Meeting Minutes — Holland – March 8, 2014

MARCH 8, 2014

Members Present:  Steve T. Sobel, Hugh Gurney, Rosemary Horvath, Dave Vander Bee, Clark Charnetski, Chuck Merckel, Jeanie Merckel, Rich Vavra-Musser, Kay M. Chase, Robert Tischbein, John Langdon, Doug Wilson, Don Monteith, Barb Spaulding-Westcott, Don W. Westcott, Paul Trap

Call to Order:  Chairman Tischbein called the meeting to order at 10:40 a.m.  Steve Sobel was asked to be timekeeper.  Those present introduced themselves.

Executive Committee Reports:

            Public/Governmental Affairs:  John Langdon reported that he had participated in a meeting of Westrain on February 19.  Stakeholders from all along the Pere Marquette line including St. Joseph, Bangor, Holland and Grand Rapids gathered to develop strategies for promoting the service and building ridership. The Southwest Michigan Planning Group was also involved.  Tulip Time ads will be part of this promotion.

On Friday, March 14, Langdon and Chase plan to attend a meeting of the Environmental Law and Policy Coalition in Chicago.  Langdon has been asked to make a presentation on Michigan By Rail, the umbrella group overseeing all rail developments in Michigan.

Among Michigan By Rail activities, Langdon reported that the Grand Rapids station is complete and the station track has been laid, but needs to be connected to the main CSX line.  VanderBee added that CSX workmen he has talked to indicate that this connection, along with necessary signal work, will take place in April.  While not definite, Langdon speculated that the official dedication of the new station will take place in August as part of the festivities surrounding the 30th anniversary of the inauguration of the Pere Marquette.

Other developments that Michigan By Rail is tracking include a proposed new station in Port Huron, the construction of a new Transportation Center in East Lansing, the completion of the new Transportation Center in Dearborn, planning for a new rail station in Ann Arbor, a commuter rail line in the Traverse City area, the proposed Howell-Ann Arbor Wally commuter rail line, and Coast to Coast, a proposal to link Detroit to Lansing, Grand Rapids and Holland by rail.  For the Coast to Coast proposal, the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority has agreed to submit an application for funding, but is looking for a match of $20,000.  Langdon is planning to approach several groups in the Holland area for some of this match.

In response to a query from Charnetski concerning ridership estimates over the next ten years, Langdon suggested that he request that information from Tim Hoeffner at MDOT.

Chase noted that she and Larry Krieg had been discussing a support group for the Wolverine, similar the Westrain for the Pere Marquette, and the Blue Water Coalition for the Blue Water.  Krieg has visited on site with members of the Texas Eagle support group.

            Communications: Chase handed out a sheet outlining efforts to keep Algoma Central passenger trains running.  She, along with Tischbein, Monteith and Wilson participated in a well attended meeting in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, on February 19 protesting the upcoming discontinuance of this service from Sault Ste. Marie north through the wilderness to Hearst, Ontario.  The railroad is the only access to much of this area for outdoorsmen and women and the only connection with the outside world for many resort owners and cottagers.  The first priority for the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT) is to keep trains running for one year while the group gathers data on why these trains are so important to the Algoma District.  MARP members who have ridden Algoma Central trains to Agawa Canyon and back, all the way to Hearst and back, to resorts or cottages in the region, or for other reasons are urged to send e-mails to the Canadian Minster of Transport Lisa Raitt at> with copies to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the two Algoma District Members of Parliament, the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario,  Chamber of Commerce, and CAPT.  Please include an estimate of how much you spent on in Northern Ontario on food, lodging, fees for hunting and fishing licenses and other expenses. A good summary of what members should do can be found at>

Wilson added that CAPT is also working with a larger group called Northland Rail which is working to link Sault Ste. Marie to North Bay, Ontario by rail, restore passenger service on the Ontario Northland, and establish reasonable connections on the Algoma Central with East-West rail service on the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National main lines.

In conjunction with the 30th anniversary of Pere Marquette service and the 40th anniversary of Blue Water service, Chase asked those with information and reminiscences of these trains to send details to Rosemary Horvath at or call her at 989-506-9539.

The Library of Michigan is missing issues of The Michigan Passenger for the years 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.  Gurney added that the MARP Archives at Durand Union Station lack all copies of The Michigan Passenger in the newspaper format.  Members are asked to send back issues in their possession to Chase.

Membership: Chase reported that Membership Coordinator Newell is looking for volunteers to flush out a membership committee.  Langdon volunteered to be on the committee.

Route Enhancement: Gurney reported that support is growing for having a through train running across Michigan.  Charnetski noted that such a train would serve an additional four million potential passengers.  The train would follow the Wolverine line from Chicago to Dearborn, then turn south to Toledo.

