National Train Day 2013 Roundup
May 13, 2013
Written By Malcolm Kenton
This year's National Train Day was likely the best-attended and most widespread celebration of the occasion in its six-year history. Amtrak endorsed events in over 90 cities and towns, while dozens more independently organized celebrations took place, many in places that don't currently enjoy passenger train service.
NARP Ambassadors were present at 63 events, and those who have sent us reports so far say that each one had hundreds of attendees, and that NARP's giveaways were very popular. Here are some photos and wrap-ups from festivities in which NARP participated:
Trinidad, CO - Las Vegas, NM
The Colorado Rail Passenger Association, the Southwest Chief Coalition and NARP co-sponsored a round-trip ride on the Southwest Chief for 42 local elected officials and business leaders in Colorado and New Mexico, including two state legislators and two mayors. The ride was enjoyable, despite the westbound Chief running an hour and a half behind schedule, cutting short the amount of time the group had in Las Vegas.
Dozens more turned out in both Trinidad and Las Vegas to celebrate the day, and send a message to state and federal elected officials about the strong grassroots support that the Southwest Chief enjoys on its present route between Newton, KS and Albuquerque, which is threatened with discontinuance unless funding is secured to maintain the tracks--used by few or no freight trains--to passenger train standards beyond 2015.
About 50 people turned out in Las Vegas, including the 42 who rode the Chief from Trinidad for a day trip. NARP member Ford Robbins handed out every one of the membership packets NARP sent to him, as well as most of the other material. A good lunch provided by Subway was had by all, followed by some speechifying and a tour of the town. Everyone gathered again around 3 pm. for the eastbound Chief's departure. A few more short speeches and then the Colorado folks were off.
NARP Council Representative George Stupski and his wife Kathleen staffed a NARP table at Flagstaff's historic Santa Fe station for their Train Day celebration. Among those who visited and chatted with them was the Mayor of Flagstaff. He expressed interest in a possible future rail line between his city and Phoenix.
"We had a wonderful, safe event," writes NARP organizer Jackson McQuigg. "We estimated that between 2,500-3,000 people attended National Train Day 2013 at Tampa Union Station—earning new friends for the station, Amtrak, and rail travel. And although not all of the expenses are in yet, I can say that we also raised several thousand dollars for Friends of Tampa Union Station."
NARP Chairman Bob Stewart was the master of ceremonies. All of the NARP literature and membership forms that were sent to Tampa were handed out. The celebration was covered in the Tampa Tribune.
There was a very well-attended celebration at the city's historic Central Station, enlivened by the presence of an Amtrak display train. NARP Council Representative and Tennessee Association of Railroad Passengers (TARP) Director Bill Strong manned a prominent display for NARP, along side a TARP table hosted by Bruce Smedley and Carl Olsen.
Among the visitors to the NARP display were Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton (D).
Strong had this to say in a thank-you letter to the Amtrak representatives who helped make the day a success:
"Bringing the demo train down to Memphis and allowing it to be open for inspection by potential passengers made for a knock out event. I thought it was a class act all the way around and now there are many more potential Amtrak passengers in the Memphis area because of it. Amtrak probably needs to add another coach and sleeper to the City of New Orleans to handle the increased demand for tickets."
Thousands turned out to see Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, and private cars, model trains, and other vendors, and to take advantage of short $5.00 excursions on Acela Express trains at Washington Union Station. Over 400 passed by the NARP table, which was next to the main stage. Over 60 signed up for NARP's email list, and 4 people became NARP members on-site.
Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo and Amtrak Board Vice Chairman Jeffrey Moreland opened the festivities at 11:00 AM with rousing speeches.
NARP President Ross Capon assisted by son William and Virginia Association of Railway Patrons President (and NARP Council Representative) Michael Testerman gave out bumper stickers, bookmarks, stickers for kids to put on the bookmarks, etc., and offered candy as prize for trying to answer Amtrak-related questions. Ashland’s Train Day celebration, at the historic Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad depot--which also serves as a volunteer-staffed visitors center--was organized by the Center Director Pam Crisp. Testerman bicycled there from his home in downtown Richmond (18 miles)! Longtime NARP and VARP members Dick and Juanita Beadles stopped by to visit. Crowds came to enjoy picnic tables and watch a few of the CSX freight trains and 14 daily Amtrak trains that run down the middle of Railroad Avenue.
