Minutes – June 13, 2009 – Port Huron



Monthly Membership Meeting
Port Huron Museum, Port Huron, MI

June 13, 2009

Those Signing In: Hugh Gurney, J. R. Valderas, John Langdon, Dick Pekarek, Duke Van Til, Vi Van Till, Jim Hinkins, Dwight Phillips, Kay Chase, Dave Randall, Steve T. Sobel, John DeLora, Andrew Kent, T. J. Gaffney, Larry Sobczak, Dianne Patterson, Robert Patterson, Jim Wallington, Barry Boyce, Clark Charnetski

Call to Order: Chairman DeLora called the meeting to order at 10:04 a.m. He turned the meeting over to Jim Wallington, who introduced the day’s special guest, T. J. Gaffney. Gaffney, a former curator at the Port Huron Museum, welcomed the group to the museum and to Port Huron.

Train Festival 2009: Gaffney, now CEO of the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, gave details about Train Festival 2009, to be held on the grounds of the Steam Railroading Institute, July 23-26. It promises to be the largest celebration of steam railroading since 2004. It actually begins on the West Coast on July 3, when Southern Pacific #4449 begins its trip east for its first ever visit to Michigan. It will be the first time that #4449 and SRI’s #1225 have been together since they were built in Lima in 1941. Nickel Plate #765 will arrive from Indiana on July 19.

Planning for this event began at least eighteen months ago. At SRI, there has been busy cleaning up the site, upgrading tracks, and restoring equipment, including a Blue Water bunk car and an Ann Arbor caboose.

Day long round trips to Alma and back by steam are scheduled each of the four days. Alma was selected as the turn around point because there is a wye there and Alma College has been so supportive. Locomotive #4449 will pull the train on Thursday and Friday, #1225 on Saturday, and #765 on Sunday. Little River #110 will do hour long trips up the St. Charles branch several times each day. Handicapped accessible cars will be available on some of these one hour runs. Two of the large steam locomotives will be on display at SRI each day plus six other historic locomotives. Night photo sessions will be offered each night. 25,000-30,000 people are expected over the four day period. At the moment, pre-sales total around 6,000. The event has been publicized in numerous rail fan publications and in the AAA magazine. For more information visit www.trainfestival2009.com > SRI has had tremendous support from Great Lakes Central Railroad. Parking will be available at a variety of spots around Owosso and in Corunna and Durand, with Indian Trails providing shuttle service to the SRI site

MARP will have a table in the vendors’ tent at Train Festival 2009. Volunteers can show up as early as 6:30 a.m. each day and are asked to wear their MARP ID tags for identification. The MARP monthly meeting will take place on Saturday, July 25, at the Indian Trails garage just east of Owosso, where free parking will be provided.

Port Huron Attractions: Gaffney urged members to take a look around the museum, which includes a diorama of the Port Huron-Sarnia tunnel. He also encouraged all to visit the 1858 Thomas Edison Railroad Station and the Grand Trunk rail car on display there as well as the restored Pere Marquette station and the Black River Railroad Bridge. Wallington will provide a map of the attractions in Port Huron. He recommended lunch at a place called the Vantage Point along the St. Clair River.

Treasurer’s Report: Randall reported that as of May 31, 2009, the checking account had a balance of $5,732.33 and the Pratt Fund a value of $11,128.28. There was a modest profit on the NARP meeting back in March. Langdon moved acceptance of the Treasurer’s Report. This was seconded by Duke Van Till and approved by the members present.

Minutes of the April 18 meeting in New Buffalo were reviewed. Wallington moved approval. This was seconded by Langdon and the minutes were approved by the members present.

Regional Chair Reports:

East/Central: No Report

Northern: Kent reported that the Blue Water Chapter is being booted out of the Saginaw Roundhouse. The Michigan Historic Preservation Network has given awards to depots in Saginaw and Standish for the preservation/restoration of these historic structures.

Western: Langdon handed out a sheet listing events and activities being planned to commemorate the Silver Anniversary of the Pere Marquette service on August 5. A full length dome car from the 1950’s will be part of the consist of the train on that day.

Grand Rapids has received $3.8 million in the 2009 FY federal budget towards relocation of the Amtrak station to a multi-modal transportation center.

Metro Detroit: National Train Day went well in Detroit, according to Hinkins. Phillips handed a proclamation of support from the city to the conductor of the first Chicago bound train that day. The Woodward Avenue light rail project remains “on track”. The governor would like to see it up and running by October, 2010. A charette is schedule to come up with ideas for the Troy/Birmingham Transportation Center on June 16-17. Approximately 1.l miles of track at West Detroit will be upgraded including replacement of a bridge.

Charnetski reported that a meeting on the WALLY project is scheduled for June 22 in Whitmore Lake. The Washtenaw Area Transportation Study is holding public meetings to review its twenty year transportation plan. The mayor of Ann Arbor did a proclamation in support of National Train Day. The Ann Arbor Green Fair, held on the evening of June 12, was well attended. The mayor of Ann Arbor visited the MARP table.

Hinkins reported that, because of the support shown, plans to demolish the Michigan Central Depot in Detroit are being reconsidered. He will keep abreast of the situation.

It will be difficult to nominate the building to the National Register of Historic Places since the owner is opposed to such designation. DeLora affirmed that the structure is solidly built.

Coordinator Reports:

Public/Government Affairs: Langdon reported that the Michigan Senate Appropriations Committee had voted on June 11 to transfer over $20 million from the transportation fund to the general fund. Amtrak funding now stands at $3.667 million instead of the needed $7.1 million. The budget now goes to the Michigan House of Representatives who must also act on the budget. Langdon has developed a flyer which urges the House to reverse the Senate’s action. Langdon would like funding increased to $10 million annually to allow for a second Pere Marquette. MARP will need to work with the transit support groups to assure adequate funding for all public transportation.

