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2019 Fall Drive

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

Our last drive of 2019 took place on Saturday, October 26th. Thirty-three people and seventeen cars arrived at the Durand Union Station, a unique Chateau Romanesque structure, in Durand, MI. It was a chilly morning with mid-50 degrees and partly cloudy by mid-day.

Marcia Dennis, the resident docent, gave us the history of Durand, the original buildings, the build-up of activity with the growth of the railroad industry, the early building, the fire, the rebuilding of the station, its abandonment, and the final refurbishment in 1982. She also discussed the impacts on the railroad system from both world wars and the creation of the national roadway systems. Due to its unusual structure, the Durand Union Station is one of the most photographed train depots in the United States. In its day, the Durand Railroad Station was the central hub between Chicago and Port Huron, with approximately 3,000 passengers passing through it daily.

During the question and answer segment, someone inquired about the ghosts of the Union Station (they have a sign). It seems they have one prominent ghost; a Victorian-era woman dressed in white.

As we moved about the station and while in the larger ticketing, boarding, and un-boarding area and in the middle of Marcia’s comments, a player piano in the corner of the room mysteriously started to play. With no culprit immediately visible, speculation grew that is was the doing of the Victorian ghost lady, who must have dug deep into her pocket and dropped a quarter in the player piano slot thinking it would not work. Lacking scientific equipment to measure the presence of a ghost, we could not substantiate or reject such speculation. Marcia commented that the player piano frequently interrupts her group tours.

We finished viewing the rest of the museum exhibits without incident before moving onto the model train operating rooms. In these two rooms was a mockup of 1940’s Durand. There were several trains running on a single track and a significant number of tracks and trains in total. Significant technology was at work, as multiple trains running on a single track could be controlled separately. It was nice to see a few young engineers working with the trains. The hobby and exhibits will likely operate long into the future.

We then drove our cars, fifteen Jaguars and two Corvettes, forty-three miles on back roads to the Whitehorse Inn in Metamora. Foliage color changes were visible in the areas we drove through, especially around the Grand Blanc Reserve. It might not have been “peak time” but it was substantial.

The Whitehorse Inn handled our rather large number in a timely manner. The atmosphere, service, and food made for an enjoyable experience. Many conversations were taking place as long-term members caught up with each other and some new members got to know us better.

The threatened precipitation held off until after we left the Whitehorse Inn. Heading south, we hit the rain at about 3:30 PM. Not ideal, but it did not stop us from enjoying a very nice day together.

Phil Crutchfield

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