NARP Council member Bob Lawrence and his son Mark manned the NARP table at the newly and beautifully restored King Street Station, which was right next to Amtrak's table and the stage. Amtrak gave NARP coupons good for 40% off companion fares for coach travel between Aug. 19 and Dec. 17 (purchased by Aug. 28), and these were handed out. There was a good swing jazz band, but it was so loud that it prevented conversation except while the band took a break. The crowd was enlarged with fans headed to the 1:00 PM Sounders soccer game at their nearby stadium.
Portland Union Station was packed with people most of the day, many coming to see the star attraction, the magnificent SP&S 700 steam locomotive. A lot of other equipment was on display, including a Union Pacific diesel locomotive, some Superliner cars and a few private cars.
The NARP and Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates (AORTA) table was located at the opening to the main waiting area, right next to the gift/snack shop. NARP member Karen Keller writes "Amtrak could not stage this event without the dedicated volunteers of AORTA, [Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation], & the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. These folks manned doors, handed out programs, guided visitors, sold raffle tickets, picked up trash, and more."
About 3,500 people turned out to tour a 3-car display train, see two elaborate model railroad layouts and a craft area at the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) depot. The master of ceremonies was a man dressed the part of 19th-century C&O owner (and the city's namesake) Collis P. Huntington, and speeches were made by NARP Council Representative J. Charles Riecks and Amtrak Government Affairs Specialist Phil Hancock (a West Virginia native).
All the NARP literature that was sent to Huntington was given out, along with most of the Amtrak literature and flyers for the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke, VA and the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad in Romney, WV.
Thanks goes to the staff and volunteers of the C.P. Huntington Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, the Huntington Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Cardinal, CSX and Amtrak for making it all possible.
Saint Paul, MN
Hundreds turned out for Train Day festivities in the newly-restored, grand St. Paul Union Depot, which will soon become the Twin Cities' Amtrak station. The celebration coincided with the departure of a special steam excursion to Duluth led by the Milwaukee Road 261. It was also the public debut of the newly-formed state passenger advocacy group All Aboard Minnesota, headed by NARP Council Representative Brian Nelson. NARP and AAMN had side-by-side tables, with Southwest Division Leader Matthew Melzer representing NARP and submitting these photos:
Amtrak and the Vermont Agency of Transportation sponsored celebrations in Brattleboro, White River Junction and Waterbury. For the day, passengers were allowed to ride the southbound Vermonter between St. Albans and Bellows Falls free of charge, then ride a special White River Flyer, composed of Green Mountain Railroad equipment, from there back to White River Junction, from whence they could ride reserved motorcoaches back to their points of origin, or wait for the northbound Vermonter.
Below are shots of the tents set up on this rainy morning in Brattleboro and the southbound Vermonter's calling there, submitted by NARP Council Representative and Vermont Rail Action Network Executive Director Christopher Parker:
El Paso, TX
NARP member Paul Vranish hosted a NARP table in the Grand Hall of El Paso Union Station, alongside an Amtrak table, a small model train layout, and a display from the Harvey Girls of El Paso (on the history of the Fred Harvey restaurant and hotel chain along the Santa Fe Railway in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries).
The North Carolina Department of Transportation sponsored a National Train Day event at every station in the state served by the New York-Charlotte Carolinian. NARP members Kristen Jeffers and Molly Mullin staffed the NARP table in Greensboro's revived Galyon Depot (1927-built Southern Railway station). They gave away most of the NARP handouts, and Jeffers was interviewed by cable outlet News 14 Carolina.
Jeffers put together this collage from the day:
52 adults and 22 children visited the Paducah Railroad Museum on National Train Day. NARP member and Museum President Logan Blewett put NARP literature on a table in the center of the museum, offering Lake Shore Limited tote bags to any who would join NARP on-site. Two committed to join and two signed up for NARP's email list.