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Dowagiac man leading efforts to fund repairs to local train station

From Dowagiac Daily News:

For the past five winters, the bright white lights hanging from the roof of Dowagiac’s historic train depot have shined like a warm beacon during cold evenings downtown.

That brilliant visage may soon burn out, though, without some generosity from the local community.

Dowagiac’s Ron Leatz has recently began a new fundraising campaign to pay for repairs to the 1903 train depot’s outdoor lighting system, which has begun to fail due to ongoing wiring problems. Leatz is seeking to raise $5,200 in donations to fund the work, in hopes of having it completed by year’s end, he said.

Leatz, a volunteer with the Michigan Association for Railroad Passengers who serves as the “host” for travelers
riding the Amtrak trains that stop at the depot, was responsible for organizing the initial “Light Up the Depot” campaign in 2010 that funded the installation of the lights to begin with.

The Dowagiac man was inspired to install such light fixtures on the historic train station after seeing the efforts of the Niles’ Four Flags Garden Club, which pays for the installation of Christmas lights every winter at the city’s own vintage Amtrak station, Leatz said.

In order to accomplish his goal of lighting up Dowagiac’s depot, Leatz collected $8,000 from residents and businesses throughout the Dowagiac community in 2010. The city, which maintains the depot, then used the funds to pay for a contractor to install Christmas lights atop its roof.

“They used a very low wattage for the bulbs, to make it look like the kind of lighting used at the turn of the century when the station was built,” Leatz said.

Instead of serving as temporary decorations for the holiday season, the lights placed atop the Dowagiac station were installed permanently, switching on every season at the start of daylight savings time and switching off when daylight savings time ends, Leatz said.

“I did not want to collect such a large amount of money and only have them up for only 30 or so days,” he said.

The elements have taken their toll on the more than 2,200 feet of wiring powering the light bulbs, though, with the damage causing issues to the building’s electrical system, he said. In order to fix the problem, the wiring will need to be completely replaced, though the installer should be able to reuse the 1,700 light bulbs currently in place, Leatz added.

With the winter season rapidly approaching, Leatz said he is beginning to go door-to-door asking for help with the new fundraiser.

“When we did this the last time, we had people donating just a dollar or even pocket change to the effort,” he said. “When you are trying to raise this much money, every little bit adds up.”

People wishing to contribute to the cause can write checks to “Light Up the Depot,” and can either drop them off to the city treasurer office inside Dowagiac City Hall or mail them to the city at P.O. Box 430, Dowagiac, MI 49047.

For more information, people can call Leatz at (269) 782-0635.


Regional transit topic of League of Women Voters Meeting

The League of Women Voters Dearborn-Dearborn Heights will present a forum on Regional Transit at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13.  The meeting will be held at Christ Episcopal Church Fellowship Hall in Dearborn.  The church is located at 120 N. Military, at Cherry Hill.

Attendees will learn about the proposed Regional Transit Authority (RTA) millage proposal which will be on the November ballot, as well as how its passage could affect local residents and businesses.

Scheduled speakers are Megan Owens, Executive Director, Transportation Riders United; Barry Murray, Director of Economic and Community Development, Dearborn; and Lynette Ish-Green, Project Manager, Healthy Wayne.

The meeting is free and all are welcome.

For more information, please call (313) 278-6476 or email                                                                                                         


What You Need to Know About Regional Transit:

A Community Forum Sponsored by the LWV Dearborn-Dearborn Heights

Thursday, October 13, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Christ Episcopal Church Fellowship Hall, 120 N. Military (at Cherry Hill)

Megan Owens, Executive Director, Transportation Riders United

Transportation Riders United (TRU) is a nonprofit group dedicated to improving transit in greater Detroit through education, engagement and advocacy.

Barry Murray, Director of Economic and Community Development, Dearborn

Lynette Ish-Green, Project Manager, Healthy Wayne

Healthy Wayne is a collaboration between Beaumont Health, the City of Wayne and Wayne-Westland Community Schools District, joining with residents and community leaders to create a roadmap to improve community health.

Come and join with your neighbors in learning more about the RTA Millage Proposal. This event is free and all are welcome.

For more information, please call 313.278.6476

League of Women Voters Dearborn-Dearborn Heights

                   Making Democracy Work                                           

MARP meets Oct. 8, 2016 in Dowagiac

MARP Member Meeting
Saturday, October 8, 2016
Dowagiac City Hall
241 S Front St, Dowagiac MI 49047
Map & Directions

Make your plans now to attend the October 8, 2016 MARP meeting in Dowagiac. This venue offers the rare opportunity for many of you to arrive via train, whether you live along the Blue Water route or the Wolverine route. The meeting will begin at 11:00 am to accommodate the train schedule.

 Blue Water Train #365 arrives into Dowagiac at 10:50 AM and departs for the return trip at 6:43 PM.

 Wolverine Train #351 will make a special stop, arriving into Dowagiac at 9:45 AM. You will return home on Wolverine Train #358, departing at 7:21 PM.

