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Exhibit Train Blog, 2011-2012

The posts from the exhibit train tour

Forty Years...and Counting!

Welcome to Amtrak’s 40th Anniversary website and the special blog we’ve created to commemorate this milestone and update you on the related festivities. On May 1, Amtrak will celebrate 40 years as America’s Railroad℠, providing vital intercity and high-speed passenger rail service to the nation and offering a critically important transportation choice for both urban and rural communities.

We’ve designed this site to provide details of our anniversary celebration, to tell our story.  I hope you will take a few minutes to browse our timeline and peruse some of the interesting items in our archives.

We also have an interesting selection of 40th Anniversary related items in the Amtrak store, including our new book, Amtrak: An American Story. Our book chronicles Amtrak’s four decades of history and was written by current and former Amtrak employees. It tells the story of Amtrak and the American passenger train in unforgettable terms, and complements that story with a gorgeous selection of truly memorable pictures.

We will kick off our celebration in May, and you’ll be hearing a lot about our anniversary at this year’s National Day Train events on May 7. This year’s National Train Day —our fourth —will include events at our stations in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles to celebrate the history and tradition of America’s railroads. In addition, there will be hundreds of local events in communities across the country honoring the American railroad. You can learn more about National Train Day at

After its public debut at the National Train Day event in Washington, D.C., our special 40th anniversary exhibit train comprised of restored equipment and customized display cars, will embark on a yearlong, cross-country journey.  Showcasing Amtrak’s history for our employees and the communities we serve, it will visit Northeastern communities throughout the summer before turning west on a great rail voyage across the continent.

The exhibit train and the anniversary events are the result of extra hours and personal effort put in by the dedicated men and women of Amtrak. They are a reflection of our desire to create homegrown celebrations that are put on by employees and for employees, while sharing our heritage and outlook with the communities we serve. You can follow the train’s journey and get more information about planned visits to your community, as well as historical information, on this website.

This train gives us an opportunity to tell our story, and it’s symbolic of the can-do spirit that has kept Amtrak going over the past forty years.  It tells a great story about the great people who have supported this company and who continue to do so – from within and without. Come out and help us celebrate 40 years of passenger rail service.

Check back frequently for updates on the exhibit train and other 40th Anniversary Celebration. We hope to see you on the rails soon!


Joseph H. Boardman
President and Chief Executive Officer

Amtrak's Birthday & National Train Day Kick Off the Tour at Washington Union Station, May 2–7

After months of preparation, the Exhibit Train made its media debut on May 2nd, directly after a press conference announcing the commencement of the Fortieth Anniversary celebration.

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images for Amtrak
Exhibit train on the platform
at Washington Union Station
At the Monday press conference, Amtrak President & CEO Joseph Boardman, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and National Association of Railroad Passengers Chairman Bob Stewart participated. The dignitaries honored both the occasion and our 40-year employees while standing in front of the Exhibit Train out on the apron at platform 20, just outside Gate G. As we listened to their remarks and clapped for our employees, the business of the station continued on the platforms and the apron beside us. When the speeches were done, the Exhibit Train's horn sounded and we all cheered and clapped even harder.

A few days later, a number of us were helping the Anniversary team to put the finishing touches on the exhibits. (You'd be amazed at what indoor-outdoor mounting tape can do!) The amount of sheer inventiveness, elbow grease and love put into these display cars is staggering, especially when you consider that they all started as baggage cars first made in the 1950s and have been transformed into a fascinating interpretation of Amtrak history.

National Train Day Crowd
Big Crowd on National Train Day at
Washington Union Station
On Friday, May 6th, we held the Employee-only preview for the Exhibit Train so that those who worked out of Washington Union Station could swing by and get a sneak peak without having to stand in the long lines we knew we'd have on National Train Day. We had to marvel at how many memories and smiles the exhibits brought. And sometimes, it's great to know that you did it right: Two dining car attendants stood by a modern place setting carefully arranged--by us who were definitely not “in the craft”--and they approved. "This is perfect," the ladies nodded, and moved on, pleased.

And on National Train Day...well, you've seen the Facebook site! There's not a lot to add to that, except that it was exceptionally well-attended. No, that not right, that makes it sound like a sedate symphony concert. Truth is, the vast floors of Union Station were completely jammed with bouncing crowds of people—young, old, and in between—who were having a blast at all the shows and booths, as well as those hurrying to catch their trains or just standing and marveling at the grandeur of this monumental station.

The Exhibit Train Timeline
The 40-Year timeline
The Exhibit Train got moved to Track 10, up where the commuter trains normally go in and out on weekdays. It had plenty of company on those tracks, with many historic private cars available for the almost endless line of people to enjoy. We stood at our stations throughout the train to welcome a constant stream of visitors and interpret—museum jargon, there—the displays.

The cars are arranged by decade. You start in the 70s and move on up to the 80s in the middle car and then the 90s-2000s in the last car. People really liked the time line and the system maps which greeted them in the beginning of the 1970s car. They’re both a great way to get your arms around forty years of history all at once.

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images for Amtrak
Revisiting the 1970s at breakfast
We saw so many smiles at recognizing the contents of the displays and heard so many very knowledgeable buffs reciting our history with great relish—it was both humbling and inspiring. This wasn’t just some bunch of old stuff to look at. For so many, this was part of their own lives they were recognizing. There were some unexpected laughs, too, for us. We had no idea that so many people would want to have their pictures taken with the 1970s couple at their breakfast table! We just can’t wait to see what will happen at the next stops. Hope to see you soon!


Lorton Terminal, May 14 and 15

Despite the accompanying spring showers, the 40th Anniversary Exhibit Train’s first stop after National Train Day proved popular.

Photo by Matt Donnelly
View of the Auto Train station
and Exhibit Train from above.
Lorton is a pretty unique station, as it is the northern terminal for the Auto Train, the only train in North America to simultaneously carry passengers and their motor vehicles. The Auto Train runs daily between Lorton, a suburb of Washington, D.C., and Sanford, Florida, located amid that state’s popular theme parks and attractions.

When the clouds broke for a few minutes and the sun briefly shone, we clambered up the hill overlooking the rail yard to get some panoramic shots of the Exhibit Train with the Auto Train and the station in the background. The Exhibit Train’s engines looked pretty stellar from a distance, as their bold retro paint scheme really stands out against the vivid greens of the trees and the soft blue skies. Getting down the slippery hill, that’s another story….

Father and son at Lorton
Father and son at Lorton 
Passengers on the Auto Train have to arrive a few hours early in order for their motor vehicles to be loaded onto specially built rail cars. While waiting for the day’s departure, many people strolled over to take a look at the Exhibit Train and its three cars that hold 40 years worth of Amtrak memorabilia including colorful advertisements and model trains. The Auto Train has a loyal customer base, and as I watched the passengers wander through the exhibits, I wondered how many of them remembered some of the items that were now behind glass.

One of the first things that passengers encounter when they step on the train is a female mannequin dressed in a uniform that was worn by on-board staff in the early 1970s—in fact, this uniform has been lent to the Exhibit Train by a former employee who kept it safe and sound for many years. The outfit was designed to feature Amtrak’s corporate colors of red, white, and blue—all in very bright hues that are hard to miss. The red top features Amtrak’s original “inverted arrow” logo as a decorative element on the collar and the center placket (the area down the middle with the buttons). Everyone seems to want a picture with our friendly host, and she definitely stays in good humor although everyone jokes about her “stiff” personality!

Chuggington Depot at Lorton
Chuggington Depot at Lorton
Inside the Lorton Terminal, kids had fun playing in the Chuggington Kids’ Depot where they helped color a “traintastic” birthday card for Amtrak, had their photo taken with Koko, Brewster, and Wilson, and received paper conductor hats (and yes, I saw a few Moms and Dads with hats too…). After playing with the toy trains, the kids really got excited to see and walk through the real thing. Some of the little kids were barely taller than the locomotive’s wheels, so I’m sure those machines were impressive.

Although we had fun in Lorton, the railroad never stops. This week, we’re heading north where we’ll cross the Potomac River, pass the Jefferson Memorial, and enter into the cradle of American railroading: Baltimore (or as the locals say, “Bawlmer”). Hope to see you on Saturday or Sunday in Charm City!

Baltimore, May 21 and 22

Moving up the Northeast Corridor, the next stop was Baltimore's Penn Station on Preakness weekend.

Exhibit Train at Baltimore
Exhibit Train at Baltimore
The Exhibit Train visit to Baltimore felt quiet next to National Train Day at Union Station, but Baltimore’s station has its own charms. This Beaux Arts classical building’s high ceilings and creamy stone and tile interiors and golden woodwork felt spacious and peaceful. The Exhibit Train was right underneath the gates, which sit over the train shed. Stairs or elevator down put one on platform 5, with the parked Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) trains nearby and the Acela and other trains gliding in and out frequently with their normal weekend business. Being Preakness weekend at Pimlico in Baltimore, several parties of race-goers and tourists came up on the Northeast Regional from Washington with me.

Chuggington Depot at Baltimore
Children and parents take a break
at Chuggington Depot
Chuggington Depot, the themed children’s play area, provided a pleasant area near the Customer Service and baggage check office for children to color and play with the wooden train sets while parents could sit nearby on the historic but comfortable oak benches and relax for a moment while waiting for their train.

We also had Operation Lifesaver, NARP and the Reginald Lewis African American Museum there distributing brochures, information and talking to folks.

Most of the visitors to the Exhibit Train during my shift were people waiting to catch trains, although we certainly had some die-hard railfans. This time, I worked in the 1980s car, the one in the middle, which has two particularly fun features: a real engineer’s station—not functional, but you can still work the knobs and switches on this massive steel console—and a display of four actual metal train horns—which looked like the brass section of an orchestra (or is that aluminum?)—with both interpretive panels and four recordings of real trains that were hauntingly evocative of quiet country nights and long journeys.

Operation Lifesaver Table
Operation Lifesaver's display table
One particular group of men was very seriously and quietly studying all the cases, not wanting to ask questions, so I decided to have some fun. When they came into my car, I stepped to the horn display just where they could see me and then pressed the first red button to get the recording to play. The horn sounded its siren call, and I stepped away toward the front of the car without saying a word. A moment later, behind my back, all the horns were played, one after another, over and over. When the group finally moved forward to the next car, did they seem a little less serious?


Philadelphia, May 28 and 29

Spending the weekend in Philadelphia with the Exhibit Train brought back some good memories.

30th Street Station
30th Street Station
I used to live only a few blocks from 30th Street Station, and late at night, when it got quiet, you could clearly hear the sounds of steel wheel against steel rail, and the blowing of horns that echoed softly across the yard and into the neighborhood. Recently, Trains magazine named 30th Street one of the finest stations in the country, noting that the Main Hall retains its original layout and furnishings from when it was completed by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1933.

One of the things we all really enjoy about volunteering on the Exhibit Train is meeting the people who come aboard. Some are new to trains, and have lots of questions about how Amtrak works—where we go, what the cars are like, etc. Veteran train travelers love to share their stories of adventure, and I certainly enjoy traveling vicariously through their memories. I spoke with a couple at length about their recent trip from Virginia to New Jersey—after years of driving back and forth to see a relative, they decided to give the train a try. They took a Northeast Regional to Philadelphia, and then transferred to a New Jersey Transit train bound for Atlantic City. From their excited description, I could tell that they had caught the train-travel bug and we had a fun time exchanging stories.

No more gas pains
No More Gas Pains
While on their layover, they wandered down to Track 1 to take a look at the Exhibit Train, and it was a great opportunity to explain how Amtrak was established by Congress in 1970 to run a national passenger rail system. When we were talking about driving and the price of gas, I led them over to an old advertisement from the 1970s that is still quite relevant today. Produced during that decade’s oil crisis, it endorses train travel as a relaxing and affordable alternative to driving—Amtrak is a “soothing cure-all” that will take care of the pain brought on by high gas prices. Over 40 years, Amtrak has produced lots of colorful posters with illustrations and photographs, and they’re on display throughout the 3 exhibit cars.

Speaking of traveling, this week we also had a colorful display on Trails and Rails that was located next to the Chuggington Kids’ Depot. For over a decade, the National Park Service and Amtrak have worked together to bring the experience of our country’s wondrous natural and historic sites to train travelers. All over the Amtrak network, park rangers and volunteers board our trains to talk to passengers about parks that are close to rail stations—including places such as the Erie Canalway and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. In fact, many of our national parks were first made accessible to the American people via rail.

Well, they say that the railroad never stops—we’ve got to start packing up in Philadelphia so we can move onto Perryville, Maryland, located where the mighty Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay. Hope to see you this weekend!


Harrisburg, June 11 and 12

Pennsylvania’s state capitol, with its dome of vibrant green-glazed terracotta tiles presided over by a gilded figure representing the Commonwealth, was the perfect backdrop for the Exhibit Train in Harrisburg.

Pantagraph and Catenaries
Gary LaChica, Technician, with
the catenary & pantograph
display behind him.
The city of Harrisburg has long been an important railroad center, especially in the days when the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) dominated the industry in the Midwest and Northeast and was considered one of the largest and most powerful corporations on Earth. In the 1930s, the PRR undertook an extensive program to electrify its busiest East Coast lines. For decades, trains heading west from Philadelphia had to switch from an electric to a diesel locomotive at Harrisburg, where electrification ended.

Visitors to the Exhibit Train can see how electrification works today through the mock-up of the catenary/pantograph system used to power our Acela Express train sets. The catenaries are the metal wires that carry the electric current that is then drawn to the locomotive through the pantograph. Usually we only see catenaries and pantographs way above us, so the chance to eye the parts up close is a rare treat.

This weekend we were joined by colleagues from the Pennsylvania Tourism Office and the Harrisburg Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society (NRHS). Similar to many states, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is gearing up to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. To help people better understand how those on the home front, including African American patriots, felt and understood the impacts of the war and emancipation, living history interpreters in period dress strolled through the station and along the platform to tell stories and show people artifacts from war time.

Recreationists and Sign
Visitors in period costume next to
the Amtrak logo on board the
Exhibit Train.
The Harrisburg Chapter of the NRHS, chartered in 1959, adheres to the national organization’s goals of supporting railroad related educational and preservation projects. A dozen members came out to help us staff the Exhibit Train, and they also opened up their own GG1 Electric Locomotive and Cabin Car to visitors. Just a few blocks away, the chapter operates the Harris Switch Tower Museum. Completed in 1930, the tower was the main control point for all east-west passenger and freight traffic that came through the city. Railroad staff monitored a large model board that displayed all the tracks and showed the positions of the trains as they approached the city. Throwing various switches, those trains could be guided onto the correct tracks to keep the traffic running smoothly. No longer in active service to the railroad, the tower has been restored through countless volunteer hours. A simulation programmed with PRR schedules from the 1940s allows visitors to try their hand at guiding “virtual trains” onto the correct tracks, which is harder than it looks!

Well, they say that the railroad never stops—which means that we’re on our way east to the heart of Amish Country for the next two weekends where we’ll be open to the public at the Strasburg Rail Road. Considered the nation’s oldest short-line railroad, it’s been operating as a popular tourist excursion line for more than half-a-century. See you there!


Strasburg, Pa., June 18 and 19, 25 and 26

We met a large and enthusiastic crowd at the Strasburg rail festival last weekend and are all set for another great weekend in the heart of beautiful Amish Country.
Locomotive #406 at Strasburg, Pa.
Exhibit Train at Strasburg
Locomotive 822 and Thomas

Locomotive #406 comes to Strasburg, Pa.

Exhibit Train at Strasburg

Locomotive #822 and Thomas

Exhibit Train as Festival Booth
Strasburg Crowd
Two Hostesses
The Exhibit Train store
comes outdoors to
the festival

The Strasburg crowd

Two hostesses on board

Photo by Steve Ostrowski
Greeting a Young Visitor
Photo by Steve Ostrowski

A substantial crowd at Strasburg

Greeting a young visitor

Another enthusiastic young visitor

Springfield, Mass., July 9 and 10

Springfield brought us to Massachusetts, one of our first state partners, in this city in the Connecticut River Valley.

Diner Interior
1976 Diner car interior.
The china will be familiar to
visitors to the Exhibit Train!
Massachusetts joined with us in 1972 to support rail service from Boston to Springfield via Worcester. Springfield remains a busy rail hub that serves a number of Amtrak trains—the Lake Shore Limited, Vermonter, Northeast Regionals, and the “Shuttle” that runs through the Connecticut River Valley between the city and New Haven. Freight trains from CSX, Connecticut Southern and PanAm Railways also ply the busy corridor through Springfield, and railfans gather at the station on weekends to photograph their favorite locomotives, record and tally the types of freight and passenger cars, and discuss all things railroading. Throughout the weekend, we spied freight trains that briefly paused so that their crews could snap a few shots of the Exhibit Train.

With the sun shining and a gentle breeze blowing, I helped staff a table on the platform with a selection of brochures and booklets about Amtrak routes and vacation packages. Many people stopped by to ask, “How can I get from here to x?” Pulling out the national system map, we traced possible routes and looked at the timetables. For those heading to the West Coast, the gorgeous scenery was paramount in choosing the right train—with mountains, prairies, and deserts, there’s certainly something for everyone! Our stop partners included the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Big E (the Eastern States Exposition), and their representatives handed out information on what to do and see in the area.

