

  by KevinSinclair
Thanks for the interesting post. It's sad to hear that Detroit is suffering overall as well as the depot. It seems strange to me that a city can find it hard to redevelop its old buildings, here in the UK every square inch of land is in demand in cities. Whether the building is saved or not depends on the city protecting it. So long as its protected, a developer will still want it and have to work around that in their plans! Having said that, its often the case that councils will simply allow historic buildings to be pulled down if the developer wants it. I think England may not be so much like that but you can do what you like here in scotland :(

Sorry to get off topic, did the station have many passenger trains on a typical day. What places did they go?

  by Pete
Amusingly, the opening montage to Game 2 of the World Series featured a brief moment where video of Eminem performing was superimposed on an hulking image of the abandoned Michigan Central Station. If I was from Detroit, I might take exception at their chioce of symbols.

  by Tommy B
The MCS will most likely never be restored. It 'sbeen vacant for over 30 years, has been stripped of anything of value and is too large to be restored. The economy in Michigan has been in a steep decline since 2001 so it wouldn't be wise economically to restore. Because of the size, it will be years (5 to 10 with any luck) before anything happens to it. With any luck, it will be demolished. Ironically, demolishing it is the only real solution, at this point. :(

  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.

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...

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.
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