South Bend, IN (SOB)
The hub of business and culture in “Michiana,” South Bend is popular for its lively music and arts scene. It is also home to the University of Notre Dame, noted for programs in pre-medical sciences, architecture, business and law.
2702 West Washington Street
South Bend, IN 46628
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 21,389
- Facility Ownership: Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District
- Parking Lot Ownership: Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District
- Platform Ownership: Norfolk Southern Railway
- Track Ownership: Norfolk Southern Railway
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Located west of downtown South Bend, the current train station was built in 1970 to serve both Amtrak and the commuter South Shore Line linking South Bend with Chicago. The South Shore Line had abandoned its street-level trackage to its former downtown terminal and thus needed a new station; in 1992, it moved its operations to the South Bend Regional Airport. This utilitarian one-story concrete block structure is painted a striking, deep blue and the illusion of a belt course is provided below the window sills by a beige stripe that circles the building. Trackside, a wide porch harbors passengers as they wait for the trains, and seats in bright blue and aqua provide a bit of whimsy. On the opposite platform, a small shelter is also available.
Amtrak agents at South Bend initiated a “Kiddie Corner” for the benefit of the children who visit the depot; the activities ensure that a child’s trip is entertaining and stimulating from the moment he or she enters the station. While the children play, parents and other travelers may partake of hot coffee and tea, especially appreciated on cold winter days.
As part of the Mobility First initiative of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the South Bend station received a new tactile edge and markings on both of the existing concrete platforms, new static platform signage, new paint markings and signage for accessible parking spaces on existing paving.
South Bend was originally connected to the rest of Indiana by the Michigan Road. It ran from Madison on the Ohio River in southeast Indiana to Michigan City on Lake Michigan in the northwest via Indianapolis, the state’s centrally located capital. In 1826, Governor James B. Ray made a treaty with the regional Pottawatomie people for a sliver of land 100 feet wide. The road was built during the 1830s and 1840s, and became a major route for pioneers who would arrive by the Ohio River and then follow the road to their chosen destination. South Bend was not envisioned as a stop on the highway, but the more direct, northwestern route to Michigan City was hampered by the swampy floodplain of the Kankakee River, forcing engineers to shift the proposed road to the east.
Although the state legislature chartered a railroad in 1838 to run from Indiana’s eastern boundary to Michigan City via South Bend, nothing immediately came of this effort. By 1850, the Michigan Southern Railroad had built a line from Toledo to Hillsdale only a few miles distant from the northeast border of Indiana. Michigan Southern hoped to proceed to Chicago but needed to build through Indiana to do so and thus the Northern Indiana Railroad was formed to continue the work. The two companies immediately consolidated to form the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railway (MS&NI) and construction commenced towards the southwest. The railroad finally arrived in South Bend on a fall evening in October 1851. Headed by the steam locomotive the “John Stryker,” the citizens greeted the new era with great fanfare including bonfires and cannon shots. Years later, the MS&NI consolidated with the Lake Shore Railroad providing a connection to Buffalo. At the dawn of the 20th century, South Bend hosted eight railroads—including the Grand Trunk Western and Michigan Central—providing vital links to the entire country.
Rich herds and supplies of deer, wolf, black bear, fox, mink, otter, and muskrat first attracted European-American settlers to the St. Joseph River valley. In 1820 Pierre Navarre established a trading post of the American Fur Company in the area; Navarre was soon joined by fellow agent Alexis Coquillard of Detroit. With Lathrop Taylor, another early pioneer who was also the postmaster, Coquillard laid out the town in 1831 and it came to be known as South Bend, a reference to the natural curve of the river. Owning a great amount of land, Coquillard was active in promoting the development of the community and donated parcels for schools and churches while also investing in business ventures such as flour and saw mills.
Development along the river and man-made canals helped South Bend grow as an industrial center. One of these early businesses was a wagon shop owned by Henry Studebaker; subsequent generations would grow the shop into the famed automobile manufacturer that retained its headquarters in town. Studebaker had its first major growth spurt during the Civil War when the company supplied wagons to the Union Army. Singer Sewing Company established a factory, as did Oliver Chilled Plow Company, one of the biggest makers of this all important agricultural tool. Across the river in Notre Dame, Ind., rose the nascent Notre Dame University which was to have a large impact on the future of South Bend.
As the town grew throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, town leaders recognized the need for an improved passenger and freight railroad station. Partnering in the endeavor, the New York Central and Grand Trunk Railroads chose a site to the south of downtown and hired New York based architects Fellheimer and Wagner. By the 1920s the firm had become well-known for its work on train stations. Alfred Fellheimer had been intimately involved on work for New York’s Grand Central Terminal, and the team had designed the Erie Union Station and Buffalo Central Terminal. In Cincinnati, their famed Art Deco terminal remains a symbol of the railroads’ power and glory in the first half of the 20th century.
