The Record-Eagle August
Several cars of a Michigan Northern Railway train lay on their dides when derailment occurred near Fife Lake.
The Record-Eagle Dec. 28, 1978
State examines rail service problems
Cadillac - A complete investigation of the accounting processes and operations of Michigan Northern Railroad -- ordered by the Michigan State Highway Department this fall -- is about half done according to spokemen at Michigan Northern.
So far, the study puts the small railroad in a positive light.
"I've found some areas that need to be improved and some of those areas have been improved already," said transportation consultant Marion Hall. Hall spend two weeks at Michigan Northern in December studying the company's accounting procedures, business records and general office management.
Hall still has to complete the operational half of the study and expects to do that in January. At that time he will study the train service, mechanical aspects of the railroad and traffic on the line, he said.
Michigan Northern serves northwestern Michigan between the Straits of Mackinac and Grand Rapids. It runs through Kalkaska. It also operates a spur line to Traverse City that gets about one run per week.
Representatives at Michigan Northern said they were pleased with the way the study was going. Jerry Zimmerman, vice president for marketing and sales at Michigan Northern, said that "everything is going much better. We're moving in a very positive direction."
A one-year contract, rather than a six-month contract is expected this spring, Zimmerman said. It has been nip and tuck with the tiny railroad since its inception in April, 1976. Company president Beth Andrus has from time to time expresses concern that the state is not committed to Michigan Northern.However state transportation planner William Bailey said this week that the state definitely is commed to Michigan Northern "Ax long as it's providing a useful service we'd like to see it continue," he said.
Bailey added that the state's commitment should be evident "in that we're leasing it, we're operating it. Yes, we'd like to see it continue -- within the limits of the budget."
Bailey said the study was ordered in August "becauce of continuing serious operating and financial problems and problems with service. We had pointed out where certain deficiencies were and thos deficiencies had not been corrected."
Hall's study has turned up "nothing really serious," he said.
Hall is a Washington, D. C. - based transpotation consultant who "is extremely knowledgeable, very impressive" according to Zimmerman. He said he learned a great deal from Hall's study of Michigan Northern.
"I have not been asked to give my opinion on whether or not there is a need for Michigan Northern," Hall said this week, "and I do have an opinion." he declined to say what that opinion might be but said he might be able to comment once the study was completed.
Hall's opinion is not sought on the need for the railroad, according to Bailey, who said, "All Mr. Hall is supposed to do is evaluate the toal operation. He is not to evaluate the need for the rairoad, only the management of it."
The cost to the state of Hall's analysis of Michigan Northern is an estimated $5,600, according to Bailey.
The attorney for Michigan Northern, Dennis Ashworth, says: "overall we feel it was a reasonable report. It contained some suggestions for improvements we plan to implement or have already implemented. Generally, it was a very favorable report."
The Record-Eagle July 21, 1982
Michigan Northern ran a Cherry BLossom Special, a six passenger car train on July 4 to 10 between Williamsburg and Traverse City. The train make seven trips each day with some train being overloaded beyond 430 people seating capacity.