Lansing Model Railroad Club
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Millett Depot

Grand Trunk Western GP18 #4707 leads an eastbound extra freight past the Millett Depot in 1961.   Summer 2000 after the Millett Depot was repainted by club members
Grand Trunk Western GP18 #4707 leads an eastbound extra freight past the Millett Depot in 1961.   Summer 2000 after the Millett Depot was repainted by club members.

Early History

The depot was built by the Grand Trunk Western Railway in 1890 to serve the small farming community of Millett, Michigan, which was located to about five miles southwest of downtown Lansing.  Grand Trunk Western built several simple wood depots of this style in small communities like Haslett and Bellevue along their mainline between Chicago and Port Huron, Michigan.   Business consisted of Railway Express Agency, local freight accounts, passengers, and Western Union Telegraph services.  Since the depot was so close to Lansing, many of the station services were transferred to Lansing as competition grew from trucking and automobiles.

Rocky Road

After the railroad closed the depot in the 1950's, it's future did not look bright and it fell into disrepair.  In 1957, the Lansing Model Railroad Club moved from its Lansing location to the Millett depot and rented it from the railroad.  Things appeared better for the beleaguered depot until the railroad anounced plans to tear it down to accomodate the expansion of the nearby Ralston Purina elevator and spur track.  Unfortunately, the depot lay directly in the way of spur track expansion.  Once again, the club was faced with the dilema of losing their prized home.  Where does the club move such a structure?  Certainly in the early 1960's property was inexpensive but still not cheap enough for a model railroad club with limited financial resources.  Enter Mrs. Gladys Olds Anderson, daughter of Oldsmobile and REO Motor Company founder Ransom E. Olds.  Mrs. Anderson lived about two miles from the depot on the Olds estate.  She used to board the train at the Millett Depot on her travels.  When Mrs. Anderson heard the depot would be demolished, she donated a portion of her land to the model railroad club.  A stipulation in the contract was that the land could only be used for model railroad purposes or else it would revert back to the Anderson family.  As a side note, she donated a portion of neighboring property to Delta Township for a fire station and park.  Further down the road, another donated parcel went to the Woldumar Nature Center.

The Bottom Drops Out

Now with property to move to, the club purchased the depot from the railroad for $12.  In 1963, the depot was moved to its present location.  Unfortunately, the move had its challenges and problems.  Neither the mover nor the club members realized that railroads did not build small depots in 1890 like houses were built in the 1950s. The railroad had laid a "foundation" of ties on the gound, built the building around it, and nailed toung and groove flooring down. The building was not connected to it's floor and when the mover lifted the building the floor fell out, seriously damaging the layout, contents, and structure.

Restoration

Once the depot was positioned in it's current location, the monumental task of making the building usable began.  A basement was hand dug by dedicated members and a new floor was built.  External damage was repaired and the building was shored up.  Over the years, external changes to the depot include removal of the roof cupola, eliminating the back freight door, boarding up windows to control vandalism, and the addition of a chimney for a furnace.  A new layout was constructed in the late 1960's and the club was back in business.  In 1979, the layout was torn down to make room for an improved layout, eliminating duck-unders and adding an improved elevatated dispatch panel.  This layout is in use today with several major scenic modifications since 1995.

Present Day and the Future

Today, the historic Millett Depot is the showcase of the Lansing Model Railroad Club.  The members take pride in preserving and improving the depot for future generations.  In recent years, there have been many improvements to the depot which include a new roof, interior and exterior painting, a basement conference room with drop ceiling, a basement workshop, a new natural gas furnace, a blacktopped driveway, and various grounds improvements.
The club hopes to someday acquire a caboose for display in front of the depot.  All of these capital improvements are supported through profits from the annual Model Train Swap Meet and Show sales and generous donations at open houses.

Epilogue

The Millett Depot would not be here today if it was not for the hard work and dedication of the Lansing Model Railroad Club members, the property donation from the late Mrs. Gladys Olds Anderson, and to the many poeple who support us by attending our events.  We truly appreciate these efforts to preserve this wonderful piece of history!

Expansion

In August of 2009 after many years of planning and funraising, ground was broken on an expansion to the building which will includes more layout space, a bathroom, and bigger meeting room. See pictures and details here.


Poem about Moving the Millett Depot