The push to get the states of Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, along with Amtrak and BNSF Railway, to commit enough funds to maintain the current route of Amtrak's Chicago-Albuquerque-Los Angeles Southwest Chief to passenger-train standards has galvanized a great deal of grassroots activity along the affected portion of the route (between Newton, KS and Albuquerque). Local train advocates are taking advantage of National Train Day -- the 5th annual national celebration of trains' role in American life, conceived by Amtrak in 2008 -- to raise the profile of the issue and recruit more supporters to mount pressure on the three states' elected officials.
The Colorado Rail Passengers' Association (ColoRail) was successful at earning official National Train Day proclamations from Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. Both proclamations laud the two Amtrak trains serving Colorado and Denver's rail transit network as "a source of civic pride, a gateway to our communities and a tool for economic growth."
The City of La Junta, CO, located in the center of the threatened portion of the Southwest Chief route, is putting on a National Train Day celebration at the depot to coincide with the arrival of the westbound Chief on May 12. Each passenger boarding or getting off train 3 that day will get a small gift.. Inside the depot, Amtrak staff will have sweet treats and Junior Conductor paper hats for kids, and La Junta's Community Band will be striking up some John Phillip Sousa marches.
When the train arrives, a delegation of ColoRail members and other advocates will board and ride to Las Vegas, NM, and return the same day on the eastbound Chief, holding a conference in the train's Sightseer Lounge car while en route.
Albuquerque's Alvarado Transportation Center will also host festivities on May 12, sponsored by the Rio Metro Regional Transit District, which operates the Rail Runner Express commuter train between Belen, Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The event will include tours inside Rail Runner Express,Amtrak, and BNSF rail cars, model train club displays, and two children's interactive train displays, as well as an appearance by BNSF's Harvey Girls Society. A youth art contest and entertainment by local school groups will also be had.
Depot Redux, a local volunteer group working to save and restore the Lawrence, KS station, will have a Train Day open house there from 3:00 to 4:30 PM on May 12.
Amtrak is doing a major marketing effort for National Train Day this year, including producing a 2-minute promotional video that beautifully encapsulates what makes train travel a special experience, in addition to a safer, greener and less stressful way to get from A to B. The video encourages people to enter the See More on a Train contest by sharing their train travel stories. Enjoy!