MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF RAILROAD PASSENGERS
MONTHLY MEMBERSHIP MEETING
VICKSBURG HISTORIC VILLAGE, VICKSBURG
JUNE 15, 2013
Members Present: John DeLora, Hugh Gurney, Jim Hinkins, Jim Wallington, Rich Vavra-Musser, Charley Bonnell, Frank Lapp, David VanderBee, Doug Wilson, Christine Ballard, Burton TenBrink, Rick Burn, Gerald Smith, J.P. DesCamp, Rosemary Horvath, Larry Krieg, Robert Patterson, John Langdon, Robert Tischbein
Also Present: Tim Hoeffner, Roland Smith
Call to Order: Chairman Tischbein called the meeting to order at 11:40 a.m. All present were asked to introduce themselves and tell where they were from.
Guest Speakers: Langdon introduced local historian Gerald “Smitty” Smith, who pointed to two brochures published by the Vicksburg Historical Society, one dealing with the Vicksburg’s railroad history and the other focusing on Vicksburg’s Union Depot. Vicksburg was an important rail junction between the North-South Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad and the East-West Peninsular Railroad (now CN). A portion of the original GR & I runs through the historical village property.
Smith then introduced Dr. Roland Smith, who discussed how ice harvesting on Vicksburg’s Sunset Lake aided the burgeoning ice cooled refrigerated “reefer” industry in efficiently moving dressed meat from Chicago slaughterhouses to eastern markets by rail, thus assuring reasonably priced fresh meat year round to cities on the Atlantic seaboard.
Public Affairs: Langdon reported that National Train Day Resolutions by the State of Michigan were presented to Amtrak President Joe Boardman at a ceremony in Chicago. Amtrak is reviewing its procedures for handling tickets at unstaffed stations.
Newsletter: In Chase’s absence, Gurney reported on one aspect of a recent newsletter committee meeting. The committee needs much better numbers on how many newsletters are being left at each station in order to determine if we are printing an appropriate number. Langdon suggested that, just before the next newsletter comes out, all who distribute newsletters are asked to determine how many copies are actually distributed to the station. Langdon suggested that, now that Indian Trails serves Detroit, they could be asked to make a bulk delivery to the bus depot. He suggested that DeLora oversee distribution to those serving individual stations.
Meetings: The next meeting will be on July 20 at the Flushing Historic Railroad Depot. Wallington urged all to make their plans now for the August 10 meeting in Manistee. Rooms are still available on the SS City of Milwaukee where our meeting will be held.
Member Issues: Efforts to attract and retain new members provoked a lively discussion. As Vice Chair Larry Krieg correctly noted, most of those who turn out at MARP meetings look back the Golden Age of Passenger Rail in the 1950’s and earlier. MARP needs to focus more clearly on current and future issues affecting passenger rail, scheduling meetings at locations accessible by public transportation and focusing on current and future issues. In particular, we need to consider the needs of a younger, working audience who want to actually use passenger rail and other forms of public transportation in their daily business. In Krieg’s mind, the April meeting in Niles met this criteria as it focused on plans for higher speed rail and was accessible via Amtrak. Langdon noted that the average age of the Transportation for Michigan (TRANS4M) membership is about 25 years younger than MARP’s typical member.
It was suggested that we meet more frequently at or near MSU, UM, Wayne State and other large universities in an attempt to engage more graduate students and faculty. DeLora recalled that this had been done in past years with some success. Between Ann Arbor and Detroit alone, there are ten colleges and universities. MSU actually has a railroad related curriculum that we might tap into. Wallington suggested using social networks to attract technically savvy prospects. Krieg cautioned that we need a younger person to set up and run social media. Langdon suggested a youth membership coordinator to assist our regular membership coordinator.
Horvath speculated that MARP’s sponsorship of rail excursions similar to those put together by Barb Spaulding-Westcott might be a way to attract new members. MARP’s presence at events other than model train shows such as Green Fairs and Art Fairs would also reach new audiences.
National Train Day: Patterson reported on his rolling promotion of National Train Day on May 11, demonstrating some of the materials he showed the traveling public as he went through the coaches, including statements from MARP and NARP and information about long distance services.
Recess: The meeting recessed at 1:10 p.m. as we were expected for lunch at the Main Street Pub in downtown Vicksburg.
Call to Order: Chairman called the meeting back to order at 1:40 p.m. while the group waited for their orders to be served.
Membership Issues (Continued): Gurney relating a recent conversation with individuals who recently began attending meetings. Each member needs to be more welcoming to newcomers and see that they do not feel excluded from the discussions. Those giving reports need to spell out all the details in clear, precise English and avoid insider code. A newcomer would not necessary know what FRA or M-1 or RTA stand for. Gurney recalled his first meeting and how baffled he was by the discussion. We also need to assure that newcomers are welcomed to join the group for lunch and that long time members sit with them. Langdon suggested we appoint an official greeter for each meeting.
On the other hand, we must remember that Senior Citizens have more time to travel by rail. Langdon reported that he was well received at a recent Senior Outreach sponsored by a West Michigan legislator and plans to attend a similar event in Fremont on June 20.
Chairman Tischbein urged all to share their ideas with Meetings Coordinator Jim Wallington, who will be coming up with the meeting schedule for 2014 in the near future.
Route Enhancement: Gurney confirmed that Indian Trails is now serving Pontiac and Detroit, permitting travelers to connect directly from the Detroit area to the Lake Huron shoreline, Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. Connections are scheduled between Indian Trails and Amtrak southbound in the near future. A northbound connection will await completion of construction on the Dearborn-Kalamazoo line. Last night, June 19, a large number of people attending the Ann Arbor Green Fair had the advantage to tour one of the refurbished commuter trains in Ann Arbor. MDOT’s Tim Hoeffner was highly pleased with the turnout and with the cooperation received from both the Ann Arbor Railroad and the Great Lakes Central Railroad. The commuter equipment is slated to be used on both the Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter line and the Howell-Ann Arbor WALLY line. Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s Mike Benham has begun study of likely stops along the WALLY line including downtown Ann Arbor and the Michigan Stadium vicinity.
Port Huron Amtrak Station: Wilson reported on his involvement with a small group interested in seeing a new intermodal station constructed in Port Huron which would attract more Canadians to the Blue Water and interest more Americans in public transportation, including train, intercity bus and local transit. Inviting Indian Trails to serve Port Huron is in the concept stage. A larger meeting is scheduled for the Port Huron Public Library on July 13.
Adjournment: The meeting adjourned at 2:10 p.m.
Respectfully Submitted: Accepted:
Hugh D. Gurney Robert Tischbein