Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Town Monday: Hamburg Festival and Railroad Days

Apparently, this was the 8th year for the Festival in the little town of Hamburg, Michigan. This is the first year that I went and I admit, I mainly went for the train.

The Steam Railroading Institute brought out one of their steam engines and there were several rides on Saturday. My ma bought tickets for the one hour excursion train.

The steam engine, Pere Marquette 1225, is the model engine that inspired the train engine used in The Polar Express. It was an impressive piece of machinery, towering above the little people.

The Pere Marquette railway is named for Father Marquette, one of the early Jesuit Missionaries in the Great Lakes area. But, the abbreviation for the Pere Marquette railway was PM, and I actually found in historical records that people used to say that PM (for the railway) stood for 'Poor Management.' The more things change...

Up the hill, there were craft tents, live band, but really the highlight was the train ride. In what there is of Hamburg-- the town consists of a church, two fire stations, a bar, a barber, a closed-up market (sad), a ecclectic home goods store, and the old-library-turned-new-museum. And a handful of houses-- in this part of town, you could see the smoke from the engine billowing up. The train was at the bottom of the hill, past the now-gone Grand Trunk Western railroad line and sitting on the CSX (formerly Pere Marquette) rail road line.

There's no depot in Hamburg anymore, but the conductors were very friendly and helpful for boarding the train.

The train rain about a half-hour south(ish) out of Hambrug towards Ann Arbor. Then came back. The engine was running backwards on the leg out. It was cool watching for the railroad crossings that I'm used to driving over in the car. Took some thinking sometimes to remember where the next crossing would come out.

I could so totally do all my traveling by train. The cars were not fancy, but they had this air of formality and elegance of upscale travel, and of a by-gone era.

There was a dining car and little bathrooms on each car. I think the bathrooms (which I did not use, thought my young nephew made great use of in a mere hour ride...) were much larger than airplane bathrooms.

The aisles and seats were much nicer than any airplane I've been on. Even though they were narrow, it didn't feel cramped, even with my long legs. And I sat opposite my dad, who is the genetic source of my own long limbs.

The Steam Railroad Institute is about to take the Pere Marquette 1225 off the tracks. It's due for it's Federal Inspection, where they have dismantle huge parts of this engine for cleaning and inspection. It's a task that costs over $500,000 and can take two years. So this may be the last year that the Pere Marquette runs the rails, which is quite sad. They do have two other trips planned for the end of a the year-- a fall color train that will run up through Northern Lower Michigan when the leaves change into a full display of reds and oranges, and a Santa train that runs to the "North Pole" where Santa is waiting. I'm saving my pennies and hoping to get to go on another train ride this year.

Visit the My Town Monday site for links to other folk's and their towns. And feel free to join us!


debra said...

Steam engines are wonderful. The CVSR brings one into Peninsula a couple of times a year and people show up from miles away.

Clare2e said...

I am a sucker for old trains, too, and I appreciate the hard work of the many (often volunteer) organizations that make sure they keep running for excursions and education.

My dream is to take the Venice Simplon Orient Express, but that's a lottery result, for sure.

Anonymous said...

Oh how fun! I love trains - especially old, historical trains. What a great story! Love your blog, btw. Very creative!

Jamie D. said...

I've awarded you the "Honest Scrap" award - if you have time and are so inclined, head over here to grab it (if not, that's fine too). :-)

Peter Dudley said...

The PM Railway derived its name from one of several railroad companies that were merged on January 1, 1900. The Flint & Pere Marquette was named after its endpoints - Flint MI, which still retains its name, and Pere Marquette MI, now known as Ludington. Father Marquette was buried near the site of present-day Ludington.
The PM operated rail-car ferries from Ludington across Lake Michigan to Wisconsin. These were continued by PM's successor, Chesapeake & Ohio, after PM was merged out of existence in 1947. The BADGER still sails from Ludington, but the tracks that led to the dock are gone.
In 1946, before the takeover was completed, PM launched six lightweight diesel-electric streamlined passenger trains - the first postwar streamliners in the USA. Known as the "Pere Marquettes", the trains
continued under C&O until Amtrak (1971).
I remember seeing the lights of late-night streamliners reflected across Island Lake, as the trains made their way from Detroit to Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Chicago.