How Studebaker's reach shaped Plymouth's railroads
|The new Pennsylvania Depot in Plymouth created after the railroad's acquisition of the Vandalia line|
|The Vandalia Depot on South Main Street, South Bend, c. 1910. Studebaker's warehouse is on the right side of the photo in the background.|
In the early 1880s the Studebaker brothers, along with other prominent members of South Bend, began pushing for a rail alignment to open markets in the south. Up until this time, industry was connected to points east and west, but without direct links to the south. So to help move the project along, a corporation was formed, with Studebaker Bros. Manufacturing being the leading stockholder, that purchased right-of-way south from South Bend through Plymouth into Logansport and points further south. Their intention was not to personally build and operate the rail, but provide the easement on which a railroad could be constructed on the route the South Bend industrialists desired. The process moved a little slower than they had hoped, but eventually a railroad company was landed and the line became known as the Vandalia Railroad. Where was the northern terminus of the railroad? Immediately adjacent to the Studebaker warehouse between Main and Lafayette Streets, and immediately south of their administration building.
Later the Vandalia line was leased to the Pennsylvania Railroad which crossed the Vandalia in Plymouth. This became an extremely important hub for the Studebakers because it provided both the southern route they desired, but also permitted another east/west route to large markets yet untouched. It should be no surprise then, shortly after the Pennsylvania Railroad leased the Vandalia line, that a new depot station was constructed in Plymouth and their crossing even though the older Vandalia Depot in Plymouth remained.
|This photo of the Nickel Plate Depot in Plymouth was taken probably the last time the building was painted, which looks to be the early 1970s. The building is on Garro Street just west of the downtown.|
Union Station and the Vandalia Depot still exist in South Bend and have found important new uses. The situation in Plymouth isn't as bright for the city's remaining depots. The Vandalia Depot was demolished in the early 1990s, despite having been a stop for presidential candidates and future presidents. The Pennsylvania Depot that was built to accommodate the company's acquisition of the Vandalia line, sits vacant and deteriorating, but retains some vestige of its more elaborate past. Plymouth has one other depot that remains, albeit in a state of abuse and neglect. The Nickel Plate depot has seen its better days as well. Both the Pennsy and Nickel Plate Depots should be preserved-the difficulty is in getting a railroad completely uninterested in community development or pride, to agree.