From the Port Huron Times-Herald:
Fort Gratiot resident Jeff Melvin takes a train to the University of Michigan-Flint campus twice a week. The round trip from Port Huron to Flint costs him $6. He likes to sit in the café car in the morning on the way to classes, chatting with the hostess and the conductor.
“It’s convenient, it’s cheap, and it’s relaxing,” Melvin said.
Melvin was among the people who came to the old Port Huron & Detroit Railroad yard in Port Huron Township on Saturday to reaffirm that trains matter.
They joined with 23 Michigan and 250 national sites celebrating the sixth annual National Train Day. Participants were able to tour the historical PH&D buildings, view the inside of a blue caboose, watch a model train swap meet, share some buffalo dogs, and chat with train lovers from far and wide.
Orville Swick, 90, of Port Huron knows a thing or two about railroads. He retired in 1983 after 42 years working on the railroad.
“For long haul, you can’t beat the train,” Swick said.
Swick said the trend toward building more expressways is “a no-win situation.”
“Sooner or later, America is gonna have to come back to rail for mass transportation,” he said. “Look at how much cheaper it is on energy. There’s no comparison between a train and a truck.”
Candace Sawdon of Gaylord came with her family for the afternoon to pose for a picture next to the blue caboose as she did when she was younger.
“If gas prices keep going up we’re going to have to rely on trains,” she said.
Her mother, Debbie Sawdon, prefers traveling by rail.
“On a plane or from a highway you don’t get to see America,” she said.
She likes being able to wave at the people along the tracks or view the rolling farm land from a rail car.
Tom Boswell of St. Clair is vice president of the railroad society.
“I would be interested in going into the downtown (Detroit) if trains would run there,” he said.
In the last six months the Wolverine, which runs between Chicago and Detroit, saw a net increase of 8.2 percent in ridership, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.
Both the Wolverine and Blue Water lines, which runs from Port Huron to Chicago, have increased speed to 110 mph in the last year, and Amtrak is working closely with MDOT to add more 110-mph territory, Magliari said.
Michigan also recently purchased 135 miles of rail from Detroit to Dearborn and 80 miles from Kalamazoo to Porter, Indiana.
“The state’s engagement illustrates the bright future of rail in Michigan,” Magliari said.
National Train Day was started by Amtrak in 2008 to raise awareness of travel alternatives available to American consumers.