All aboard for Michigan Transit Museum’s 2017 train ride season

By: Julie Snyder | C&G Newspapers | Published May 31, 2017

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP/MOUNT CLEMENS — A hidden and historical gem in Macomb County awaits passengers at Joy Park in Clinton Township.

It’s the Michigan Transit Museum’s train depot, and its 2017 Sunday train ride season launches June 4. Rides will be offered every Sunday through Oct. 29 at 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Volunteer Deb Jensenius said there’s plenty of fun in store.

“Every ride is a little bit of fun and a little bit of history,” said Jensenius, who volunteers with the MTM along with her husband, Dan Jensenius. “And we have many fun events planned this year.”

They include free train rides for all children 12 and younger through the month of June, hot dog day on July 2 and Sept. 3, and all retired or active-duty veterans ride for free for Patriot Day on Sept. 10, with a valid military ID. The season will come to a close with Halloween-themed rides in October.

“It’s so much for the kids; it’s fun for them to get out and take a ride on a real full-size train,” said Deb Jensenius.

And learn a bit of history at the same time.

The train depot in Mount Clemens, now home of the Michigan Transit Museum, was built in 1859 for the Chicago, Detroit and Canada Grand Trunk Junction Railway, and the surviving tracks were built in the late 1890s to service the Franklin Sugar Beet Mill along the Clinton River, across from where the Gibraltar Trade Center is today.

At the same depot in 1862, a young Thomas Edison saved the station agent’s child, who was standing on the tracks, from being struck by a rolling boxcar. In appreciation, the station agent taught Edison telegraphy, which launched his short career in railroading. Historians say that some of Edison’s earliest inventions were based on what he learned at the station.

The depot on Grand Avenue continued in railroad use until 1980, when the city of Mount Clemens bought it and leased it to the Michigan Transit Museum for use as its headquarters and museum. The depot is now restored to its 1900 appearance, and inside are exhibits surrounding railroading of that era.

Train rides have been offered to the community at various locations around the area since 1973 and have been at Joy Park for the past 10 years. The train is operated with equipment from the ’20s, ’30s,’40s and ’50s, and ticket sales for rides allow the Michigan Transit Museum to maintain the cars and the caboose.

Riders take a 30-minute trip east into Harrison Township and then west into Mount Clemens at a steady 10 mph. At the end of each train ride, passengers are invited to tour the caboose and view the engine.

The train, like the Michigan Transit Museum itself in Mount Clemens, is run 100 percent by volunteers.

Karl Joost, a volunteer for the museum since 1985, said it’s volunteers like Jensenius and countless others who keep this historical tradition alive in Macomb County.

“These folks have volunteered their time to maintain track and equipment while working their own jobs, and I just want to fill the seats with happy families,” said Joost, a former Warren and Clinton Township resident who now lives in Chicago.

He said those efforts keep the train ride traditions alive in many families.

“Year after year, we’re getting more and more grandparents bringing their grandchildren with them and more and more younger people into the museum,” said Joost, adding that passengers often take a trip to the museum after a ride. “And that’s one of the things the museum tries to do is get the younger generations interested in trains. In a virtual reality world, it’s nice to have something you can actually put in your hand and touch.”

The Michigan Transit Museum, 200 Grand Ave. in Mount Clemens, is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year.

Joy Park is located on the north side of Joy Boulevard in Clinton Township, a half-mile east of Gratiot. Tickets can be purchased in the train’s caboose and cost $7 for adults and $4 for children ages 4-12. Children 3 and younger ride for free. Credit and debit cards are accepted. For more information on the museum, call (586) 463-1863, or visit michigantransitmuseum.org.

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