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Home > Blog > Exhibit Train Blog, 2011-2012 > Amtrak's Birthday & National Train Day Kick Off the Tour at Washington Union Station, May 2–7

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

Posted by admin at May 09, 2011 12:25 PM |
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!