Meeting Minutes – July 30, 2011 – Dowagiac


JULY 30, 2011


Those Signing In:  Hugh Gurney, Larry Krieg, Dave Randall, Don Monteith, Steve T. Sobel, Doug Wilson, Dick Pekarek, Kay Chase, John Langdon, Diane Patterson, Robert Patterson, Eugene T. Quail, J. R. Valderas, Bob Tischbein, Daniel Myers, Mary Lou Myers, Paul Willer, Rich Vavra-Musser, Ron Leatz, Barney Whittier, Archie Lhamon

Also Present:  Jennifer Dawn, Town & Country Garden Club;  students from the Dowagiac High School Fine Arts Booster Club.

Call to Order:  Chairman Tischbein called the meeting to order at 11:00 a.m. and turned the meeting over to Chase.

Dowagiac Station Host:  Chase introduced Ron Leatz, Dowagiac Station Host.  The two then presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Jennifer Dawn of theDowagiacTown and Country Garden Club, whose 48 members have worked tirelessly to beautify the station and its surroundings.  In summer, they plant flowers along the tracks.  In the winter, they dress the station up with greens.  They have funded Christmas lights for the station.

Chase and Leatz then recognized members of the Dowagiac High School Fine Arts Booster Club, who have put in hours of elbow grease to make the station more attractive.  They have washed all 105 windows and scrubbed one hundred years of grime and smoke from the woodwork.

Leatz then pointed out one of the station’s original benches, dating from 1903, donated recently by Betty and Mike McKay.

Leatz explained that we were meeting in what was originally the men’s waiting room, now the station’s only waiting room.  The building is shared with Dowagiac Dial-A-Ride, which occupies the former station agent’s office, the Chamber of Commerce, which utilizes the original women’s waiting room and Amtrak, which uses the former freight station for signaling equipment.

The community had its beginnings in the early days of statehood, when several mills were built along Dowagiac Creek.  The town really took shape when the Michigan Central Railroad arrived in the late 1840’s.  By the 1850’s, Dowagiac was known asMichigan’s wheat shipping capital.  Orphan trains stopped in the community in 1854 and many orphans were adopted by the residents.  Round Oak Stoves, which became the town’s major industry, was founded.  An early contract was with Michigan Central, which placed Round Oak stoves in all its depots. Dowagiac became a village in 1858.

Judd Lumber,Michigan’s oldest lumber company, was founded in 1859.

Leatz shared a visual of the first depot, built in the 1860’s.  It is now incorporated into one of the buildings at Judd Lumber.  The present station is Dowagiac’s third depot, opened to the public in June, 1902.   The same architect designed stations inCharlotte,LansingandSaginaw.  It is a handsome structure, built of Roman brick with sandstone trim.  Originally, it had a slate roof.  Fortunately, the City ofDowagiachad the foresight to save the structure and put it to public use.  MDOT occupied a portion of the building for a while.  When they moved to a new location, the Chamber of Commerce and the city’s Downtown Development Authority moved in.  The present benches in the waiting room are from theJacksonstation.

 Committee Reports:

            Route Enhancement Committee:  Gurney discussed plans to reactivate the Route Enhancement Committee.  He will be alerting all of the original members as well as members of the present Executive Committee and asking them to review and suggest revisions to the recommendations put together in 2007.  Rich Vavra-Musser, has offered to help put revised recommendations together.

 Gurney also noted that he was planning to put together a paper to be posted on the MARP website listing all the scheduled passenger carriers in the state, their contact information and the cities they serve to help travelers plan trips by train and intercity bus.  Local transit services will also be listed.  Langdon suggested Gurney contact Clark Harder who heads up the Michigan Public Transit Association.                             .     

 Krieg noted that MDOT has placed the WALLY project as Number One in its application for the Transportation, Community and System Preservation Program (TCSP).

 Old Business:

National Train Day 2011: Whittier noted that many communities had successful National Train Day programs. Toledo’s was a phenomenal success, the result of a full year of planning involving all players, including MARP. Niles andJackson both had excellent programs with good turnouts.

 Newsletter:  Valderas reported that, because of his new job, he was having a hard time getting The Michigan Passenger out on a timely basis.  For this reason, he felt it would be best if he resigned his position as editor.  He will continue until a successor is named.

 New Business:

            Norfolk Southern Slow Orders:  Members expressed confusion over the frustrating Norfolk Southern slow orders which are wreaking havoc with the Wolverine and Blue Water schedules.  Sobel was told by an Amtrak official that nothing would be done until the purchase of the Dearborn-Kalamazoo track was a done deal.  Pekarek noted an article in Trains magazine that Amtrak was planning to adjust its schedule because of the slow orders.  But a member who works forNorfolk Southern noted that piles of rails were being accumulated in bothDearborn andAnn Arbor, an indication that some action was pending.  Langdon suggested that we all needed to keep our ears to the ground and take action when we could actually effect change.

            Dowagiac Platform:  Noting the extremely narrow platform at the Dowagiac Station, Leatz was advised to bring in a state safety inspector, who might order improvements.

             MDOT Highway Maps:  Langdon pointed out thatWisconsin Highway maps show the Amtrak routes in that state.  Why can’tMichigan do the same.

 Adjournment: The meeting adjourned at 12:30 p.m.

 Respectfully Submitted:                                             Accepted:

 Hugh D. Gurney                                                         Robert Tischbein

Secretary                                                                     Chair