Amfleet interior, Ann Owens Collection
Early Amfleet passenger cars had
bright red seats.
I spent most of Sunday walking through the Display Cars answering questions and chatting with the visitors. Although I have gone through the Exhibit Train dozens of times, I always notice something new. It’s said that quality is in the details, and that thought struck me as I studied the seats that are on display. While seats may not sound too exciting, their coverings definitely are. Changing patterns and colors represent shifts in fashion that captured the mood of each decade.

In the 1970s, passengers on western long distance routes got cozy in seats with “Southwestern” motifs that included geometric patterns in rich earth tones such as browns, oranges and tans, with a little blue thrown in for an added visual punch. In the 1980s, seats were covered in a sleek combo of leather and striped fabric in powerful reds that demanded attention. Cars used in California were redone in the 1990s to include seats that incorporated relaxing blue tones and a wave pattern that represents the ocean—rather appropriate on seaside routes such as the San Diegan (now the Surfliner) and the Coast Starlight. It’s these little details—often unnoticed—that give the various routes their distinctive character.

Well, it’s said that the railroad never stops—which means that we’re on our way south to New Haven where Amtrak meets the busy Metro North and Shore Line East commuter railroads. Can’t wait to visit the Elm City—see you there from 10-4 on Saturday and Sunday!


New Haven, Conn., July 16 and 17

A visit to New Haven Union Station is always fun. Not only is the waiting room really beautiful—huge arched windows and lots of gilding—but the wood banquettes are topped with model trains that depict various locomotives, cars, and color schemes used by the predecessor New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad.

New Haven station interior
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.

APD dog demo NHV
Roxy demonstrates her vapor-
scenting skills
An 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.


New London, Conn., July 23 and 24

I think I’ll remember New London forever due to the odyssey involved in getting there. New London’s amazing station, designed by noted architect Henry Hobson Richardson, is located only a few hundred feet from the Thames River, which provided a constant and comforting breeze. Our stop in town coincided with a local children’s festival which brought in lots of youngsters, many of whom enjoyed the Chuggington Kids’ Depot area with its toy train layouts.

I think I’ll remember New London forever due to the odyssey involved in getting there—it included Amtrak, the New York City subway, Metro-North commuter railroad, and a taxi. In case you missed the news, most of the trains on the Northeast Corridor were delayed on Friday, July 22nd. Extremely high temperatures like those measured at DC’s National Airport (105 with a heat index of 121) can cause the steel rails to expand. Safety has to come first, so slow orders were issued. Outside of New Haven, Conn, a truck left a bridge and struck the catenaries—the metal wires that conduct the electrical current that powers the trains. Therefore, all trains north of New York were cancelled after about 4pm as crews worked to restore service.

After exiting the Northeast Regional in New York, I became thankful that the metropolitan area has an excellent transportation system, for I put it to the test. From Penn Station I hopped on the subway to Grand Central Terminal, where a family of Dutch tourists tagged along with me. Traversing the subterranean passages, we eventually made our way to the stunning Main Hall where the ceiling’s golden star charts mesmerized us. We parted ways and I studied the departure board before deciding I could make the 9:07 Metro-North to New Haven. No one seemed to know if the commuter Shore Line East Railroad between New Haven and New London was up and running, but I thought I’d chance it. Pulling into New Haven around 11:30, I again studied my options, and decided that a taxi was the most cost-effective way to go, especially after bargaining down the price. By 1 in the morning, I was at my destination, 11 hours after it all began.

The oppressive heat and humidity continued on into the weekend. Luckily, New London’s amazing station, designed by noted architect Henry Hobson Richardson, is located only a few hundred feet from the Thames River, which provided a constant and comforting breeze. In southern New England, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many station agents, including a few who are retired or have been with Amtrak for decades. I think I tend to romanticize the life of a station master—being part of the community, watching over the passengers, and caring for the building—but I really like to hear about changing technologies as well as improvements that have been made to the depots, especially the historic ones. The former lead ticket agent from New London came to visit, and I also met the gentleman in charge of Berlin up on the Springfield Line.

Our stop in town coincided with a local children’s festival which brought in lots of youngsters, many of whom enjoyed the Chuggington Kids’ Depot area with its toy train layouts. Others stopped to color in part of the huge Amtrak birthday card, and I later eyed “Feliz Cumpleaños!” scrawled across the top corner. I finally mastered how to fold the junior conductor hats so that the visor comes out right—it was definitely needed to keep the sun at bay. Throughout the day, we all visited the festival to explore the booths. From the platform, I spied a dancing spray of water that beckoned me like a siren’s call.

Right next to Chuggington was a detailed model railroad display put up by members of the Mohegan Pequot Model Railroad Club, which also elicited excited comments from the kids. I was glad to see Northeast Regional and Acela Express trains gliding around the track. On the other side of the grand waiting room, a representative of the Eastern Regional Tourism District of Connecticut wisely handed out brochures for a “Sundae Drive” to the area’s best ice cream shops; unfortunately, the ice cream containers on the table were just for show….and empty

Like they say, the railroad never stops. We got everything squared away on the train and began the journey to Providence. See you there in the shadow of the state house dome!

Providence, R.I., July 30 and 31

Creating a safe environment for passengers and employees has always been a top priority for Amtrak, so in Providence we were happy to be joined by folks from Rhode Island Operation Lifesaver.
Train at Providence Mystic Valley RS Providence Riverfront

Exhibit Train at Providence, R.I.

 Mystic Valley Railway Society Table 

Providence waterfront 

Located at the base of the State House grounds, Providence station is only a few blocks from the popular Waterplace Park along the Woonasquatucket River. The park includes a promenade, boat landings, amphitheater, sculpture, and fountains. On select summer evenings, the river comes alive during WaterFire, an art installation that features braziers cradling flickering bonfires just above the water’s surface.

While the Exhibit Train was parked down on the tracks, our station stop partners were set up under the elegant, shallow dome that seems to hover effortlessly over the waiting room. We were pleased to have the help of the Mystic Valley Railway Society, a group of rail enthusiasts who gather together to sponsor guest speakers, watch railroad-related films, and take excursion trips across New England. One of the most popular members of the crew is a puppet owned by Billy Manning. Outfitted as a conductor in striped overalls and hat, the puppet also wears spectacles and holds a red lantern to guide the way. Volunteering on the train, the duo happily answered visitors’ questions and pointed out items in the display cases. One wonders at the stories they could tell….

We were also joined by Rhode Island Operation Lifesaver (RIOL), the state chapter of a national railroad safety program that began in Idaho in 1972. Back then, there were approximately 12,000 highway-rail grade crossing collisions per year, and Idaho had a high accident rate. In response, the governor’s office, in partnership with the Idaho Peace Officers and the Union Pacific Railroad, sponsored a public awareness campaign called "Operation Lifesaver" (OL). Although meant to be a one-time deal, Idaho’s efforts were shown to have positively changed the public mindset about how to safely interact with tracks, rail crossings, and trains, and the state’s accident rate significantly decreased.

Building on this success, programs were started around the country, and Operation Lifesaver, Inc. was founded as a national, non-profit organization sponsored by the Railway Supply Institute, Amtrak, and the Association of American Railroads. OL has developed a three prong approach towards railroad safety. Education is provided by the volunteers involved in OL; engineering by the professionals who are responsible for improving and maintaining the crossings; and enforcement by local and state law enforcement officials and railroad police officers who enforce the laws at crossings and along the railroad right-of-ways.

RIOL members are trained to provide the official OL railroad safety class, and they give presentations at fairs and school assemblies. Enforcement is provided by officers from the Amtrak Police Department. Many RIOL volunteers are also members of the “Friends of Kingston Station,” a group that watches over the nearby Amtrak station at Kingston, RI. The Friends operate the Rhode Island Railroad Museum, teach children about railroad safety through the OL program, mentor an emerging “Young Railroaders” club, and generally keep an eye on the station in order to create a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

Well, as they say, the railroad never stops. Next weekend we head to Boston, one of America’s oldest and most storied cities. Drop by to say hello and tour the Exhibit Train at beautiful South Station!

Billy Manning and Connor
Amtrak Police Officers
Operation Lifesaver Table

Billy Manning and Connor

Amtrak Police Officers also staff
Operation Lifesaver displays, such as
this one at the New London stop.

Operation Lifesaver Table


Boston, Mass., August 6 and 7

For many people, summer is the perfect time to escape on a vacation and relax for a few days. Vintage route guides and vacation brochures on the Exhibit Train provide an interesting glimpse into our changing travel habits over the past 40 years.
Boston's South station is a busy place
Hanging sign in Boston South's main hall
Partners at the Exhibit Train Stop

Boston's South station is a busy place.

Hanging sign in Boston South's main hall.

Partners at the Exhibit Train stop

Greeting visitors at the Exhibit Train in Boston
Two of our Amtrak volunteers, Nicole and Colin, smile for the camera
A buff's-eye view of Boston's famous Solari board

Greeting visitors
at the Exhibit Train in Boston

Two of our Amtrak volunteers,
Nicole and Colin, smile for the camera

A buff's-eye view of Boston's
famous Solari board

On just about any day, South Station’s Main Hall buzzes like a beehive, and on Saturday and Sunday we found ourselves at its humming center. Amid the cafes and shops, we set up a table with Amtrak Vacations booklets, timetables, route guides, and other trip planning materials. We were also joined by numerous stop partners, including the Mystic Valley Railway Society, Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts, Operation Lifesaver, and the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Those first two groups help promote America’s rich rail heritage by offering talks and presentations on railroad history. Mass Bay also arranges rail excursions throughout the region, and many of its tours include vintage locomotives and cars that offer a glimpse into the evolution of rail travel. It’s always inspiring to see rail fans come together to learn from one another, have a good time, and share their passion with the general public.

Boston is a perfect base for a rail enthusiast—as a major international port and financial center, it has long been a transportation hub. Just walking through the principal entrance of South Station is an uplifting experience, for the building is definitely one of the most beautiful and impressive rail facilities on the East Coast. Hanging from the ceiling of the Main Hall, the departure/arrival board beckons one to cities near and far.

How to decide where to go? Some of my favorite pieces on the Exhibit Train are the route guides. Beautiful drawings and gorgeous cover photos conjure up images of jagged, snow-capped mountain ranges, sunny and relaxing palm-lined beaches, lush farm fields with abundant cornstalks and golden wheat, and huge, remote desert landscapes. Far removed from the tedious worries and concerns of daily life, they are escapes made accessible by the steel rails.

Design aficionados will be drawn to the guides’ various color palettes, fonts, and layouts that reflect changing tastes and design theory over four decades. Rail fans will have fun trying to figure out exactly where some of the train shots were taken and identifying the locomotives and cars. Others will find it interesting to see how the routes have changed—which cities have been added to the schedules, and which ones dropped? What onboard services and comforts are advertised, and did the emphasis shift from one period to another? As for me, the guides just encourage my penchant for daydreaming about the next adventure, wherever it may take me. Not knowing for certain leaves room for mystery and surprise—anticipation is half the fun.

It’s said that the railroad never stops, which means that we’re on our way north to Freeport, Maine, a community eagerly awaiting the return of intercity passenger rail after more than half-a-century. See you there near the shores of Casco Bay!

Popular Eastern Routes Guide, 1973
Cresecent Guide, 1979
Sunset Limited Guide, 1973
National Limited Guide, 19773

"Popular Eastern Trains"
Guide from 1973

Cresecent Guide
from 1979

Sunset Limited Guide
from 1973

National Limited Guide
from 1977


Freeport, Maine, August 13 and 14

Freeport proved to be one of our busiest stops yet with almost 2,000 visitors, many of whom are excited about the planned expansion of passenger rail from Portland to Brunswick via Freeport.
Arriving in Freeport
Welcome to Freeport, Maine
Exhibit Train this way

Arriving in Freeport

Welcome to Freeport, Maine!

Exhibit Train this way

We shared the space with other exhibitors
40th Team at Our Table
Pan Am Railways vintage office cars

We shared the space with
other exhibitors

Three of the Exhibit Train team
at our table

Pan Am Railways' vintage office cars
were attached to the exhibit
cars in Freeport

At Freeport, we were happy to be joined by volunteers from TrainRiders/Northeast (TRN) and Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA), two groups that have been vital to the establishment of the popular Downeaster service linking the towns of southern Maine and coastal New Hampshire with the greater Boston metropolitan area. Towards the back of the Exhibit Train, a few of the display cases contain memorabilia from the first day of Downeaster service.

Visitors were also lucky to have the opportunity to walk through two vintage Office cars owned by Pan Am Railways, over whose tracks the Downeaster runs in Maine. Dressed in an elegant blue livery, the cars took on a beautiful sheen as the sun cast down its rays. TRN members, many of whom volunteer as hosts on the Downeaster in order to provide travelers with information on the towns and sites along the route, were kind enough to donate their time to help staff the Exhibit Train.

The 116 mile Downeaster route is financially supported by the federal government and the state of Maine. NNEPRA manages the budget, contracts, promotion, and customer services while Amtrak operates the train. Popular with commuters, students, and vacationers, the Downeaster ranks as one of Amtrak’s fastest growing services.

As they say, the railroad never stops. After enjoying a steamed lobster dinner overlooking Casco Bay, we headed inland to Burlington, Vt., where we’ll be parked at the head of Main Street right by the shore of Lake Champlain. See you this weekend!


Burlington, Vt., August 20 and 21

Many Amtrak routes take riders deep into the beautiful landscapes that define America, and our visit to the Green Mountain State certainly lived up to all expectations.
Connecticut River Sunset
Sculptures along the bike path
The bike path led many people right to our doors

Sunset on
Lake Champlain

Sculptures along the bike path
in Burlington

The bike path led many people
right to our doors

A train trip through Vermont really can’t be beat for its views of gentle hills covered in trees and colorful wildflowers, picture-perfect towns gathered round white-steepled churches, and lush farm and dairy lands whose many products include organic vegetables and rich milk that is transformed into well-known varieties of cheddar cheese. The Vermonter heads up the Connecticut River before cutting a path across the state to reach Lake Champlain, upon whose eastern shore Burlington sits.

The Exhibit Train was parked just a few hundred feet from the water, where at twilight, as the sun sank below the Adirondack Mountains, it washed the sky in vivid and brilliant pinks, oranges, reds, and purples—every shade your mind can conjure, and then some. A popular lakeside bike and walking path lined with playful marble sculptures parallels the tracks through downtown, and it led many cyclists and strolling families right to our front door. While we kept an eye on their bikes, many took a look at the exhibits or headed inside the former Union Station to play with the toy trains in the Chuggington Kids’ Depot.

Children and adults alike enjoyed the model railroad set up by the Northwestern Vermont Model Railroad Society. Trains—including the Vermonter—rushed past grazing cows and shoppers strolling down Main Street with their packages in tow. For kids, the opportunity to see this magical miniature world and then walk through a real, full sized train made for many smiles, and a bit of awe. On board, they had fun with the signal display, which is placed close to the floor so that it’s hands-on. Turning the knobs, children can change the pattern of the signal lights to tell an engineer whether to slow down, stop, or proceed. On the sign up above, the various configurations of lights and their meanings are explained in greater detail.

On Saturday we were also joined by a talented artist from the Birds of Vermont Museum, an organization that nurtures an appreciation of birds and their habitats through displays of exquisitely carved and painted wooden models—the collection is up to almost 500 specimens. Using a bar of soap, the carver whittled a cardinal in honor of our train of the same name that travels through states including Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky where the cardinal is the state bird.

Volunteers from the Champlain Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, the Central Vermont Railway Historical Society, and the Rutland Railroad Historical Society—all of which strive to promote local and regional railroad history through public presentations and educational outreach—were graciously on hand to help staff the display cars and dole out information about their clubs’ activities. Over at the Amtrak table, stacked with national timetables, route schedules, and vacation guides, Al Villa, one of the caretakers of the nearby Essex Junction station, provided superior customer service by calling the reservations center to help a visitor buy a southbound ticket for the next day!

Well, as they say, the railroad never stops. This week we’re headed southwest to Albany-Rensselaer where Radio Disney will be broadcasting live on Saturday. Come by between 10 and 4 to see the Exhibit Train and say hello!

Visitors to the booth at the Burlington stop
Chugging Along at Burlington

Visitors to the booth at the
Burlington stop

Chugging Along at Burlington


Albany, N.Y., August 27 and 28

American railroads have crossed mountains, bridged streams and rivers, and conquered seemingly endless prairies and deserts to join together the nation’s diverse regions and peoples. But even the railroad is subject to the forces of nature.

Inside the Albany station
Our stop partners inside the
Albany station.
Although we had planned to be open to the public in Albany-Rensselaer all weekend, we decided to cut it back to Saturday due to expected bad weather resulting from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene. As we often say in railroading, safety has to come first.

We had a great turnout Saturday, which also marked the first time that a very special “National Parks Passport Stamp” was issued at one of our events. The National Park Service (NPS) created the Exhibit Train stamp to commemorate our special Trails and Rails partnership (T&R). All over the Amtrak network, park rangers and volunteers board our trains to talk to passengers about parks that are close to rail stations—including places such as the Erie Canalway and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site.

Albany-Rensselaer is on the route of the Adirondack, which hosts two T&R programs. One operates from Croton-Harmon to Hudson, New York, and is based out of Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site. The other program operates from Albany to Rouses Point, New York and is based out of Saratoga National Historical Park. At every stop, we keep plenty of T&R brochures in stock at the Amtrak table.

