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

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

Exhibit Train arrives in Seattle

Rails and Trails exhibit in Seattle

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

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

Exhibit Train arrives in Portland

A big crowd in Portland!

The Talgo display impresses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Milwaukee, October 15 and 16

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

Chuggington is a hit at the Milwaukee event

Entering to win the trips

Visitors come for the night-time event

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

Author and rail advocate Robert Tabern displays his work

The Operation Lifesaver event partners

The Trains Magazine event partners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exhibit Train by night in Milwaukee

Inside the locomotive

Young and old on the Exhibit Train


Jackson, Mich., October 8 and 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chicago, October 1 and 2

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

Jera Slaughter and Candy Bucyk recognized for 40 years of service

The Kato model trains fascinated many

Chicago's clarion call to the rails.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago photo opportunity taken

Chicago visitors in good spirits

Proud owners of a new Acela model smile
for the camera


Galesburg, September 24 and 25

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

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

Galesburg prepared
for the Exhibit Train.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Beech Grove, Indiana, September 16

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

The Exhibit Train Arrives comes
to the Beech Grove maintenance facility

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

F40 Locomotive being repaired at Beech Grove
in the 1980s

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

Welcome to the Exhibit Train!

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

Another tattoo customer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


St. Louis, Mo., September 10 and 11

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

The Exhibit Train Arrives at the
St. Louis Gateway Station

Taking in the famous St. Louis Gateway Arch.

Greeting Visitors in the Breezeway.

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

Welcome to the Exhibit Train!

Getting on board in St. Louis.

Old and new soaring together.

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

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

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

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

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


Steamtown National Historic Site, September 3 & 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amtrak and steamtown engineers on the steam locomotive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Amtrak 40th DVD viewing in the Steamtown auditorium

After the K-9 team demonstration, questions

Engine 406 and the Exhibit Train at Steamtown


Albany, N.Y., August 27 and 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Burlington, Vt., August 20 and 21

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

Sunset on
Lake Champlain

Sculptures along the bike path
in Burlington

The bike path led many people
right to our doors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visitors to the booth at the
Burlington stop

Chugging Along at Burlington


Freeport, Maine, August 13 and 14

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

Arriving in Freeport

Welcome to Freeport, Maine!

Exhibit Train this way

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

We shared the space with
other exhibitors

Three of the Exhibit Train team
at our table

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

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

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

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

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


Boston, Mass., August 6 and 7

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

Boston's South station is a busy place.

Hanging sign in Boston South's main hall.

Partners at the Exhibit Train stop

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

Greeting visitors
at the Exhibit Train in Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Popular Eastern Trains"
Guide from 1973

Cresecent Guide
from 1979

Sunset Limited Guide
from 1973

National Limited Guide
from 1977


Providence, R.I., July 30 and 31

Creating a safe environment for passengers and employees has always been a top priority for Amtrak, so in Providence we were happy to be joined by folks from Rhode Island Operation Lifesaver.
Exhibit Train at Providence, R.I.
Waterfire, a waterfront art installation
Mystic Valley Railway Society Table

Exhibit Train at Providence, R.I.

Waterfire, a waterfront
art installation

Mystic Valley Railway Society Table

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

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

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

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

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

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

Billy Manning and Connor
Amtrak Police Officers
Operation Lifesaver Table

Billy Manning and Connor

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

Operation Lifesaver Table


New London, Conn., July 23 and 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Haven, Conn., July 16 and 17

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

New Haven station interior
New Haven station's lovely interior
It seems hard to believe that only 40 years ago, just as Amtrak was born, this station was basically shuttered, facing a very uncertain future. Now with Amtrak, Metro North, and Shore Line East trains, it buzzes with activity all day. Like Springfield, New Haven is also a popular rail fanning spot since there’s the chance to see so many different kinds of cars and locomotives passing by.

The weather really worked with us to encourage one of our biggest crowds yet. Members of the New Haven division crew were a great help in setting-up the exhibitor tables and Chuggington Kids’ Depot, and made sure that visitors knew where to go once they entered the station. We were also lucky to have volunteers from two chapters of the National Railway Historical Society: the Western Connecticut and Long Island Sunrise Trail sections. The former runs the informative SONO Switch Tower Museum down the line in South Norwalk. Many of the Long Island folks were enthusiastic young men with a great interest in railroading, and some were even thinking about a career in the industry. For them, the Exhibit Train was an excellent way to see how passenger railroading has changed over the last 40 years.

One of the stars of the weekend was Roxy, a female Labrador retriever who is the canine partner of Amtrak Police Officer Joseph Agnellino. The duo gave demonstrations in the Main Waiting Room to the delight of visitors and travelers. Kids especially love the K-9 unit trading cards that include photos of the officers and their dogs. Amtrak’s Police Department is one of the largest railroad police agencies in the country. More than 40 K-9 units are strategically deployed at stations throughout the system and are involved in up to 1,000 train trips a month! These teams are part of a collaborative interagency initiative that includes the Transportation Security Administration, federal and state Departments of Homeland Security, and state and local law enforcement agencies.

APD dog demo NHV
Roxy demonstrates her vapor-
scenting skills
An important part of K-9 unit training involves explosives detection, where the teams undergo an 11-week training program during which the dogs are trained in odor recognition. During that time, handlers are taught to recognize changes in their own dog’s behavior as a response to “alerting” on a potential threat. Part of the course includes vapor wake instruction, where the dogs are trained to alert on scents left in the wake of a passing individual. Amtrak currently has the most vapor wake-capable K-9 units in the railroad industry.

Like they say, the railroad never stops. Sunday afternoon we packed up and moved out so that the track would be ready for the busy Monday morning commute. Hopefully we’ll see you this coming weekend in New London, where the historic station overlooks the Thames River. Nearby, the Fish Tales, Tugs, Sails & Rails Festival will be offering free nautically-themed, family friendly activities that celebrate children’s literature and the environment.


Springfield, Mass., July 9 and 10

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Locomotive #406 comes to Strasburg, Pa.

Exhibit Train at Strasburg

Locomotive #822 and Thomas

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

The Strasburg crowd

Two hostesses on board

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

A substantial crowd at Strasburg

Greeting a young visitor

Another enthusiastic young visitor

Harrisburg, June 11 and 12

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

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

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

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

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

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


Philadelphia, May 28 and 29

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

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

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

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

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

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


Baltimore, May 21 and 22

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

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

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

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

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

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