New Haven, Conn., July 16 and 17
New Haven station's lovely interior It seems hard to believe that only 40 years ago, just as Amtrak was born, this station was basically shuttered, facing a very uncertain future. Now with Amtrak, Metro North, and Shore Line East trains, it buzzes with activity all day. Like Springfield, New Haven is also a popular rail fanning spot since there’s the chance to see so many different kinds of cars and locomotives passing by.
The weather really worked with us to encourage one of our biggest crowds yet. Members of the New Haven division crew were a great help in setting-up the exhibitor tables and Chuggington Kids’ Depot, and made sure that visitors knew where to go once they entered the station. We were also lucky to have volunteers from two chapters of the National Railway Historical Society: the Western Connecticut and Long Island Sunrise Trail sections. The former runs the informative SONO Switch Tower Museum down the line in South Norwalk. Many of the Long Island folks were enthusiastic young men with a great interest in railroading, and some were even thinking about a career in the industry. For them, the Exhibit Train was an excellent way to see how passenger railroading has changed over the last 40 years.
One of the stars of the weekend was Roxy, a female Labrador retriever who is the canine partner of Amtrak Police Officer Joseph Agnellino. The duo gave demonstrations in the Main Waiting Room to the delight of visitors and travelers. Kids especially love the K-9 unit trading cards that include photos of the officers and their dogs. Amtrak’s Police Department is one of the largest railroad police agencies in the country. More than 40 K-9 units are strategically deployed at stations throughout the system and are involved in up to 1,000 train trips a month! These teams are part of a collaborative interagency initiative that includes the Transportation Security Administration, federal and state Departments of Homeland Security, and state and local law enforcement agencies.
Roxy demonstrates her vapor-
scenting skillsAn important part of K-9 unit training involves explosives detection, where the teams undergo an 11-week training program during which the dogs are trained in odor recognition. During that time, handlers are taught to recognize changes in their own dog’s behavior as a response to “alerting” on a potential threat. Part of the course includes vapor wake instruction, where the dogs are trained to alert on scents left in the wake of a passing individual. Amtrak currently has the most vapor wake-capable K-9 units in the railroad industry.
Like they say, the railroad never stops. Sunday afternoon we packed up and moved out so that the track would be ready for the busy Monday morning commute. Hopefully we’ll see you this coming weekend in New London, where the historic station overlooks the Thames River. Nearby, the Fish Tales, Tugs, Sails & Rails Festival will be offering free nautically-themed, family friendly activities that celebrate children’s literature and the environment.