The railroad was key to the economic growth of the Thumb’s agricultural business. By 1910 Marlette Railway depot was a twice a day stop for passengers and freight between Port Huron and Saginaw. During World War I, 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.
Passenger travel fell after WWI as more individuals purchased autos. However, the transport of agricultural products kept the depot running while surrounding grain elevators increased their demand for transportation. However, the Great Depression and the widespread usage of automobiles prompted Pere Marquette to discontinue passenger service out of Marlette in 1936. After a series of mergers, the Chessie System owned and operated the depot until they shut it down in the 1970s.
The depot was idle and faced demolition until 1999 when the Marlette historical society purchased the site and converted it into a museum. The depot was expertly restored and today local history is displayed with antiques dating back to the 1850s.
Covid Impacts Visits – Historic Marlette Train Depot May Close
Sadly the Covid-19 pandemic has curtailed visitors to the depot. As a result, the Marlette Historical Society may be forced to close the train depot museum.
According to a piece in the County Press, Society member Patricia Ross notified the Marlette City Council in June 2021 about the need for additional visitors and volunteers to keep the doors open.
Ross notified the council that there were few or no visitors over the summer of 2021 since the opening day on Memorial Day weekend. She also stated that the Society could not open the museum on Sunday, June 20, due to a lack of volunteers to run the facility.
The historical society is planning monthly activities, including performances by a local community theater company on the depot grounds, to increase interest in the museum and raise funds for monthly operating expenditures of around $250. The museum is open from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. There is no admission fee.
Michigan Historical Marker of the Marlette Railway Depot
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 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 Marlette Historical Society bought the building in 1999.
Related Railroad Reading and Exploring
Capac’s Amazing Railroad Station and Museum – 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.
Sebewaing’s Railway Depot; Hidden in Plain Sight – Our research shows that this passenger and freight line was in 1882. A narrow-gauge railway was put in place from East Saginaw to Sebewaing by the Saginaw, Tuscola, and Huron Railroad. A nine-mile extension to Bay Port was completed in 1884, then on to Bad Axe in 1886. The railway was converted to a standard gauge starting in 1891. Finally, it was purchased by Pere Marquette in 1903.
Early History of WKAR – AM 1917-1939 – The history of WKAR and early educational radio is marked by periods of experimentalism and growth. This is the early history of WKAR in the mid-Michigan area, and the advancement of the station we enjoy today.