Meeting Minutes — PORT HURON – November 15, 2014


NOVEMBER 15, 2014

Members Present: Larry Krieg, Jim Wallington, Clark Charnetski, Chuck Merckel, Jeanie Merckel, Dan Platz, Bob Tischbein, Jim Hinkins, Richard Pekarek, Tim Backhurst, Clayton Farmer, Steve Sobel, Martha Benedict, Robert Hines, Barb Spaulding-Westcott, Doug Wilson, Roger Morrissett, JaeAnn Burgett, T. J. Gaffney, Steve Vagnozzi, Dan Platz, David Roberts, Cecilia Roberts, Robert Patterson, Diane Patterson, Kim J. Powell, Larry Sobczak, John Guidinger, Marilyn Guidinger

Guests: Anita Ashford, Celeste Shoulders, Paul G. Maxwell, Mark Hellckijaer

Call to Order: The meeting was called to order at 10:00 AM by Chair Larry Krieg.

Membership Meeting Minutes: Minutes of the October 18, 2014 Membership Meeting in Grand Rapids were approved.

Appointment of East-Central Regional Chair: The Executive Committee, by electronic meeting, voted to appoint Steven Vagnozzi to fill the East Central Regional Chair position vacated by Rosemary Horvath’s resignation. The Membership received a biographical sketch of Mr. Vagnozzi at the meeting.

Future Meetings (Jim Wallington): January 10, 2015 at the former Grand Trunk station in Lansing. The February 2015 meeting is tentatively planned for Clara’s Restaurant in Battle Creek. The March 2015 meeting will be at the Kalamazoo Library or the transit authority headquarters in Kalamazoo.

Outreach (Chuck Merckel): Volunteers are needed for events. Mr. Merckel encouraged more members to participate in outreach. Krieg noted that outreach is one of the purposes of MARP as set forth in the Bylaws. The Wheels on Rails show is happening on November 30. Mr. Merckel strongly recommended outreach at shows that are not train-oriented because fewer people who attend are familiar with passenger train availability. He also reported that he is working toward participating with trips for senior citizens, after a successful outreach at the request of MDOT to the annual conference of travel and activity directors at senior housing and care facilities.

A sign-up sheet was circulated. Results of this recruitment effort:
• Delta Rocks: 4 interested
• Maple Syrup Festival: 1 person interested
• Michigan Earth Day: 4-5 people interested
• Fruitport Days: 1-2 people who indicated an interest previously but were not present

Treasurer’s Report: We received five new members and a $1,000 donation from America By Rail since last month’s report. Expenses for the month were $521. The MARP endowment (“Pratt”) fund has been invested as directed by Resolution of the Executive Committee. Acceptance of the report was moved by T. Backhurst and seconded by D. Wilson. The membership accepted the report unanimously.

Michigan Rail News
• Dearborn Station will be opening in December. Detroit Metro Chair Patterson has worked to get MARP invited to the opening ceremony December 15. MARP will have a table there. Trains will actually serve the station starting December 10. Shuttles will run from the old station for a while to assist people who may have parked at the old station before the move.
• Grand Rapids station is now open. MARP presented an award to U. S. Senator Carl Levin at the ceremony, in recognition of his long years of support for passenger rail service.
• The acquisition of Talgo trainsets by MDOT is uncertain at this time.

North America Rail News
• All Aboard Florida is making progress. Ground was broken for the West Palm Beach station; they are contracting with Siemens for the same model of locomotive selected recently by Amtrak.
• Texas Central Railroad is proposing a high speed rail connecting Dallas with Houston, a distance of about 240 miles. They are arranging entirely private financing in cooperation with Central Japan Railway, whose engineering and equipment they expect to utilize. They plan to be able to begin service in 2021.

Introduction of the First Speaker: T. J. Gaffney

Mr. Gaffney is owner of Streamline Historic Services, former Director of the Steam Railroading Institute, author of several books and articles. He served as volunteer curator at the Port Huron Museum, and lives in Capac, near Port Huron.

Presentation 1: Port Huron’s Transportation History

Mr. Gaffney emphasized at the outset how much less access to public transport Port Huron has now than it did 100 years ago in 1914. He gave several detailed examples with copious historic photographs and maps.

The Pere Marquette depot in Croswell is still standing. The PM line passed through Jeddo, Blaine, and Gratiot Center; its roundhouse was on 16th street. The bridge over the Black River still stands, but the one crossing the canal between Lake Huron and the Black River has been removed.

The Grand Trunk Western’s route through Canada and across the St. Clair River for some years served the second-largest number of immigrants to the United States. GTW’s lead to Dunn Paper was once part of the CD&CGT line.

Thomas A. Edison was raised in Port Huron and departed from the Fort Gratiot depot for his job selling newspapers and snacks on the train to Detroit.

In 1913 the Grand Trunk’s main Michigan locomotive servicing shops were destroyed by fire, and the railroad decided to rebuild them in Battle Creek. The Port Huron property was sold to Peerless Cement. When the tunnel was built under the St. Clair River, the old car ferry docks were converted to the Port Huron boat yard.

Introduction of the Second Speaker: Paul G. Maxwell

Mr. Maxwell is Director of the Port Huron Charter Township Downtown Development Authority and previously served in several business and civic capacities.

Presentation 2: “Port Huron Station’s Relocation”

The present-day Amtrak station was built in 1970 to replace the historic Grand Trunk station. Several civic organizations and municipalities have agreed that it would be desirable to relocate the station to a site with more space for parking and the possibility of private enterprise building shops, a restaurant, and even a hotel.

A possible site is adjacent to Canadian National’s Tunnel Yard, which extends from 24th St. to 32nd St. There is support in the area for this location in Port Huron Charter Township because of its convenience to Interstate highways. It is within half a mile of the intersection of I-94 and I-69 (currently being reconstructed), providing convenient access from the west, south, and especially east – where the many Canadians who patronize Amtrak’s Blue Water cross the bridge from Sarnia. And this location also would allow trains to continue through the tunnel to Canada, if that service is ever reestablished.

The station is envisioned to become an intermodal terminal, as local and regional buses come to serve it. A rail trail is planned for one of the abandoned lines near the site, which would add non-motorized access. The relocation is hoped to stimulate economic activity, particularly the tourist industry.

Having built a strong coalition of supporters, the next step would be a feasibility study. That is not likely to be initiated for a while, but Mr. Maxwell said he hoped MARP would help in the effort. Several members, including Chair Krieg, assured Mr. Maxwell of MARP’s best wishes and willingness to help.

Next Membership Meeting: Saturday, January 10, 2015 at 10:00 AM at the Lansing Board of Water and Light (former GTW Depot). The Executive Committee will have a retreat on Saturday, December 13, 2014, 10 AM to 4 PM, to be held at 201 Depot St., Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 12:00 noon.

Lunch: Lynch’s Irish Tavern, 210 Huron Blvd., Port Huron.

Tour of Port Huron transportation and cultural features:

Mr. Paul Maxwell kindly arranged a tour by “historic trolley” bus of the cultural and transportation highlights of the Port Huron region. This included a visit to the Port Huron and Detroit Railroad Historical Society’s restoration (in progress) of that railroad’s depot on the south side of Tunnel Yard.

Respectfully submitted: Accepted:
________________________________ __________________________________
Clayton Farmer Larry Krieg, Chair
(notes compiled by Larry Krieg)