As their name might imply, the National Parks Passport Stamps resemble cancellation stamps such as those found in a passport. Each one shows information specific to a particular park, as well as the date it was received. Visitors to our national parks can collect a stamp at each site they go to, and many people keep their stamps together in the official "Passport to Your National Parks" booklet. The unique Amtrak stamp in green ink reads: “Amtrak 40th Anniversary Exhibit/ Date/ National Park Service.”

In the morning, a little girl dropped her doll…and it just happened to fall through the gap between the train and the platform. Seeing it resting down below on the track bed, she couldn’t hold back her small tears. Luckily, Trainmaster Steve Ostrowski came to the rescue. Opening the trap (the folding set of stairs used to get into the car), he was able to walk down, retrieve the doll, and place it in the hands of its very happy owner.

The Albany Radio Disney crew
The local Radio Disney crew was
there most of the day.
This weekend we were also joined by the Albany N-Trak Model Railroad Club, which set up a great display in the main waiting room where a giant window frames a view to downtown Albany. Volunteers from New York Operation Lifesaver were on hand to talk to visitors about safety around railroads, and two passenger rail advocacy organizations, the National Association of Railroad Passengers and the Empire State Passengers Association, distributed materials. For most of the day, the local Radio Disney crew was also broadcasting live from the station, and set up shop near the Chuggington Kids’ Depot.

It’s said that the railroad never stops. The Exhibit Train survived the storm, and this weekend we’re headed down to Scranton, Pennsylvania to take part in the popular Railfest. Hosted by Steamtown National Historic Site, the festival highlights the era of steam railroading.


Steamtown National Historic Site, September 3 & 4

In the 19th century, steam railroads bound together America from coast-to-coast. Today, this vivid era in our nation’s history is on display at Scranton’s Steamtown National Historic Site.
Scranton Special at Whitney Point, N.Y.
Scranton Special at Tully, N.Y.
Engine 822 faces a steam locomotive on the turntable

Very rare mileage: The Exhibit Train (Whitney Point, N.Y.) became the Scranton Special for the trip to Steamtown.

Very rare mileage: No Amtrak train had ever passed this way before ( Tully, N.Y.).

Engine 822 faces a steam locomotive on the turntable at Steamtown.

Amtrak's Joe McHugh serves as Grand Marshall for the festivities
Train horn display
Amtrak and steamtown engineers on the steam locomotive

Amtrak's Joe McHugh (left) serves as Grand Marshall for the festivities.

The train horn display on the exhibit train. Please press the red buttons.

Amtrak and steamtown engineers on the steam locomotive.

Railfest, held at Steamtown National Historic Site, is a much anticipated annual event that celebrates everything to do with the steam railroad era. Throughout the year, the park arranges exhibits and lectures, locomotive shop demonstrations, and excursion train rides, but for Railfest, additional locomotives and rolling stock of all types are brought in for display and exploration. It was great to have the Exhibit Train there because just as Amtrak is celebrating its 40th Anniversary, Steamtown is also commemorating an important milestone this fall: 25 years of educating the American people about our steam railroading heritage.

The two-day event kicked off with an opening ceremony in which Amtrak’s Vice President of Government Affairs and Corporate Communications, Joe McHugh, had the honor of serving as the Grand Marshal. Parked just north of the old Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad round house that is part of the museum complex, the Exhibit Train was the first and last thing seen by visitors. Many lifelong rail enthusiasts come to Scranton to take part in Railfest. The rail fan community is known for its diverse interests—some people collect items such as old railroad lanterns, dinner menus, or schedules, while others focus on photographing and filming trains or railroad infrastructure such as viaducts, tunnels, and stations.

Enthusiasts of air and electric horns find an area all their own on the Exhibit Train. Horns are generally mounted to locomotives, and their design and sound have changed over the decades. A trained ear can detect subtle variations in the instruments’ harmonies that allow a true rail buff to place a horn within a specific time period and with a particular manufacturer. Do different tones elicit distinct reactions or emotions? What adjustment to the harmony takes a horn from an assertive to a plaintive cry? How does the sound change as it travels through a hemmed-in mountain valley versus an open prairie? Many horn aficionados debate these questions by recording the instruments in active service and by even collecting and restoring old models.

You don’t have to be an expert to appreciate or have fun with our hands-on display. Next to each horn, you can push a red button to hear its harmony, which is also written out in musical notes. Those in the know can test their knowledge by closing their eyes and determining the specifics of each horn. For many kids, the excitement comes in pressing all the buttons at once, whereas for me, my imagination wanders to a cool moonlit evening, the horn’s tune echoing across the night as my train glides through the hushed countryside.

To complement the Exhibit Train and add to the festivities, Amtrak Police also attended the event. A bomb detection K-9 team performed demonstrations to show audiences how the officers and their canine companions work together to identify and investigate suspicious articles. In the museum auditorium, visitors were able to catch part of our specially commissioned 40th Anniversary DVD. And since we were at an historic site run by the National Park Service, a Trails and Rails representative was on hand to explain the program and distribute the popular, limited edition National Parks Passport Cancellation Stamp created for the Exhibit Train.

Well, it’s said that the railroad never stops, and for now, our East Coast tour has come to an end as we head to the Midwest for the next couple of months. This weekend, come out and say hello as we cross the mighty Mississippi River for our visit to America’s “Gateway to the West”—St. Louis.

Viewing the Amtrak 40th DVD
K-9 team demo
Engine 406 and the Exhibit Train at Steamtown

The Amtrak 40th DVD viewing in the Steamtown auditorium

After the K-9 team demonstration, questions

Engine 406 and the Exhibit Train at Steamtown


St. Louis, Mo., September 10 and 11

Long shaped by the Mississippi River, St. Louis also has its fair share of railroad history; therefore, it was a great place to start the Midwestern leg of our tour.
Exhibit Train Arrives at St. Louis Gateway Station
The famous St. Louis Gateway Arch
Greeting Visitors in the Breezeway

The Exhibit Train Arrives at the
St. Louis Gateway Station

Taking in the famous St. Louis Gateway Arch.

Greeting Visitors in the Breezeway.

Welcome to the Exhibit Train!
Getting on board in St. Louis
Old and new soaring togethere

Welcome to the Exhibit Train!

Getting on board in St. Louis.

Old and new soaring together.

The waning days of summer bring change to our lives: big yellow school buses make their rounds, the pace of life seems to pick up, and a crisp coolness permeates the night air. The Exhibit Train bid farewell to the Northeast and set a new course to enjoy fall in the Midwest. What better way to celebrate the move westward than to have the famous Gateway Arch as our backdrop in St. Louis? Walking through the first Display Car, a careful observer might spot the memorial—then only a decade old—on the front cover of a 1977 brochure for the National Limited, an early Amtrak train that ran between New York and Kansas City via St. Louis. After we wrapped up Saturday afternoon, we took a ride to the top of the arch to enjoy the spectacular views of the Mississippi River Valley.

National Limited Guide, 1977
National Limited
Guide from 1977
We had a great crew helping us run the event at the recently opened Gateway Transportation Center, an intermodal facility located a few blocks southeast of the former Union Station. About half of the volunteers were drawn from the Trails and Rails program based out of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Most days, they hop on board the Lincoln Service between St. Louis and Springfield, Ill. to talk with riders about topics including Presidents Lincoln and Grant, regional American Indian groups, Route 66, and the Louisiana Purchase. They use their extensive knowledge to tailor their presentation to the audience.

Many of the other volunteers can often be found one stop away in the charming town of Kirkwood, Mo. They are part of a volunteer group that staffs the community’s picturesque stone station, which was built in 1893 and features a prominent curving bay with a turret. Ties to the railroad have always been strong, and the town takes its name from James Pugh Kirkwood, once the chief engineer of the Pacific Railroad. Station volunteers meet and greet passengers, beautify the landscaping, provide tourist information, and run a lending library for regular train riders. In 2004, Amtrak recognized the group’s work with a special “Champion of the Rails” award.

Near the Exhibit Train, representatives from the St. Louis Museum of Transportation were on hand to distribute information about their institution, which sprawls over more than 100 acres southwest of downtown. Its all-encompassing collection includes locomotives, automobiles, buses, streetcars, aircraft, horse-drawn vehicles, and riverboats that are used to explain changes in transportation technology and design. Railroad enthusiasts often marvel at Union Pacific #4006; known as a "Big Boy," it is one of the largest steam locomotives ever built.

It’s said that the railroad never stops, especially true when it comes to keeping the equipment running smoothly. We’ll be at our own Beech Grove, Ind. maintenance facility this coming weekend for a special employee event, but hope to see you on the 24th and 25th in Galesburg, Ill.!


Beech Grove, Indiana, September 16

After four months of traveling from city-to-city, the Exhibit Train was welcomed with open arms during a special employees-only event in Beech Grove, Ind.
Exhibit Train comes to Beech Grove
Beech Grove in the 1970s
F40 Locomotive being repaired at Beech Grove

The Exhibit Train Arrives comes
to the Beech Grove maintenance facility

Beech Grove from the 1970s, converting
Amtrak's fleet to electric cars.

F40 Locomotive being repaired at Beech Grove
in the 1980s

Welcome to the Exhibit Train!
Temporary tattoos were popular!
Another tattoo customer

Welcome to the Exhibit Train!

Temporary tattoos were popular!
Steven Ostrowski applies one for a
small visitor in the train's cafe/store car.

Another tattoo customer.

Beech Grove, Ind. is home to Amtrak’s primary maintenance facility. Within the numerous shop buildings, skilled employees work to ensure that the locomotives and cars in our fleet are maintained to the highest performance and safety standards. Typical tasks include the regular inspection of engines; refurbishment of passenger car interiors; replacement of wheel sets; and the painting of car exteriors in the latest livery, also known as a “phase” (the Exhibit Train is painted in the historic Phase III, introduced in 1979).

Safety is always important on the railroad, especially when dealing with large and complex machines such as those found in the shops. Like all Amtrak facilities, Beech Grove participates in Safe-to-Safer, a program aimed at creating a safer work environment. Collaboration and the evaluation of feedback encourage co-workers to identify best safety practices and then consider ways to spread them across the company. Driven by the commitment of its employees, Amtrak aims to be the worldwide leader in safety in the transportation industry.

For the Exhibit Train, this stop was a sort of homecoming, as the locomotives and ex-Santa Fe Railroad baggage cars were modified at Beech Grove last winter to serve as our traveling museum. It was fun to see employees going through the train with their friends and families, pointing out specific projects—such as the installation of a window or an air conditioning unit—that they had completed to get the Exhibit Train ready for its nation-wide tour. In the seating area of the old Bistro Car, now the retail store, kids and adults alike enjoyed the impromptu “tattoo parlor.” Their arms, foreheads, cheeks, and hands were emblazoned with washable tattoos, the most popular one being Amtrak’s first logo, the “inverted arrow” in bold shades of red, white, and blue. Outside, grills were set up for a delicious barbeque lunch.

The shops at Beech Grove have served four railroads since they were constructed more than a century ago by the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railway—commonly referred to as the “Big Four”—which ran a network stretching across the heart of the Midwest into Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Erected between 1904 and 1908, the facility was the company’s major repair shop for steam locomotives and passenger and freight cars, and also contained an extensive freight rail yard. Period railroad magazines covered the construction with interest, marveling at the design of the two-story machine and erecting shop whose gigantic windows allowed natural light to flood the interior. Surrounding this important building were the smaller coach, paint, boiler, and wheel shops.

Although acquired by the New York Central Railway (NYC) in 1906, the Big Four operated as an independent entity until 1922. The shops remained in the hands of the NYC until it merged with the rival Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968 to form Penn Central, whose tenure was short lived as it declared bankruptcy in 1970. Amtrak began using the Beech Grove shops a few years later, and gained complete control over the complex in 1986. The community’s ties to the NYC live on in its streets, many of which carry the names of major cities—Albany, Cleveland, Detroit—that were served by the railroad and are now part of Amtrak’s national network.

Beech Grove’s rich history and place in American railroading continues down to the present day. Talking with Amtrak folks, you realize that some of the younger workers are the sons of current and former employees—love of the railroad seems to run in the blood. Senior team members act as mentors and pass on their accumulated skill sets to the next generation. Many have great stories to share about how railroad technology has changed over the decades, and some remember Amtrak’s early days. For them, the Exhibit Train really is a walk down memory lane, and they take pride in knowing that the displays demonstrate to the public how far the company has come in 40 years.

As the workers of Beech Grove definitely know, the railroad never stops. With good wishes from our fellow Amtrakers, we packed up again and set our sights on Galesburg, Ill., a community known far-and-wide for its summer Railroad Days festival.


Galesburg, September 24 and 25

Located at the crossing of storied passenger and freight lines, Galesburg is a town that truly takes pride in its rail heritage.
Illinois Dignitaries Cutting the Ribbon
Galesburg prepared for the Exhibit Train
Greeting Visitors in the Breezeway

Galesburg Mayor Mayor Salvador Garza
with Thomas Carper, Chairman of the
Amtrak Board of Directors, and State Representatives
Don Moffitt and Rich Morthland
all cut the ribbon to open the museum train.

Galesburg prepared
for the Exhibit Train.

Mini-train rides celebrate
the Exhibit Train's arrival.

Glancing at a map, you can quickly tell that Galesburg is at the center of a lot of rail action. Two long distance Amtrak trains—the Southwest Chief and the California Zephyr—stop in the city on their runs between Chicago and California, as do the more frequent corridor trains that are part of the local Illinois Service. One of those, the Carl Sandburg, is named after a native son who spent a lifetime exploring and celebrating the American spirit through poetry, biography, and folklore. Passengers milling about the station were surprised to find the Exhibit Train parked on the private car track, and many walked over to take a look.

The morning kicked off with a special reception and preview for local and state legislators and rail advocates, many of whom have worked to increase Amtrak service and provide Illinoisans with expanded travel options. Around 10 am, Mayor Salvador Garza was joined for an official ribbon cutting ceremony by Thomas Carper, Chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors, and by State Representatives Don Moffitt and Rich Morthland. With a quick snip of the gleaming scissors and a round of applause from the audience, the train opened to the public.

Although the Exhibit Train has been traveling the rails since its launch on National Train Day back in May, we continue to add new-found treasures and explanatory signage. One of my favorite displays includes a mannequin dressed in a jumpsuit with a suitcase at his feet. Wrapped around the handle is a bunch of brightly colored, vintage luggage tags. Each one is marked with a destination point, which is indicated by a three letter code. For example, if the bag was going to Galesburg, the tag would read “GBB.”

1970s: Baggage Handlers loading from a cart.
1970s Flashback: Baggage handlers
loading from an old-fashioned cart.
Note the mail bags.
When you first start working for Amtrak, you realize that everyone uses these station codes in their writing: “We had to go from WAS to CIN but along the way we stopped for a meeting in AKY…” With more than 500 destinations across the country, it can be terribly confusing for the uninitiated! Luckily for Exhibit Train visitors, there’s a handy sign above the suitcase that explains how the codes are determined. A lot of them simply use the first three letters of the city name: MAC (Macomb, Il.); some employ the first and last letters: DQN (Du Quoin, Il.); and others are drawn from the name of the station building: NYP (New York Penn Station). I’ve gotten better with them over time, but all those towns in California that start with “San” or “Santa” are still a mess in my head! To see if it makes sense, the sign includes a little quiz where you have to match a few codes with the right places.

The Downstate crowd’s warmth and excitement was definitely contagious. We had such a great turnout because many residents recognize the important roles that railroads have had in shaping their community. The first railroad to reach Galesburg was the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, which came through in 1854. Townspeople pitched in to help us staff the Exhibit Train, including a member of the City Council and employees of the F&M Bank. In addition, the National Railroad Hall of Fame and the Galesburg Historical Society set up tables and distributed information about their activities.

Galesburg is also a hub in the national freight railroad network, and throughout the day, freight trains rumbled passed us. South of downtown, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad maintains a large hump classification yard. Here freight cars are processed and sorted by geographic destination to form trains. Pushed over a hump in the yard, gravity carries the cars to the correct track where they are coupled. Next to the Amtrak station, the Galesburg Railroad Museum maintains an interesting collection of railroad artifacts and rolling stock such as a Railway Post Office car. In early summer, rail fans from far and near gather for the town’s popular Railroad Days festival.

Well, as they say, the railroad never stops—which is definitely true of historic Chicago Union Station where we’ll be this coming weekend. The bustling nexus of Amtrak’s long distance routes, every day it sees off cross-country trains whose destinations include Boston, Washington, D.C, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Seattle.


Chicago, October 1 and 2

A celebration of 40 years, model trains and more in the windy city. Come vote for your favorite livery scheme!
Jera Slaughter and Candy Bucyk recognized for 40 years of service
The Kato model trains fascinated many
Chicago's clarion call to the rails

Jera Slaughter and Candy Bucyk recognized for 40 years of service

The Kato model trains fascinated many

Chicago's clarion call to the rails.

Phase I and Phase II liveries displayed together for the first time
Phase I livery model with the real thing
Phase II livery model shown with the real thing

Phase I and Phase III liveries displayed together for the first time

Phase I livery model shown with the real thing. What's your favorite?

Phase III livery model shown with the real thing. What's your favorite?

As Amtrak celebrates 40 years of service, only four employees nationwide can say they’ve been along for the entire journey. The Windy City is home to two of those employees; Jera Slaughter and Candy Bucyk. At Friday’s employee-only sneak peek event, Jera and Candy were presented with their 40 year awards by Assistant Superintendent of Chicago Union Station Sid Birckett as stories of years past were shared.