At the moment, all in Lansing say that funding is adequate through September 30.

DeLora urged all to fax or e-mail their state representative immediately to support Amtrak and public transportation funding. A vote could come as early as Wednesday in the House of Representatives. NARP and MWHSRA have sent out e-mail alerts. DeLora is working with NARP to set up a phone bank. Let’s Get Moving plans a conference call on Monday.

Langdon attended an FRA Workshop in Fort Wayne where the guidelines for applying for rail projects were reviewed. The final instructions for applying for projects are anticipated next week. The FRA is looking for meaningful projects, not spreading the peanut butter around too far. He and others interested in the South of the Lake project are urging Indiana to take the lead on that part of the proposal. While MDOT Secretary Kirk Steudle has alluded to operational money, Langdon stressed that the $8 billion in the Stimulus Package is for capital projects. There may be other stimulus money that could be used for operations at the state DOT level.

Communications: Chase informed the group that the Annual Meeting will be held on Saturday, October 12 at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Possible speakers could include Historian Don Meints and/or former Congressman Joe Schwartz, who has been very active in the fate of the Kalamazoo-Ypsilanti NorfolkSouthern line. A walking tour of the seven extant railroad stations in Kalamazoo is being considered. MARP would like to make an award to Congressman Schauer for his efforts on behalf of passenger rail.

MARP is now a member of Transportation for America, a group working to see that the upcoming transportation reauthorization bill broadens the concept of transportation to emphasize rail and public transit more. It sees the current transportation system as highly inefficient. Its Blueprint for America includes a vastly expanded passenger rail system by 2030. Transportation for America hopes to have a coordinator for the state of Michigan. Its web address is www.t4america.org>

Langdon added that this group is pushing for five year funding of Amtrak rather than the present one year.

Chase commended J.R. Valderas for his tireless efforts to make National Train Day in Michigan such a success.

Membership: Langdon asked that a membership renewal reminder be sent out at this time as many of last year’s members have not yet renewed. We have our first Advocate Individual Member signing up in the new business/institution effort. We are attempting to recruit an intern to develop a data base for the Get Michigan On Track initiative.

Newsletter: Valderas expects the summer issue of The Michigan Passenger to be available for Trainfestival 2009 in late July. The spring issue was well received at the recent Nickel Plate Festival in Indiana.

DeLora has three cartons of The American Passengers which he would like distributed at Trainfestival 2009. This publication was developed by NARP as a promotional piece to simulate new membership. At some point, it may replace the current NARP monthly newsletter. MARP did not spend anything for additional Michigan coverage because the piece was not available for National Train Day. DeLora praised Valderas for his efforts on the publication and his patience in coping with numerous last minute changes.

Website: Sobczak stated that the new website provider has been excellent. He is exploring how we can utilize the emergence of social networking. DeLora stated that he has another paper for the Research Room section.

Wallington asked Sobczak to see if we could post alerts on our website. Randall reminded the group that we still have the Yahoo system for alerts. Chase asked Sobczak to add a link to Transportation for America.

Langdon expressed regret that an e-mail alert on the state funding crisis had not yet gone out because Vavra-Musser was away. Such alerts need to go to all members. In his opinion, the Communications Coordinator should be retrieving messages sent to MARP.

Outreach: Langdon passed out signup sheets for Trainfestival 2009 and for the regular outreach events. For the train festival, he suggested that we promote our MARP material. Kent urged that we hand out newsletters on the trains.

Meetings: Scheduled monthly meetings are:

Owosso, July 25, at 10:00 a.m. at the Indian Trails garage just east of town. Indian Trails will provide at least one shuttle to Trainfestival 2009 for those attending.

Holland, August 22, at 10:00 a.m. at the Macatawa Coordinating Council. Westrain will make a presentation.

Kalamazoo, September 12, at 11:00 a.m.at the Kalamazoo Public Library. This is our Annual Meeting.

Ann Arbor, October 10, at 10:00 a.m. Location to be determined. Tom Corneille of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority will speak on WALLY.

Bangor, November 14, at 10:00 a.m. at the Bangor Depot. Program to be determined.

Old Business:

Durand Fence Dedication: DeLora will represent MARP at this event. MARP paid for a section of this fence.

National Train Day: At the six events coordinated by MARP, Valderas estimates that 2,500-3,000 people attended. He has no figures from Flint or Durand, where local groups put on their own events. National Train Day got preview coverage in most cities where events took place and actual reports of the event in Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo. For 2010, Valderas and Slater will start planning in October, 2009. They will seek out additional venue cities and ask that the coordinator in each city be physically present at the event to lessen the chances of miscommunication. They will work harder to assure that mayors or other community officials are present for the reading and presentation of proclamations.

E-Mail/Phone Bank: DeLora continues to work on this. NARP is helping in the immediate crisis.

New Business:

Election Nominations: Nominations are due by July 31. So far, DeLora has heard from only one member. He urged all members to submit nominations for the various offices.

Chase recommended he appoint a nominations committee.

Other Business:

Wallington reported Amtrak schedule changes effective in late June, largely due to the way Amtrak schedules crews. The first westbound Wolverine will run earlier and the Blue Water will run a little later, which should benefit Niles and New Buffalo. Unfortunately, Amtrak did not think to notify Indian Trails, which generally transports 10-15 passengers daily from Bay City, Flint and East Lansing to connect with the early Wolverine. Thanks to Kaz Fujita’s alert, Indian Trails has adjusted its schedule.

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

Respectfully submitted:

Hugh D. Gurney, Secretary


John DeLora, Chair