Meeting minutes – St. Louis – October 13, 2012

St. Louis Historical Society / Pere Marquette Railroad Station
110 East Crawford Street, St. Louis MI 48880

OCTOBER 13, 2012


Members Present: Hugh Gurney, Dick Pekarek, Don Monteith, Michael Frezell, Steve T. Sobel, Jeanie Merckel, Jim Wallington, Dan Platz, Andrew Kent, Kay Chase, Burt Ten Brink,  John Langdon, Clark Charnetski, Janet Howes, Rosemary Horvath


Also Present: David McMacken (Speaker), Judy Root  (St. Louis Area Historical Society)


Call to Order:  In the absence of Chair Tischbein, Secretary Hugh Gurney called the general membership meeting to order at 10:13 a.m.  There was no Executive Committee meeting due to lack of a quorum.


Approval of Agenda.  The printed agenda was approved with the addition of two action items: discussion of Michigan State Ballot Proposals 2 and 5.


Treasurer’s Report.  In the absence of Treasurer David Randall, John Langdon distributed the current report. $800 was budgeted for the Annual Meeting. Receipts exceeded expenses. A separate sheet showing disbursals from the Transportation for Michigan grant was distributed. Due to confusion about the amount of Trans4M funds approved for the Chicago Union Station Passenger Action Taskforce (CUSPAT), it was moved (Langdon) and seconded (Wallington) that the amount available for this project be set at $2500. Motion passed. Chair Tischbein has committed $500 to the November 8 Rail Summit in Battle Creek. It was moved (Langdon) and seconded (Sobel) to approve the Treasurer’s report as submitted. Motion passed.


Approval of Minutes.  The minutes of the Grand Rapids Member Meeting on July 28 were approved as written. Moved by Langdon, seconded by Wallington, and approved.


Report of Meetings Coordinator.  Jim Wallington reported that the next meeting will be held at the Historic Essex Railway Station, Essex, Ontario, on Saturday, November 10. The January 10 meeting will be at the Historical Depot-Museum in Williamston MI. On March 16, MARP will meet in St. Johns MI.


Report of Governmental Affairs Coordinator.  John Langdon distributed information on a Rail Summit proposed by Ron DeCook for November 8 in Battle Creek. It was moved (Langdon) and seconded (Wallington) that Chase be authorized to submit comments on behalf of MARP to the Chicago-Detroit/Pontiac Passenger Rail Corridor scoping process. Motion approved. MARP will present its Citizen of the Year award to Michele Hodges and the Troy Chamber of Commerce at an invitation-only event on October 23. This is in recognition of the successful effort to overturn the decision of the Troy City Council and proceed with acceptance of a federal grant to build a new multi-modal transportation center in Troy. It was moved (Langdon) and seconded (Monteith) that Chase write a letter requesting a stop in Dowagiac for Train #364. Motion approved.


Featured Speaker Recounts St. Louis Railroad History.  Before introducing the speaker, Hugh Gurney thanked St. Louis Historical Society members Judy Root and others for their hospitality in providing coffee and cookies for the meeting. As is our policy, MARP will contribute $100 to the Society to aid in maintaining the historic depot and museum. Dave McMacken, member of the St. Louis Historical Society and author of two books about St. Louis – St Louis at 150 and Saratoga of the West – then took the floor to recount highlights of railroading in the St. Louis area. The major impetus for the building of the Saginaw Valley Railway was the accidental discovery, while prospecting a “brining” well in the area in 1869, of “magnetic” spring water that was thought to have healing powers. The springs were soon drawing daily crowds from Saginaw and St. Johns who had to travel by stage coach over muddy and difficult roads. A plank road built in 1870 improved the journey somewhat – the actual toll booth from the plank road stands outside the St. Louis depot today – but someone soon had a better idea: The Saginaw Valley Railway. Originating in Saginaw, the rails extended a bit beyond St. Louis and by 1874 were bringing 50,000 passengers annually to the village. Every penny of the $37,000 interest on the bonds was paid off. The line also hauled a good deal of freight: corn as well as the shingles, barrels and staves produced in local cottage industries. Before the rails were extended to Alma, a proposal was made for a Chicago-Saginaw-Canada line which would have included a water route from Chicago and up the Grand River. When the Saginaw Valley Railway was extended finally to Alma, passengers stepped off at an elaborate depot built with $300 raised by the ladies of the village. Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire two years later.


