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 tracks were completed in January 1881. The Port Huron and Northwestern railroad constructed the Marlette Branch after citizens raised $15,000 in funding for construction of the tracks. The tracks were further extended to East Saginaw, creating a total run of 90 miles.
In 1889, the Port Huron and Northwestern Railroad was purchased by the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad. The Pere Marquette Railroad began with the merger of three lumber railroads, the Flint & Pere Marquette, the Detroit, Grand Rapids & Western, and the Chicago & West Michigan. The Marlette Train Depot was constructed in 1890 as a full-service railway depot. The depot was built with a large waiting room, ticket and administration office, and a baggage room. The depot’s interior and exterior woodwork is well crafted and beautiful. An extravagance, but an indicator of the prosperity of the early railway era.
The railway was key to the economic growth of the Thumb’s agricultural business. By 1910 Marlette was twice a day stop for passengers and freight between Port Huron and Saginaw. During World War 1, the United States Railway Administration nationalized America’s railways during the war. The depot saw service by sending freight and troops to fight in the Great War.
The Decline of Passenger Service and Depot Today
The last passenger service out of Marlette ended in 1936. In 2001, the depot was included in the State of Michigan Registry of Historic Places. With its restoration in 2006, the Marlette depot is a favorite among train enthusiasts and photographers. The Marlette depot is open as a historical museum.
Michigan Historical Marker
The first twenty-five miles of track for the Port Huron & Northwestern Railroad opened from Port Huron to Croswell in 1879. Marlette residents lured the railroad by raising $15,000 toward the construction of the tracks. The line extended from Saginaw Junction in St. Clair County to Marlette in January 1881, and Marlette and Mayville’s line opened in the fall. The Flint & Pere Marquette purchased the Port Huron & Northwestern in 1889. Flint contractor E.M. Stewart built this depot in 1890 with a double waiting room, an office, and a baggage room. The Marlette Historical Society bought the building in 1999.