Meeting Minutes – April 21, 2012 – Chelsea

APRIL 21, 2012

 Members Signing In: Doug Wilson, Dave Randall, John D. Langdon, Hugh Gurney, Kay Chase, Bob Tischbein, Steve T. Sobel, Dan Platz. Gerri Anderson, Don Monteith, Clark Charnetski, Dick Pekarek, Larry Krieg, Charles Merkel, Julien Wolfe, Jim Hinkins, Donna Tipton, Ron Tipton, Roger Webster, Steve Vagnozzi, John Guidinger, Janet Howes, John DeLora

 Also Present: Larry Bean, Robert D. Shannon, Charley Bonnell, Martha Wolfe, Joann Stoddart

 Call to Order:  The meeting was called to order at 11:00 a.m.  Those who had arrived during the Executive Committee meeting were asked to introduce themselves.

 Speaker:  Hugh Gurney introduced Robert D. Shannon, local railroad historian and member of the Chelsea Depot Association. 

 Shannon began his remarks by pointing to a blown up photo of Michigan Central’s Mercury taking water on the run from a water trough just east of Chelsea.  The Mercury made the trip from Detroit to Chicago in four hours during the 1940’s. 

 Shannon first reviewed the development of railroads in England and in the Eastern United States including the Baltimore and Ohio, first to cross the Alleghenies. 

 The Michigan Central was one of three state owned railroads planned to cross the state from East to West.  It reached Chelsea in 1841 and was built as far as Kalamazoo before the state ran out of money.  Initially, the railroad had no ballast and the ties were laid parallel to the rails.  Eventually, the state sold its interests to financiers James Joy, J. Brooks and John Forbes who completed construction.  Instead of continuing west from Kalamazoo to St. Joseph, the new owners built southwesterly to New Buffalo and eventually into Chicago.  Trains ran at about 20 mph and took 8-12 hours between Detroit and Chicago.  With the advent of the telegraph, train speed increased to around 30 mph.  Motive power was wood, purchased from local farmers along the right of way.

 The Michigan Central financed the Great Southern Railway of Canada, stretching from Windsor to Niagara Falls, where it crossed back into the United States on a suspension bridge built in 1857.  This Canadian connection permitted trains to make the trip from Detroit to New York City in 15 hours by 1937.

The present station is Chelsea’s third, built in 1880.  During that decade, eight trains a day stopped at the growing community.  The Glazier Stove Works was the first major industry.  Others followed.

By the 1940’s, only two trains a day were stopping in Chelsea.  The completion of I-94 killed any remaining passenger service.  Conrail wanted to tear depot down in the 1970’s.  Fortunately, the city was persuaded to purchase the structure.  Today, the depot is managed by the Chelsea Depot Association, which supports its preservation by renting it out for functions such as weddings, receptions, dinners and other events.

DeLora noted that MARP members including himself, John Guidinger and Clark Charnetski did extensive work on the Chelsea Depot during the summer of 1974.  MDOT had agreed that if repairs were made at no expense to MDOT, they would have the planned Jackson-Detroit Michigan Executive stop there.  The roof was re-shingled, broken windows repaired, rotted siding replaced, and the entire building scraped down to bare wood and repainted in mint green and forest green, the paint acquired from a friendly Penn Central Division Superintendent.  Brick walkways around the building were dug out.  Chelsea was a stop on the Michigan Executive  until the train was discontinued in 1979. 

Regional Chapter Reports (Continued)

            Metro Detroit:  Hinkins noted the passing of long time member Dietrich Bergmann.  DeLora will be proposing a memorial for him, probably at the next meeting.

 DeLora is preparing old Michigan Central timetables for the MARP web site.

No activity has been noted at West Detroit Junction.

 Mayor Bing has been invited to participate in National Train Day festivities at the Detroit Amtrak station on May 12. 

 Charnetski reported that the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority plans to issue an RFP for WALLY Station Design in the near future.  Despite the withdrawal of the University of Michigan from the Fuller Road Transportation Center, the city of Ann Arbor intends to confirm a contract for design of a station at that location near the University of Michigan Medical Center. UM will build its parking structure at a location about ¼ of a mile distant.

             West Michigan:  Work is now underway on the new Grand Rapids rail station, Langdon reported.  Westrain plans to involve Chambers of Commerce, Convention and Visitor Bureaus and municipal leaders in its promotion of the current Pere Marquette and a second daily frequency.  Langdon is working on securing grant funding for a community benefits study to bolster the cause for a second frequency. 

MDOT is supporting New Buffalo’s application for a TIGER grant to connect the Pere Marquette line with the higher speed Amtrak line just north of that community.  The grant application also calls for a long passing siding between Dowagiac and Niles.

Ridership on the Pere Marquette is increasing and the daily train now consists of five cars.

             East/Central MichiganPekarek reported that repair of the water damage at Durand Union Station is now complete.  The westbound Blue Water continues to run ahead of schedule east of Battle Creek.

 Committee Reports:

            Amtrak Thruway Connection Committee:  Gurney reported that the Michigan Flyer is now operating four additional frequencies between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport under and agreement with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.  The new frequencies will originate at UM’s Central Transportation Center, then proceed to the Blake Transportation Center in downtown Ann Arbor and a stop at the Kensington Court Hotel before heading to the airport on I-94.  Michigan Flyer buses serving East Lansing will now stop at the Blake Transportation Center and the Kensington Court Hotel in Ann Arbor.  Michigan Flyer will no longer serve Jackson.

             Route Enhancement Committee:  Gurney reported on the status of Route Enhancement Goals for 2012.  One item not reported elsewhere during this or previous meetings is that a methodology for determining costs under PRIIA Section 209 has been proposed by Amtrak,  agreed to by almost all of the states involved and approved by the STB.  Indiana opposes the methodology and may appeal.  Ground breaking for the new Dearborn Transportation Center took place on April 10, 2012.  The Route Enhancement Committee will meet today over lunch at Cleary’s Pub.

             Toledo Train Day:  Tischbein, Gurney, Newell, Leatz, Hinkins, Langdon and Wilson will help staff a MARP table at this event on May 5.  Several members of this group will also help staff the Amtrak 40th Anniversary train on display there.

            Port Huron/Sarnia Blue Water Committee:  Wilson reported that a new Port Huron station near the location of the current station has been decided upon for several logistical reasons including proximity to the main CN tracks.  He submitted a detailed way finding plan to help passengers find the station.

             Outreach:  Tischbein distributed a copy of the Outreach Schedule as it exists right now.  He asked for volunteers to help staff National Train Day events at several locations on May 12.  Charnetski noted that he will put his efforts into the Ann Arbor Green Fair scheduled for June 8 rather than an event at the Ann Arbor Amtrak station on May 12.

            National Train Day:  Langdon reported that Tim Fischer is working to have both the Michigan Senate and the Michigan House of Representatives issue proclamations supporting National Train Day.


Adjournment:  The meeting adjourned at 12:50 p.m.


Respectfully Submitted:                                             Accepted:





Hugh D. Gurney                                                         Robert Tischbein

Secretary                                                                     Chair