Kalamazoo Depot, Grand Trunk Western

428 East Michigan


A main line of the Grand Trunk Western Railroad in 1900 extended from Montréal in the East to Chicago in the West. Their east-west main line missed Kalamazoo by about 10 miles, passing through Vicksburg and Schoolcraft, just to the south.

By 1900, Kalamazoo had developed into a major manufacturing center with numerous factories shipping large amounts of goods by rail.  The paper industry was approaching its zenith in Kalamazoo at this time, but auto parts manufacturing was about to take off adding greatly to the city’s size and its rail traffic.  The Pennsylvania Railroad subsidiary, the Grand Rapids and Indiana, and the New York Central subsidiary, the Michigan Central provided service to the city’s factories..  The Grand Trunk wanted a share of the growing Kalamazoo freight traffic.

In the 1880s, there was a rail building boom in Michigan as entrepreneurs in all large and many small towns proposed new lines.  Some of them were built.  Investors in Hastings and Kalamazoo drew up plans for a new railroad that would stretch from Chicago to Kalamazoo and then on the Saginaw.  They chartered a line with that name and, in the 1880s began construction of a railroad that, by 1891, stretched from Kalamazoo through Hastings and on the Woodbury where their modest line connected with the Pere Marquette Railroad.  In 1902, the Chicago, Kalamazoo and Saginaw decided to expand.  They built a line going south from Kalamazoo.  They quit building when they got to the small town of Pavallion, Michigan—about 9 miles away.  But they could and did interchange traffic with the Grand Trunk.

In 1909, the Grand Trunk took control of this short line from the Chicago, Kalamazoo and Southern and, for the first time, they provided service into rapidly-growing Kalamazoo.  I do not know why they provided passenger service on this line.  They ran three round trips a day on the short run from Kalamazoo to Pavilion.  You might think that these local trips would have been timed to coordinate with the Montréal to Chicago and Detroit to Chicago trains that traveled the main line through Pavilion, but only one of the three round trips was so coordinated. 

The building you see pictured above served as the Grand Trunk depot.  The head house facing East Michigan provided a space for the few passengers who took trips to and from Pavilion and offices for the clerks who did the paper work for shipments leaving or coming to Kalamazoo.  The large back part of the building was a freight house.

The Grand Trunk reduced their passenger service to Kalamazoo in the 1920s and terminated such service at the start of the Depression.   The building was used by the railroad throughout and after World War II.  If there is ever another building boom in Kalamazoo, the structure might be razed since it occupied potentially valuable land near downtown.

Date of Construction: About 1912
Architect: Unknown to me
Use in 2011: Vacant building awaiting reuse
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Register of Historic Places: Not listed
Photograph:  Ren Farley; November 4, 2011
Description updated: January, 2012

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