Train City USA

BAM — you're here!  We have the best three-letter Amtrak station code: BAM.

The railroad industry is an important part of the City of Bangor's past, present, and future. The Bangor Amtrak Station was restored and rededicated in 2005, and we take great civic pride in this gateway to our community.  It was originally built by the former Pere Marquette Railroad in 1926.

In 2013, we had 3,968 passenger train riders who boarded and deboarded at the Bangor Amtrak Station. This number is 7.2% higher than the 3,700 riders in 2012, and 14.8% higher than the 3,455 riders in 2011.

BAM - Bangor Michigan Amtrak Station

Amtrak's Great American Stations website description of our station's history:

The brick Amtrak station in Bangor was built by Louis Janoskie, a local contractor, and completed in 1926 for the Pere Marquette Railroad at a cost of $30,000; it replaced a wooden building erected in 1870. The depot sat empty for almost three decades, until a model train factory occupied most of the space in 1981. From 1984, when Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation began the state-funded Pere Marquette service, to 1991, Amtrak passengers used a waiting room adjacent to the business.

Lee Miller of Bangor was inspired to create an enterprise to occupy the then-empty rail depot with the theme of Bangor as “Train City.” By 1982, Lee’s brother Duane joined him in this business, which they called the Kalamazoo Toy Train Factory. They manufactured G-scale trains, which are now collector’s items, as the factory closed in 1991. Before closing, they gained national fame as a prize on The Price Is Right television show in 1983, and in 1984, when they sent a train set to then President Ronald Reagan.

Following the closing of that business, the station had the dubious distinction of being at the top of the Great American Station Foundation’s 1998 list of “Top Ten Most Endangered Stations in America.” The city of Bangor bought the station from CSX Transportation (successor to the Pere Marquette Railroad) in 2001, and the building was purchased in 2004 by Beacon Specialized Living Services, a healthcare provider. The empty attic of the station was replaced by a full second story, doubling the usable space in the station. The city retained ownership of the south end of the building, which was originally a portico, and then enclosed to be used as the passenger waiting room.

In July 2004, the city received a $125,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation to rebuild the waiting room and platform. Amtrak contributed engineering services and the balance of the $500,000 project was carried out with private and city funds. The project was completed with a station rededication on May 6, 2005.

Adjacent to the present waiting room is the Railroad Café and Coffee Depot, in the space which was the original waiting room. The main entrance and lobby for the Beacon offices are in what was the freight room. Stairs lead up to the company’s offices on the newer second floor. A larger meeting room is available in what might have been a second waiting room on the first floor. Also on the second floor is the Edwin Foster Trophy Collection with an array of mounted African game animals.

The area which would become Bangor, on the South Branch of the Black River first occupied by the Potawatomies, was settled by Charles U. Cross in 1837, a civil engineer and surveyor from New York State. At that time, stands of very large timber covered the region, and some of the black walnut and white wood trees were recorded as six feet in diameter and lumbering was naturally an initially common occupation in the area until the land was cleared. Fruit growing and farming then became profitable. A prominent early settler, Joseph H. Nyman, arrived in Bangor in 1856 and built several mills in the area to manufacture cut lumber, flour and woolens using the water power of the Black River. Nyman made the first plat for the village in 1860. Bangor was incorporated as a city in 1968.

Bangor became a central shipping point when the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad was opened through the town in 1870, and it was not until 1877 that Bangor was incorporated as a village. Another advancement in the village was the opening of the Bangor Blast Furnace for smelting iron ore and manufacturing pig iron.

Today, apple and blueberry farming is still a main occupation, and is celebrated with a yearly Apple Festival in October. Since 1944, Bangor Plastics has provided employment as well.

Pickle production is also a mainstay in the town, with green vats of the Freestone Pickle Co. visible in the tanking yard as the Amtrak Pere Marquette calls at the station. The family-owned business was founded in 1903 and formerly shipped pickles in tanks bolted to railroad flat cars.

The Pere Marquette is financed primarily through funds made available by the Michigan State Department of Transportation. Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at the Bangor station, which is served by two daily trains.

Pere Marquette route guide, 2009, excerpt describing Bangor:

BANGOR was settled in 1834 by Charles Cross and J.R. Monroe, who were sent to survey land Cross’s uncle had acquired from the government. A new township was organized in 1853, dubbed Bangor at the suggestion of a Maine native. A large quantity of giant hardwoods provided for building materials and a source of commerce. After its depletion, apple, pickle and blueberry farming became the new economic base of the community.

In 1981, the Bangor Train Factory was set up in the old train depot to manufacture G-scale model trains under the banner of the Kalamazoo Toy Trains. Within two years, its products were used as prizes on the television game show The Price is Right, and a train set was presented to then-president Reagan. 

Pere Marquette route guide, 2014, excerpt describing Bangor:

Step off the Amtrak Pere Marquette in Bangor and into a fully renovated and staffed station complete with a quaint café. Bangor is the heart of pickle, blueberry, and apple country. The 1,000 gallon green tanks you see along the tracks are actually production vats for the Freestone Pickle Company, which has been in operation in Bangor for more than 100 years. The annual lighted Christmas Parade (the first Saturday in December) was the first in Van Buren County and remains a highlight of the holiday season. The annual Apple Festival in October offers fun, crafts, cars, a carnival and plenty of apples for the whole family. Bangor is located on the southern branch of the Black River. State highway M-43 runs through Bangor. Kalamazoo is 25 miles east and South Haven is ten miles west.