Chelsea’s Unsolved Train Station Mystery

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The old depot that was wrecked in 1875. The mystery of its demise still exists but many felt Chelsea deserved a better station.

From the Chelsea Area Historical Society

Did you know that there is a mystery surrounding the early train depots built in Chelsea?

In the 1830s, the Congdon brothers, Elisha and James, settled land where Chelsea is located and encouraged development by offering land to the Michigan Central Railroad for a train station in 1848. Freight service began in 1850, and eventually, more wool was shipped out of the Chelsea than any other station in the state.

The first freight depot was located at Davidson Station (two miles west of Main Street) and the second in the hamlet of Kedron in Sylvan Township (located close to the intersection of M52 and the railroad). These two buildings mysteriously disappeared. Some folks speculated both were destroyed at night by vandals. The Davidson Station burned down. In 1875, the Kedron Station collapsed when the train left the station with a cable attached to the building.

The present-day Victorian gingerbread stick-style built in 1880. In addition to freight service, there was passenger service with separate waiting rooms on the west side for women and children and on the east for men.

Regardless of the cause, a new Victorian gingerbread stick-style depot was built on Jackson Street in 1880. During the 20th Century, Chelsea became a major stop between Detroit and Chicago for passengers. Among other things, the railroad transported products from the Glazier Stove Company, Flanders Motorcycle Company, and several automobile companies. Shipping increased substantially when Federal Screw Works shipped ammunition components for the US War Department during World War II and the Korean War. The position of stationmaster was crucial to managing the schedule, passengers, and supplies until the last ticket was sold in 1975.

In 1980, a hundred years after its construction, Amtrak notified the Village of Chelsea of the plans to demolish the depot. Led by members of the Chelsea Area Historical Society and spearheaded by Lynda Collins, a group of local citizens organized and raised $16,000 to purchase the depot in 1985. Subsequently, the Chelsea Depot Association was formed, and a campaign began to raise over $100,000 for restoration. The depot was registered as a Michigan Historic Site in 1986 and dedicated in 1988.

The historical site now serves as a popular location for receptions and social events. For rental information, email marsi@chelseadepot.com or call 734 475 0862.

Photos courtesy of CAHS

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