For Wolverine riders, Amtrak’s online reservation system will automatically ticket you to and from Dowagiac on this Saturday at the usual fares for this segment. Please thank John Langdon for making these arrangements with Amtrak.

An alternative for Wolverine route folks, if “low bucket” tickets become unavailable, is to take #351 to Battle Creek and transfer to Blue Water #365 at Battle Creek.

Dowagiac City Hall is located immediately across the street from the station. Take a moment to look around the historic station to appreciate the work of the Dowagiac High School Choir members who yearly wash the 100+ panes of glass in the windows and polish the beautiful wood paneling. MARP member Ron Leatz organizes this volunteer effort.

Following MARP’s business meeting, we will adjourn to Zeke’s for our usual no-host lunch.

The Dowagiac Area History Museum will remain open for us until 3:00 PM to provide us an opportunity to learn about the products that made Dowagiac famous, as well as the entrepreneurs and personalities who had made this a surprisingly vital community.

After the museum visit, you will enjoy being part of the action as Dowagiac celebrates its annual Under The Harvest Moon Festival in the downtown area. Be sure to visit  Caruso’s Candy Kitchen & Soda Fountain, where the family has been serving up old-fashioned sodas, hand-dipped ice cream, and handmade chocolates since 1922.

Dowagiac is a small community rich in history. Dowagiac was platted in 1848 when the Michigan Central Railroad arrived. The current Dowagiac train station was built by the Michigan Central Railroad in 1902, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Dowagiac is famous manufacturing the Round Oak Stoves that heated trains and stations all along the Michigan Central line. Sold worldwide, Round Oak Stoves eventually took up more than one million square feet of manufacturing space and employed more than 1,000 residents in a complex where Ameriwood turns out ready-to-assemble furniture today. Heddon Fishing Lures is another enterprise that put Dowagiac on the map and now attracts collectors and visitors to its museum. Dowagiac today enjoys a vital literary and arts scene. Among the numerous public sculptures to be seen on a walking tour of the downtown area are the three bronze Cheetahs on the Run that you see bounding alongside the track as the westbound train pulls into the station. The Dogwood Fine Arts Festival each May brings in nationally renowned authors and showcases home grown talent.

Amtrak Picks Freight Rail Veteran as New Leader at a Critical Time

From The New York Times:

Amtrak, which is pressing to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River between New York City and New Jersey, on Friday named a freight rail veteran as its next chief executive.

The national passenger railroad said that Charles W. Moorman, the former chairman of the freight rail operator Norfolk Southern, would succeed Joseph Boardman next month. Mr. Boardman, who has led Amtrak since late 2008, is retiring.

Mr. Moorman, who is 64 and known as Wick, arrives at a critical time for Amtrak, which has said that its existing century-old tunnel under the Hudson was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy four years ago. Officials with the railroad have said that the two tubes in the old tunnel will eventually need to be shut down, one at a time, so that repairs can be made. Without the additional tunnel, which would also have two tubes, the repair process would reduce train capacity across the Hudson by 75 percent.

Making steady progress toward obtaining the billions of dollars needed for the new tunnels is expected to be one of the goals the Amtrak board will set for Mr. Moorman. The tunnels are part of a larger infrastructure project known as the Gateway program that Amtrak has said could cost nearly $24 billion.

“It is an honor and privilege to take on the role of C.E.O. at Amtrak and I look forward to working with its dedicated employees to find ways to provide even better service to our passengers and the nation,” he said in a statement issued by Amtrak.


The Portal Bridge, which crosses the Hackensack River in northeastern New Jersey, would be replaced as part of a larger Amtrak infrastructure project that also includes the planned construction of two new tunnels under the Hudson River. Credit Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

He does not appear to be taking the job for the money. He has agreed to an annual salary of $1, with the potential for earning a yearly bonus of $500,000 — about what Mr. Boardman’s total annual compensation has been.

In 2014, Mr. Moorman’s last full year running Norfolk Southern, he earned more than $13 million, according to the company’s financial filings. Having started as a management trainee, he had been at the company for more than 40 years when he retired at the end of last year.

Amtrak had been searching for a successor to Mr. Boardman since early this year. Anthony Coscia, the chairman of the Amtrak board, sounded thrilled about the hiring of Mr. Moorman.

“Regardless of where Wick is in his career, he is undoubtedly one of the smartest people in this business in the country,” Mr. Coscia said in an interview. He said he believed that Mr. Moorman’s presence would help Amtrak attract the capital required for the Gateway program and other improvements to its rail network.

“His primary job is to transition the company from one that is about survival to one that is about growth,” Mr. Coscia said. He added, “People don’t invest in companies if they don’t think they’re particularly well run.”

The announcement of Mr. Moorman’s hiring came just a few months after Amtrak suffered its second fatal accident in less than a year. In April, two track workers were killed near Chester, Pa., when a train crashed into equipment they were using to repair tracks. In May 2015, a speeding train bound for New York derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight passengers.