Jackson, Mich., October 8 and 9
The Jackson station, seen from the
eastern end.While Captain Jackson was doling out safety tips and promoting the Jackson Police Department, a bride and groom—she in a beautiful gown and clasping a bouquet and he in a tuxedo with matching boutonniere—posed for pictures in front of the locomotive and received congratulatory words from the crowd. Not only were there plenty of locals and Michiganites in attendance, but visitors came from as far away as Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. Many enjoyed the train layout set up by the Jackson Model Railroad Club, as well as the tourism guides distributed by representatives from the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Opened in 1873 by the Michigan Central Railroad, Jackson station is often billed as “the oldest continuously operational, railroad-designed and built passenger station in the United States,” an assertion backed by hundreds of research hours undertaken by station historian Ed Rutkowski. Over more than a century of service, the station has welcomed a handful of U.S. Presidents, among them Taft, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nixon.
The building certainly holds a special place in the hearts of townspeople. Some joined together to start the “Friends of Jackson Station,” a group that works to inform the public about the depot’s history. They assisted with the Exhibit Train by handing out brochures and staffing the Display Cars while also promoting the event on their Facebook page. Members of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers (MARP) also lent a helping hand over the weekend. MARP, a non-profit organization, advocates for improved passenger train service and emphasizes the importance of preserving historic depots.
Stations are often at the centers of their communities, which is especially true in cases where towns grew up with the railroad. Track right-of-ways, roundhouses, depots, yards, and other railroad infrastructure have physically shaped thousands of neighborhoods across the country. Many stations—through transit oriented development—offer chances to revitalize city centers and create opportunities for economic development. Amtrak serves more than 500 stations, which range from magnificent structures such as Chicago Union Station to simple trackside platforms in more rural areas. Amtrak’s Great American Stations Project is devoted to station revitalization and includes building histories, case-studies, and information about funding opportunities.
One of the displays on the Exhibit Train focuses on the many successful efforts to rehabilitate historic stations and construct new passenger facilities. Dedications are often marked by speeches, music, and special tours. Memorabilia from these events, including whistles, brochures, key chains, and pins and buttons, lines a few shelves. Just this September, Baltimore Penn Station marked its 100th anniversary with a celebration attended by city, state, and Congressional leaders, as well as officials from Amtrak and the Maryland Transit Administration. The handsome commemorative keepsake brochure, which features a photo essay describing the building’s history, was recently added to the Exhibit Train.
Well, as they say, the railroad never stops—we’re headed to the western shore of Lake Michigan where we’ll spend the weekend at the gleaming Milwaukee Intermodal Station—hope to see you there!