For our public display, Chuggington Depot and booths with representatives from the National Park Service’s “Trails and Rails,” Amtrak, Soul Train and Kato USA model trains were setup in the breezeway off of the majestic Main Hall of Chicago Union Station. The words “To All Trains,” adorned the entrance to the station led visitors to our Exhibit Train parked on track 2, and the Phase I and Phase III Heritage paint locomotives (#156 and #822) parked on track 4. On Sunday, our Phase IV Heritage locomotive (#184) joined the display, arriving Saturday on the Los Angeles to Chicago Southwest Chief. This was the first time that three of the four Heritage schemes were on public display together. Many cameras captured the occasion, and several folks commented about how fun it has been to track these locomotives as they make their way across the system. What’s your favorite Heritage scheme? Vote here on Facebook!

In addition to having prototype Heritage locomotives on hand, we also had our HO scale preproduction samples of the Phase I, II and III Heritage scheme locomotives on display. There was a lot of excitement for our exclusive 40th Anniversary inspired model trains, as the first cars should be shipping to those who have placed preorders next month. These models are limited in quantity, so be sure to place an order at the Amtrak Online Store if you haven’t already to avoid missing out.

Model trains seemed to be the underlying theme of the weekend. A number of visitors purchased Walthers model Superliner cars aboard our 40th Anniversary Store car, and one lucky boy’s parents bought him an entire Acela Express train set! It brought back good memories of when my parents gave me my first model train set as a kid.

Kato USA had a variety of Amtrak model trains of all eras running around their table in the Main Hall, generating a lot of interest in Amtrak as well as model railroading. Model trains make a fun hobby that allows you to recreate animated scenes from today and/or from the past. You can be extremely realistic or as imaginative as you like; mixing and matching paint schemes and/or generations of equipment.

This event reinforced the notion that trains are fun and exciting to all types of people from all walks of life. Be it sharing tales of riding passenger trains with steam engines in the days before Amtrak or the joy of adding to a model train collection, boys, girls, men and women of all ages had fun joining in the celebration of Amtrak’s 40th Anniversary in Chicago. I look forward to sharing that passion again at our next stop.

Chicago photo opportunity taken
Chicago visitors in good spirits
Proud owners of a new Acela model

Chicago photo opportunity taken

Chicago visitors in good spirits

Proud owners of a new Acela model smile
for the camera


Jackson, Mich., October 8 and 9

A caped crime fighter, a newly married couple—it seemed that everyone came out to see the Exhibit Train in Jackson, giving us one of our largest and most enthusiastic crowds yet.

Eastern end of Jackson station, looking at the baggage room.
The Jackson station, seen from the
eastern end.
While Captain Jackson was doling out safety tips and promoting the Jackson Police Department, a bride and groom—she in a beautiful gown and clasping a bouquet and he in a tuxedo with matching boutonniere—posed for pictures in front of the locomotive and received congratulatory words from the crowd. Not only were there plenty of locals and Michiganites in attendance, but visitors came from as far away as Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. Many enjoyed the train layout set up by the Jackson Model Railroad Club, as well as the tourism guides distributed by representatives from the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Opened in 1873 by the Michigan Central Railroad, Jackson station is often billed as “the oldest continuously operational, railroad-designed and built passenger station in the United States,” an assertion backed by hundreds of research hours undertaken by station historian Ed Rutkowski. Over more than a century of service, the station has welcomed a handful of U.S. Presidents, among them Taft, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nixon.

Jackson station interior
The Jackson station's interior is also
beautifully renovated.

The building certainly holds a special place in the hearts of townspeople. Some joined together to start the “Friends of Jackson Station,” a group that works to inform the public about the depot’s history. They assisted with the Exhibit Train by handing out brochures and staffing the Display Cars while also promoting the event on their Facebook page. Members of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers (MARP) also lent a helping hand over the weekend. MARP, a non-profit organization, advocates for improved passenger train service and emphasizes the importance of preserving historic depots.

Stations are often at the centers of their communities, which is especially true in cases where towns grew up with the railroad. Track right-of-ways, roundhouses, depots, yards, and other railroad infrastructure have physically shaped thousands of neighborhoods across the country. Many stations—through transit oriented development—offer chances to revitalize city centers and create opportunities for economic development. Amtrak serves more than 500 stations, which range from magnificent structures such as Chicago Union Station to simple trackside platforms in more rural areas. Amtrak’s Great American Stations Project is devoted to station revitalization and includes building histories, case-studies, and information about funding opportunities.

One of the displays on the Exhibit Train focuses on the many successful efforts to rehabilitate historic stations and construct new passenger facilities. Dedications are often marked by speeches, music, and special tours. Memorabilia from these events, including whistles, brochures, key chains, and pins and buttons, lines a few shelves. Just this September, Baltimore Penn Station marked its 100th anniversary with a celebration attended by city, state, and Congressional leaders, as well as officials from Amtrak and the Maryland Transit Administration. The handsome commemorative keepsake brochure, which features a photo essay describing the building’s history, was recently added to the Exhibit Train.

Well, as they say, the railroad never stops—we’re headed to the western shore of Lake Michigan where we’ll spend the weekend at the gleaming Milwaukee Intermodal Station—hope to see you there!


Milwaukee, October 15 and 16

With trees bursting into brilliant colors and crisp cool air at night, fall is in full swing in Milwaukee.
Chuggington is a hit at the Milwaukee event
Entering to win the trips
Visitors come for the night-time event

Chuggington is a hit at the Milwaukee event

Entering to win the trips

Visitors come for the night-time event

Author Robert Tabern
Operation Lifesaver's booth
Trains Magazine event partner

Author and rail advocate Robert Tabern displays his work

The Operation Lifesaver event partners

The Trains Magazine event partners

We were graced with pleasantly sunny autumn weather on both Saturday and Sunday. People of all ages came down to the modern Milwaukee Intermodal Station to celebrate 40 years of Amtrak as America’s Railroad.

The youngest Amtrak fans thoroughly enjoyed the Chuggington Depot; playing with toy trains of their favorite Chuggington character and making their mark on the giant birthday card. I met retired Amtrak employees who shared stories from year’s past, as well as a considerable number of teenage Amtrak fans who were extremely knowledgeable about our routes and equipment. I couldn’t help but wonder how many might someday be a coworker.

Some visitors traveled to Milwaukee from surrounding areas aboard our Hiawatha Service, being delivered right to the heart of the celebration. I can’t think of a better way to arrive at an Amtrak celebration! Other folks had never been on a train before but wanted to see what it was all about. Entering our 40th Anniversary Sweepstakes gave all entrants the chance to win a round trip for two aboard their choice of a number of different Amtrak services including the Empire Builder, a Chicago to Seattle and Portland train that stops in Milwaukee daily.

In addition to booths for the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), Operation Lifesaver, and Amtrak, TRAINS magazine, local author and rail advocate Robert Tabern, and Walthers were on hand.

Walthers not only had preproduction samples of our Heritage P42s on display, but also preproduction samples of some of our Phase IVb painted single level cars and Phase III painted Exhibit Train cars, which should start shipping to those with preorders next month. If you haven’t reserved your models yet, do so before they’re gone at

Milwaukee certainly displayed a lot of support for Amtrak. Extremely dedicated fans even came out both nights to take photos of the Exhibit Train under the lights. It was a great way to bid farewell to the Midwest as we continue our tour onward to the west coast.

Exhibit Train by night in Milwaukee
Inside the locomotive
Young and old on the Exhibit Train

Exhibit Train by night in Milwaukee

Inside the locomotive

Young and old on the Exhibit Train


Pacific Northwest - Seattle, Oct. 22 - 23 and Portland, Oct. 29 - 30

Although the skies may have been overcast, the warmth of our station teams and our visitors more than brightened our visit to the majestic Pacific Northwest.
Exhibit Train arrives in Seattle
Rails and Trails exhibit in Seattle
Artist J. Craig Thorpe signing his work on the Exhibit Train

Exhibit Train arrives in Seattle

Rails and Trails exhibit in Seattle

Artist J. Craig Thorpe signing his work on the Exhibit Train

Exhibit Train arrives in Portlande
A big crowd in Portland!
The Talgo display impresses

Exhibit Train arrives in Portland

A big crowd in Portland!

The Talgo display impresses

Leaving Milwaukee, we set a course for the West Coast where we spent two wonderful weekends: the first in Seattle and the second in Portland. Seattle’s King Street station is currently undergoing a multi-year restoration effort that will bring back the grandeur of its early 20th century appearance. Amid the tall columns of a hall decorated with ornate plasterwork and green and gold mosaics, our exhibitors set up their tables. On hand were representatives of organizations such as All Aboard Washington, the Northwest Railway Museum, and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. The Northwest Railway Museum is based out of Snoqualmie, Wash., and is housed in an 1890 rail depot. The collection encompasses everything from rolling stock to dining car china, lanterns, and a 3,000 volume research library dedicated to railroad history and technology.

In Portland, the Exhibit Train was parked within sight of the famed “Go By Train” sign that crowns the station’s soaring tower. Filled with more than a dozen exhibitors, the South Hall attracted large crowds interested in learning more about groups such as the Pacific Rail Passenger Association, the Willow Creek Scale Railroad, and the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates.

This last organization, which has its office in Union Station, was formed in 1976 to “encourage the development of a balanced and integrated system of transportation…and to educate the public about the need for sustainable, fiscally responsible, environmentally sound transportation.” Many AORTA members came out to help us staff the Exhibit Train and welcome the hundreds of visitors. Another popular table belonged to Talgo, a Spanish rail company that designed the sleek trainsets used on the popular Amtrak Cascades service connecting Vancouver, British Columbia with Seattle, Portland, and other cities. The trains are especially well known for their bold color scheme of green, cream, and maroon, as well as the “fins” that transition the eye from the locomotives to the passenger cars.

If you follow the screams of delight at any of the Exhibit Train events, they are sure to lead you to the Chuggington Kids’ Depot play area. Children of all ages scampered about Union Station in blue Junior Conductor hats and politely waited their turns to direct the path of one of the popular Chuggington characters. The toy train tables buzz with activity, and the sprightly locomotives—Koko, Brewster, and Wilson—seem equally sought after by their young fans. Through their imaginations, kids are transported to the town of Chuggington where they might run into Mayor Pullman or Eddie the depot handyman.

Aficionados of railroad art were in for a big treat at both stops, as artist J. Craig Thorpe occupied a table in the Exhibit Train’s 40th Anniversary Store. He happily chatted with visitors and signed prints of his popular painting that depicts forty years of Amtrak service. The full size work stands near the entrance to the displays, and people love to stand next to it and take photos. It features a map of the United States with red lines tracing Amtrak routes; from the center, six Amtrak trains—representing the various locomotives, cars, and paint schemes used by the company—race towards the viewer, almost as if they were going to jump off of the canvas!

True rail buffs—and I’ve seen kids as young as 5 or 6—can identify each of the locomotives, from the GG1 to the FP40. To the far left, a Talgo trainset holds a place of honor. Around the periphery of the composition, vignettes show daily activities across the Amtrak system: passengers buying tickets, waiting on the platform as the train arrives, eating a great meal in the Dining car, seeing the natural wonders of America through the wrap-around windows of a Superliner Lounge car, and reuniting with loved ones at journey’s end.

Thorpe has spent a lifetime admiring and documenting America’s trains, starting at a young age when his grandfather would take him for rides on trains and trolleys around Pittsburgh. Amtrak has had a special relationship with the artist since it featured his painting of the new Olympia, Wash., station on our 1993 corporate calendar. Many of his works hang in the Amtrak offices in Washington, D.C., and one of the most popular there is definitely the large scale work commissioned to mark the centennial of Washington Union Station. Its fine detail always draws the eye, and you could look at it 100 times and still notice something new.

It seems like our time in the Northwest went by too quickly, but as they say, the railroad never stops. We’re heading south to spend the late fall and early winter in sunny California. Hope to see you this coming weekend at the fantastic California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento!


Sacramento, November 5 and 6

On its first weekend in the Golden State, the Exhibit Train found itself in fine company among the beautiful vintage locomotives and cars of the California State Railroad Museum.
A street in the historic Old Sacramento district
Old Sacramento looking toward the CSRM and the river

A street in the historic Old Sacramento district

Old Sacramento looking toward the CSRM and the river

Sacramento could not have been a more fitting choice for the Exhibit Train’s first stop in California. On January 8, 1863, at the foot of “K” Street, the Central Pacific Railroad broke ground on the western portion of North America’s first transcontinental railroad. Although such a line had been under discussion for more than a decade, the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the border with Nevada had always seemed insurmountable. But a few people did believe in the possibility of scaling the snow-capped peaks, including engineer Theodore Judah, who would describe his plan to anyone willing to listen.

The going was never easy—winter storms and avalanches wiped out work camps and buried materials—but the laborers persevered to create a marvel of American railroading. What makes it all the more amazing is that the vast majority of the work was done by pick and shovel. After only six years of construction, the transcontinental line was completed on May 10, 1869 when the tracks of the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific were joined at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory. A cross-country journey that could take from weeks to months depending on travel modes was reduced to just a few days, and the nation’s two coasts were inextricably bound together.

Rather than park the train at the historic Amtrak station, which has a mural depicting the ground breaking of the transcontinental line, we instead partnered with the California State Railroad Museum (CSRM) to display the train on its grounds. Opened in 1976, the museum holds a diverse collection of railroad memorabilia and rolling stock, and the renowned library preserves archival materials from more than 1,000 railroads. Many of the institution’s highly trained volunteer docents signed up to help staff the Exhibit Train and watch over kids enjoying the toy trains and coloring activities in the Chuggington Depot.

Inside the museum, visitors had an opportunity to catch screenings of Amtrak: The First 40 years, 1971-2011, a film produced by Amtrak to commemorate the anniversary of America’s Railroad. Producer Rich Luckin, who is well known for his many films about railroading, was present to answer questions. He and his crew traveled the Amtrak national network in late 2010 and early 2011 to gather material for the documentary, including interviews with former Amtrak presidents and other industry leaders, as well as breathtaking shots of trains set against rolling prairies, majestic mountain ranges, and sun dappled coast lines.

On Saturday evening, CSRM members and supporters were invited to a reception and tour of the Exhibit Train, which found itself in good company alongside a vintage Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Dining Car from the museum collection.

Since the famous Golden Spike was hammered into that last section of track in the Utah desert almost 150 years ago, not much has actually changed in how tracks are constructed. The components—ties, tie plates, spikes, rail clamps, track fasteners, rails, and ballast—all resemble their predecessors, although improvements have certainly been made over the years. For example, on newer higher speed tracks such as those used by the Acela Express, concrete ties have replaced wooden ones, and e-clips have taken the place of spikes.

On the Exhibit Train, there is a mock-up of a typical section of track that allows visitors to get an up-close view of how all these pieces fit together. A nearby plaque also provides information on the meaning of the various letter and number combinations and markings found on the web of a rail (the web is the skinnier section of the rail between the top and bottom). They often reveal important information on the company that made the rail, the date it was produced, and its weight per yard. The heavier the weight of the rail, the more pressure and the higher speeds it can bear.

I could go on and on, but as they say, the railroad never stops—time to head for Oakland where we’ll welcome visitors at the Jack London Square station near the Inner Harbor. Stop by and say hello!


Oakland, November 12 and 13

As the popular Coast Starlight glided by the Exhibit Train each day, our thoughts turned to the joy of long-distance travel aboard our Superliner fleet—whose history can be traced through items on display.
Oakland station on Jack London Square
Superliner inagural event in Los Angeles, May 1985
Superliner I cars (1990)

Oakland station on Jack London Square

Superliner inagural event in
Los Angeles, May 1985

Superliner I cars (1990)

Original Superliner poster on display in the Exhibit Train
Superliner baggage tags on display
Superliner buttons on display

Original Superliner poster
on display in the Exhibit Train

Superliner baggage tags on display

Superliner buttons on display

Much like Sacramento, Oakland’s rail heritage can be traced back to the origins of North America’s first transcontinental railroad. In 1868, the Central Pacific constructed the Oakland Long Wharf at Oakland Point, the site of today's port. The Long Wharf served as the terminus for the transcontinental line as well as local commuter routes. In West Oakland, the Central Pacific also established one of its largest rail yards and servicing facilities.

Over the weekend, we were joined by volunteers from Operation Lifesaver, Amtrak’s K-9 unit, and local railroad clubs. The Western Railway Museum, located in nearby Suisun, also set up a display table. The institution, which got its start in the late 1940s, provides visitors with an opportunity to ride historic streetcars and interurban electric trains from all over California and other western states. The museum complex holds more than 50 vintage cars, railway-related exhibits, and a research library.

Oakland is a stop on the Coast Starlight, a long-distance train that runs the length of the West Coast from Los Angeles to Seattle. Among train aficionados, it often ranks as one of the most scenic rail routes in the world. From its windows, passengers have views of wildflower-blanketed meadows, the California coastline, and the soaring mountains of the Cascade Range. One of the most popular landmarks along the route is Mt. Shasta, the second highest peak in the Cascades; often snow-capped, it appears as a backdrop for many photos of the train.

