Historic South Bend Railroads and Stations
Union station was built at a time when the city was an important industrial center. Shared by the New York Central and Grand Trunk Western Railroad. Opened in 1929, its Art Deco facade is immediately pleasing, and interestingly, this depot is related to two other famous stations of the same era. The New York Central hired architects Fellheimer and Wagner to design a medium sized station, one that reflected the mood of the country just prior the Wall Street crash. The rounded barrel arch roof and elevated platforms fit neatly into the snug downtown location. Behind the station rises the former Studebaker automobile manufacturing plant, once the source of much of South Bend’s wealth and status. Ideally situated on New York Central’s Water Level Route, South Bend prospered, and its Union station was a very busy place.
Looking to the northeast, from trackside. When you walk closer to the building you can see remains of old railroad tracks that at one time ran closer to the building.
The simple, yet beautiful brick pattern details and barrel roof highlights what would otherwise be an unremarkable structure. Of course, Fellheimer and Wagner’s other creations of the same era, Buffalo Central Terminal and Cincinnati Union Terminal were much larger commissions, built on a grand scale, and meant to accommodate huge volumes of passengers. But South Bend has many similarities to both and incorporates these features. The curving roof resembles the dome of Cincinnati. The brickwork details and window treatments echo Buffalo’s station.
Left: Standing on one of the old passenger platforms looking east. Much of the old platforms have been removed. The old Studebaker Plant, Buildings 62 and 84, are off to the right of the photo. Right: What the same area looked like in 1966. You are looking back west. The platform can be seen on the left side of the photo.
Passenger service for the famous Notre Dame University located in the city must have made the depot especially busy. No doubt football specials each Autumn were a part of the ritual. South Bend has always been a hub city in this part of the state. In addition to the New York Central and Grand Trunk, the Pennsylvania Railroad also entered South Bend. However it did not use Union Station, opting instead for it’s turn of the century depot a few blocks away on the opposite side of the Studebaker plant. Today Union Station is in private use as a banquet facility. Amtrak moved to the former 1970 South Shore depot. There has been some loose talk of Amtrak returning to use a downtown station, however, after Transpo constructed their new bus terminal, chances are that if and when Amtrak moves, it will be into this building and not Union Station.
Union Depot, July of 1963. Still a pretty busy place. John Strombeck photo.
A Norfork Southern freight train rumbles through South Bend, perhaps on tracks that once served numerous passenger trains.
To see more New York Central System pictures, please visit my New York Central site.
In addition to the New York Central and Grand Trunk, the City of South Bend was served by other railroads. One of the largest, at one time, was the Pennsylvania Railroad. For most of their independent existence the Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads were bitter rivals. In 1900 the Vandalia Railroad, part of the Pennsylvania Railroad, constructed a brick structure on the southwest corner of Main and Bronson Streets, pictured above. Date of picture unknown. Photo courtsey and licensed by the Northern Indiana Center for History, South Bend, Indiana.
Known as the Vandalia Railroad, the building was originally built as the northern terminal of the Terre Haute and Logansport Railroad. There were several route within the Vandalia railroad, including South Bend to Logansport, Logansport to Terre Haute and Terre Haute to Indianapolis. In 1916 all the seperate Vandalia and Panhandle lines were consolidated. The Vandalia Railroad maintained yard and service facilities south of the station, starting south of Indiana Ave and continuing south of Calvert Street. Naturally the railroad also served the Studebaker Plant and interchanged with both the New York Central and Grand Trunk. The passenger depot is a two story structure with rock-faced lower courses and a bay window on the street side. Romanesque brick arches accent the second floor windowns. A single story brick freight and a later concrete block addition remain. The building is still standing, although today, it is known as the Vandalia Station and is privately owned. Left: Picture of the west side of the building. Right: East side of the building taken from east side of Main Street.
View of Vandalia Railroad Station. Photo taken from Main Street overpass of the railroad tracks north of the depot.
To see more Vandalia/ PRR pictures, please visit my Vandalia Railroad site.
Grand Trunk Western Depot
Left: Grand Trunk Western depot, South Bend, Indiana, circa 1971. This was the depot used by the GTW prior to the line elevation through South Bend. Right: The downtown South Bend freight depot. These pictures were taken before urban renewal claimed them.
Former Freight Station and depot location, December 2004. Until the line was elevated, the GTW once ran down Western Avenue (then Division Avenue) west of Michigan Street. Western Avenue terminated at Michigan. In the images above your are looking towards the northwest at the general area where both depots pictured above were once located. Needless to say, the place looks different today.
To see more Grand Trunk Western pictures, please visit my Grand Trunk Western site.
Left: South Shore depot, Michigan and LaSalle Streets. Beginning in 1903, South Shore trains running between South Bend and Chicago stopped here. There was a tunnel under LaSalle Street that connected the station and LaSalle Hotel. Torn down in 1974, the building once stood where the parking lot for the NIPSCO Building is today. Right: South Shore passenger train passing the Hotel Michiana on LaSalle Avenue at the St. Joseph River in South Bend, Indiana., September 1966.
At one time the Chicago, South Shore and South Bend Railroad, otherwise known as the South Shore traveled into downtown South Bend. From the west side of South Bend, the tracks traveled past Bendix, east down Orange Street. After crossing a New York Central spur, the tracks jogged south then back east down Colfax. After passing the City Cemetery, the tracks jogged back north to LaSalle, then continued east down LaSalle. The railroad also maintained a coach yard and service facillity between the St. Joseph River and the East Race. The area now is occupied by The Point apartments. One track did continue across the East Race and terminated north, where Madison Center is today. Service to downtown was discontinued in 1970 when the street running section was abandoned. The South Bend Amtrak Station served as the Eastern terminus until it to was abandoned in 1992.
South Shore passenger train switching at the terminal coach yard, LaSalle and Hydraulic Avenue, March 1965.
Left: LaSalle Street, October 2002. The South Shore tracks have been long since removed. This is how the area looks now. Right: The Pointe Apartments now sit where the Coach Yard once was. Hydraulic Street is no more. Nothing remains of the heritage of the South Shore.
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