Michigan Roadside Attractions: Durand Union Station

Michigan Roadside Attractions: Durand Union Station

Durand Union Station Michigan Railroad

Michigan Roadside Attractions on Travel the Mitten highlights our attempts to explore the many interesting things that can be found on the highways, byways and back roads of Michigan, ranging from the interesting to the unusual.

Many small towns in Michigan are home to small railroad depot buildings that have survived the passing of time and the decline of the industry. Few are as beautiful and well-preserved as the Durand Union Station in Shiawassee County. This station dates back to 1903 and still serves Amtrak trains, while also hosting theĀ  Michigan Railroad History Museum. We recently had a chance to stop and check out this historic station and learn more about its history.

Durand Union Station Michigan Historical Marker 1

The Michigan historical marker in the parking lot tells about the station’s beginning and early years: “Designed by Detroit architects Spier and Rohns, the 239-foot-long Grand Trunk Western Union Depot originally featured a spacious waiting room, a popular dining room, a lunch counter, areas for baggage and express mail, and telegraph and railroad offices. It was built of Missouri granite brick and Bedford cut stone and originally roofed in slate. Later roofs were of red tile and in more recent years of asphalt. Once the largest station in outstate Michigan, the depot is also one of the largest in a small town anywhere in the United States. On March 27, 1960, Grand Trunk Western train No. 56 left the depot for Detroit. It was the last regularly-scheduled passenger train in the United States to be pulled by a steam locomotive.”

Durand Union Station Historical Marker 2

On the other side of the marker there is some detail about the different rail lines that operated here and the end of its busy years: “The Detroit and Milwaukee Railway brought Durand its first rail service in 1856. In 1877 the Chicago and North Eastern Railroad reached the town, and in 1885 the Toledo, Ann Arbor and North Michigan (later the Ann Arbor Railroad) added its tracks. The Grand Trunk Railway System and the Ann Arbor Railroad built this depot in 1903, at a cost of sixty thousand dollars to serve the thousands of passengers who came to this railroad center. In 1905 the depot was nearly destroyed by fire; however, within six months this near-replica had been completed. The last Grand Trunk Western Railroad passenger train stopped here in 1971. Passenger service resumed in 1974 with Amtrak. The city of Durand acquired the depot in 1979.”

Durand Union Station Railroad Workers Memorial

A memorial can be found in front of the station honoring the lives of two men who were killed in November of 2001 when two trains collided 29 miles east of Durand. Engineer Tom Landris of Durand and conductor Gary Chase of Owosoo both lost their lives when a train heading from Flat Rock to Flint and a train heading to Detroit collided.

Durand Union Station Michigan Railroad History

Durand Union Station Michigan History

Durand Union Station Hallway Michigan Railroads

Durand union Station Sign Michigan

Durand Union Station is located at 200 Railroad St. The Michigan Railroad History Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday). Exhibits include “Presidential Whistle Stops,” “The End of the Steam Era,” “How Rail is Laid and Maintained,” and “Troop Cars and Military Trains.” We visited on a Monday so we didn’t get to check any of it out, but it gives us a reason to go back!

Durand Union Station Caboose Grand Trunk

Across the street from the station is an old Grand Trunk Western caboose. This “mobile office” was built in 1928, joined Grand Trunk in 1969, and operated in the Durand area until 1988.