Albion, MI (ALI)
Serving residents of this college town for nearly a century and a half, the charming Italianate depot features decorative brickwork, bargeboard and delicate wrought-iron cresting along the roof.
300 North Eaton Street
Albion, MI 49224
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2022): 1,890
- Facility Ownership: Amtrak
- Parking Lot Ownership: Amtrak/City of Albion
- Platform Ownership: Michigan Department of Transportation
- Track Ownership: Michigan Department of Transportation
The graceful and historic Albion depot has served townspeople, Albion College students and visitors for nearly a century and a half. Originally built for the Michigan Central Railroad (MC) in 1882, the red brick building is a typical rectangular depot with Italianate touches such as three-sided bays with fancy double brackets supporting the eaves.
Colored and glazed brick in shades of white form two beltcourses that encircle the structure and display a checked pattern—the prominent headers are strikingly white while the runners have a light whitewash. The beltcourses lie at the level of the sills and directly below the lintels, giving emphasis to the strong, repetitive rhythm of the window bays and the two-over-two windows. The bands of colored bricks are only interrupted by the plain pilasters that divide the window bays; each bay also features deep corbelling. The pilasters bear simple brackets that support the eaves of the gabled roof. The bay at the southeastern end of the structure is the main access point and features double doors; a porch, probably added at a later date, provides shelter during inclement weather. A long and narrow patch of lawn fronts the porch and runs along the tracks. In days past, it was planted with flowers as the depot would have been a visitor’s first impression of the town.
Trackside, another three-sided bay projects into the narrow platform area. This was a common design feature in early depots and was usually part of the depot master’s office, allowing him to see down the tracks and monitor traffic. It is topped by a gable with bargeboard and woodwork associated with the Eastlake decorative style. The bay displays a sign with “Albion” spelled out and the mileage to Detroit and Chicago listed. The roof of the depot is crowned with wrought-iron fencing along the ridge, while two prominent chimneys with corbelling crown the structure. Compared to historic photographs, the depot exterior is today remarkably intact. A large water tower once stood to the north of the depot, but is now gone. A freight house is still located on the opposite side of the tracks.
Albion was first settled by European-Americans in 1833, but the settlement was not formally named until 1835 when the Albion Company platted the village. The name “Albion” was selected by the wife of one of the first settlers; Albion was also the name of the residence owned by Jesse Crowell who had platted the land. The selection was appropriate, as “Albion” is an old and poetic name for England and many of the early settlers were of English descent. Located at the forks of the Kalamazoo River, the flow of water provided power for mills; railroad connections also opened up markets to farmers from the surrounding area.
Founded in 1835, Albion College was actually first located 10 miles away in Spring Arbor Township, but moved to Albion in 1838. Jesse Crowell donated 60 acres to the fledging institution, and its first building opened its doors in 1844. Initiated by Methodist Episcopal settlers, the college was established as a liberal arts institution. It early accepted women, and by 1861 the school was fully authorized by the state to grant degrees to men and women.
The Central Railroad of Michigan reached town limits in 1844 and on Independence Day, the first steam locomotive chugged into town to much celebration. By December of that year, regular passenger service was instituted to Detroit. The trip from Detroit to Marshall—a dozen miles west of Albion—took seven and a half hours and cost $3. In 1846 the state sold the line stretching from Detroit to Kalamazoo to the Michigan Central Railroad for $2 million. Twenty years later, Michigan Central was subsumed into Cornelius Vanderbilt’s powerful New York Central Railroad.
Albion was also served by the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad (LS&MSR) which arrived in 1872 and linked it to the state capital at Lansing. The LS&MSR was formed by a series of consolidations in 1869; the line linked Chicago and Buffalo with major intermediate stops in Toledo, Cleveland and Erie. A decade later, the New York Central also gained a majority share in the LS&MSR, and like the Michigan Central, it was incorporated into the New York Central lines, allowing for a direct route under single ownership from New York City to Chicago.
The LS&MSR built a depot a few blocks to the east of the MC building. It was a rather simple wood frame structure clad in vertical wood siding with the typical deep eaves and steep gabled roof found on many depots of the second half of the nineteenth century. When the “new” New York Central Railroad was chartered in December 1914, the LS&MSR and MC were merged; service consolidation resulted in the eventual abandonment of the old LS&MSR depot and the transfer of all passenger and freight services to the Michigan Central depot. The LS&MSR station was later sold to a farmer who moved it to his property.
The MC depot was abandoned in 1971, four years before Amtrak began serving the town in May 1975. The building was at risk of demolition until restored by community groups in the mid-1980s. This effort involved collaboration among the Albion Community Foundation (ACF), a non-profit focused in part on community improvement and cultural heritage; a “Friends of the Depot” group; Albion College; chamber of commerce; and other organizations. Together they raised approximately $30,000 and solicited in-kind donations of labor, construction materials and more to rehabilitate the depot and outfit it with modern amenities to support office space, restrooms and a waiting room for rail and bus passengers. The project also received a $75,000 grant from the state.
As of early 2022, there are plans to again rehabilitate the depot with funding from the ACF through a $300,000 bequest of the local Cram family. The gift was made in honor of Dr. Ralph Cram and Mary E. Cram; the latter, who passed away in 2012, had been instrumental in the 1980s restoration project by raising awareness and directing fundraising along with other civic leaders. In addition to supporting needed rehabilitation work, the ACF funding will provide an endowment for future maintenance efforts.
Today Albion is well known its diverse population and for the college which takes its name. Albion College is considered one of the best, small, liberal-arts four year colleges in the nation and is noted for its student activism manifest in more than 100 student-led organizations. The college’s Whitehouse Nature Center is a popular attraction along the Kalamazoo River and features walking trails amid 144 acres with 400 plant species, a wildflower garden, and a research-oriented working farm. Visitors are serenaded by the often melodious songs of 168 bird species, which makes for a delightful experience for bird-watchers as well as the casual observer.
The city’s “Festival of the Forks” has been held each September since 1967. The multi-day event celebrates the community’s diversity and rich history and includes parades, community dinners, contests, an art show, and many other opportunities for fun and happy memories.
The Wolverine Service is financed primarily through funds made available by the Michigan State Department of Transportation.
Station Building (with waiting room)
- ATM not available
- No elevator
- No payphones
- No Quik-Trak kiosks
- Unaccompanied child travel not allowed
- No vending machines
- No WiFi
- Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- No bag storage
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- Same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- No payphones
- Accessible platform
- Accessible restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- Accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- Same-day, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- No high platform
- No wheelchair
- Wheelchair lift available
Station Waiting Room Hours
|Mon||08:00 am - 05:00 pm|
|Tue||08:00 am - 05:00 pm|
|Wed||08:00 am - 05:00 pm|
|Thu||08:00 am - 05:00 pm|
|Fri||08:00 am - 05:00 pm|