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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!


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!


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

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!


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.


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.'
Quite a number of visitors lined up, old and young, to view the Exhibit Train.
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.


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.


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!


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.


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!


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!


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!


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!


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!


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.

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.


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!


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!”


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!


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!