Posts Tagged ‘Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority’

Some 50 Years Later

July 10, 2019

As much as I like passenger trains, I’ve never been into studying and memorizing the history of individual cars.

I don’t have the encyclopedic knowledge of Dennis Tharp, for example, who has stored in his head a treasure trove of facts about rail passenger cars from the streamliner era.

Yet I was intrigued when Paul Woodring dug up some information about a Pennsylvania Railroad passenger car that showed up in a photograph made by Robert Farkas of the Fort Pitt in Canton in the late 1960s.

By the time Bob caught up with Train No. 53 it had shrunk to one coach and a handful of head-end cars trundling daily from Pittsburgh to Chicago.

Paul obtained the roster number of that lone passenger car in Bob’s photo, which turned out to be No. 1537, a converted PRR 21-roomette car known as Franklin Inn.

It had been built by Budd in 1949 for the Pennsy, which converted it to a coach in 1963 to serve in the Northeast Corridor.

At the time the PRR wanted more modern equipment to serve passengers traveling to the 1964 New York World’s Fair so it converted 50 Inn series cars into coach lounges.

The PRR became part of Penn Central in 1968 and after the formation of Amtrak the former Franklin Inn, now Penn Central 1537 was acquired by Southeast Michigan Transportation Authority in 1976 for use on its commuter trains on the Grand Trunk Western in Detroit.

SEMTA renamed the car Pleasant Ridge. Sometime after SEMTA rail commuter service ended in October 1983, the car was leased to Metro North.

Along the way ownership of the car and the lease to Metro North was transferred to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

After Metro North no longer needed the car, it wound up in the heritage fleet of Maryland Area Regional Commuter, which restored the Franklin Inn name and gave it roster number 142.

DCNRHS acquired Franklin Inn in November 2008. It had been retired from revenue service by MARC in 2001 when newer equipment arrived.

Although originally painted Tuscan red, the car now features the livery used by the PRR during the middle 1960s.

The website of the American Association of Private Rail Car Owners shows that Franklin Inn now carries roster number 800957 and reporting mark NRHX142. It is described as a high-capacity coach.

Paul’s interest in Franklin Inn stems from research he did on the consist of the 1968 Robert F. Kennedy funeral train that operated from New York to Washington on PC rails.

He was curious if any of the former MARC cars that were of PRR heritage that Akron Metro acquired and later conveyed to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad were in the RFK funeral train consist.

None of them were. For that matter the former Franklin Inn was not in the RFK funeral train, either, although 14 cars from former Inn series that had been converted to coaches for Congressional Service assignments.

The Congressional Service cars were normally idle on weekends.

The Franklin Inn has operated through Northeast Ohio on excursions pulled by Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765.

Paul reported that it also operated behind Norfolk & Western 611 during some of its excursions in the East and South.

That sent me digging into my archive to see if I had a photograph of the Franklin Inn behind the Berkshire-type steam locomotive.

I found it in the consist of a July 2015 excursion from Ashtabula to Youngstown.

It is shown in the bottom image above on Carson Hill just outside Ashtabula. Interestingly both images show the car from the same end.

I’m not sure if Franklin Inn ever ran on the CVSR, but a sister car, Collinsville Inn has operated there along with ex-PRR car Paul Revere.

It seems odd that a car whose normal assignment was between Washington and New York would find its way to the Fort Pitt.

I wondered if the assignment of Franklin Inn to the Fort Pitt was so that the lounge section could be used in snack-bar coach service.

But a check of my collection of copies of The Official Guide of the Railways published in the late 1960s found that from at least 1965 onward the Fort Pitt was shown as being a coach-only train with no food service.

I also found that the Fort Pitt name was removed early in the Penn Central era.

So perhaps it was assigned to PRR Lines West service for another reason.

On the day that Bob photographed No. 53, he probably viewed this coach as just another passenger car.

