Southwest Michigan train depot chugs onto National Register of Historic Places

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The Vicksburg Union Depot in the past.

Vicksburg Historical Society

The Vicksburg Union Depot in the past.

Capital News Service

LANSING – A 1904 train depot in Southwest Michigan has arrived on the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Park Service made the designation of the restored Vicksburg Union Depot in Vicksburg, south of Kalamazoo.

The National Register is the official roster of America’s greatest historical sites that are deemed worth preserving, and the brick-and-stone depot’s designation is for places “associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.”

The last Grand Trunk Western passenger train stopped at the depot in 1972, and freight service was discontinued two years later, according to the Vicksburg Historical Society, which operates the site. At its busiest, 16 passenger trains and 50 freight trains stopped or passed the depot daily.

The village of Vicksburg owns the building which now houses the local historic museum. The land was part of the Potawatomi Nottawaseppi Reservation.

The interior has designated spaces “for the core functions of a turn-of-the-(20th)-century railroad depot serving a small community, including separate ladies and general waiting rooms, baggage room, freight room and a stationmaster’s office with adjacent train order room where employees sold tickets and monitored train movements,” the National Register nomination form says. 

While the depot is still in its original location two blocks from downtown Vicksburg, four buildings have been moved to the historic village: a farmhouse and a one-room school from the mid-1880s, the former Brady Township Hall built in the early 1900s and a barn with farm outbuildings. 

In addition, there are replica buildings on the site: a print shop, a garage with attached blacksmith shop, a general store and a sweets shop, the National Register application says. 

The historic village is intended to portray the local atmosphere of 1880 through the mid-1930s.

Although trains no longer stop there to pick up and discharge riders and to load and unload freight, the depot “is still oriented toward the railroads it once served,” the National Register application says, and the double-track mainline of the Canadian National, formerly the Grand Trunk Railway, “sweeps along the southeast side of the building.”

About 60 freight trains pass through Vicksburg daily, the society says.

“Visitors, especially children, often stand mesmerized as they watch, hear and feel freight trains rumble past,” the application says. “Present-day visitors experience what passengers 100 years ago would have experienced.”

The Vicksburg Union Depot in the present.

Vicksburg Historical Society

The Vicksburg Union Depot in the present.