Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, May 12, 2019, pg. 11
Recently it was announced that passenger trains moving through Albion will be increasing their speeds through town this year as part of the plan to reduce the travel time between Detroit and Chicago. Trains will still have to slow down by the College however for safety, as the tracks make a big curve by S. Hannah and E. Erie Streets.
Albion has always been on the "main line" ever since the railroad came here in 1844. On June 28, 1844, the original strap-iron railroad tracks reached Albion from Jackson. They consisted of strips of iron half an inch thick by 2 ľ inches wide, fastened to wood beams. On Independence Day a week later, the first steam locomotive rolled into town past "Seminary Hill (now Albion College)" as it was then called. The railroad had been built by the State of Michigan, which soon got out of the railroad business in 1846 by selling its holdings for $2 million to the newly-formed Michigan Central Railroad.
According to the Albion Evening Recorder, July 5, 1944 a century later: "Some of Albionís older residents can recall that their parents or grandparents often in moments of recollection, told of how the first train to actually arrive in Albion on July 4, 1844, tooted its whistle long and hard, and stopped at every crossing in town to pick up local citizens who wanted to ride a short distance upon it. The ride must have been short for it was not until August that the tracks extended on to Marshall."
The first locomotive that arrived on July 4, 1844 was called the Rocky Mountain, and was powered by wood and a few barrels of water. Another locomotive on that first line was nicknamed Storm. Albion was then in direct contact with the rest of the world "out east" from whence its inhabitants had come. Passenger service was officially instituted on December 11, 1844. The first passenger train was nicknamed the Antelope, consisting of an engine and four cars.
The Recorder continued: "The coming of the railroad meant much to Albion. A long, hard trip to Detroit became a much simpler affair. Supplies could be shipped in to Albion from the east more easily than horse and wagon had ever brought them. And such staples as flour could be shipped out in large quantities for the first time."
For the historical record, Albionís first railroad depot was not where it stands today on N. Eaton St. Rather, it was originally a wooden structure located just south of the tracks just west of N. Superior St. where the "Hurley Block" (the building housing Lopez Taco House) is today. The depot was moved to its present location by the 1850s, and George Maher erected his Planing Mill and Sash Works building on the original site, which stood there until the Hurley Block was erected in 1900.
From our Historical Notebook we present a close-up drawing of the wooden Michigan Central Railroad Depot on N. Eaton St. from Albert Rugerís late-1860s "Birdís Eye View of Albion." As can be seen here, it was a simple structure. Just to the left is a very small baggage storage building. Tracks were located on both sides (north-south) of that depot, with the large freight depot on the north side of the tracks in the distance. Those two circular peaked-roof structures at each far end are actually water storage tanks which were used to "feed" water into the steam-powered locomotives that stopped here to refuel. This passenger station was replaced in 1882 by the present brick station that still is in use today. When is the last time you rode a passenger Amtrak train out of Albion?
Michigan Central Railroad Depot on N. Eaton St. from Albert Rugerís late-1860s Map
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic