Meeting minutes – Capac – February 9, 2013

 FEBRUARY 9, 2013

Members Present:  Hugh Gurney, Steve T. Sobel, Kay Chase, John Langdon, Dave Randall, Jim Wallington, Michael Schultz, Sharon Schultz, Doug Wilson, Kim Powell, Bruce Swihart, Jared Becker, Jim Roach, Jean Merckel, Chuck Merckel, Dick Pekarek, Roger Webster, Dianne Patterson, Robert Patterson, George Duffy, Dan Platz, Bob Tischbein, Larry Sobczak, Rosemary Horvath, T. J. Gaffney, Jim Hinkins

Also Present:  Barb Spaulding-Westcott, Bill Simmons, Mary Kovatch, Gary Kimery, Craig Henderson, Marc M. Henderson, Wayne A Schultz, Nancy E. Schliebe, Ray Mills, Roxann Mills, Tom Morris, Jr., Marilyn Swihart, John Mulder, Fred Theel, Paul Downey, John Grzyb, Frederick Stuewer, Lyle P. Henderson, Jerry Weyhraunch, Jean Theel, Jim Schwartzkoph, Bonnie Schwartzkoph, William Paul, Rosalie Reichenbach, Don Westcott

Call to Order:  Chairman Tischbein called the meeting to order at 10:20 a.m.

Speaker:  Wallington introduced the speaker, T. J. Gaffney, former Director of the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso and Curator of Collections at the Port Huron Museum.  Gaffney reviewed a wealth of material from his recently published book, Rails Around The Thumb.  Port Huron itself was the center of railroading in the Thumb area with a plethora of rail facilities including a round house with turntable, railroad bridges, depots, and docks, from which car ferries transported rail cars across the St. Clair River to Sarnia, Ontario.  Gaffney went on to describe a number of rail related facilities across the Thumb, in communities such as Blaine, Crosswell, Carsonville, Deckerville, Ubly, Applegate, Bad Axe, Harbor Beach and Port Hope.  Gaffney’s interest in local and rail history comes from his father, who collected over 20,000 post cards dealing with St. Clair County, and from Orv Swift of the Grand Trunk Railroad. 

Gaffney introduced Sandy Duffy of the Port Huron and Sanilac Historical Society, which is planning a rail transportation museum in Port Huron.  An existing roundhouse would be part of the facility.  

The meeting recessed briefly for Gaffney to sign copies of his book.

Capac Depot Information Needed.  Chase introduced Roxann Mills, one of the Trustees of the Capac Historical Society.  In her research on the various Capac depots, Mills has found a twenty year gap in information.  Mills specifically needs information about the 4th Capac Depot.

Transportation for Michigan:  Langdon reported that he has been meeting with key legislators, including new legislators, chairs of the appropriation committees,and transportation subcommittees on behalf of MARP and TRANS4M.  He provides them with a packet of information about MARP, TRANS4M, and Amtrak.  An important part of this packet is data about Amtrak’s payroll and procurement in Michigan.  He asked those present to provide him with current information about activities at each rail station in Michigan.

At the moment, Langdon feels funding for rail looks positive.  The $25 million needed for Michigan passenger trains is bundled with other rail projects.  He urged members to support the governor’s budget as presented.

Chase asked members to submit video clips of travel by train for TRANS4M’s video competition.  In addition to those who submit videos, MARP has an opportunity to win a cash prize if our members submit the most entries.

Membership:  MARP’s membership for the 2012 calendar year stood at 291 paid members and 22 life members.  While the majority of paid members are in the Senior Citizen class, we have a nice distribution of members in each of the higher categories.  There were 22 new members in 2012.  As expected, the majority of members are in the Detroit Metro Region, with fewer residing in the Western, East/Central and Northern Regions.  We have 32 members in other states, 5 members in Canada and 1 in the United Kingdom. 

The renewal letter for 2013 went out several weeks ago.  Chase is working on the design of a membership card.

Horvath asked for advice on how to garner new members other than at our table at various train shows.

