|Dowagiac is a small city about 30 miles southwest of
Kalamazoo. The tracks through Dowagiac were built by the Michigan Central
Railroad in 1848. The track is now owned by Amtrak.
The origins of this route go back to 1837, when Michigan
became a state. The legislature passed an Internal Improvements act, designed
to open the land to settlement and development. The act called for three
railroads. The northern route was to be from St. Clair to the navigable waters
of the Grand River. The southern route was to run from Monroe to New Buffalo.
The central route was to run from Detroit to Lake Michigan at St.
Under state ownership, the central railroad was built as
far west as Kalamazoo. The first train arrived there in February 1846. The
operation of the railroad did make money, but not enough to cover interest
on the debt. Rather than raise taxes, the state decided to get out of the
railroad business. An act approved in March 1846 authorized the sale of the
central railroad, and incorporated the Michigan Central Railroad Company.
The railroad was sold for $2,000,000, $238,00 less than what it cost to
Under private ownership, headed by John Brooks, James F.
Joy, and John Forbes, the Michigan Central turned south and headed for Chicago.
Construction started in the spring of 1848. By 1849 tracks had been built
through Dowagiac and Niles to New Buffalo. After considerable trouble obtaining
a route through Indiana and Illinois, the first Michigan Central train ran
into Chicago in May 1852.
The route proved to be quite busy and profitable. This attracted
the attention of Commodore Vanderbilt, owner of the New York Central Railroad.
In 1876 he bought enough stock to gain control of the Michigan Central. The
Michigan Central operated as a separate railroad for many years, but was
finally leased to the New York Central in 1930. New York Central and the
Pennsylvania Railroad merged in 1969. Bankrupt virtually from its beginning,
Penn Central struggled on until April 1976, when it was reorganized as Conrail.
Conrail shed hundreds of miles of track in Michigan as part of its
reorganization. The old Michigan Central route from Kalamazoo, through Dowagiac,
to the state line was sold to Amtrak in April 1976.
The Dowagiac depot was built by the Michigan Central in
1903. It was built as just a passenger station, with a waiting room, ticket
office and a detached baggage/express room. Another nearby building must
have been used for freight.