The Mount Clemens Grand Trunk Railroad Station – now the Michigan Transit Museum. Built in 1859 in an Italianite style popular with many such stations. (Depot Town, Chelsea etc.) This place is most famous due to the presence of a young Thomas Alva Edison.
Edison worked on the Port Huron to Detroit Grand Trunk Rail as a newsboy and as a candy “butcher”. It is during this time that young Tom became deaf – according to Edison he went deaf because he was pulled up to a train car by his ears. More likely that the unbelievable decible level created by the roar of steam powered engines destroyed the cilia in his inner ears.
In 1862 Edison began the first newspaper printed on a moving train. That year was also the year that he saved a young boy named Jimmie Mackenzie from being killed by a runaway train – right here at this station on these tracks. Ever grateful, the Mount Clemens Station Agent J.U. Mackenzie took young Tom under his wing and taught him railroad telegraphy. Edison eventually worked on improving the telegraph system, and was certainly inspired by this early lesson in electrical transmission.
While Thomas Edison is commonly credited with “inventing” the lightbulb, many other people were developing the exact technology at the same time. Nicola Tesla had already devised a system for creating light with no electrical wires. Telsa also invented and perfected Alternating Current (AC) which became the world standard for most electrical applications. Teslas lightbulb technology is still in use to this day, most commonly known as “flourecent lighting”. He s also responsible for the classic and nostalgic neon lighting.
At the age of 21, Thomas Edisons first patent was on an electric voting machine – outstripping Diebolds crappy modern attempt at the same technology by multiple decades.
Now lets take a look inside this railroad museum – recently restored in the 1980’s. Anybody who loves history needs to come here. ESPECIALLY if you love trains – and who the hell doesnt love trains ?
This is the museum section of the railraod depot – originally the depot was split by sexes, women on one side and men on the other.
Display cases are absolutely full of amazing little artifacts of the great era of railroads. Almost nothing here is without historical value – the cases themselves were purchased from the downtown Detroit J.L. Hudson’s department store main display area.
Visitors are greeted by a likeness of a young Tom Edision as he looked during his years working on this rail line.
A collection of Edison branded objects.
Framed patents held by Thomas Edison.
Fragments recovered from the 1980 restoration found in the soil.
Various railroad stock evolution. Design and alloys helped make rail transportation more stable and safe.
China made here in Mt. Clemens detailing railroad “fashions” of the era.
Railroad switchboard – note “MCRR”, thats our old friend the MCS on Vernor in Corktown.
A rendering of the Michigan Central Railroad station in Detroit.
The station museum curator showed me this backroom closet, revealing the original condition of the walls before restoration – and a collection of old rail spikes.
The other half of the depot museum is a gift shop – if you stop by here to visit, buy something to help support this essential piece of local and world history. This place is completely funded via private donation. Dont see anything you like ? Drop a couple bucks in the donation collector coming in the door. All employees donate their time freely.
This is one of those places that seems caught out of time and space – echoes of history reverberating backwards and forwards through generations.
An historical giant of human development, Thomas Edisons presence can still be felt as you pull away from the station, headed for Port Huron and beyond.
[Special thanks to the folks at the Michigan Transit Museum for information and the guided tour.]