Once the tallest railway station in the world, Michigan Central Station now lies eerie and abandoned

Ian Harvey
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Michigan Central Station was the primary passenger rail station for the city of Detroit.

It was built for the Michigan Central Railroad as a replacement for the original station in the city’s downtown. The original depot was permanently closed after a massive fire on 26 December 1913, which pressed the still uncompleted depot into premature service. Michigan Central Station was formally initiated on 4 January 1914. MCS remained in operation until Amtrak terminated its service on 6 January 1988. When MCS was built, it was the tallest rail depot in the world.

Interior Mezzanine of Michigan Central Station, Detroit. Photo Credit

Interior Mezzanine of Michigan Central Station, Detroit. Photo Credit

 

Main Hall of the Michigan Central Train Station, taken from the southern balcony Photo Credit

Main Hall of the Michigan Central Train Station, taken from the southern balcony Photo Credit

 

Michigan Central Train Station Interior 26 June 2009. Photo Credit

Michigan Central Train Station Interior 26 June 2009. Photo Credit

The building is in close proximity to the Ambassador Bridge in the Corktown region of Detroit. It is located beside the Roosevelt Warehouse on the east side, just behind Roosevelt Park. The Park acts as an impressive entrance to MCS. In 1975, the station was included in the national registry of historic buildings worthy of restoration. Plans and projects for restoration have been in the negotiation stage, but nothing has actually been started yet.

Some pre-restoration work has been ongoing since 2011; this work has included structural fixes, minor demolition works, shrouding sections of the glass roof openings, and repairs to the roof layout. The cellar, which was practically flooded at one time, has been completely pumped empty. In an effort to keep out trespassers, there is a barbed wire fence installed around the perimeter.

This is the document with local identifier 86-WWT-80-1. Photo Credit

This is the document with local identifier 86-WWT-80-1. Photo Credit

MCS was used extensively by the US military during World War II. With the evolution of automobile travel after the war, trains were seldom used for vacation or other travel. Passenger traffic became so low that service was cut back and the owners made an effort to sell the facility in 1956 for $ 5 million dollars, one-third of what it originally cost to build in 1913. Another attempt to sell the station was made in 1963 but was halted because of a lack of buyers. The main entrance, arcade shops, and restaurant were closed in 1967, along with much of the passenger waiting area, as operating and maintenance costs escalated too high in relation to the declining passenger volume. What remained was only two ticket booths to take care of passengers and visitors, who now had to use the same entrance as the railroad employees who still had jobs at the station.

Transportation hub. Fallen. Photo Credit

Transportation hub. Fallen. Photo Credit

The station has been featured in several films, TV programs, and music videos, some of which are listed here:

In October 2006, scenes from the movie Transformers.

In January 2005, the set location for the movie The Island.

In September 2002, extensive closeups and fly-by shots for the movie Naqoyqatsi.

In 2005, the main character driving his car along the front of Michigan Central Station for the film Four Brothers.

The Michigan Central Depot, Detroit, Mich Photo Credit

The Michigan Central Depot, Detroit, Mich Photo Credit

Some of Eminem’s work has included MCS, such as the title sequence of the movie 8 Mile and the music video for the song ‘Beautiful’.

ABC produced crime drama Detroit 1-8-7 had a scene from one of the programs shot inside the station.

In 2012, the closing scenes of the documentary Detropia were done in the building’s lobby.

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On 5 May 2011, the Detroit International Bridge Company made it known that they appointed the Ann Arbor company of Quinn Evans to administer the refurbishment of the roof and windows of the building. The Bridge Company ownership issued a statement for the public saying, ’we are hopeful that this is the inauguration of a rebirth of MCS.’