Before the advent of the World Wide Web, indeed even before the advent of telephones and automobiles, it was the railroad that kept us connected. Communities to communities. Businesses to customers. People to one another. Americans to their destiny.
For a community made wealthy by lumbering and ship building, there was little incentive to invest in the new technology that was train travel. It wasn't until envy of a neighboring community's new tracks in 1862 that the Bay County Board of Supervisors laid out $75,000 to help fund the privately financed East Saginaw and Bay City Railroad Company. The 12-mile spur connecting the two communities was finally completed in 1867. When Bay City's businessmen discovered the "iron horse" was a more convenient and less expensive way to transport products to their customers, there was no stopping them.
At the same time, there was little government oversight of railroads and privately financed tracks were laid anywhere land and money could be dedicated to them. Hundreds of miles of tracks criss-crossed the state resembling a very intricate spider's web and providing the means to connect Bay City to almost any other community in Michigan, to the rest of the United States and to the world. By the 1880s West Bay City and Bay City had developed important railroad connections running north
along Lake Huron and west to Midland. By 1915, Bay City was one of eastern Michigan's most important railroading centers with 31 passenger trains arriving and departing each day.
As train travel became the most efficient means of connecting people to one another, it became increasingly important to accommodate passengers as well as freight. And accommodate them we did with grand stations providing food, shelter and information. The Pere Marquette Depot was originally dedicated in 1904 and restored in 2008 after being abandoned for nearly 38 years.