State will test more high-speed rails

By YUEHAN LIU
Capital News Service
LANSING—Part of the Michigan passenger rail service goes 110 miles an hour, but not all of it. Next year the state will test additional tracks to support that speed along the Amtrak route between Detroit and Chicago. “We have three Amtrak trains that run from Michigan to Chicago and the rider shift numbers are continuing to go up,” Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), said. “And we are improving the rail line. So 110 is our goal to enhance the speed and cut down the time between Detroit and Chicago.

Clinton Northern Railway museum: chugging right along

By Madeline Sewell
Clinton County Chatter staff reporter

ST. JOHNS – When trains became popular in America, new towns began to pop up along with them. St. Johns was one of those towns. According to Jenny McCampbell, one of the primary volunteers at the Clinton Northern Railway museum, “the whole community was started because the trains were coming in.”

“There is a lot of history tied in with the depot and the trains in general,” said McCampbell.

Train Routes

By COLLEEN OTTE
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan’s transportation organizations are studying planes, trains and automobiles. More options for public transit could play a huge role in the state’s competitiveness in attracting and retaining people, young and old, transportation experts say. They’ve recently launched four studies to assess the feasibility of new Michigan rail routes. The studies will assess traffic flows, taking into consideration automobile, bus and air traffic, said Elizabeth Treutel, a Michigan Environmental Council policy associate. “A big goal of the studies is understanding what are the traffic flows now?” she said.

Once down, trains and cars prove their staying power

By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service
LANSING – These have been hard times for train travel and the auto industry in Michigan, but there are signs of recovery. Statewide ridership on Michigan’s three Amtrak routes – the Wolverine, Blue Water and Pere Marquette – hit 797,017 in 2011 and 782,286 in 2012, according to Michigan Department of Transportation statistics, up by more than 100,000 since 2009. And work has started on track improvement projects that will enable passenger trains to travel as fast as 100 mph in mid-Michigan and eventually cut travel time between Chicago and Detroit/Pontiac from about 6½ to 4½ hours, officials said. In a bid to lure more passengers, Amtrak has started to allow a limited number of bicycles aboard its Blue Water line running between Port Huron and Chicago, with stops in East Lansing, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. The railroad also announced plans to add cellular-connected Wi-Fi next year.

Trains, writers tie Michigan legacies together

By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service
LANSING – For novelist-to-be Maritta Wolff, the stone train station at Grass Lake near her grandparents’ farm in Jackson County represented escape from small town living. Twenty years ago, and shortly before her death, Wolff returned to her hometown by Amtrak for the dedication of the restored depot that inspired the title of her first best-seller, “Whistle Stop.”

For Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War historian Bruce Catton, the train that served his Benzie County hometown of Benzonia sparked a restlessness. It also sparked nostalgia later in life that Catton captured in a best-selling memoir, “Waiting for the Morning Train.”
For Robert Frost, the future American poet laureate, arrival in Ann Arbor by train marked his becoming the University of Michigan’s first “fellow of the arts.”
These three writers were linked by Michigan ties, eventual renown as writers – and trains. “Ink Trails: Michigan’s Famous and Forgotten Authors” (Michigan State University Press, $19.95) by brothers Dave and Jack Dempsey, tells the stories of Wolff, Catton and Frost, as well as 16 other writers who were born or lived in the state. The others range from the well-remembered, such as Carl Sandburg, Ring Lardner and John Voelker, to the once-famous-now-forgotten, such as George Adams, Eugene Ruggles and Carroll Rankin.

Freight trains pulling their weight in Michigan

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By VINCE BOND Jr.
Capital News Service
LANSING- The next time you’re stuck watching a seemingly endless train at a railroad crossing, look at it as a down payment on your next electricity bill. Whether freight trains are delivering coal to power plants in mid-Michigan or transporting iron ore in the Upper Peninsula, they still have what it takes to pull the economy forward, said Robert Chaprnka, president of the Michigan Railroads Association. According to the association, almost half of the nation’s electricity comes from coal, with 70 percent of it transported by rail. Whatever trains lack in speed is made up for in energy efficiency, Chaprnka said. Freight trains can carry 1 ton of cargo 423 miles on 1 gallon of diesel fuel — the distance between Detroit and Syracuse, N.Y.
“First of all, they specialize in hauling heavy loads long distances.