MIDDLEVILLE, Mich.– The iron horse as it’s sometimes called played a major role in the development of small towns, villages, and cities in West Michigan in the early days. They were allowed to grow with people coming in and going out on a daily basis. That said, the original train depot built around 1920 still stands today in the same place where it was erected.
While the depot now sits quiet and vacant, city officials are about to have this building added to the National Registry of Historic Buildings and it will soon become part of a multi-million dollar downtown riverfront revitalization plan that will get underway.
The depot was built with red clay and brick which was brought in on trains from Delton…which was known for Delton brick. In fact, many of the buildings in the area in/around Barry County were made with Delton brick. There were actually two trains that ran a daily schedule through the city in the old days with the most popular being something called the Beeliner. It would run from Jackson through several small towns an villages before making its way to Grand Rapids and turning around. Original footage taken aboard the train in the 1950s can be found here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QeHw5Ipi1s
Old timers in Middleville tell me that northbound trains would purposely run low on water (for their steam engine) since it was a well-known fact that Middleville had some of the best water around. It was spring fed, so each train would pull in, top off the tank, and continue on their way. This natural spring fed water was great for steam engines since because of its clarity and cleanliness. The steam engines just ran cleaner with Middleville water.
Some other things we found out about the depot and its passengers…Middleville’s high school was operating before Caledonia’s an there were kids from Caledonia who would hop on the train, come to Middleville, attend school, then get back on at the end of the day and ride home. So kids learned how to commute at an early age. You can get more information on Middleville at their website here.
While there’s nothing left in the depot today, the original wood work, ticket window, and layout remain unchanged. You’ll see some of the old-time photos of this depot when you watch the video attached to this story. For those that relish in the past and love the history of the railroad in West Michigan, don’t forget to put this on your list to see once it Middleville completes the refurbishment.