The Amtrak station in Niles will recognize National Train Day with exhibits and activities. (Art submitted)
The Amtrak station in Niles will recognize National Train Day with exhibits and activities. (Art submitted)

Archived Story

Niles Depot to celebrate National Train Day

Published 11:01am Monday, April 26, 2010

By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star

The Amtrak station in Niles will join more than 100 others to honor the history of trains in America on the third annual National Train Day May 8.

The station, 598 Dey St., will host interactive and educational exhibits provided by the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers. An operating HO scale model train will also be on display, courtesy of the Cass County Model Railroad Club.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is free to the public.

Railroads are a big part of Niles’ history. The current station was constructed in 1892 as the Michigan Central Railroad to impress passengers making the last stop in Michigan on their way to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

The Four Flags Garden Club will be on hand at the event to distribute carnations to all the women who attend, in honor of John Gipner, a master gardener who gave away the flowers to all women who boarded the trains. He also created elaborate garden displays at the station in Niles at the turn of the 20th century, earning Niles the nickname of the “Garden City.”

“It was just acres of barren cow pasture that was turned into a stunning park,” Four Flags Garden Club member Elaine Metzger said. “Acres of trees, gazebos, water gardens, beautiful formal gardens, just the most incredible displays of gardens.

“He really did put Niles on the map and make it famous,” Metzger said of Gipner, who is buried in Silverbrook Cemetery.

National Train Day commemorates the 141st anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad’s inception.

Other Michigan communities celebrating National Train Day include Holland, Bangor, St. Joseph, New Buffalo, Dowagiac, Kalamazoo, East Lansing, Durand, Flint, Jackson, Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Detroit. The City of Dowagiac will celebrate National Train Day with an open house at the historic Michigan Central Railroad station (current Amtrak station at 200 Depot Drive) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information on the festivities, visit www.nationaltrainday.com.

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