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December 4, 2013

Looking Back: The Detroit United Railway

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Looking Back: The Detroit United Railway

Passenger railroad service to Birmingham began in 1896, when the Oakland Railway laid track between Royal Oak and Birmingham. In 1901, the Detroit United Railway, or D.U.R., bought most of the railroad lines in southeast Michigan, including the Detroit and Pontiac Railway, the operator of the former Oakland Railway.

At that time, passengers boarding at the Birmingham station had to stand outdoors alongside the tracks, waiting for the train. By 1910, public complaints forced the D.U.R. to build a waiting room at 138 S. Old Woodward, south of Maple. The popularity of the D.U.R. was short-lived due to the rapid rise in automobile use; by 1925, the D.U.R. was bankrupt.

The D.U.R.’s waiting room got a new façade and became the Birmingham Savings Bank during the late 1920s — the bank’s initials, BSB, can still be seen on the building. Ever since First National Bank of Birmingham assumed the BSB in 1931, the building has been used as a retail location. There have been several occupants, including The Willow Tree, and most recently, Olga’s Kitchen. Although currently empty, the building has a small plaque near its door to remind passers-by of its fascinating history.

Don’t forget to stop by the annual train exhibit at the Birmingham Historical Museum and Park, featuring model trains from the 1930s.

The Birmingham Historical Museum is located at 556 W. Maple Road in downtown Birmingham.