The Western Michigan Society for Industrial Heritage's (WMSIH) Handicap Railcar Project will equip a railcar with an onboard handicap platform lift from Braun Mobility, a handicap accessible restroom, and wheelchair tie downs. The railcar will be operated on the family friendly Coopersville & Marne (C&M) Railway attraction based in Coopersville, Michigan. Completion is targeted for fall 2011.
The ALL Aboard Campaign is a fundraising effort to raise the money necessary to renovate a historic Pullman Sleeper and equip it with a platform lift and necessary equipment to make it suitable for wheelchair-bound and semi-ambulatory individuals who cannot board the train using the steep, narrow stairways found on the historic railcars of the C&M.
Fundraising Goal $125,000
n October of 2008 we successfully met a challenge grant from the Meijer Corporation with the help of the Ed & Nancy Hanenburg Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, the Hekman Foundation, the Stephen G Bandstra Foundation, Best Packaging, the Coopersville Community Foundation, and many individual donors (see our donor page).
Search for a New Location.
Unfortunately, 2009 showed little active progress as our intended renovation site was no longer available. The Meijer Corporation agreed to pledge an additional $5,000 towards renting or constructing a building making Meijers our lead donor. However, its not easy to find a location that you can tuck an almost 100 foot long railcar weighing over 96 tons. We researched building materials for a structure which were all outside the fundraising budget. We settled on a polyhouse structure which could be constructed over a spur off the C&M mainline in their existing rail yard in downtown Coopersville. Our plans had to be approved by the city planning commission and in September 2009 we recieved permission to have a structure erected for 18 months. With an early onset of winter weather our plans were further delayed.
Bright Spot for 2009
An encouraging development came through our connections with Clock Conversions of Grand Rapids. This company specializes in converting vans to accomodate lifts and wheelchairs. Their lift supplier, The Braun Corporation was approached with our project and has agreed to donate a lift suitable for our project. This is the equivalent of an additional $4,000 donation towards our project. We also were able to pen an agreement with the C&M for the constuction of the polyhouse "Car Shop" and assistance with the construction of a new siding spur where renovation will take place.
Project Moves into High Gear
Track ties are removed to make way for a new switch in the South line of the C&M Railway yard in downtown Coopersville. The switch will connect to a new spur where the renovation of the Pullman car (in background) will take place.See more photos ...
Early in 2010 the paperwork for the agreement to construct our polyhouse on C&M property was signed. The first week of June 2010 saw the installation of a new switch in the south track of the main C&M rail line in Coopersville. Initially, the trackworks crew started to install a #6 switch. When the foreman was shown the railcar sitting opposite the location, he said the switch was too light to handle our heavyweight, 3-wheel trucks (most of the C&M has two-wheel trucks). A heavier, #8 switch was brought to the site and by 5 pm Friday, June 4 the switch was complete. The new spur was extended up to the point where we will erect our polyhouse and roll the car in. Foundations were poured the summer of 2010 and the site graded for installation of interior track and actual erection of our polyhouse. We have begun the initial interior demolition so we can repair and undercoat structural components. You can monitor the progress on the new, Project Progress, page by clicking HERE.
Please call (616-997-7387), write (PO Box 273, Coopersville, MI 49404) or e-mail us with information or donations towards this project. All donations including in-kind services will receive a receipt for tax reporting purposes.
The completion of this railcar will enable anyone who is unable to negotiate the steep stairs and narrow hallways of the C&M to enjoy this family-friendly recreational outlet with their families and friends. The C&M Railway operates April through December with theme trains such as the spring Bunny Train, Memorial Day Troop Train, Great Train Robbery, Pumpkin Train and Santa Train as well as twice daily excursion trains on wednesdays and weekends throughout the summer. The C&M is also availabe for school, tour group and special event charter groups. For more on the C&M Railway visit their website at www.coopersvilleandmarne.org.
The Western Michigan Society for Industrial Heritage (WMSIH) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to making recreational railroading in Western Michigan accessible to disabled residents and visitors. For more information on the Industrial Heritage Society visit our web page at www.coopersville.com/industrialheritage.