At its height, 6 daily trains carried visitors to and from St. Louis. The last passenger train rolled through the community in 1942. Freight is still carried on the original rail bed next to the restored station which was built in the 1920’s to replace the original station on the same site. [Note: 1910 is often cited as the date of the current building.] The covered platform would be the envy of many a present day Amtrak station. The track is currently owned by the Genesee and Wyoming, with a wye at Alma.


McMacken concluded by saying that St. Louis was also served by the Ann Arbor Railroad, but that’s another long story that will have to wait for another day!


Report of Communications Coordinator.  Chase said that the Fall issue of the Michigan Passenger will be out soon. She also asked that MARP officers check their email frequently and respond promptly when action is requested.


Membership Coordinator.   No report.


Regional Chapter Reports:


            Detroit Metro: Chair Jim Hinkins was not present. Hugh Gurney reported that Michael Benham will make a presentation on October 31 to the Livingston County Planning Commission following receipt of a $600,000 Federal Transportation Administration grant to advance the Wally commuter rail project. Gurney is in communication with Chad Cushman regarding a possible stop in Howell for Indian Trails’ Michigan Flyer service to the airport. The Flyer currently travels through Livingston County but makes no stops.


Clark Charnetski reported that the Ann Arbor City Council will consider a resolution at the October 15 meeting to require a vote of the people before approving the location of the proposed Fuller Road station. Ann Arbor is also conducting a $2.8 million “Connectivity Study” of its transit system.


            East/Central: Chair Rosemary Horvath suggests that we look at the impact of the new Lansing/East Lansing and Grand Rapids Megabus services on Blue Water and Pere Marquette ridership.


Northern:  Chair Don Monteith reports that the new Amtrak schedule shows Charlevoix/Beaver Island Ferry Dock as a throughway bus stop. [Checking the Amtrak website November 7 shows that Petoskey and Cheboygan are listed as well.] He says that 8-16 passengers a day are using the new service, many of them businesspersons connecting to the airport in Traverse City.


            Western:  No report.


Committee Reports:


            Route Enhancement Committee:  Gurney commented on the progress he sees when looking at the new schedule for Michigan trains and the connecting throughway bus services. The expansion of throughway bus services is significant.


Old Business:  John Guidinger has asked for help in gathering information on the ownership and management of train stations in Michigan. Chase has agreed to coordinate this effort using a standard reporting form. Charnetski said that this information could be useful to MARP in a number of ways.


New Business/ Good of the Order


            Michigan State Ballot Proposal 5.  Chase distributed an information sheet and requested that the members discuss and take a position on this proposal. This ballot initiative seeks to amend the Michigan Constitution to prohibit new or additional taxes by the State of Michigan unless approved by a 2/3 majority of members in each chamber of the legislature or by a statewide vote of the people. Chase pointed out that if it passes, just 13 state senators would gain the power to block tax votes supported by the other 135 members of the Legislature, in essence creating minority rule in the Legislature. This proposal would make it far harder to adequately fund transit, trains, and other important state services. She noted that taking a position on the proposal is fully legal under MARP’s 501(c)(3) status.  While we cannot support or oppose any candidate for public office, nonprofits are permitted to advocate for and against ballot measures. It was moved (Langdon) and seconded (Monteith) to take a position in opposition to Proposal 5. Passed unanimously. Chase then asked if MARP would consider helping to fund a newspaper ad. It was moved (Langdon) and seconded ( ? ) that no MARP funds be expended for such purpose. Passed with two dissenting votes.


            Michigan State Ballot Proposal 2.   Langdon conveyed a request from Lawrence Bancroft that the members discuss Proposal 2, a proposal to amend the state constitution regarding collective bargaining. Following brief discussion, no action was taken.


Chicago Union Station project.  Langdon reported that the Chicago Union Station Passenger Action Taskforce (CUSPAT), headed by Larry Krieg, has made two visits to CUS. Committee members will “shadow” certain station managers to gain a better perspective on daily operations. Ren Farley is working on a passenger survey form. To facilitate CUSPAT visits that may involve overnight stays, MARP has obtained a membership at Club Quarters which may be used by any MARP member in good standing to receive a reduced room rate. There are two Chicago locations:  75 East Wacker Drive   (312)357-6400  and  111 West Adams Street   (312)214-6400.       


Adjournment:  Langdon moved for adjournment.  The motion was seconded by Sobel and approved by the members present. Meeting adjourned at 12:20 pm.



Respectfully submitted:                                              Approved:




Kay M. Chase                                                             Hugh Gurney

Acting Secretary                                                         Acting Chair