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14th Michigan Railroad History Conference

Maas Conference Center, Hope College, 264 Columia Avenue, Holland, MI

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Program Schedule


                2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the first Michigan Railroad History Conference which was held at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan as an educational outreach of the Bluewater Michigan Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society (NRHS). Each succeeding conference has been held in a different Michigan community. The Michigan Railroad History Conference is now organized by an all-volunteer Michigan non-profit corporation recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501 (c) (3) educational private foundation. This year’s conference will be held in Holland, Michigan in the Maas Conference Center at Hope College on Saturday, September 23, 2017. The primary program will be a full day of presentations focusing on Michigan’s railroad heritage. Field trips open to conference participants will be offered on Friday, September 22 and Sunday, September 24.


Schedule, Presentations & Presenters








The Railroads of Ottawa County, Paul Trap

     An overview of the two major rail connections in Ottawa County and brief looks at some short lived lines and promoters’ schemes. Paul Trap, conference chair, is a retired history teacher long involved in the history of Grand Haven railroads. He will coordinate the Sunday tour of Consumers Power plant and Grand Haven rail sites.



The Electric Railroads of Ottawa County, Norm Krentel

     A look at the construction, operation and demise of the two interurban lines operation from Grand Rapids to Ottawa and Allegan county lakeshore communities. Norm Krentel is president of the Illinois Railroad Museum and is currently restoring two interurban cars. He is currently working on a history of the Michigan United Railways. Norm will lead the Friday tour of the Grand Rapids, Holland & Chicago Railway.



Where Did Everyone Go: The Highs and Lows of C&O/B&O Passenger Service in Michigan–William Howes

     The featured speaker of this conference is William (Bill) Howes. During his 25 year career with the B&O, C&O and Western Maryland, he worked operating, industrial engineering, casualty and executive departments retiring in 1988 as vice president–research and analysis. Bill was the last director of passenger service for B&O/C&O before Amtrak. Bill also served on the board of directors of the Pullman Company. After retirement he continued to serve as a consultant to government and industry. Bill has a deep interest in railroad history serving as president of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society and has coauthored three railroad books.



Break–Beverages and Snacks provided



Michigan’s Bootstrap Campaign: Passenger Rail Development in the Amtrak Era–Craig Sanders

     Michigan through its highway department, now the Department of Transportation, has struggled to improve rail passenger service since 1971 when of Amtrak provided just two round trips between Detroit and Chicago on the old Penn Central. Through state efforts service has been extended to Pontiac, Port Huron and Grand Rapids. The Detroit–Chicago route is being rebuilt for 110 mph operation. Craig Sanders taught at Cleveland State University and is author of Amtrak in the Heartland and six other railroad history books.



What is Happening Now in Passenger Service in Michigan–Kay Chase

     Kay Chase, Communications Coordinator and member of the executive committee of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers (MARP) will provide a brief update on current status, future plans and challenges of passenger rail service in Michigan.



Lunch in Phelps Dining Hall–Included in registration.



Main 200: The Last Salute––The Story of the Eisenhower Funeral Train–William Howes
     Before his death, plans were made that when former President Dwight Eisenhower passed away, his remains would be carried by train to Abilene, Kansas. Since that trip would originate on the B&O in Washington, D.C., Bill Howes was given the responsibility to coordinate that move. He will discuss the planning, the challenges and unusual events of that trip.



Logging Railroads in the Grand and Muskegon River Valleys–Carl Bajema with Joe Rogers

     Biology teacher at Grand Valley State University, Carl Bajema’s interest in forests led to a 25 year study of logging and logging railroads. He will compare logging operations and the use of railroads in the Muskegon and Grand River Valleys from 1850-1918. Carl’s book on Grand Rapids street railroads will be published soon.



International Railroad Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie–Nathan Holth

     Nathan Holth is an advocate for the maintenance and preservation of historic bridges. He will focus on the design, engineering and challenges to our only international railroad bridge.



Afternoon Break–Beverages and snacks provided



Alternative Design Concepts of the Lake Michigan Car Ferries–Art Chavez and Stephen McMillian

     After studying designs for vessels and harbor improvements by the three railroads with cross-lake service and examining alternative scenarios, noted carferry history researchers and authors Chavez and McMillan question if these plans and proposed ships may have extended carferry operations into the present.



Using Employee Records for Historical Research–T. J. Gaffney

     Independent historical researcher and consultant (Streamline Historic Services) T. J. Gaffney will explain how he has used underutilized employee records to research railroads and their equipment as well as how family historians can use them for genealogical studies.



Closing Remarks



End of official program


An afterglow following the Saturday conference will be held at Brann’s Steakhouse & Grill, 12235 James Street, Holland.


Friday fieldtrip will be a bus tour along the route of the Grand Rapids, Holland & Chicago Railway. Cost for the bus $25.00


Sunday field trip by auto caravan will include tour of Consumer Energy’s Campbell complex and Grand Haven railroad sites.


A reference notebook with maps and background information will be distributed to all participants.

A few spaces can be reserved for railroad history groups to provide information about their services and activities.


For questions or more information contact Paul Trap, Conference chair, at or (616) 396-6492


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Registration––Registration is required for all events.

Use a separate form for each attendee so name tags can be prepared

Name: ___________________________________   Address: ____________________________

City: _________________________   County: ____________   State______   Zip: _________

Telephone: (_____)  _____________________   E-Mail: ______________________________


Conference Registration  (Includes Luncheon)
     If postmarked before September 1 --- $60.00 -- If postmarked after September 1 --- $70.00

Friday Fieldtrip – Bus tour focusing on Grand Rapids, Holland & Chicago Railway, 22 September---$25.00
(If trip has to be cancelled or over-subscribed payment will be refunded.)


Would like to attend the Conference  _______, Friday Fieldtrip  ________,  Sunday Fieldtrip  (No fee) _______


Total Charges  ________  Make check or money order out to Michigan Railroad History Conference.
Mail to: MRHC, P.O. Box 852, Royal Oak, MI  48068

The Michigan Railroad History Conference Website is hosted by