2014 Michigan Train Extravaganza (part 1)

Aug 30-Sep 7, 2014

Listen to the jingle, rumble, and the roar – as she glides along the woodland – through the hills – and by the shore. It’s the California Zephyr – a sight to see by all. A gleaming AMTRAK silver bullet – like the old Wabash Cannonball. All aboard for Chicago, Kalamazoo, Dearborn, Detroit and points East. What A Ride!

I can’t remember a tour in which we saw and did so much in such a short period of time. I can’t remember a tour so well coordinated. We owe all of this to Walter Caplan our leader, bartender, coordinator, planner and guide. He did it all and made it look easy.

Our first stop after Chicago was Kalamazoo to visit the Gilmore Car Collections. The Gilmore is a beautifully landscaped 90 acre campus. This collection is housed in several large two story barns; moved from their original locations and rebuilt on the Gilmore campus. The campus is also the site of the newly built National Model A Ford Museum, the Cadillac Museum, and the Lincoln Museum.

Other collections include a Steam Barn, a Franklin Barn, a Pierce-Arrow Barn, and the Motorcycle Barn. The campus also features a Carriage House, a 50’s Diner, a Pedal Car collection, a train depot, a Vintage Shell Station and the Classic Car Club of America Museum. We relaxed and ate lunch in the diner. Our second stop was the Air Zoo, the Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum.

Now in rented cars we traveled on to Dearborn to visit Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. The museum opened in 1929 and is an exact copy of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. After spending a day in the museum we moved on to Greenfield Village. The Village is an entire town composed of historic buildings. The Village is surrounded by working farms and resembles a small rural American town of the late eighteenth century.

The following day Greenfield Village hosted the 64th Annual Old Car Festival. The cars spanned the years between 1898 and 1932. This year the Festival celebrated the 100th anniversary of the famed Dodge Brothers automobile company. Everything you can imagine was there and all were driven in. There were steamers, hybrids, single cylinder chain drives, and there were twelve cylinder Lincoln town cars. Truly, when it comes to cars, there is nothing new under the sun. There are only improvements on the old scheme.

This, like no other car show, encourages participants to drive the streets of Greenfield Village. Cops in vintage uniforms wearing white gloves direct traffic and the whole Village is alive with sound and motion.

In the spring Greenfield Village hosts a similar show featuring cars from the thirties through the fifties. Given how much there is to see and do, we might want to consider another Tour to Michigan.

Photos by Thomas Leon Johnston