Like most of the western long-distance trains, the Coast Starlight uses bi-level “Superliner” equipment. When Amtrak took over the nation’s intercity passenger rail service on May 1, 1971, part of the inherited fleet of cars included stainless steel Hi-Levels from the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway (the “Santa Fe”). The name denoted that the cars had two floors. Passengers sat on the upper level while restrooms, baggage storage, and other service functions were located on the lower level. Constructed in the mid-1950s, they were used on the Santa Fe’s El Capitan, an all-coach train that ran between Chicago and Los Angeles. While the cars were operated by Amtrak, the company printed baggage tags declaring “I traveled the Hi-Level Amtrak way” and featuring a drawing of a Hi-Level. A pair of these tags is on display in the Exhibit Train, and if you look closely, you can see that the car still has “Santa Fe” written on its side. Another case has an HO model train that sports a full Superliner consist.

Within a few years of its formation, Amtrak decided to renew and expand the bi-level fleet, and in 1975 it put in an order with the Pullman-Standard Company for more than 200 cars. The old Santa Fe Hi-Levels were used as a model for the new Superliners, which are slightly larger. To celebrate the first batch of Superliners that entered service in 1979, Amtrak distributed commemorative buttons, some of which are found in the display cases along with related advertisements.

Sleeper, Coach, Dining, and Lounge cars make up the Superliner fleet. The Sleepers offer two-person roomettes and larger family bedrooms. On the upper level, Lounge cars have floor-to-ceiling windows that provide panoramic vistas, and the comfy seats are often filled with travelers chatting over a drink, playing games, or staring out the windows. Down below, a café is stocked with hot and cold drinks and plenty of sandwiches and snacks.

Sleeping car passengers on the Coast Starlight may experience a bit of railroad heritage aboard the Pacific Parlour Cars, which are converted ex-Santa Fe Hi-Levels. They provide a casual, yet elegant, space for travelers to relax with complimentary tea and coffee or to savor an intimate meal at a table dressed in white linens and flowers. Guests may peruse the library or enjoy a film in the theater on the lower level.

Well, as they say, the railroad never stops. This week we travel south through the fertile San Joaquin Valley on our way to Bakersfield. Hope to see you at the station where we’ll be open on Saturday and Sunday from 10-4!


Bakersfield, CA, November 19 and 20

For more than a century, model trains have provided endless hours of entertainment to children and adults alike—but they can reveal a bit of rail history too.

Departing Oakland, the Exhibit Train headed east and then south through the San Joaquin Valley, one of the nation’s most productive agricultural zones. The land has been intensively worked for more than a century and today produces a variety of crops, including grapes, almonds, pistachios, citrus fruits, asparagus and other vegetables, and cotton. Bakersfield sits at the southern end of the valley where the Tehachapi Mountains cut it off from greater Los Angeles.

In addition to station staff, members of the Golden Empire Historical and Modeling Society (GEHAMS) and students from Centennial High School came out to help us with the Exhibit Train and welcome the crowds. Some GEHAMS volunteers monitored the displays and handed out brochures, while others set up a wonderful model train display in the lobby, which is bathed in natural light from a skylight and high clerestory windows. Representatives from Operation Lifesaver, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), and Bakersfield Magazine set up tables nearby. An Amtrak K-9 unit also made the rounds and introduced people to the work of the Amtrak Police Department.

We’ve been impressed by many of the model railroad clubs that have provided displays at our Exhibit Train stops. These organizations bring together people of diverse ages and backgrounds who share a common interest in railroading. Generally, anyone is welcome to join, but you have to commit to putting in the time necessary to build and maintain the models. The amazingly detailed set-ups they produce require discipline to complete, and they are truly collective works that represent thousands of hours of labor. The topography and landscape must be constructed, tracks laid, buildings put together and painted, and the whole scene animated with people and little touches such as mailboxes and fire hydrants.

Sometimes, clubs strive to replicate a specific place in time, which requires a lot of research to get the measurements and details right; other clubs create fantasy layouts that draw on various inspirations. For those interested in making the Amtrak Exhibit Train part of their model displays, Amtrak is offering HO scale models of the P40 #822 and the F40 #406. They lead the Pacific Bend crew car, Display cars and the 40th Anniversary Store car.

The Exhibit Train has its own collection of HO scale model trains on display in illuminated tubes. They were put together with the intention of giving visitors an idea of the various cars used by Amtrak over the past 40 years. When Amtrak began service on May 1, 1971, the consists were a sight to behold: a mix of the best cars inherited from the predecessor passenger railroads, but painted in all different colors unique to those companies. It would take years for Amtrak to replace them with new cars or have them repainted in the company’s silver, red, white, and blue paint scheme. A model of this “Rainbow Fleet,” as it is affectionately known, is on display in the first car of the Exhibit Train.

Another model shows a typical East Coast long distance train with a Baggage car, Viewliner sleeper cars, and standard Amfleet coaches. Real Amtrak buffs can tell you that since the model bears the Phase IV paint scheme, it represents the 1990s. As visitors reach the far end of the Exhibit Train, they come across a model of the Acela Express, which was introduced with great fanfare in 2000. Designed to reach speeds of up to 150 mph, the sleek Acela cars feature an abstract pattern of colorful “splotches” that embody movement and contemporary styling. If you get together with a group of railroad fans, there’s sure to be disagreement on which paint scheme is the best!

It’s said that the railroad never stops….but the Exhibit Train crew is taking a break over the Thanksgiving weekend. We’ll see you in sunny San Diego on December 3-4. Drop by the historic Santa Fe depot in downtown and say “hello!”


San Diego, December 3 and 4

What’s in a name? Railroads—including Amtrak—have long used changing symbols, names, and slogans to redefine their services.
San Diego station's classical facade
Interior of the Santa Fe station
Santa Fe logo in decorative tile

San Diego station's classical
fountain and façade

Interior of the Santa Fe station

Santa Fe logo in decorative tile

Original Pacific Surfliner poster is on display in the Exhibit Train
Exhibit Train visits San Diego
Visitors meet our event partners inside the station

Original Pacific Surfliner poster
is on display in the Exhibit Train

Exhibit Train visits San Diego

Visitors meet our event partners
inside the station

As we pulled into San Diego, the station’s two towers, crowned with gleaming tiled domes, came into view. At that moment, it seemed hard to believe that only five weeks ago we started the West Coast leg of the Exhibit Train tour 1200 miles to the north in Seattle.

The historic Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego has to rank as one of the most charming and beautiful in the Amtrak national network. Opened to the public in 1915, it was constructed by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad (ATSF) to accommodate the large crowds expected that year for the city’s Panama-California Exposition. Designed in the Spanish Revival style, the building originally included an enclosed patio with bubbling fountain, shady track-side arcade, and interior spaces accented by colorful tiles.

Exhibitors, including the National Association of Railroad Passengers, California Operation Lifesaver, and the Metropolitan Transit System, set up tables in the majestic waiting room, whose gabled ceiling of natural redwood beams is supported by a series of large two-story arches from which hang bronze chandeliers. Looking closely, one can see the old symbol of the ATSF—a cross-within-a-circle—incorporated into all aspects of the decorative tile, metal, and plasterwork.

We were also joined by members of the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum (PSRM) who helped us staff the Display Cars. A non-profit educational organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of railroads as they existed in the Pacific Southwest, the PSRM runs excursion trains and maintains historic depots in nearby Campo and La Mesa.

Playful squeals echoed across the room as children used their imaginations to enter the world of the Chuggington gang. If Brewster, Koko, and Wilson ever took a trip to the U.S., San Diego would definitely be a great place to visit and learn about American railroading—particularly the ATSF’s struggle to build its own transcontinental route through the American Southwest and into southern California. If they were lucky, the young locomotives might even get to travel the route of Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliners, which offers breathtaking views of the coast and the ocean. Perhaps Mayor Pullman and his nephew Denzel could come along and represent the town of Chuggington on an official trade or cultural exchange mission to San Diego!

Although the Surfliner name was only inaugurated in 2000, the route from San Diego to Los Angeles—referred to as the “Surf Line” by the ATSF—dates to the late 19th century. The Surfliner's predecessor, the San Diegan, began service in 1938 and continued to be operated under Amtrak after the new company took over the nation’s intercity passenger rail system in 1971. The name change came about as a way to rebrand the service after an intense period of investment in the 1990s that included refurbished tracks and stations, new rolling stock, and increased frequencies. Today, the Pacific Surfliner is Amtrak’s third busiest service after the Acela Express and the Northeast Regional.

To celebrate the name change, Amtrak produced memorabilia such as clocks, pens, and pins, a selection of which is found in a display case aboard the Exhibit Train. One of my favorite pieces is a poster by Michael Schwab, an artist who designed many of the route posters still used by Amtrak in its advertising campaigns. It features a Surfliner whose bi-level California Cars wear the service’s distinctive silver and blue livery. The train glides along the shore with the ocean seemingly within reach, and the bright sun shines from above to warm the scene.

Well, as they say, the railroad never stops—we’re heading back north for a weekend amid the Art Deco glory that is Los Angeles Union Station. See you there from 10-4 on Saturday and Sunday!


Los Angeles, December 10 and 11

In a city known world-wide for its star-power, Los Angeles Union Station and its welcoming staff stand out as class acts.
Los Angeles Union Station
Los Angeles Union Station interior
Amtrak employees greet visitors

Los Angeles Union Station
opened in 1939.

Art Deco and Spanish Revival blend
beautifully in the station

Employees Steve Ostrowski (engineer/photograper)
& Rob Eaton (Regional Director, Gov't. Affairs)
greeted visitors to the Exhibit train in L.A.

Southwest Chief classic menu
A pair of classics
Platform photo op in LA

Southwestern motifs from the
Southwest Chief's menu

Classics: Santa Fe 375
and Amtrak 406

Photo opportunity taken on
the platform in Los Angeles

Designed by the father and son duo of John and Donald Parkinson, Los Angeles Union Station opened in 1939 to bring together the city’s multiple passenger rail lines in one downtown location. The building, which blends elements of Art Deco design with Spanish Revival motifs, is often considered the last “great” Union Station constructed before passenger railroads entered a period of decline in the mid-20th century. The architectural marriage of an idealized, romantic past and a strong dose of modernity represented the allure of a Los Angeles that was on the rise as a political, economic, and cultural force.

Passengers still mill about the magnificent waiting room, which features original furnishings, tiled walls, a painted wood ceiling, and glowing glass and metal chandeliers. When the sun is shining, the outdoor patios and courtyards, filled with potted plants and embellished with tall palms, allow for a few moments of seclusion. Our exhibitors, including California Operation Lifesaver, the National Association of Railroad Passengers, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the South Coast Railroad Museum, the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, and the California Locomotive Preserve, set up tables in the concourse so that travelers could take a few minutes to explore their offerings. It was also great to have so many members of the Amtrak family with us, including a sizeable group from our Riverside Call Center.

On Friday, we hosted a special employee open house since Los Angeles is a major hub for corridor and long distance trains such as the Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, and the Southwest Chief. Aboard the Display Cars, there are plenty of items related to each of these services, including schedules, route guides, collectible lapel pins, and colorful advertisements. One of my favorite items is a menu from the Southwest Chief, which features a colorful kachina on its cover.

When Amtrak took over the nation’s passenger rail service in 1971, one of the most famous lines it inherited out west was the Super Chief, operated by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway (the “Santa Fe”). Running between Chicago and Los Angeles, the streamlined train sported an all Pullman consist that was the height of luxury when it went into service in 1936. As the train sped across the gently rolling prairies and through the gorgeous desert landscapes of the Southwest, travelers could indulge on fine food in the Cochiti, a dining car run by the famed Fred Harvey Company. The Santa Fe and Fred Harvey both used southwestern designs to promote their services, and the arts and crafts of regional American Indian tribes—such as Navajo rugs and Mimbres pottery—provided much inspiration.

After Amtrak took over the route from the Santa Fe, it retained the Super Chief name until 1974 when it was changed to the Southwest Limited. With the introduction of new Superliner equipment in the early 1980s, the train gained its present name, which it still wears proudly. Following in the footsteps of the Santa Fe, Amtrak also employed regional motifs in its promotional materials for the Southwest Chief—including the kachina menu. Unique to the Hopi people of northeastern Arizona, kachinas (sometimes spelled katsinas) are religious icons carved from cottonwood root and painted to represent figures from Hopi mythology. True kachina craftsmen are not only skilled in woodworking and painting, but they also possess an intimate understanding of Hopi religious beliefs. Upon closer inspection, the Amtrak menu appears to feature Tawa, who is a representation of the spirit of the Sun.

The Santa Fe heritage remains strong in southern California, and visitors were in for a special treat as Santa Fe steam locomotive 3751 pulled up opposite the Exhibit Train. Built in 1927, the Baldwin 4-8-4 was festively dressed up with a wreath and colorful holiday garlands. For many people, steam locomotives retain a certain air of romance, but it’s hard to comprehend their power until you stand next to one and it towers over you and rumbles from deep within. Visitors were allowed to take a peek into the cab, and many posed for photos with the locomotive in the background.

The SF 3751 is owned and maintained by the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society (SBRHS), a non-profit, all-volunteer organization founded in 1981. In addition to caring for the locomotive and introducing the public to the history of steam railroading, the group also preserves Santa Fe operating and mechanical documentation. In 1986, the SBRHS purchased the rusting locomotive from the City of San Bernardino for $1.00 and carried out five years of restoration work. Maintained to a high standard, the SF 3751 makes appearances at rail events throughout the region, and it’s a big draw during the National Train Day celebrations each May at Los Angeles Union Station.

Well, they say that the railroad never stops—but we’ll be on a break until early January 2012 when you can find the Exhibit Train in Fort Worth, Texas. From everyone on the Exhibit Train team, we wish our readers a Happy and Joyful New Year! It’s been great meeting the more than 40,000 people who have come out so far to visit the displays, and we look forward to getting to know more of you as we head east.


Amtrak 40th Anniversary Logo Wins 2011 Graphic Design USA Award

Amtrak has another reason to celebrate the 40th Anniversary thanks to its logo winning top honors from Graphic Design USA.

Amtrak has won a top graphic design award for its 40th anniversary logo, which was created in-house by Graphic Specialist Collin King, Government Affairs and Corporate Communications, with art direction from Product Development Officer Matt Donnelly and Principal Graphic Designer Marlon Sharpe. 

The American Graphic Design Awards are presented each year by Graphic Design USA, in New York, to honor outstanding work in a variety of media. 

The image features locomotives in the company’s heritage paint schemes and an Acela Express power car atop the words “Amtrak Celebrates 40 Years.” The dates 1971-2011 are framed by the original and current company logos. 

A gallery containing Amtrak's logo along with all other winning designs can be viewed on Graphic Design USA's website.  Simply scroll through to see all winning entries. 

Congratulations Amtrak, on this tremendous honor.

Fort Worth, January 7 and 8

Following some holiday relaxation, we were more than ready to hit the rails again—an enthusiastic and welcoming crowd in Ft. Worth started 2012 off with a bang!
A warm Exhibit Train welcome
A real cowboy
Getting into training

A warm welcome to the Exhibit Train

A real cowboy demonstrates technique

Getting into training, Amtrak style
(a classic advertisement from our archives)

Fort Worth skline from the platform
Stop partner at Forth Worth
Pair of classics

The Fort Worth skyline was impressive
from the Exhibit Train platform

Our stop partners at Forth Worth

A pair of classics: the Exhibit Train
and the Fort Worth Limited

After more than a month in California—the last few weeks spent amid the sun and palm trees of SoCal—we started our long journey back east. Ft. Worth is an important hub for two Amtrak lines that serve the West and Midwest: the Texas Eagle and the Heartland Flyer. The first is well known for its station host program in operation at Ft. Worth and Dallas. Volunteers help staff the stations before the arrival and after the departure of the trains. They assist travelers by answering questions about schedules and local transportation options, and they provide useful advice on tourist attractions. Many of the hosts took time out of their weekends to help us hand out brochures and greet people in the Display cars. They were joined by volunteers from the North Texas Garden Railroad Club, which promotes model railroading within carefully crafted outdoor landscapes.

Visitors of all kinds, but especially rail fans, love to take photos with the Exhibit Train’s P40 locomotive #822. It wears the company’s third paint scheme or “phase” that was introduced in 1979: a patriotic, bold livery with red, white, and blue stripes. At Ft. Worth, people could also snap a few pictures with an original trolley that is permanently on display at the intermodal station. In the 1920s and 1930s, car #25 ran on an interurban line between Ft. Worth and Dallas, and it has been restored to highlight the region’s transportation heritage. Although the trolleys are gone, locals can still head to Dallas by rail aboard the Trinity Railway Express commuter service.

Across the plaza, a true cowboy in hat and boots showed off his lassoing skills to the delight of the crowd. Cowboys have a special place in the lore of Ft. Worth. When the Texas and Pacific Railway reached town in 1876, the community blossomed into an important transit point for cattle shipment and its stockyards became famous. Even today, Ft. Worth calls itself the “City of Cowboys and Culture.” Alert visitors may have also noticed Mayor Betsy Price among the crowd; she stopped by to say “hello” and tour the Exhibit Train with her husband.

Inside the station, as usual, the kids flocked to the Chuggington train tables to put their imaginations to work with Brewster and friends. Representatives from Texas Operation Lifesaver mounted a display and passed out brochures promoting safety around railroads. Across the way, folks from the Museum of the American Railroad set up an exhibit about Pullman Porters; through their high standards, these men, the majority of whom were African American, set the bar for luxury train travel in America during the late 19th and 20th centuries. Over at the Trails and Rails table, visitors learned about the innovative partnership between the National Park Service and Amtrak that places volunteers from our national parks aboard trains. A handy fold-out map depicts Amtrak routes and the closest national parks.

