Golden Spike Award

Golden Spike Award

George Falcon, publisher of Key magazine (an entertainment and dining guide for the Los Angeles and Orange County area), got the idea for the Golden Spike Award in the mid-1960's from actress Debbie Reynolds, a train lover whose father worked as a conductor on the Southern Pacific Railroad. She was the first recipient. The second recipient was Walt Disney. Since then, the Golden Spike has been given to celebrities, elected officials, and others who have made important contributions to the passenger rail cause.

The award itself originally was just a golden spike. Going back to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, golden spikes were used by railroads in ceremonies to mark the completion of important projects. By the 1970's, the award became a golden spike mounted on a wooden plaque with a brass inscription plate.

Mr. Falcon was an active early member of NARP, which was founded in 1967. As he became more active in NARP, the Golden Spike evolved into a NARP award. Since 1984, the NARP Board of Directors Executive Committee has approved all choices for recipients. Mr. Falcon continued to provide the awards and publicize them in Key through 2003, the year he passed away.


Recipients of the Golden Spike Award


mid 1960's-1973 Debbie Reynolds  
Walt Disney  
Lowell Thomas  
August A. Busch, Jr.  
Sen. Howard Cannon (Nev.)  
1974 Johnny Cash Promotion of trains through songs
1976 Barron Hilton, president of Hilton Hotels Services to travelers
American Freedom Train U.S. bicentennial exhibit on rails
1978 California State Sen. James R. Mills, President Pro Tempore Devotion to California rail issues
Los Angeles County Supervisor Baxter Ward Work on southern California rail issues 
Anthony Haswell Founder of NARP
1979 NARP President Orren Beaty Work on balanced transportation 
1980 Sen. Birch Bayh (Ind.) Work to preserve Indiana passenger trains 
Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt Work on Phoenix commuter service 
1981 Board of Directors, Metropolitan Transit Development Board, San Diego First new light rail system in U.S.
City of Los Angeles Work on intermodal aspects of Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal 
Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), chairman of Senate Commerce Committee Work on rail issues 
Amtrak President Alan Boyd Improvements to Amtrak 
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum Preservation of railroad heritage 
1982 Amtrak For handicapped-accessibility design of new Superliner equipment 
Rep. James Florio (D-N.J.), chairman of House Commerce Transportation Subcommittee Work on Amtrak issues
California Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. Support of new Spirit of California
Rep. Robert T. Matsui (D-Cal.) Support of California rail projects
NARP Director Don Maxwell Efforts to save Cardinal
1983 Ira Fistell, ABC Radio For writing America by Train, travelers’ guide to national rail system 
City of Anaheim, Cal. New Anaheim Stadium Multimodal Transportation Center 
Amtrak President W. Graham Claytor, Jr. For various improvements to Amtrak 
1984 NARP President John R. Martin Effort to save Spirit of California
NARP Director Leif E. Lange Effort to save Spirit of California
1985 City of Santa Ana, Cal. New Regional Transportation Center 
NARP Executive Director Ross Capon 10 years of service
1986 Sen. Mark Andrews (R-N.Dak.), chairman of Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee Leading Senate fight to save Amtrak 
Rep. Silvio O. Conte (R-Mass.), ranking member House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee Support of public transportation 
1987 People of Baltimore County, Md. Assistance to victims of Colonial accident 
1988 Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), chairman of Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee Commitment to passenger trains 
Rep. William Lehman (D-Fla.), chairman of House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee Work toward balanced transportation
California Assemblyman Jim Costa Development of rail network in California 
1989 Rep. Lawrence Coughlin (R-Pa.), ranking member House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee Support of Amtrak 
NARP Assistant Director Barry Williams 10 years of service 
1990 Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) Work to save Chicago-St. Louis corridor 
NARP Director Samuel E. Stokes, Jr. Dedicated work toward balanced transportation
1991 Arthur L. Lloyd On his retirement from Amtrak, for contributions to public awareness of passenger rail in the West 
1992 Rep. Al Swift (D-Wash.) Leadership on his bill for a gas-tax penny for Amtrak and a passenger rail trust fund 
1993 Sen. George Mitchell (D-Me.) Work toward Boston rail link and Maine service 
1994 Gov. William Weld (R-Mass.) Work toward Boston rail link 
State Rep. John Businger (D) Work toward Boston rail link 
1995 Mayor John Robert Smith, Meridian, Miss. Work to alert public officials of need for national system
1996 Sen. William V. Roth, Jr. (R-Del.) For work on dedicated funding for Amtrak and ISTEA flexibility for states
1997 Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) For advocacy of intercity passenger rail service outside the Northeast 
NARP Membership Director Jane Colgrove Ten years of service
1998 Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.) For work on ISTEA flexibility for states and improved public transportation 
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) For work on ISTEA I, Washington Union Station, and dedicated funding for Amtrak
Former Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) For support of passenger rail during 36 years in Senate, and for "Megalopolis Unbound" (1966) which laid foundation for Northeast Corridor
