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Interurban Railways Historian to Share Research at Silver Maples in Chelsea

Norm Krentel will speak on the history of interurban railroads in Michigan on Jan. 9.

Submitted by Shawn Personke

Interurban historian Norm Krentel will present a program on the interurban railways in Michigan at Silver Maples of Chelsea on Jan. 9 at 3 p.m.

Krentel will be accompanied by photographer Doug Johnson, who has joined Krentel on his journeys around the state to gather the history of transportation in Michigan that culminated in the electric interurban railways.

Johnson will outline where railways operated in Southern Michigan and how they were used to move passengers and freight. He'll also tell a few of the stories he learned through his conversations through the years with motormen, conductors, and their families, including several Chelsea residents.

Krentel first became interested in the interurban railways because of his father and grandfather’s interest. They were both devotees of the interurban that ran in Lansing and East Lansing. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he found an old interurban car, scrapped by the interurban company, being used as a cottage at Duck Lake, north of Albion.

For $1, he bought the privilege of separating it from its concrete foundation and moving it to a railroad museum in Chicago. This was in 1971 before I-94 was complete. As a condition for receiving the transit permit from the state of Michigan, he was ordered to take it straight to the Indiana toll road to get out of Michigan as soon as possible.

In order to learn the details for how the car should be restored, Krentel sought and interviewed everyone he could find who had worked on or rode the interurban trains around Michigan. His accumulation of this information will eventually be assembled into a book telling the stories of the interurban railways in Michigan outside of Detroit.

Krental and a group of volunteers are actively working on the restoration of Michigan Railways Car No. 28 at the Illinois Railway Museum. Their work is focused on restoring the roof and the windows. Much of the other exterior and structural restoration has been addressed; interior restoration remains to be completed. A recently adopted priority is to make the car operational so that it can play a more active role in helping tell the story of the electric interurbans at the museum.

Krental and his wife, Kathy, live in Geneva, Ill.

"Michigan’s Interurban Railways" presentation will be held at Silver Maples of Chelsea, 100 Silver Maples Dr. The presentation is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit www.silvermaples.org.

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