Street Side, Dowagiac MI Depot
Dowagiac, MI depot; October 1998

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. Joseph.

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 build.

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.

Streetside Entrance New Depot Sign

Trackside, Bay Window and Waiting Room
Track Side

Baggage/Express Room at West End
West End/ Track Side, Baggage-Express Room

The Dowagiac depot is now owned by the City. It was restored in 1995, as part of a downtown redevelopment program. The waiting room still serves its original purpose, now for Amtrak passengers. The ticket office is now the dispatch center for the city's dial-a-ride service. A wall was added just west of the office, creating a separate room which is now the Chamber of Commerce office, and its Whistlestop Gifts shop .

Dowagiac Depot, Interior
Waiting Room Bench and Ticket Office, Now Dial-A-Ride Dispatch Office

Dowagiac Depot, Interior
Fireplace in west End of Waiting Room, now the Chamber of Commerce Office

Old Postcard, MC Passenger Train at Dowagiac
Michigan Central Passenger Train at Dowagiac

See Amtrak's Dowagiac Page for Location, Services and Schedules

November 1998, Updated Dec. 2003
Louis Van Winkle

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