Tim Gillespie, former Amtrak Government Affairs Vice President Important contribution to the progress intercity passenger rail has enjoyed in the U.S.
1999 Gov. Tommy G. Thompson (R-Wis.) Encouraging bi-partisan support for nationwide intercity passenger rail
2000 Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) For hard work to secure for states the right to invest their federal transportation funds on intercity passenger rail projects
Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D.-N.J.) For long, distinguished career of successfully and significantly increasing federal funding for passenger rail nationwide
2001 John R. Martin Awarded posthumously for many vital contributions during his 21 years as president of NARP
2002 Sen. Ernest Hollings (D.-S.C.) For advocating saving and upgrading our national intercity passenger rail network and for developing high speed rail corridors
Rep. Jack Quinn (R.-N.Y.) For support of an authorization with adequate funding to continue Amtrak's nationwide network
Doras Briggs For untiring advocacy and creation of California's station host program
2003 Sen. Patty Murray (D.-Wash.) For work to prevent shutdown of Amtrak in 2002 and provide reasonable funding in 2003 and strong support for mass transit in general
Rep. C. W. Bill Young (R.-Fla.) For work to prevent shutdown of Amtrak in 2002 and to provide adequate funding for Amtrak in 2003
2004 Sen. Tom Carper (D.-Del.) For work to include rail titles in surface transportation legislation and in general to keep nationwide rail service
Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R.-N.Y.) For work over many years for high speed rail development and for our national rail passenger system
2005 Senator Arlen Specter (R.-Pa) For, "his long service on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Thanks in part to (his) hard work, our national rail passenger system continues to operate and report growing ridership and had reasonable prospects for weathering the current crisis."
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D.-Ore.) For his strong support of Amtrak in Congress, and for working "tirelessly throughout his career in support of light rail and pedestrian-friendly land use planning."
Rep. James L. Oberstar (D.-Minn.) "Representative Oberstar has one of Capitol Hill’s most extensive records in support of a modern transportation system. He has worked tirelessly both in defending Amtrak and in promoting development of world-class high speed rail." (Presented at the NARP Board Meeting in Minneapolis in October)
Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) For his work to complete an Amtrak reauthorization and his defense of a National rail passenger network.
Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) For his tireless work in the Senate to properly fund Amtrak and particularly for his defense of Amtrak's Cardinal.
Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) For his work to raise Amtrak funding last year and continuing efforts to complete a reauthorization bill.
Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) For her work to raise Amtrak funding last year and constant pressure to put out the facts about Amtrak.
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) For his leadership and committee roles in the House and later the Senate to secure funding for Amtrak, expand state-supported service through Illinois, and protect long-distance trains.
Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) For his steadfast support of both Montana’s Empire Builder and the entire national Amtrak network, and for his chairmanship of the Congressional Rail Caucus.
2008 Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) For being a strong supporter of passenger train development, both intercity and commuter, and for working to save a threatened freight rail line.
Rep. John Olver (D-MA) For consistently being an articulate voice in favor of a balanced transportation system in which passenger trains play a growing role.
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) For his long-time supporter of passenger trains in general and Amtrak in particular and efforts as Majority Leader to get the Amtrak and Rail Safety Bill through Congress at the end of the 110th session.
Rep. John Mica (R-FL) Rep. Mica has made it “a personal mission to see that the United States has world class high-speed trains..." according to the text on the award plaque. As Republican Leader on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Commitee, Mica played a key role leading to the October, 2008, enactment of the Rail Safety/Amtrak reauthorization.


Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (both R-ME) For their work in support of passenger train service generally and of Amtrak’s highly successful Downeaster, which has run between Boston, New Hampshire, and Portland, Maine, since 2001.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY)

For being a steadfast Amtrak supporter and for co-founding the Congressional Bi-Cameral High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus.


Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) For his unfailing support for robust passenger train funding and his work to advance the Honolulu rail rapid transit project.

Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA)

For consistently voting to preserve Amtrak funding and for understanding the importance of Amtrak's Keystones and SEPTA Regional Rail service to his constituents.


Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) For his tireless support of both Amtrak and the Midwest High Speed Rail Corridor.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)

For consistently voting to invest in Amtrak's Cascades service as well as light rail manufacturing in Portland.