The Lansing Model Railroad Club (LMRC) plans on moving and restoring a historic, former railroad structure located in Lansing, Michigan’s Old Town district. Currently in run-down condition, the structure known as MA (Michigan Avenue) Tower is a two-story building sitting next to a parking lot on city of Lansing property. The lower-level doors and windows are boarded up due to vandalism and vagrants trying to take refuge. One second story window is broken allowing weather, animals, and insects inside.
“One day I was examining MA Tower and noticed no one was maintaining it,” Michael Frezell, LMRC president, said. “I then had the idea of moving it to our club where we have the ability to restore the structure. I polled the club membership and they approved.”
Frezell approached city officials about donating the structure to the LMRC and found the city had no plans for it. An agreement was reached to move the tower to LMRC property in Delta Township and clean-up the former site once it is moved. If the tower is not moved and deemed unsafe, the city could demolish it if no other use is found.
“Mayor Virg Bernero’s office and the Lansing Park and Recreation Department were very helpful in making this project a reality for my club,” Frezell said. “We appreciate this kind donation to help save Lansing rail history.”
After the city offered the structure, the LMRC established the “MA Tower Preservation Project” and a GoFundMe.com account to help raise the necessary funds to move the structure and coordinate the restoration. The plan is to move the tower in 2016 once a concrete pad is installed to serve as a base. Work needed to preserve the tower, includes build new steps to the second floor, replace the roof, replace the siding, repair the windows, and restore the interior.
The LMRC envisions MA Tower could be used as a living history artifact, where the club’s model trains are actually dispatched from the tower. It also could be used to control full-size, way-side train signal exhibits.
Once located on Michigan Avenue next to Lansing Union Station (now Clara’s Restaurant), MA Tower used to control the junction between the Michigan Central and the Pere Marquette railroads. It also controlled the Michigan Avenue railroad crossing gates prior to automation. In 1986, Conrail retired the tower and it was moved to Old Town that same year by a now defunct electric railway museum. Very few of these towers have been preserved across the United States and this is the only remaining one in the Lansing area.
Established in 1953, the Lansing Model Railroad Club is a 40-member, 501(c)(3), nonprofit, organization located in Delta Township. The club maintains a large model railroad layout in the former Grand Trunk Western Railroad Millett depot, which was moved to the property in the 1960’s. Relocating MA Tower to the LMRC property will help preserve this historic structure and complement the depot for all to enjoy. Rising attendance at the club’s free open house events demonstrates the public’s deep interest in preserving railroad history and love of trains. Visit www.lmrc.org for more information.