MTM back on track for 2015

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published June 12, 2015

 The Michigan Transit Museum officially kicked off its season on June 7. Train rides are offered every Sunday through the end of October and take off from Joy Park in Clinton Township.

The Michigan Transit Museum officially kicked off its season on June 7. Train rides are offered every Sunday through the end of October and take off from Joy Park in Clinton Township.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — It’s official. Leisurely Sunday train ride season has begun.

The Michigan Transit Museum began its weekly summer historical train rides — for the 42nd year — on June 7, and some of those longtime volunteers say it’s off to a fine start.

Karl Joist, who has been a volunteer with the museum since he was 15, said it’s a positive sign that the first day attracted a lot of passengers, as MTM needs to replace the roof on its museum located in Mount Clemens, and then some.

“The museum opened in 1973, and for the train rides, we’re using equipment from the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s,” said Joist, 44. “The money we get from ticket sales really helps us keep the train moving.”

Located inside Joy Park on Joy Boulevard in Clinton Township, the train rides are something the longtime volunteers look forward to every year. Each Sunday, passengers are taken on a 30-minute ride every hour at 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. The train moves east at a relaxing 10 mph, then reverses and heads west to just past southbound Gratiot before it arrives back at Joy Park.

All the while, a conductor, such as John Jamison, gives a historical discussion of the area.

Jamison, chief conductor since 1981 and conductor emeritus, said that during the rides he speaks at length about the museum, located at the old depot off Cass Avenue in Mount Clemens, which was built in 1859 for the Chicago, Detroit and Canada Grand Trunk Junction Railway at a time when he said the area was really starting to grow.

The tracks that can still be seen 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, Jamison said.

The depot continued in railroad use until 1980, when the City of Mount Clemens bought it and leased it to the MTM for use as its headquarters and museum, Jamison said. The depot is now restored to its 1900 appearance, and inside are exhibits surrounding railroading of that era, as well as a gift shop.

Jamison reiterated that the train’s equipment is continually undergoing restorations, upgrades and historical renovations, and riders also get to see the former U.S. Air Force Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton RS4TC No. 4040 diesel switcher, which was built in 1951 and rebuilt by the military in 1992, operating with a Southshore No. 11, 84-passenger-capacity car, which was built around 1927.

He said that when one project takes equipment out of service, members replace it with another historic piece of equipment.

“I cover some of the history of the area, like the history of Bath City and Thomas Edison’s involvement in the railroad,” said Jamison, adding that more than 100 passengers enjoyed a ride on this year’s first day. “It’s always an exciting time.”

And at the end of each train ride, passengers are invited to tour the caboose and view the engine.

Joist said the MTM is also looking to take on more volunteers.

“We have members in their 70s and reaching 80 right now,” he said. “The more volunteers we can get, the more the museum will survive. We’re trying to keep this going for the long haul because people love it — adults and the kids.”

The train rides will continue each Sunday through the end of October. The cost is $4 for children ages 4-12 and $7 for all others. Children younger than 4 ride for free.

The Michigan Transit Museum is open from 1-4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday at 200 Grand Ave. For information on the museum, call (586) 463-1863.

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