As I pondered the many treats enjoyed over the holiday season—cakes and cookies and amazing meals—I couldn’t help but smile when I saw some of the old Amtrak ads from the 1980s. There have been a handful of slogans over the years, but “America's getting into the Amtrak way!" seems so appropriate for these fleeting weeks when New Year’s resolutions are on everyone’s mind. Getting to the gym isn’t always so easy, but I’m all on board for training the Amtrak way. Perhaps this is the year to try a new route….the mountain majesty of the Empire Builder, a ride through the famous Folkston Funnel aboard the Silver Star? Oh, the possibilities….where would you go?

As they say, the railroad never stops. This week we head north to Oklahoma City, where the Heartland Flyer has been making headlines with its testing of a renewable biodiesel fuel blend that reduces carbon emissions. See you there!


Oklahoma City, January 14 and 15

If Oklahoma City has a byword, it must be “friendly”—enthusiastic volunteers, diverse exhibitors, animated visitors and a gem of a station added up to an enjoyable weekend.
Exhibit Train on the viaduct at Oklahoma City
Through the window
Art Deco grandeur overhead

Exhibit Train on the viaduct
at Oklahoma City

Through the window

Art Deco grandeur overhead

Very popular hats!
Our stop partners at Oklahoma City
N-Scale model trains delight and amaze

Very popular hats!

Our stop partners at Oklahoma City

N-Scale model trains
delight and amaze

The Oklahoma City Amtrak station sits on the border between the downtown business center and the bustling arts and entertainment district known as “Bricktown.” The two neighborhoods are separated by a viaduct that carries the tracks through the city; to our advantage, the viaduct was also a perfect pedestal for the Exhibit Train, making it visible to drivers and pedestrians passing through the area. As darkness fell, the train shone under the platform and station lighting—a beacon in the night to all rail enthusiasts.

Over the weekend, it was fun to watch visitors as they stepped into the station lobby. Mouths fell open in awe as people took in the rich interior decoration of the jazzy Art Deco station, which opened in 1934. Cameras were whipped out to capture the ceiling’s bright and colorful geometric patterns as well as the elongated metal and glass chandeliers whose common chevron motif evokes the sense of movement so essential to Art Deco design. People also ran their fingers over the walls, whose light brown limestone is embedded with seashells and other fossils. Much of the station’s original grandeur was recaptured during a successful $3 million restoration project undertaken by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation more than a decade ago.

Through the lobby’s eastern window, one could see the tail end of the Exhibit Train’s Bistro Car, which serves as the 40th Anniversary Store where people can pick up a copy of Amtrak: An American Story, commemorative t-shirts, lapel pins, coffee mugs, posters, and other fun items. Up on the platform, people stopped to watch passing freight trains, as the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s main line runs alongside the station.

Children mobbed the Chuggington play area, and the paper “Junior Conductor” hats were a hot item. They’re perfect complements to a free activity book that helps young readers understand a conductor’s job, which includes tasks such as welcoming passengers onto the train, taking tickets, providing information about stops, and communicating with the engineer driving the locomotive.

In a side room, passenger rail advocacy groups such as the National Association of Railroad Passengers, the Northern Flyer Alliance, and the Heartland Flyer Coalition set up tables and talked to people about their missions and activities—this last organization manages a helpful website to assist travelers. Volunteers from Trails and Rails introduced people to the historic and cultural sites to be seen along the route of the Flyer.

Two museums also joined us for the weekend. The Railroad Museum of Oklahoma is based out of the former Santa Fe freight house in downtown Enid. Dedicated members spent years rehabilitating the structure and organizing a large collection of railroad artifacts that includes dining car china and silverware, whistles and lanterns, and an outdoor area with rolling stock. Museum Director Frank "Watermelon" Campbell, dressed in a vintage conductor’s uniform, regaled Exhibit Train visitors with railroad stories. One table over, the Oklahoma Railway Museum (ORM) had an interesting display on Oklahoma depots that included photos and brief histories of the buildings.

While we’ve hosted a number of model railroads during our nationwide tour, this was the first time we’d had an N-Scale layout. Most people are probably more familiar with HO scale, which is the most popular with modelers. N Scale is about half the size of HO—a ratio of 1:160—and it really requires patience and an eye for detail. Members of the Oklahoma N-Rail Club ran a handful of trains along their layout, including a model of the Heartland Flyer, and graciously answered questions from fans big and small. N-Rail Club members also helped staff the Exhibit Train, as did volunteers from the South Canadian Model Railroad Club and ORM.

Aboard one of the Display Cars, ORM members explained how to operate the Engineer’s Control Stand. Visitors are welcome to have their try at “driving” a train by guiding the throttle and monitoring the engine. Although the levers and buttons are labeled, it was a big help to have the volunteers describe in detail what exactly each one does. Some of the ORM members know these control stands well from the excursion trains that the museum runs from April to August.

Well, as they say, the railroad never stops—this week we head south back to Texas where we’ll be in historic San Antonio, known by every school child as the home of the Alamo. Hope to see you there!


San Antonio, Texas, January 21 and 22

It’s been said that “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” This certainly held true for the San Antonio Exhibit Train event, where we welcomed more than 3,000 visitors—one of the largest crowds yet!
The Sunset Station, built by the Southern Pacific RR, and the SP794
Conductors and friend at the Exhibit Train
One of several uniform displays on board

The Sunset Station, built by
the Southern Pacific RR,
and the SP794

Conductors and friend at the Exhibit Train

One of several uniform displays on board

1970s passenger service representative uniform displays the 'headless arrow&' motif
Do you have a favorite
Cowboy culture donated by one of our younger visitors
1970s passenger service
representative uniform
displays the "headless arrow" motif
Do you have a favorite?

Cowboy culture donated
by one of our younger

The Amtrak depot sits within a stone’s throw of the gorgeous Sunset Station built by the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP). When it opened more than a century ago, residents referred to it as the “Building of 1,000 Lights” due to a dazzling display of electric lights that brightened the night. Large arches on the façade of the Amtrak station echo those found on the historic structure. Although the Sunset Station is no longer an active passenger facility, it has been restored to serve as a popular events venue.

Just down the platform from the Amtrak depot and historic station stands another link to the city’s railroading past: SP locomotive #794. Built in 1916 by the American Locomotive Company, it originally belonged to the Texas & New Orleans Railroad and was based in San Antonio. After four decades of freight service, it was retired by the SP in 1956; the next year, the railroad donated it to the city. Today, the “Friends of the SP 794”—a subsidiary group of the San Antonio Railroad Heritage Museum—oversees the maintenance of this grand dame of American railroading. In 2008, they repainted the locomotive in the old Texas & New Orleans livery. Over the weekend, the Friends gave tours of the impressive machine and explained the basics of steam railroading.

Volunteers from the Trails and Rails program—a partnership between Amtrak and the National Park Service designed to expose people to the natural and cultural attractions in our national parks—were a tremendous help on both days. They greeted and guided visitors, answered questions aboard the Exhibit Train, and offered to take photos for people. Many of these volunteers are based out of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. While just about any school kid knows the story of the Alamo, a lot of people don’t realize that the San Antonio River was a lifeline for a handful of Spanish missions. The first was established in 1718, but four more were started along the river within a dozen years and flourished into the late 18th century.

Exhibitors included Texas Operation Lifesaver, VIA Metropolitan Transit, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the San Antonio Railroad Model Association, and the National Association of Railroad Passengers. In addition to discussing the benefits of passenger rail with visitors, NARP representative Cody King wowed passersby with his amazing sketches that included locomotives and cowboys.

We were also delighted to have two railroad museums with us for the weekend. Since its founding in 2001, the not-for-profit San Antonio Railroad Heritage Museum has worked to educate the public about the railroad history of San Antonio and the South Texas region. It also supports efforts to restore and preserve rolling stock and railroad-related buildings. Located northeast of San Antonio, the New Braunfels Railroad Museum occupies a former International-Great Northern Railroad depot. In the 1980s, the New Braunfels Historic Railroad and Modelers Society gained a long term lease on the building and undertook a restoration. The broad collection of railroadiana includes a complete telegraphy system, historic photographs, uniforms, and HO and N scale models. Outside, visitors can explore a caboose, boxcar, and other rolling stock.

San Antonio is served by the Sunset Limited (New Orleans-San Antonio-Los Angeles) and the Texas Eagle (San Antonio-Chicago) and is therefore a crew base for Amtrak employees beginning or ending their runs. It’s always fun to see conductors and other onboard staff members take a walk through the Exhibit Train. Inevitably, they are drawn to the four decades worth of uniforms, from the bold red jackets and dresses of the 1970s to the sophisticated blue outfits worn today.

Common to all uniforms is the presence of the company logo, although it has changed from the original “inverted arrow” to the current three-part flowing wave. On those first uniforms, the arrow figures prominently as a design motif, particularly in the dress worn by the early passenger service representatives. Now, on the other hand, the logo is worked into ties and scarves on a smaller, more subtle scale. The uniforms tend to bring back all kinds of memories—and usually lead to some debate about which was the best and most flattering look.

As they say, the railroad never stops—although Texas was great and the welcome hearty, it’s time to head east to the Big Easy. Hope to see you in New Orleans!


New Orleans, January 28 and 29

With the opportunity to see the Exhibit Train and the Sunset Limited, visitors glimpsed into Amtrak’s past and present—and dreamed of a bright future.
Sunset Limited poster from the 1990s
Superliner car from the 1990s
Family affair in New Orleans, Exhibit Train platform

Sunset Limited poster from the 1990s

Superliner car from the 1990s

Family affair in New Orleans, Exhibit Train platform

NOL Model Train Admirers
A small visitor tours the Superliner
And the air horns were fascinating!

The model trains had many admirers

A small visitor tours the Superliner

And the air horns were fascinating!

The New Orleans event was definitely a “family affair,” as many Amtrak employees came out to welcome visitors to the Exhibit Train and show off their station—the imposing Union Passenger Terminal known for its colorful murals. The city is an important hub for numerous long distance services that head north (City of New Orleans to Chicago); east (Crescent to New York); and west (Sunset Limited to Los Angeles).

In addition to the Exhibit Train, attendees were able to tour a Sunset Limited consist. Amtrak’s Sunset Limited is the descendent of the former Southern Pacific Railway service of the same name that went into operation in 1894. After more than a century, it remains the oldest “named” train in continuous operation and makes its 1,995 mile journey six times a week. In the display cases found aboard the Exhibit Train, there is quite a bit of memorabilia related to the Sunset Limited, such as route guides, schedules, and lapel pins. Many of the paper items have also been scanned and posted on this website under the Archives section.

The bi-level Superliner equipment on display included coaches, Sleepers, a Sightseer Lounge, and a Diner. In this last car, the skilled Chef Tony whipped up attractive entrees to give people an idea of the culinary delights that await the train traveler. In the Sleeper, the On-Board Service crew made up some of the beds and explained how the two seats in the roomette fold down to make one bed while the other comes down from the ceiling. It was easy to imagine falling asleep to the gentle swaying of the train while the spare desert landscape of southern Arizona or the craggy peaks of New Mexico’s Florida Mountains passed by the window. Visitors who had contemplated a long distance train trip were able to ask questions and get a better idea of the journey ahead.

Inside the terminal, the model railroad set up by the South West Alabama Railroad Modelers club attracted lots of attention for its exclusive use of Lionel-made cars. Although we’ve hosted a dozen model railroads over the last nine months, it never ceases to amaze me how different they can be. Some are based on historic routes while others are drawn from the imagination, and the buildings and landscapes that complete the layouts are always stunning not just for their fine detail, but also for the sheer number of work-hours they represent.

Visitors stopped by to talk with volunteers from Louisiana Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit organization that works to educate the public about the proper way to interact with railroads so as to avoid accidents and injuries. Next door, folks from the Louisiana Steam Train Association spoke enthusiastically about some of their projects, all of which promote an interest in the rich history of American steam railroading. The all-volunteer group has restored Southern Pacific (SP) locomotive #745, originally built in 1921. In December 2004, after years of hard labor, SP 745 conducted its first main-line operations in forty-eight years. Since then, it has made tours through the region and even as far north as Missouri.

Officials from state transportation planning agencies—the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission—talked about future plans for improving intermodal networks along the Gulf Coast. For attendees interested in learning more about the diverse cultures that shaped modern day Louisiana, representatives from the New Orleans Metropolitan and the West Baton Rouge convention and visitors bureaus gave tips about historic sites, arts districts, and—of course—the best places to sample the state’s renowned cuisine (we were particularly interested in these!).

Those in a more musical state of mind were drawn to the Trails and Rails table staffed by rangers and volunteers from the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. The Crescent City is considered the birthplace of American jazz, and the park has developed a full array of programs, including a series of self-guided walking tours that highlight famous jazz haunts and musicians’ homes, as well as a popular concert series held at the Old U.S. Mint Performance Hall.

Well, as they say, the railroad never stops. We’re heading northeast to Meridian, Mississippi, where the rehabilitation of the train station sparked a downtown renaissance. See you there!


Meridian, Miss., February 4 and 5

Developed around a vital rail crossing, Meridian stands as a testament to the ability of the railroads to effectively move people and goods.
Ribbon cutting at MEI
Mayor Barry and the officers of the K-9 Unit
Mick Nussbaum and Mayor Barry smile for us on the Exhibit Train

Todd Stennis, Amtrak Government Affairs;
Cheri Barry, Mayor, Meridian, MS, with scissors;
In the background, Jerome Trahan, Amtrak Marketing;
Mary Perry, City Council, Meridian, MS, with scissors;
Bruce Mullins, Amtrak District Manager, New Orleans

Mayor Barry and the officers of the K-9 Unit

Mick Nussbaum and Mayor Barry smile for us on the Exhibit Train

Todd Stennis, Mayor Barry, Gil Carmichel and Mary Perry on the Exhibit Train
A1970s china display onboard the Exhibit Train
Train #19 at the Meridian, Miss. station

Todd Stennis, Mayor Barry, Gil Carmichel and Mary Perry on the Exhibit Train

1970s china display onboard the Exhibit Train

Train #19 of the Crescent at the Meridian, Miss. station

Established in 1860 at the intersection of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad and the Southern Railway of Mississippi, Meridian is a true “railroad town.” Many residents, and their forebears, have worked along the ribbons of steel that crisscross the region. The city has strong ties to Amtrak too: former Mayor John Robert Smith, who was a guiding force behind the building of the modern multi-modal transportation center, served as Chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors in the early 2000s.

It was no surprise then that thousands of visitors turned out to tour the Exhibit Train—it was not only a great opportunity to learn about Amtrak’s history, but the two-day event also provided the backdrop for impromptu gatherings of family and friends. Luckily, the predicted rain stayed away almost long enough to encourage people to come out. To kick off the weekend, Mayor Cheri Barry greeted the crowd, and wielding a very large pair of scissors, snipped a bright red ribbon to officially open the display cars. She was joined by City Council member Mary Perry and Amtrak representatives from the Government Affairs, Marketing, and Transportation departments.

Mayor Barry led the initial group through the train and then stopped to chat with police officers from the Amtrak K-9 unit. Their canine counterparts certainly loved the attention! We were also glad to spot native Mississippian Gil Carmichael among the crowd. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, he served as the head of the Federal Railroad Administration. Carmichael was—and remains—a strong and outspoken advocate for investment in our national network of passenger and freight railroads.

As people moved about the Exhibit Train, many were drawn to the displays of early Amtrak china. Used primarily in the 1970s, the pieces were made by different companies. One pattern produced by the Hall China Company of Ohio is often referred to as “Amtrak National.” The serving pieces—teapots and coffeepots, creamers, and sugar bowls—came in a medium blue color, and they were also noted for their angular handles. Plates and bowls manufactured by the Mayer China Company and then the Homer Laughlin Company have a white base with a similar blue rim. A collection of these plates is set out on a table flanked by mannequins in 1970s fashions, who appear ready for their meal. The serving pieces are found in the next car, positioned at sharp angles to one another to show off and complement their forms.

In the station, visitors stopped by tables set up by the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the National Association of Railroad Passengers, and Mississippi Operation Lifesaver. By the end of Saturday, the Operation Lifesaver table was wiped clean of brochures after hundreds of people had paused to learn more about the best ways in which to safely interact with railroads.

Meridian’s multi-modal transportation center sits across the tracks from the Meridian Railroad Museum, which is run by the Queen and Crescent Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. The organization strives to promote the history of railroading in Meridian and eastern Mississippi, as well as foster the preservation of railroad artifacts. Most of the collection is housed in a former Railway Express Agency building. Museum Director Mick Nussbaum and his wife and mother graciously took time out of their weekend to help us staff the Exhibit Train, and the museum was also open for visitors. Many enjoyed having a look at the extensive model railroad layout maintained by the Meridian Model Railroad Club. In addition to NRHS members, a handful of city employees volunteered their time with the Exhibit Train, including a group of firefighters.

On the track next to the museum sit various vintage passenger cars and cabooses. One of the better known cars is Coach #660, once owned by the Southern/Central of Georgia and painted in its green livery. The car was used by the Southern Railway until 1979 when the company finally turned over the operation of the Southern Crescent to Amtrak (after which it simply became known as the Crescent). Given to the Queen and Crescent Chapter in 1980, #660 remains the pride of the museum fleet. In the fall, the museum hosts the annual Meridian RailFest featuring visiting rolling stock, some of which is provided by Amtrak. Vendors also set up booths to sell railroad-related antiques and collectibles, as well as cars and items needed for model railroading.