Outreach:  Chuck Merckel expressed pleasure with the Hobby show in Novi in late March.  Approximately 25,000 attended the show and the MARP table was in an excellent location.  Fifty-eight people gave MARP their e-mails and will receive On Track.  Hopefully, they will join MARP.  Merckel praised the person to person skills of Don Westcott and Barb Spaulding-Westcott.  Gurney observed that this was a different crowd than attends the model train shows we generally participate in.

The Steam Railroading Institute event in June has extended hours, so Merckel will need many volunteers to staff the MARP table there. Langdon urged cooperation with Durand Union Station.  Charnetski asked when the next issue of The Michigan Passenger would be available.

Future Meetings:  Our next monthly meeting will be on March 5 at the Wayne County Community College branch in downtown Detroit.  Chase will be sending out information.

Regional Reports:

            Metro Detroit: Charnetski reported that planning for a new Ann Arbor station is underway.  The first public meeting is scheduled for March 19 with a leadership meeting on March 26.   Both he and Krieg are involved in the project.

Gurney noted that Krieg was attending a Friends of Wally meeting in Howell today.  The group continues to add new members.  Charnetski added that the location of the downtown Ann Arbor Wally station has now been determined.  It will be at Liberty Street on the east side of the tracks.  In response to a question from Spaulding-Westcott, Charnetski said that little or nothing was happening with the old Michigan Central Station in Detroit.  It is owned by Matty Maroun, owner of the Ambassador Bridge.

East/Central: Horvath observed that the Blue Water Coalition was having difficulty connecting with the communities west of East Lansing and getting them on board for the 40th anniversary celebration of the Blue Water.  She recently received corrected information from Niles for the Route Guide.  After some discussion, it was determined that there are two versions of the Blue Water Route Guide, one put out by Amtrak and one by the Blue Water Coalition.  Horvath is working on the Blue Water Coalition version.  Amtrak continues to distribute their version, despite numerous errors.

The Blue Water Coalition meets again on March 20 to further plans for the September anniversary commemoration.  The group continues to update their contact list and plans more targeted marketing closer to the event.  Amtrak is paying for four billboards and posters are being designed.

Northern: Monteith handed out the 2014 Beaver Island ferry schedule, noting that the St. Ignace-Kalamazoo Indian Trails bus stops right at the ferry dock.  Monteith would like to explore the possibility of adding Beaver Island to the Amtrak Thruway schedule.

Approximately 8,300 attended the multi day train show in Traverse City during December.  The Smithsonian is supporting a series of programs on how people came to Charlevoix in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Included is a visit to the Charlevoix station.

Commissions on sales of Indian Trails bus tickets have jumped from zero to $1,200 per annum at Charlevoix, an indication that ridership is growing.  The bus goes south in the morning and returns from the south in the evening.

Monteith thinks that Charlevoix would be an excellent spot for a MARP meeting.  Chase urged him to discuss this with Meetings Coordinator Wallington.

Western Michigan: Langdon reported that there is now a new Thruway bus connecting Grand Rapids with Amtrak train #355 at Kalamazoo.  Amtrak has a new Thruway Coordinator who appears to be far more aggressive in establishing new Thruway routes.

Old Business:

            Nominations: Gurney moved that Steve Sobel and Clark Charnetski serve as a nominations committee for the 2014 elections.  The motion was seconded by Langdon and approved by the members present.  All seats on the Executive Committee with the exception of the Treasurer are up for election this year with nominations closing in June.

The Treasurer is an appointed position.  It was suggested that a notice be included in the next issue of On Track.

New Business:

            Chicago for Lunch: Barb Spaulding-Westcott urged people to sign up for the next Chicago for Lunch excursion which will take place on April 29.  A round trip adult ticket from Flint or Durand to Chicago and back will cost $56.00.  The event is sponsored by the Michigan Railway Historical Society, a support group for Crossroads Village.  Call Barb at 810-234-1427 for details.  It was suggested that this event be noted in the next issue of On Track.

            National Train Day:  Spaulding-Westcott noted that Flint is planning to commemorate National Train Day on May 10 at the Flint Transportation Center.  To date, she has received little information from Amtrak.  Langdon responded that he had recently talked with Tracy Robinson at Amtrak and she was waiting for details.

Pratt Fund:  Langdon moved that we move the proceeds of the Pratt Fund, now in our JPMorgan Chase checking account to a new JPMorgan Chase savings account.  There was no second.  Vavra-Musser felt we should wait until a new treasurer is on board.  Chase feels we need a thorough discussion of the Pratt Fund before we make any decisions.

Adjournment:  Langdon moved adjournment.  The motion was seconded by Sobel and approved by a majority of the members present.


Respectfully submitted:                                                          Approved:

Hugh D. Gurney                                                                     Robert Tischbein

Secretary                                                                                 Chair