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      Riding the rails

      Nearly 200 students from western Marquette County got a look at Cliffs Natural Resources Friday. It was for Excellence in Education Day and they were rewarded for a semester with straight A's. Some of those students rode the train from Palmer to Marquette's Upper Harbor.

      The ticket to ride this train is a report card with straight A's. Cliffs has been offering tours to students from Ishpeming, Negaunee, N.I.C.E., and Republic-Michigamme school districts for 24 years as a reward for hard work with Excellence in Education Day. Ishpeming High School senior Melanee Bess has been on the tours three times before.

      "It's always just a treat to get a day off school for working my butt off and getting a reward for it," said Bess.

      She was assigned to the train last year, but there was a problem and tthe train was barely able to leave the mine.

      "We probably sat on this train for about two and half hours, and we got to ride to Negaunee and then had to get off because we had to go to lunch, so we didn't even really get the full experience," Bess said.

      This year, it was smooth sailing. It's a slow and leisurely ride, allowing for some decent sightseeing along the way, including a look at the Dead River from 100 feet up.

      "I live on the Dead River, and I never really knew what it's like at the end like this. It's pretty amazing to be up this high and look at it," said Bess.

      This is Negaunee High School freshman Lauren Lindenberg's first time on the tours.

      "I think it's pretty cool. I think I deserve it," Lindenberg said laughing.

      Students agreed it was a worthwhile trip away from school.

      "A day away from school is a day well spent," Bess said with a smile.

      Other students went on trips through the Tilden Plant, the Marquette Regional History Museum, the Marquette Ore Dock, The Maritime Museum, and the Coast Guard Station.

      The field trip ended for everyone with lunch and music at the Holiday Inn where two teachers from each district were recognized for their excellence in education. They are Anne Asplund and Briana Bancroft from Ishpeming, Michael O'Donnell and Victoria Paupore from Negaunee, Steve Annelin and Lindsey Dionne from N.I.C.E., and Jodi LaFraniere and Lindsey Stahlmann from Republic-Michigamme.