It’s said that the railroad never stops—this week we head east to the Sunshine State as winter digs in its heels up north. See you this weekend in Jacksonville!


Jacksonville, Fla., February 11 and 12

Although the weekend was unseasonably cold—we had to run out to buy a pair of gloves!—plenty of folks showed up to explore the exhibits.
mtrak Florida poster from the 1970s
K-9 Unit demonstration in Jacksonville
Mr. C entertains visitors, but never created a balloon locomotive

Amtrak Florida poster from the 1970s

K-9 Unit demonstration in Jacksonville

Mr. C entertains visitors, but never created a balloon locomotive

The Exhibit Train arrived in Jacksonville pulled by the Silver Meteor, one of the two trains (along with the Silver Star) that make up Amtrak’s popular Silver Service running along the East Coast from New York to Miami. The Silver Meteor, whose name suggests luxury and speed, has a long and rich history that goes back more than seven decades. It originally went into service in 1939 under the Seaboard Airline Railroad, which later merged with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in 1967 to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. The Silver trains continued to operate under Amtrak after it took over the nation’s intercity passenger rail services on May 1, 1971.

In addition to welcoming tens of thousands of passengers every year, the Jacksonville station also functions as an important train and engine crew base. An enthusiastic group of employees, organized by Cathy Fleming, came out to staff the Exhibit Train and welcome visitors to their “second home.”

People are always drawn to the colorful posters in the first Display Car that represent different regions of the country. The one for Florida provided the perfect backdrop for quite a few photos. Frolicking under a warm glowing sun, vivid pink flamingos give the viewer a sly glance that beckons one to hop aboard the gleaming train running across the lower end of the poster. Symbols of the “Land of Sunshine,” such as the castle at Disney World and a rocket blasting off from Cape Canaveral, are framed by the birds’ bodies and long, elegant legs.

Even if you had no idea when this piece of art was created, the drawing of the train does provide some clues. True rail buffs would certainly notice that the locomotive wears the short-lived Phase I livery introduced in 1972. Locomotives in this paint scheme bore a distinctive red front, which rail fans refer to as the “bloody nose.” Amtrak’s first logo, an inverted arrow in red and blue, was painted on the side.

Inside the station, kids had a lot to keep them occupied. The Chuggington play area is always the place to be, and it’s fun to watch the children learn how to share and take turns with Koko, Brewster, Wilson, and friends. Little hands love to move the locomotives through the car wash—any railroad would be proud to have such a sparkling fleet! Vee must be very proud of her little Chuggers for staying so neat as they travel around town and through the countryside.

Nearby, a clown named Mr. C created animal balloon sculptures. While a locomotive never emerged from his hands, he did create dogs, birds, dolphins, and other creatures. People also enjoyed the presentations given by three Amtrak K-9 officers who showed off the skills of their specially trained dogs. Kids really like the trading cards that the officers hand out. Each one features a photo of the officer and dog, as well as fun facts about the team.

The sun-drenched waiting room, which has large floor-to-ceiling windows, was lined with tables staffed by a wide array of exhibitors, including Florida Operation Lifesaver, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, and Visit Jacksonville—the local convention and visitors bureau. The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), an organization that advocates for passenger rail service, has joined us at every stop. At Jacksonville, NARP Chairman Robert Stewart organized the display and chatted with passersby about the group’s work with Congress as well as its outreach and advocacy efforts at the state level and in local communities.

Across the room, volunteers from the Palatka Railroad Preservation Society told visitors about the museum that they operate out of the historic Palatka station. Located about an hour south of Jacksonville, the former Atlantic Coast Line Railroad depot houses the David Browning Railroad Museum, which contains documents, photographs, maps, signs and other items related to local railroad history, as well as a popular HO scale model railroad that depicts the Pennsylvania countryside. Amtrak passengers waiting for the Silver Meteor and Silver Star use the adjacent platform. In the fall, the society hosts Rail Fest, a celebration of all things railroading.

Well, as they say, the railroad never stops—this week we leave the First Coast for Tampa Bay. Come see us at historic Tampa Union Station, which will mark its centennial this year during a special National Train Day celebration on May 12th.


Tampa, Fla., Feb. 18 and 19

The Exhibit Train’s arrival helped kick off a year of celebration for historic Tampa Union Station.
Built in 1912 by architect J.F. Leitner, Tampa Union Station celebrates its Centennial this year.
The handsomely restored waiting room where our event tables were
Long-time Amtrak employee Charlotte Berry assisted many visitors in Tampa

Built in 1912 by architect J.F. Leitner, Tampa Union Station celebrates its Centennial this year

The handsomely restored waiting room where our event tables stood

Long-time Amtrak employee Charlotte Berry assists the visitors in Tampa

After enjoying Florida’s “First Coast” last weekend, we headed west across the peninsula to reach the beautiful shores of Tampa Bay. 2012 is really a special year for Tampa Union Station, which will celebrate its centennial in May on National Train Day. The station staff and Amtrak employees from throughout the state came to help out and show off the Exhibit Train to visitors.

Designed by North Carolina architect J.F. Leitner, the Italian Renaissance Revival station is constructed of brick with handsome stone trim. It was a “union” station because it united the Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Air Line, and Tampa Northern railroads at a single downtown location on the edge of bustling Ybor City. It was also a fitting gateway for travelers from the north who came in search of fun, sun, and relaxation on Florida’s fabled coastline.

After mid-century, the building fell into disrepair as federal transportation funding priorities shifted towards automobiles and airplanes. Years of deferred maintenance meant that by the 1980s, the roof leaked and plaster fell from the ceiling. In 1984, the facility closed to the public. Thankfully, ardent historic preservationists and historians advocated for a rehabilitation of this grand dame of Florida railroading; in fact, it was one of the first buildings to be designated a Tampa Landmark. A volunteer effort raised more than $4 million in grants and loans, and a full restoration was completed in 1998. Today, the station is once again full of life, serving Amtrak passengers as well as local arts and community groups that hold special shows in the building.

Representatives from the Friends of Tampa Union Station, an all-volunteer organization that advocates for the preservation of the station, were on hand over the weekend to answer questions about the building and point out its fine architectural details. Other than trains or tracks, stations are one of the principle things that people associate with railroads. In much of the promotional material produced by Amtrak over more than four decades—including posters, route guides, and postcards—you’re sure to find stations in the background.

One of the best parts about working on the Exhibit Train is meeting a wide array of people. Visitors always have such diverse interests and backgrounds, which makes it fun to hear their Amtrak and railroad related stories. One woman, who had passed through the station in the 1920s as a young girl, recalled the waiting room busy with people, snippets of conversations floating through the air. Out on the platform, the hissing steam locomotive seemed a creature from another world, and sharply dressed attendants hurried along the platform helping passengers with their bags. The contemporary scene isn’t so different, although the locomotive is now a rumbling diesel. With travel dreams of their own, Exhibit Train attendees lined up to enter a sweepstakes for two roundtrip coach tickets.

In addition to the Friends of Tampa Union Station, other exhibitors included the National Association of Railroad Passengers, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, Florida Operation Lifesaver, Tampa Bay and Company convention and visitors bureau, and the Florida Railroad Museum. Located about 40 miles south of Tampa in the town of Parrish, the museum owns a large collection of locomotives and rolling stock, with particular attention paid to the history of the Plant System and the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. Throughout the year, people come for the popular excursion train rides that use vintage equipment.

It’s said that the railroad never stops, which is definitely true for the Exhibit Train. This week we head south for a special employee open house and barbeque at our Hialeah maintenance facility outside of Miami. There, crews undertake inspections and maintenance work on equipment to ensure that it is in a state of good repair. We hope to see you in Richmond, Va. on March 3rd and 4th!


Hialeah/Miami Employee Appreciation Day, Feb. 25 and 26

Service awards, games, and good food added up to a family-friendly Employee Appreciation Day in Miami.
Cotton candy spun out for the kids at the Hialeah facility's Employee Appreciation Day
Three of the cooks on board the Exhibit Train
APD K-9 officers take a break at the Hialeah day out

Cotton candy spun out for the kids at the Hialeah facility's Employee Appreciation Day

Three of the cooks on board the Exhibit Train

APD K-9 officers take a break at the Hialeah day out

It’s kind of hard to believe that the Exhibit Train has been traveling the country for almost a year, visiting towns both large and small. Along the way, we’ve made special stops at big employee centers such as Miami. Walking through the displays gives long-time employees the chance to recall some good memories (often punctuated with bouts of laughter as people admire the groovy 1970s uniforms and other items), while newer staff gains an opportunity to better understand Amtrak’s origins and the evolution of intercity passenger rail in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The creation of Amtrak represented the first time that the United States had ever possessed a truly national passenger rail system that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans and from Canada down to the border with Mexico.

Miami is the headquarters of Amtrak’s Southern Division, which covers most of the southeastern states. Florida has a diverse pool of Amtrak employees working primarily in the Transportation and Mechanical departments. The Hialeah facility near the Miami station is a major maintenance and repair shop where skilled crews perform inspections and undertake maintenance on passenger rail equipment used in long-distance and state-supported corridor services.

On Saturday, the Exhibit Train was open to all current and retired Amtrak employees and their families. To take advantage of the train’s presence, the Southern Division held an Employee Appreciation Day. Managers organized an awards ceremony to recognize employees with excellent service and attendance records, impeccable dress standards, and other merits. Brian Gallagher, Director of Operations and Coordination within the Executive Office, represented Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman at the event. He was joined by Barry Melnkovic, Chief Human Capital Officer, and Mike Frazier, Director of Systems Operation.

As you might imagine, the day was very much a “family reunion” that found old friends deep in conversation while kids enjoyed games and sweet treats. Employees volunteered their culinary talents to make old-time favorites, spinning delicate threads of pink cotton candy and sculpting snow cones that were doused with flavored syrups. The team even printed special aprons with the 40th Anniversary logo. A catered lunch included barbeque chicken and ribs, sides and salads. Along the platform, Operation Lifesaver and the Miami Safety Team set up displays, and many people lined up to buy tickets for a chance to win Amtrak 40th Anniversary merchandising items.


Richmond, Va., March 3 and 4

Virginia’s busiest Amtrak station hummed with activity as it welcomed Exhibit Train attendees and local college students headed home for Spring Break.
From our Archives: 'Amtrak southbound Silver Star awaits departure time from Richmond, Va. Broad Street station on May 5, 1975.'
Big line in RVR
The Exhibit Train poses at the Staples Mill platform.

From our Archives: "Amtrak southbound Silver Star awaits departure time from Richmond, Va. Broad Street station on May 5, 1975."

Quite a number of visitors lined up, old and young, to view the Exhibit Train. Photo by Doug Riddell.

The Exhibit Train poses at the Staples Mill Road platform. Photo by Doug Riddell

The Richmond Staples Mill Road station, located in the Henrico County suburbs north of the historic city core, is Virginia’s busiest Amtrak station and is served by a variety of long distance and corridor trains such as the Silver Star and the Carolinian. The waiting room was especially busy this weekend since many college kids were heading to or from Richmond to spend a few days with family and friends over Spring Break. Those with spare time took advantage of the opportunity to walk through the Exhibit Train displays.

Just a few years ago, Amtrak Virginia—a public-private partnership between Amtrak, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and Virginia’s freight and commuter rail operators—launched two pilot programs to expand intercity passenger rail service to a greater number of state residents. These three-year pilots are daily round-trip extensions of Amtrak’s most popular service, the Northeast Regional, to Lynchburg and Richmond, therefore allowing one-seat trips to destinations including New York City and Boston. In its first year of service, October 2009 to September 2010, the Lynchburg train handily beat its initial ridership projection by 147 percent to carry more than 126,000 passengers!

At a table staffed by Amtrak Virginia officials, visitors learned more about plans to extend the Richmond train to Norfolk by the end of this year—months ahead of schedule. In one of the display cases on the last car of the Exhibit Train, there is quite a bit of memorabilia relating to Amtrak Virginia and the initiation of the Lynchburg service. My eye is always drawn to a large advertisement that shows birds flying against a brilliant blue sky. If you look at it more closely, you notice that the birds are in a typical “V” formation, which of course plays into the Virginia theme.

Other exhibitors included Virginia Operation Lifesaver, the Virginia Association of Railway Patrons, the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Children’s Museum of Richmond. Official museum mascot Seymour the Friendly Dinosaur delighted kids in the crowd by dancing and posing for photos. The museum is a not-for-profit organization that strives to create innovative learning experiences for all children and give them the tools to become creative problems solvers.

Railfans might know the Children’s Museum due to the fact that it is next to the Science Museum of Virginia, which occupies the former Broad Street Station. Designed by architect John Russell Pope—of Jefferson Memorial fame—the neoclassical train station opened in 1919 and eventually united the services of the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad (RF&P), the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, the Norfolk and Western Railway, and the Seaboard Air Line Railway. Amtrak served the station until 1975 when the modern Staples Mill Road facility opened. The state had plans to demolish the grand old building in order to construct an office park, but luckily it was turned over to the Science Museum in 1976.

As at many other stops, members of local railroad clubs and historical societies joined with Amtrak employees to staff the Exhibit Train. Volunteers represented the Atlantic Coast Line/Seaboard Air Line Railroads Historical Society, the local RF&P Model Railroad Club, and the Old Dominion Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. This last group also runs the Richmond Railroad Museum which is currently housed in an express car donated by the RF&P. The neighboring Hull Street depot was conveyed to the Old Dominion Chapter by the Southern Railway and will become the organization’s permanent home once renovations are complete. With their deep knowledge and interest in railroading, many volunteers were able to enthusiastically answer additional questions about Richmond-area railroad history.

Well, as they say, the railroad never stops—this week we head back south for a few weeks in North Carolina, a state that has also committed resources to expand intercity passenger rail options for its residents.


Raleigh, N.C., March 10 and 11

North Carolina’s busiest station lived up to its reputation as it welcomed almost 3,000 visitors to the Exhibit Train.
NCDOT Train Hosts generously volunteered
The Exhibit Train parked beside the Raleigh platform, downtown peeking over the rails
Perusing one of the 1980s marketing materials displays onboard

NCDOT Train Hosts generously volunteered. Photo courtesy of NCDOT

The Exhibit Train parked beside the Raleigh platform, downtown peeking over the rails. Photo courtesy of NCDOT

Perusing one of the 1980s marketing materials displays onboard. Photo courtesy of NCDOT

Raleigh's volunteers in the onboard gift store
Enthusiasts of all ages came to see us in Raleigh
Engineer Dan Russell, Mary Russell, and Engineer and 40th Anniversary team member Steve Ostrowski pose on the Raleigh platform

Raleigh's volunteers in the onboard gift store. Photo courtesy of NCDOT

Enthusiasts of all ages came to see us in Raleigh. Photo courtesy of NCDOT

Volunteers Timmy Nemeyer, Mary Russell and 40th Anniversary team member Steve Ostrowski pose on the Raleigh platform. Photo courtesy of NCDOT

Located a few blocks west of bustling Fayetteville Street—the heart of Raleigh’s historic, revitalized downtown—the Cabarrus Street station was animated throughout the weekend as visitors to the Exhibit Train mingled with passengers in the waiting room and along the platform. Luckily, the weather was warm and sunny, and the train proved a perfect backdrop for photos. The station is also a popular spot for rail fans, as it sits on the southeastern end of the famous Boylan Wye, a set of interlockings, junctions, and crossings that dates back to the late 19th century. Tracks in the area, which support freight and passenger service, fall under the ownership of the North Carolina Railroad, CSX, and Norfolk Southern. The last two companies also own rail yards to the north.

Since the 1980s, the state of North Carolina has invested in intercity passenger rail service to provide residents with increased travel options. The state owns the Piedmont Service, which makes two daily roundtrips between Raleigh and Charlotte, and supports the Carolinian, a daily train between New York City and Charlotte. As part of efforts to promote passenger rail and intermodal travel, as well as revitalize town centers, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has funded the rehabilitation or construction of train stations in numerous communities. In one of the display cases aboard the Exhibit Train, you can view keepsakes that were handed out at some of the ribbon-cutting ceremonies, including buttons and wooden whistles with station logos.

Another NCDOT innovation was the creation of a Train Host program aboard the Piedmonts and Carolinian. More than 100 volunteers act as goodwill ambassadors by assisting passengers, answering questions about train service, and providing advice about local towns and attractions. A dozen smartly dressed Train Hosts generously gave their time over the weekend to help us welcome visitors to the Exhibit Train; from their positive demeanor, it was obvious that they take great pride in their work and in promoting train travel. Amtrak staff was also assisted by members of the North Raleigh Model Railroad Club, which maintains an N-scale layout and participates in shows and expositions throughout the region.

Inside the station, people could explore displays set up by the NCDOT Rail Division, the National Association of Railroad Passengers, and North Carolina Operation Lifesaver. This last group strives to educate the public about the safest ways to interact with trains and railroad infrastructure—such as the at-grade crossing of W. Cabarrus Street and the tracks south of the station. Volunteers make presentations to school and community groups at no cost and provide informative brochures and child-friendly teaching material.

As usual, the Chuggington play tables were busy as little hands guided Wilson, Koko, Brewster and friends around town, through the carwash, and into the roundhouse before embarking once again for new adventures—usually at Vee’s instruction. At this point in the Exhibit Train tour, I think all of the Chuggington locomotives have put in thousands of miles of dedicated service!

Well, as they say, the railroad never stops. This week we head west where we’ll be in good company amid the displays of the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer. Those coming by train can catch a shuttle from the nearby Amtrak station in Salisbury.


