Detroit, MI (DET)
Detroit has a rich and multi-layered history that makes it one of the Midwest's most storied cities. The Amtrak station is located in New Center, northwest of downtown and the cultural district.
11 West Baltimore Avenue
Detroit, MI 48202
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 50,993
- Facility Ownership: Amtrak
- Parking Lot Ownership: N/A
- Platform Ownership: Canadian National Illinois Central (Grand Trunk Western Railroad Co.)
- Track Ownership: Canadian National Illinois Central (Grand Trunk Western Railroad Co.)
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The Amtrak station is located in the New Center area of Detroit, and is approximately three miles north of the central business district. New Center developed as the administrative locus of the automobile industry in the early 20th century after General Motors and other companies constructed their headquarters buildings in the neighborhood.
Completed in the early 1990s, the beige-colored Amtrak station sits along busy Woodward Avenue which connects Detroit to its northern suburbs. The one-story structure features an entrance porch that leads to the main waiting room indicated on the exterior by large arched windows that welcome ample light. To the rear of the station is a tower capped with a hipped, green, seamed-metal roof; passengers ascend through this tower to reach the platforms along the elevated tracks. On Woodward Avenue, passengers may connect to local and suburban busses.
Detroit has a rich and multi-layered history that makes it one of the most storied cities of the Midwest. It was founded by the French in 1701 as the location of a fort. The site was ideal, located on a strait that connected Lakes Erie and Huron via Lake St. Clair. The city’s name derives from the French phrase, “Rivière du Détroit,” meaning “River of the Strait,” which was then applied to the name of the settlement, Fort Ponchartrain du Détroit. By the middle of the century, the town had grown to be the largest in the French territory between Montreal and New Orleans, primarily by riches gained through the lucrative fur trade. After the French and Indian War, the town fell under British control until it passed to the United States in 1796. From 1805 to 1847, Detroit served as the territorial and state capital of Michigan before the government moved to Lansing. Interestingly, Detroit is one of few American cities to have fallen to enemy hands in battle—the British recaptured the town during the War of 1812.
As Michigan’s primate city, it was the first in the state to gain rail service under the auspices of the Detroit and Pontiac Railway. Trains began running in 1837, but the entire 26 mile line between the two cities was not finished until 1843. Early railroad travel was a marked improvement over existing roads, but was far from quick by current standards. In 1841, the 80 mile trip from Detroit to Jackson, MI on the Detroit and St. Joseph Railroad took roughly seven hours. As the 19th century progressed, other railroads provided connections across the United States and links to Canada, thereby increasing the city’s economic reach. In 1922, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) was the last major line to enter the city on its own tracks; the PRR developed close ties to the automobile industry, especially Ford. Positioned on the border with Canada and along important water and overland routes, the city grew rapidly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and reaped the rewards of amplified trade and manufacturing.
The dawn of the 20th century witnessed the birth of the automobile era which became synonymous with Detroit; Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Packard, and Chrysler all rose to prominence and made the city the world center of the auto industry. Detroit’s skyline, studded with the exuberant and colorful crowns of Art Deco skyscrapers, is a testament to the growth and optimism of the period.
When Detroit comes up in conversation, many Americans immediately think of Motown and the classic hits that seduced the nation at mid-20th century. The city’s music scene continues to influence the country as it has for nearly 100 years. An early jazz center, Detroit also gave rise to a number of major rock bands in the 1960s and 1970s; recently, techno music has risen in popularity. Motown fans can visit the Motown Historical Museum which was established to preserve the legacy of that record company and its bevy of famous artists, including Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, the Isley Brothers, and Mary Wilson. The institution tells the Motown story through photographs, artwork, costumes, and of course music.
To see artists on stage, Detroiters head to the fabulous Fox Theatre on Woodward Avenue near the Grand Circus. Constructed in 1928 by film promoter William Fox, the former movie palace was designed in an eclectic, over-the-top blend of Burmese, Chinese, Indian, and Persian motifs that seem appropriate to the exuberance associated with the Roaring Twenties. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Fox has over 5,000 seats and was one of the first movie theaters to be constructed with equipment for new “talking pictures.” After a multimillion dollar renovation in the 1980s, the restored theater is now a premiere venue for Broadway entertainment.
Art lovers gravitate to the Cultural Center Historic District and its crown jewel: the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). The museum houses one of the largest and most important art collections in the United States, and is known for the breadth of its holdings which provide an overview of world art throughout the centuries. The American and Dutch collections are particularly noted for their depth and variety. The museum building was designed by noted Philadelphia architect Paul Philippe Cret, later known for his modern interpretations of Classical motifs. The white marble, Italian Renaissance style palazzo was funded through the philanthropy of Detroiters including the Dodge, Firestone, and Ford families—founders of the automobile industry.
Those who have see the 2002 film Frida about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo might recall the scenes in which she and her artist husband Diego Rivera travel to Detroit so that he can paint a cycle of murals at the DIA at the invitation of Edsel Ford and museum director William Valentiner. The Rivera murals, referred to as “Detroit Industry,” were heavily inspired by the activity and organization that Rivera observed at Ford’s River Rouge plant, at the time one of the largest manufacturing concerns in the world. Men and women of various races labor in the industries that made the city a powerhouse—automobile, medical, pharmaceutical, and chemical; but the underside of progress is also depicted in panels that show scenes of modern warfare and despair exasperated by efficient industrial processes.
Although the city has boasted numerous rail depots and terminals over the past two centuries, perhaps the most famous is that of the Michigan Central Railroad. Today abandoned, the grand Beaux-Arts structure included a station and concourse topped by a soaring neoclassical office tower. The architects and engineers—Warren and Wetmore of New York City and Reed and Stem of St. Paul—had extensive experience in the design of rail facilities and the Michigan Central Station was the epitome of efficiency. Opened to service in 1913, the $16 million complex was envisioned as a pole for new city growth, but this did not occur. After World War II, many of the grand public spaces were cordoned off due to rising maintenance and utility costs. A portion of the building was used by Amtrak until 1988 when it was finally shuttered. Amtrak’s new facility in New Center more adequately fulfills passenger needs and is easier to access due to its location on busy Woodward Avenue.
Closely tied to the automobile industry, Detroit is steadily working to reinvent itself for the next generation, with an emphasis on a revamped auto sector and associated technologies. The annual North American International Auto Show allows the industry to showcase its new and cutting edge developments. The city’s music scene also continues to influence the country as it has for nearly one hundred years. An early jazz center, Detroit was also the birthplace of Motown Records, whose sound dominated the nation’s airwaves in the mid-20th century. A number of major rock bands emerged from the city in the 1960s and 1970s, and most recently, techno music has risen in popularity. Entering its fourth century, the “Renaissance City” is indeed poised for another rebirth.
Amtrak provides ticketing and baggage assistance at the Detroit station which is served by six daily trains. The Wolverine Service is financed primarily through funds made available by the Michigan State Department of Transportation.
- 30 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Dedicated Parking
- Elevator Accessible
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Help With Luggage
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Ticket Office
- Wheelchair Lift