Ghosts of Main Street: The Marion Depot

June 14, 2018

By Julie Traynor
Correspondent

The Toledo/Ann Arbor Rail Road Depot in Marion was built in 1889 and left the Main Street landscape by the close of 1957. It had been in use just shy of 70 years, and for much of that time was an important hub of activity in the Village of Marion. Its demise signaled the end of an era as another arose. The passenger train gave way to the automobile. A new day in transportation had dawned.

The Marion Depot in 1957, shortly before it was razed.

The Marion Depot in 1957, shortly before it was razed.

As it was all across northern Michigan, the comings and goings of the daily trains became a kind of pulse and gave a rhythm to life in a small town. Businesses catered to the arrival of the train, which brought awaited freight and goods to town. Someone from the local Post Office met each arrival of the Mail Car and sent outgoing mail on its way each night. The local creamery met the train to retrieve cans shipped by outlying farmers. Milk and cream were regularly arrived on the train.
The earliest form of an instant message, the telegram, could be sent from the Ann Arbor Depot in Marion. Telephone service came early, but was largely local in the beginning. A Western Union telegram could be sent, and received, from anywhere the rails ran.

Marion’s young men went off to the world’s wars and returned home via the train. Politicians campaigned across the state riding trains. They stopped at each small town to greet the citizenry, then climbed back aboard and went on to the next town.
Freight did not just mean things like farm machinery, kegs of nails and coal. If someone ordered furniture from the Sears and Roebuck catalog, or chicks in the spring, they travelled to Marion on the train.

The train even delivered automobiles, which ultimately brought about the end of passenger service to much of the north. The age of the auto was here to stay. Folks preferred to drive themselves. Passenger service along the northern Ann Arbor rails was discontinued in 1950.

Jesse and Inez Wolford and Jim Courter pose in front of the Ann Arbor RR Depot and the new cobblestone  fountain, 1914.

Jesse and Inez Wolford and Jim Courter pose in front of the Ann Arbor RR Depot and the new cobblestone
fountain, 1914.

For many years the Ann Arbor Rail Road Depot was a hub of vital daily activity in our town and station masters were known by everyone. Jesse Wolford was a long time station master, aided by his wife Inez, during the 1920’s and ‘30’s. Jim Courter was an agent and telegraph operator. During their tenure, Mrs. Wolford worked to make the depot a welcoming stop. It is said that she ‘encouraged’ those who were fond of hanging about the depot to find a new place to lounge.

It was Mrs. Wolford who was responsible for the first public drinking fountain at the depot, and a replica of it stands in its place today. She also planted flowers, most conspicuously in one of local stonemason Gene Kirby’s famous cobblestone baskets. A photo postcard of the Wolford’s and Courter standing by the fountain in front of the depot, and another of the stone planter were both popular postcards of the time.

The site of the former depot is remembered with a replica of the fountain.

The site of the former depot is remembered with a replica of the fountain.

Marion’s depot building was replaced by a smaller structure in 1958, one more suitable for the railroad’s changing role in our town. With no passengers and no rail mail, there was no need for the new ‘depot’ to be situated where the old one had been and it was set well back from the tracks. By the 1980’s it too was gone. The only reminder of Marion’s depot building is the replica fountain and a sign marking the site. It is maintained by the 20th Century Club. The Marion Veteran’s Memorial also stands near the old depot site. And the freight trains still clickty-clack along as they pass through Marion.



Please follow and like us:
Error, no Ad ID set! Check your syntax!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>