N.C. Transportation Museum, March 17 and 18

The Exhibit Train was right at home among the NC Transportation Museum’s display of vintage locomotives and rail cars.

North Carolina’s long and rich railroad history takes center stage at the state Transportation Museum, which occupies the former Southern Railway Spencer Shops—a major steam locomotive servicing facility from the days before diesels became dominant. At its peak, more than 3,000 people worked at the complex, making it one of the largest employment centers in the region.

As visitors approached the main entrance, they were greeted by the sight of the Exhibit Train since it was parked along S. Salisbury Ave. Museum staff and docents, as well as North Carolina Train Hosts, volunteered to help staff the display cars, hand-out brochures, answer questions, and assist people as they exited at the back of the train. Attendees also stopped to look at the attractive tabletop displays and brochures provided by our partners, including the Rowan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, North Carolina Operation Lifesaver, the National Association of Railroad Passengers, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rail Division. The Rail Division had a lot of great kids’ items to hand out, but young ones can also head to their website to play games, test their knowledge of railroad lingo, and learn how to act safely around tracks and trains.

The visitors’ bureau is based in neighboring Salisbury, which is a stop for Amtrak’s daily Carolinian, Piedmont, and Crescent. Salisbury’s former Southern Railway station, built in a Spanish Mission Revival style and opened to the public in 1908, still serves passengers. Townspeople know the depot from a distance by its three-and-a-half story tower ornamented with gargoyles. By the 1980s, the building had fallen into disrepair, but the Historic Salisbury Foundation, a citizen-led revolving fund for historic preservation, took on the challenge of resurrecting the landmark.

In addition to serving travelers, the depot contains office space and the former waiting room is rented out for special events. The station revitalization is credited with sparking economic development efforts in the historic downtown. Visitors to the Exhibit Train eagerly signed up to win a pair of roundtrip tickets between Salisbury and the nation’s capital.

After walking through the Exhibit Train, many people stayed to explore the museum, which contains interesting displays documenting the history of transportation in North Carolina. One of the most popular pieces is a full replica of the famous Wright Flyer used in the world’s first heavier than air, powered controlled flight off of Kitty Hawk in 1903. Other exhibits include vehicles such as vintage cars and wagons, as well as transportation-related art.

Railfans enjoy the Bob Julian Roundhouse, which was built in 1924. It now houses a wide-ranging collection of locomotives and rail cars that trace the evolution of American railroading. But the focus of the museum is not just on the machines and energy sources that make transportation possible—people’s stories matter too. An exhibit in the former washroom introduces visitors to the lives of the Southern Railway employees who worked at the shops and built Spencer into a thriving industrial community. Another popular display is a scale model of the shops that gives the viewer an idea of their original extent and the activities that took place on site. Throughout the year, visitors can hop aboard a vintage train for a pleasant ride around the complex.

It’s said that the railroad never stops, which means we have to say goodbye to the good folks of North Carolina who so graciously welcomed us in both Spencer and Raleigh. This week we head south to lovely Charleston, where we’ll be parked near the well-preserved downtown and close to the South Carolina Aquarium—see you there!


North Carolina Transportation Museum Photos

Photos of the Exhibit Train's sunny weekend at Spencer.
Exhibit Train at the NCTM
The museum director was interviewed
Perusing the stop partners' booths

The Exhibit Train at the North Carolina Transportation Museum

Local news crew interviews Sam Wegner, NCTM Executive Director

Perusing the stop partners' booths

heritage passeger car
Heritage Amtrak engine
Steam and diesel at NCTM

NCTM volunteers prepare to work on the Belfast & Moosehead Lake passenger car, 1930s

Former Amtrak F40, #307 is part of the NCTM collection, awaiting restoration

NCTM GP30 #2601 pulls an excursion train past the Amtrak Exhibit Train

Chuggington was busy
Enthusiasts of all ages came to see us in Raleigh
Engineer Dan Russell, Mary Russell, and Engineer and 40th Anniversary team member Steve Ostrowski pose on the Raleigh platform

Chuggington was particularly busy

Todd Stennis, Regional Director, Amtrak Government Affairs, and Kelly Alexander, NCTM COO

Plenty of visitors at the exhibits

Lehigh Valley RR locomotive
how the engineer's console works
Testing the controls

Lehigh Valley Coal Co. #126 steam engine, which visitors could run for a fee

Amtrak engineer Dan Russell explains the locomotive control stand

Junior engineer testing the controls

Get your own trains
Found the right box
Passenger coaches of yesteryear

Get your own trains at the Exhibit Train's gift shop

Explosive-detecting canine Bleckey and Officer Dan Scanlon provide a demonstration for the visitors

NCTM excursion train waits to pick up passengers

Charleston, S.C., March 24 and 25

Charleston certainly ranks as one of our most unique stops—after dozens of stations and even a few railroad museums, a popular public park was a refreshing change of scenery.
Visitors climb onto the Exhibit Train at Charleston, S.C.
Our stop partners welcome visitors to the train and to Charleston
Amtrak K-9 Officer Dan Scanlon demonstrates Bleckey's bomb detection skills

Visitors climb onto the Exhibit Train at Charleston, S.C.

Our stop partners welcome visitors to the train and to Charleston

Amtrak K-9 Officer Dan Scanlon demonstrates Bleckey's bomb detection skills

Instead of holding the Exhibit Train open house at the Amtrak station in North Charleston, CSXT and the city allowed us to park in Ansonborough Field, also known as Concord Park. It was a great location on the edge of the city’s beautifully preserved downtown, which is noted for its many historic homes and graceful public buildings. Lots of people heading to the nearby South Carolina Aquarium took a few minutes to walk through our exhibits.

We were joined at the event by the Children’s Museum of the Low Country, a non-profit organization that strives to spark imagination, stimulate curiosity, and encourage children to problem solve in fun and creative ways. Under large white tents, museum staff set up a craft station on Saturday where kids cut out paper locomotives and decorated them with whatever patterns and colors came to mind. Perhaps there were a few industrial designers in the making? It was interesting to see how many of the color schemes were reminiscent of historic liveries used by American railroads—Amtrak’s patriotic red, white, and blue scheme proved popular. For the younger kids, Chuggington was probably the highlight of the day; more than once, Brewster, Koko, and Wilson jumped off the tables and ran through the lawn.

In the grassy field, Amtrak K-9 Officer Dan Scanlon and his partner Blecky delighted the crowd by showing off Blecky’s special skills for sniffing out potential explosives. Across the Amtrak system, K-9 teams are strategically deployed at stations and involved in up to 1,000 train trips a month. They provide both a psychological and physical deterrent to potential threats. The Amtrak Police Department also maintains strong collaborative relationships with the Transportation Security Administration, federal and state Departments of Homeland Security, and state and local law enforcement agencies.

Members of two local railroad clubs volunteered to staff the display cars, hand out brochures, and assist people getting on and off the train. The Charleston Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society runs the Best Friend of Charleston Railway Museum, named after the first steam locomotive to be placed into regular passenger service back in December 1830. The museum collections include model trains, a research library, and other artifacts such as a manual light switch. Additional volunteers came from the Charleston Area Model Railroad Club that runs a showroom where the public is invited to watch model railroads in O, S, HO, and N scales.

Near the craft station, the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) was on hand to answer riders’ questions and give out maps of the local bus and trolley service. Many people asked about the proposed intermodal center to be constructed in North Charleston. Once completed, it will bring together Amtrak, intercity passenger and local buses, and taxis to facilitate connections between different modes of transportation. Travelers will be able to take advantage of comfortable waiting rooms, food vendors, and other amenities, and the site could also include retail, residential, hotel and entertainment venues that will make it a true neighborhood hub.

To date, part of the 30 acre site has been cleared, roads realigned, landscaping and utilities installed, and a park-and-ride lot constructed. Although money was available to design the building, which is inspired by the former Charleston Union Station, CARTA and regional partners are still working to obtain funding for construction.

Our time in the Southeast these past few months has been a blast, and we’ve enjoyed meeting so many kind folks who volunteered on the Exhibit Train or came out to say hello and explore the Amtrak artifacts and memorabilia. But as they say, the railroad never stops—we’re headed north this week to Wilmington, Del., which is a major employee center that includes the Consolidated National Operations Center and the Bear and Wilmington maintenance and repair facilities. See you there!


Wilmington, DE, March 31 and April 1

A major employee hub, Wilmington is a great place to see Amtrak at work—and to catch-up with friends old and new.
The Exhibit Train resting at the Wilmington platform; the stations signature clock tower rises on the right above the canopies and roofs
Model train display at Wilmington showcases an Amtrak consist
Family Day for Amtrak employees featured a delicious cookout

The Exhibit Train resting at the Wilmington platform; the stations signature clock tower rises on the right above the canopies and roofs

Model train display at Wilmington showcases an Amtrak consist

Family Day for Amtrak employees featured a delicious cookout

Left to right: Bert DiClemente, Amtrak Board of Directors; Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman; APD Sergeant John Cullinan; and John Mattoccia
NCPU 406, attached to the Exhibit Train, behind the nose of the Acela locomotive
Family Day for Amtrak employees featured a delicious cookout

Left to right: Bert DiClemente, Amtrak Board of Directors; Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman; APD Sergeant John Cullinan; and John Mattoccia

NCPU 406, attached to the Exhibit Train, behind the nose of the Acela locomotive

A clown (a CNOC employee) performed for the children

We’d been looking forward to the Exhibit Train stop in Wilmington for weeks because the city is home to hundreds of employees working in the Consolidated National Operations Center (CNOC), High-Speed Rail Training Facility, Bear and Wilmington maintenance and repair shops and rail yards, and the train station that was beautifully renovated last year and renamed in honor of Vice President of the United States Joseph Biden, Jr. As a senator from Delaware, Biden often rode the train back and forth to the nation’s capital, and thus knew the station well.

CNOC is the nerve center of Amtrak operations with numerous “desks” (work groups) overseeing various aspects of the nation’s intercity passenger rail network. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, the two Train Movements Desks monitor trains in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southern, Central, Southwest, and Pacific divisions to track service disruptions and on-time performance.

The Locomotive Desk watches over approximately 400 locomotives while the Car Desk has responsibility for more than 1,700 pieces of equipment across the country. A group of employees keeps an eye on freight trains moving over Amtrak-owned tracks while others take care of dispatching for the Train and Engine and On-Board Service Crews. CNOC also manages charter train movements, Amtrak Thruway bus scheduling, and changes to the national schedules. The Customer Service Desk located at CNOC issues Twitter messages for service interruptions on the Northeast Corridor to keep passengers informed of unexpected delays.

At the High-Speed Rail Training Facility, engineers, conductors and on-board staff train for Acela Express service. It houses a full-scale motion simulator that duplicates the experience of operating Acela Express trains from inside the cab, an on-board service-training lab complete with seats, tables and food preparation areas, and nine classrooms.

All Amfleet cars—the rounded ones familiar to most passengers east of the Mississippi River—as well as all electric locomotives used on the Northeast Corridor, are maintained, repaired, and overhauled at the Bear and Wilmington shops adjacent to downtown. Highly skilled employees are experts in air brake valve refurbishment, HVAC overhaul and electric and diesel locomotive rebuilds. Other specialties include car overhaul, interior upgrades, root cause analysis and equipment painting and trim work. Passengers in the west may be more familiar with the bi-level Superliner equipment, which is maintained at another Amtrak facility in Beech Grove, Ind.

The presence of the Exhibit Train provided a great opportunity to hold a special Employee Appreciation Day to thank everyone for their hard work and contributions that made last year one of Amtrak’s most successful ever—in FY 2011, ridership broke all previous records to reach 30.2 million passenger trips. Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman was on hand to speak to the crowd and meet with families during lunch. He was joined by Bert DiClemente, a member of Amtrak’s Board of Directors, as well as Thomas Carper, one of Delaware’s U.S. Senators.

Although Saturday was a bit overcast, employees volunteered to fire up the grills and briskly turn out hotdogs and hamburgers. The party atmosphere was enhanced by the talents of an employee-turned-DJ who took requests and got people dancing. Kids enjoyed the routine of a clown (another CNOC employee) dressed in colorful polka dots and stripes, while adults and children alike had their faces painted with whatever they could dream up.

Employees also volunteered their time to staff the Exhibit Train, welcoming visitors and answering questions about the objects on display. The historic station, especially the trackside waiting room, hummed with activity as people stopped to look at the displays set up by our stop partners, including DART Transit, Operation Lifesaver Delaware and the National Association of Railroad Passengers. The Northern Delaware Model Railroad Club and the Delaware Large Scalers Garden Railroad Club set up layouts that caught the eye of visitors young and old—they of course featured Amtrak trains gliding along the rails.

A number of local museums and cultural institutions also distributed brochures and told visitors about their programs and activities. Among them were the Hagley Museum and Library, World Café Live at the Queen and the Wilmington and Western Railroad, as well as two station neighbors, the Delaware Theatre Company and the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. The Wilmington station, designed by Philadelphia architect Frank Furness, has long been a landmark along the Christina River. Known for dozens of railroad commissions, Furness had earlier drawn up plans for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad depot on West Street. Representatives of the Friends of the Furness Railroad District excitedly told attendees about the history of the two stations. They pointed out special decorative features and described how Furness impacted American architecture in the Victorian Era.

Our next stop takes us to Longview, Texas, where we’re proud to be part of a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of a project that will see the city’s old depot renovated into a modern intermodal facility. Hope to see you there!


Longview, Texas, April 28 and 29

May 9, 2012

Longview Schoolchildren
School children on train  Train themed fun
School children queue up to get on board the Exhibit Train at Longview. More than 1,000 grade school children paid us a visit on Friday. Train-themed fun at Longview contributed to the festivities.
Cooking Demonstration
 Made in Texas  People Painting
The cooking demonstration was one of many exhibits. The "Made in Texas" booth provided many goodies. The Longview Library contributed a moon-bounce, face-painting and storytelling for the children.


When the Exhibit Train first visited Texas back in January, we were overwhelmed by the hearty welcome and the large crowds that gathered in Ft. Worth and San Antonio. Departing for New Orleans at the end of the month, we really didn’t expect to be back so soon—but then we started receiving letters from Longview dignitaries, including City Council Member Kasha Williams. All of them described the city’s rich history as a major East Texas rail hub—Longview boasted four rail lines by the early 20th century—and requested that the Exhibit Train make a visit to what is today one of the busiest Amtrak stations in Texas.

As the pieces fell into place, city officials decided that the train’s visit would be a great backdrop for a ceremony to kick-off the rehabilitation of the former Texas and Pacific Railroad depot. Now largely unused, the Colonial Revival brick station will be transformed over the next year into an intermodal hub accommodating intercity passenger rail, buses, shuttles, and taxis.

On Friday morning, project partners and residents gathered for the groundbreaking. Speakers included members of theLongview City Council, the East Texas Corridor Council, and Amtrak, and attendees represented groups such as BNSF, the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority, the East Texas Council of Governments, and Greyhound Lines. As part of the ceremony, the world-famous Kilgore College Rangerettes—a female drill team outfitted in patriotic red, white, and blue—entertained the crowd. Later that evening, a reception was held aboard the Warren R. Henry and the Evelyn Henry, vintage rail cars originally manufactured for the UP in the early 1950s. Attendees especially enjoyed the former, a Dome-Lounge car that once ran on the UP’s Portland Rose.

Throughout the day, more than 1,000 grade school children from all across Longview paid a visit to the Exhibit Train to learn about railroad history and technology. Amtrak created a teacher’s guide to highlight specific exhibits, and volunteer Blake Harris, attired in a conductor’s uniform, punched tickets at the entry. Many of the students represented their schools by wearing special t-shirts or badges. On the route map, the kids located Texas and their town, and the catenary display was used to explain how certain materials, such as metal, can be used to conduct electrical current—in this case to power the locomotives in the northeastern states. Adjacent to the depot, the students also got an up-close look at a Longview Transit Bus.

On Saturday and Sunday, we had one of our best crowds yet with more than 3,000 visitors. Dedicated city of Longview employees—especially Community Services Coordinator Dietrich Johnson—worked hard to organize the three day-event, and the result was a great time that resembled one big community block party. The smell of roasting corn wafted through the air, and snow cones in a rainbow of colors glistened in the noonday sun. Local organizations such as the Gregg County Historical Museum, the City of Mineola, Operation Lifesaver, the NAACP and the city of Longview Water Department set up interesting exhibits, and more than a dozen businesses put out their wares. People also enjoyed live music and dancing on a stage set up next to the depot. Performers included ArtsView Children's Theatre, the Broughton Line Dancers, the Hall Brothers Band and belly dancers.

The Longview Police and Fire Departments joined the fun with equipment displays, while officers from Amtrak’s K-9 team showed off their dogs’ skills. On Sunday, the Fire Department generously treated all event-goers to hot dogs fresh from the grill. Just to the west of the depot is a beautiful park with train-themed climbing equipment. During the celebration, kids also enjoyed a moon-bounce, face-painting and storytelling courtesy of the Longview Library. Two very tall clowns delighted the crowd by making colorful balloon animals on request. As usual, the Chuggington table was a big hit, and the little ones loved taking rides on a small train set up in the parking lot.

Well, as they say, the railroad never stops—bidding farewell to Texas once again, we packed up our things and headed north to participate in the year’s first National Train Day celebration in Toledo. See you there!


NOL Model Train Admirers

New Orleans Model Train Admirers
NOL Model Train Admirers
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