Built from 1928-29, the South Bend commission was one of the firm’s smaller stations, but the materials and attention lavished upon it indicated the stature of the industrial and manufacturing city. For $1.2 million, Fellheimer and Wagner produced an Art Deco structure unlike anything that South Bend had seen; it replaced the earlier New York Central terminal that had been demolished in 1926. The rectangular building of brown-tan variegated brick features a central portion marked by large two and a half story bays with recessed frames and corbelling at the top edge. The central bay includes a set of double doors at the ground level and windows above while the two side bays have windows at both levels that flood the main waiting room with natural light. Just below the cornice, “Union Station” and the names of the two sponsoring railroads are spelled out in metal letters.
The cornice is composed of two layers of soldier laid bricks in which every other brick is recessed slightly to provide depth and a sense of movement so vital to the Art Deco aesthetic. A brilliant copper roof covered the central structure and would have shone in the sun when first installed. A marquee with geometric detailing protected passengers from the elements and provides an interesting horizontal element that contrasts with the strong verticality of the facade. The central portion of the building is framed by lower, two-story wings whose facades are marked by paired window bays; each bay is crowned with elaborate brickwork panels in which five columns of chevrons support stylized shields.
The main interior feature of the building is a waiting room and ticket office area covered by a fifty foot high barrel vault decorated with inlaid brick designs. A mezzanine overlooks the hall and visually breaks the large window bays into two sections; the ticket counters were inserted under the mezzanine. At each end of the waiting room are walls of windows divided into three segments; sunlight pours through these glass screens and is reflected in the high polish of the checkered white and maroon floor. When complete, the station eventually served ten rail lines, and a western one-story wing provided space for freight handling for businesses, including the nearby Studebaker plant. City leaders laid out a park to the north that created a grand vista for those traveling to Union Station from downtown.
Abandoned in 1970, the station was purchased by local businessman Kevin Smith in 1978. With help from the city of South Bend, South Bend Heritage Foundation, and Indiana Landmarks—a state historic preservation organization—Smith renovated the building. The structure received a new copper roof, exterior masonry restoration, and interior restoration. For a number of years the main hall hosted rental events, but currently the building is closed to the public. Smith runs his co-location internet hotel and back-up data center from the complex, and it houses supercomputers owned by the University of Notre Dame.
The sponsoring railroads of Union Station, the New York Central and the Grand Trunk Western have been subsumed by Norfolk Southern (NS) and CN, respectively.
Two blocks east of Union Station, the South Bend Public Transportation Corporation (TRANSPO), erected what it calls South Street Station, a multi-modal facility with local transit and intercity buses. Since it is located along the NS and CN tracks, a passenger rail component to the facility was an original intention. However, an agreement to stop Amtrak trains at the station was not reached and Amtrak continues to serve the small, concrete block building in an industrial area to the west.
In addition to Union Station and the Amtrak station, a third passenger rail station still stands in South Bend. Known now as the Vandalia Station, the building was originally built in 1900 as the northern terminal of the Terre Haute and Logansport Railroad, later part of the Vandalia Railroad. The Vandalia became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the primary rival to the New York Central. The depot is a two-story structure with rock-faced lower courses and a bay window on the street side. Romanesque brick arches accent the second floor windows. A single-story freight building built of brick and a later concrete block addition remain. The building is privately owned.
As manufacturing declined in the second half of the 20th century, especially with the closure of the Studebaker facility in 1963, the city strove to diversify its economic base by expanding into the healthcare and education sectors. Automobile component manufacturing remains an important regional employer, and South Bend-based AM General LLC continues to design, manufacture and assemble special purpose vehicles for the military and government agencies, including the famous Humvees.
South Bend is considered the hub of business and culture in “Michiana”—the collection of counties that straddle the border of southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana. Visitors to town enjoy the lively music scene which includes the South Bend Reggae Music Festival and the World Pulse Festival of contemporary Christian music. The Fischoff National Chamber Music Association sponsors the world’s largest chamber music competition at the University of Notre Dame. Local artists are the centerpiece of the South Bend Museum of Art, which also offers classes and workshops for art lovers of all ages. Car aficionados veer to the Studebaker National Museum. The informal collection of wagons, electric and gas powered cars and other memorabilia was started by the Studebaker Company and donated to the city in 1966.
For most Americans, South Bend is synonymous with the University of Notre Dame, although the university is across the St. Joseph River from downtown and technically is in the unincorporated community of Notre Dame. Founded in 1842, the small Catholic college has grown into one of the finest universities in the Midwest and the nation, boasting numerous professional schools. The institution is highly noted for its programs in pre-medical sciences, architecture, business, and law. Notre Dame alumni are known for their devotion to its “Fighting Irish” sports teams, and in particular, to the football team which has won numerous national championships and boasts many Heisman trophy winners.
Amtrak provides ticketing and baggage services at the South Bend station which is served by four daily trains.
- 10 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 37 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Baggage Storage
- Bike Boxes
- Checked Baggage
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Help With Luggage
- Pay Phones
- Shipping Boxes
- Ski Bags
- Ticket Office
- Wheelchair Lift