Wallington moved that we donate a family membership to T. J. Gaffney in thanks for his excellent talk today.  The motion was seconded by Hinkins and approved by the members of the Executive Committee present.

Port Huron Station:  Gaffney urged those present to consider a new Amtrak station along the Canadian National tracks at 24th Street in Port Huron Township.  The location would offer easy access from the interstates, ample parking and the possibility of intermodal connections with local transit and Indian Trails.  This location would not preclude reestablishment of passenger rail service into Ontario through the CN tunnel.

Langdon noted that Indian Trails might be interested in service through Port Huron to London, Ontario, where it would connect with VIA trains to Toronto if the necessary funding were provided. Amtrak recently announced its decision to construct a new station of the site at its current facility on 16th Street.  East/Central Regional Chair Horvath and several others including Wilson will check out the 24th Street option and report back at the next meeting.

A woman in the group noted that she had recently been at the Port Huron Amtrak station early in the morning and found it closed.  Chairman Tischbein suggested she provide details about the incident and MARP will check it out with Amtrak.

Chicago Union Station Taskforce:  Chuck Merckelbriefed the group on the work of the Chicago Union Station Taskforce.  Amtrak is redoing the lighting on the platforms and developing a new signage plan in conjunction with Metra and the Chicago Transit Authority.  A disabled person can now go on line to arrange for redcap assistance.  Bids are going out for more comfortable bench seating.   Further progress remains clouded because of upcoming personnel changes at the top.  MARP continues to push for use of the Great Hall as a waiting area year round, not just during holiday rush periods, and the establishment of a workable priority seating plan.

Langdon noted the possibility of extra trains during Spring Break.  The extra trains during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays were very successful.  Langdon has also heard talk of a Boarding Pass system. 

Robert Patterson added that Business Class passengers are now permitted to wait in the Metro Lounge, previously limited to First Class passengers.  Wallington informed the group that bids have been awarded for an expanded Metro Lounge.

Route Enhancement Committee:  Gurney led a discussion on the draft 2013 Route Enhancement Recommendations.  He would like to finalize the 2013 plan and submit it to the Board in the very near future. Hinkins stressed that it was essential that the services provided by the new Southeast Michigan Regional Transportation Authority connect with commuter rail and Amtrak.  He opined that the commuter rail lines do not have to be operated by the RTA.  Robert Patterson urged that MARP focus on Point #7, which deals with baggage service, accommodations for bicycles, better signage, and more Quik Trak machines.  According to Langdon, electronic ticketing will do away with the need for Quik Trak machines.  Gurney asked members to contact him at  for a copy of the draft recommendations and suggestions.

Outreach:  Tischbein asked members to review the current Outreach Schedule and add possibilities of which they are aware.  Horvath asked if it would be proper for her to donate the table fee for the Mount Pleasant train show.  She wants to do everything possible to boost membership.  Langdon explained that the two Indiana shows on the schedule were an experiment, to see if we would generate members along the Norfolk Southern line that runs through Northern Indiana.

Chase urged the Regional Chairs to contact all new members and to try to get all members in their region to meetings when held in that region.  She also asked that Regional Chairs consider holding regional meetings. 

Wilson asked if he could have a supply of The Michigan Passenger to distribute in Southwest Ontario.  Langdon suggested he ask Pekarek for part of his supply.

Other Business:  Barbara Spaulding-Westcott asked members to include Crossroads Village in their travel plans.  The 2013 schedule of events will be out shortly.  She still has about 20 spaces available for the annual “Chicago for Lunch” day trip on April 23rd. The cost is $35 for train transportation from either Flint or Durand to Chicago and back.

John Grzyb, President of the Capac Historical Society, thanked the group for coming to Capac and invited them to return again.  He announced that the adjacent Capac Depot would be open for a short period of time following the meeting.

Adjournment:  Tischbein moved adjournment.  The motion was seconded by Hinkins and approved by the members present. After the station tour, the group moved on to Holly Meadows for lunch.


Respectfully Submitted:                                             Accepted:




Hugh D. Gurney                                                         Robert Tischbein

Secretary                                                                     Chair