The Capac Railroad Depot is a bit off the beaten path. Situated east of Imlay City, it maintains the vibrant small-town rural charm found in Michigan. The town is located between Port Huron and Flint. The historic railroad depot is also home to one of the finest small-town museums in the region.
The Grand Trunk Western opened a station in Capac in 1866. The community was incorporated as a village in 1873. The depot served as the village’s economic focal point. Amazingly this is the fourth depot for this small town. The first depot built north of the tracks burned down in 1880, and a second brick depot was built south of the tracks. It was declared “unsafe” and replaced by a third depot north of the tracks in the 1890s. The third depot was lost to a fire in 1913. This fourth and final depot was sold to the town for $1 and moved to this location in 1988.
Capac Michigan Was The Birthplace of Prest0n Tucker
Automobile entrepreneur Preston Tucker was born near Capac in 1903. His father, Shirley Harvey Tucker, was a railroad engineer. His mother was Lucille Caroline Preston. Tucker was involved in many innovative aspects of automobile engineering. He developed race cars for Henry Ford, an early prototype of an armored vehicle, and aircraft engines. However, Tucker is most remembered for the development of the 1948 Tucker Torpedo.
The Kempf Model City
The Capac Railroad Depot Museum is also home to the Kempf Model City. A 1/8th scale diorama of a model town was painstakingly crafted over seven years from 1916 to 1923. The display is 40 feet long.
In 1916 the Kempf brothers Fred, Irving, and Bruce charged a dime to see the town. The owners toured and displayed the miniature city at expositions, state fairs, and retail department stores from 1923 to 1942.
This is actually the second version of the model. The original Kempf Model City was built by Fred S. Kempf in the early 1900s when he was a teenager. The Mechanical Wonder was shown in events across the country, from vaudeville acts to county fairs. Unfortunately, the original model was destroyed due to a horrific train crash, which killed Fred Kempf and his wife in 1915.
Thanks to the Capac Historical Society Museum and the members of the Quilters in Training Quilt Guild of Capac for their hospitality. The Kempf Center is open Monday through Friday from Noon to 3:00 pm. The Depot Museum is open May through September, Monday through Friday from Noon to 3:00 pm, and Sunday from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
Related Reading for Michigan Railway Depots
- Port Hope’s Beautifully Restored Train Depot – Financed by local businessmen, a standard gauge rail line was laid the final seven miles. The following year a modern depot was built to host passengers and cargo. Now passengers could come in from anywhere in the country and Port Hope could ship out commodities to other markets.
- Marlette’s Train Depot History Shines Through the Years – The Marlette Train Depot is a beautiful and well-restored example of a late 1800s railway station. Other examples of this Michigan’s Thumb include the railway depots in Pigeon, Capac Museum and Depot, and the restored 1903 Port Hope rail station.
- The Legend of the Polly Ann Railway – Local folklore states that the Pontiac, Oxford & Northern Railroad (P.O. & N) ran from September 1889 until the last service run of the line’s full length on February 9, 1984.
- The Railway at the Bottom of Saginaw Bay – This disaster delayed the start of the Thumb railroad building until December 1882. It’s assumed that those rails are still at the bottom of the lake today.
- Jackson Train Station- Living History of a Working Amtrak Station – The Jackson station (JXN) is one of the oldest continually operating railway stations in the United States. The brick Italianate depot is embellished with a rich variety of woods harvested in Michigan. The waiting room of the station looked much as it did in the early 1900s.