There was reason to believe that its future with the Pennsylvania and/or Penn Central was likely to be short given how railroads were lopping off passenger trains as quickly as regulatory officials would allow.

A lot of rail passenger cars would become surplus and many would be scrapped.

But who could have known 50 years ago in Canton what the future held for the Franklin Inn and that it would still be carrying passengers five decades later.

Michigan Officials Mull Options After Voters Spurned Commuter Rail Funding Proposal

November 26, 2016

The Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority it examining its options after voters earlier this month narrowly defeated a tax increase that would have funded an expansion of service, including a Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail line.

SE Michigan RTAWhat is certain, though, is that the earliest that the SMRTA can return to the voters with the same proposal is 2018.

“Obviously we’re just trying to absorb what happened,” said Michael Ford, who leads SMRTA.

The proposal for a 20-year 1.2 mill tax increase passed in Wayne (Detroit) and Washtenaw (Ann Arbor) counties, divided voters fairly evenly in Oakland County but was rejected in Macomb County.

“We’re going to have to reassess, understand why,” Ford said of why people voted against the tax plan, adding he plans to convene with the RTA board, which includes representatives from the different communities, to discuss possible next steps, including whether to plan to put a proposal before voters again in two years.

Ford said he remains optimistic that something can be done to expand public transportation options and still thinks that the proposed plan of commuter rail and new regional bus services is a good one.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said that had the tax been approved it would have given the Detroit-Ann Arbor rail link a critical boost.

“Commuter rail is a necessity for Ann Arbor to improve our local economy and to improve our local quality of life,” he said.

Had the plan been funded by the tax measure, commuter rail was expected to begin in 2022.

Detroit-Ann Arbor Commuter Rail Service Getting Boost From Southeast Michigan RTA Master Plan

May 23, 2016

A Detroit-based public transportation agency is trying to jump start the long dormant idea of instituting commuter rail service between downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority is proposing linking the Detroit-Ann Arbor service with the currently under construction Detroit streetcar network.

SE Michigan RTAThe RTA board is proposing to include the Ann Arbor service as well as bus rapid transit in its Michigan Avenue corridor study.

Lack of funding has stalled development of the 38-mile Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter service, which would use the same tracks used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains.

Those rails are now mostly owned by the state of Michigan, which several years ago leased passenger cars for use in the service.

To fund the Ann Arbor commuter service, RTA is proposing to include that cost into its November millage request.

If the millage request is approved, RTA officials say the service could begin around 2022 and have an operating cost of $11 million to $19 million.

The service would required $130 million in capital costs to get started, which would include building a maintenance facility.

“It’s a significant connector between Ann Arbor and Detroit,” said Paul Hillegonds, the RTA’s board chairman. “One of the criticisms of rail always is it’s much more expensive than bus rapid transit, but in this case, the existing infrastructure is in place. It makes sense from a cost-effective standpoint, and I think will be very attractive to riders, and I think a very significant economic development tool for the region.”

RTA will present its commuter rail line proposal on May 31 as part of its master plan

The Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter service would operate eight times a day with trips spread out to include morning and afternoon rush hour service as well as afternoon and evening trains.

Intermediate stops would include Ypsilanti, Wayne and Dearborn. Trains would terminate in Detroit in the New Center area.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has spent $7.6 million to overhaul 23 former Chicago Metra bi-level commuter cars, but stopped paying the lease payments on them last year.

RTA estimates it would cost $4,000 per month per car to lease them from current owner Great Lakes Central Railroad. The agency has proposed leasing nine of the cars, which are currently sitting in Owosso, Michigan.

Saying that development of rail, bus rapid transit and other transit options is needed to create an “integrated system” to help people get where they want to go, RTA CEO Michael Ford said that Ann Arbor and Detroit are major hubs for jobs.

“People being able to get back and forth conveniently and quickly,” Ford said. “I think it’s a game-changer in a lot of ways. I know it’s been tried many times before, but having that kind of frequency of service, it’s very important to the region and getting people where they want to go.”