Happening Now

Embarking on a Journey with a Cause

August 6, 2013

Written By Malcolm Kenton

Tomorrow morning, I head to San Francisco to begin what promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience: a transcontinental train journey in private railcars with 19 other enterprising members of the Millennial generation (those born between 1977 and 2000, so named due to our coming of age at the time of the turn of the third millennium). Each of us is pursuing a different project, aiming to apply a trans-regional perspective and the kind of creative thinking that a contemplative train journey fosters to a different social cause. We each raised $5,000 through crowd funding to participate in the journey and advance our individual projects, with the requirement that we each produce something of lasting value at the end of the journey.

Kenton contemplates the New River Gorge aboard Amtrak's Cardinal in 2011.
Kenton contemplates the New River Gorge aboard Amtrak's Cardinal in 2011.

My cause, which I have dubbed “Trains Revitalizing America,” is to further galvanize a grassroots movement for revitalizing passenger trains as an integral part of a more sustainable, resilient and prosperous America by reawakening the historical connection between trains, our landscape, and the foundations of our economy in my generation. I will be interviewing my fellow passengers and others attracted by the ideals of the Millennial Trains Project (MTP) and taking evocative photographs over the course of the trip, and my final products will be a film and an online photo essay. I intend for these to be of lasting benefit to the increasingly important cause to which NARP and our allies are dedicated—obtaining the public and private investment necessary to bring about a versatile, multi-modal transportation system for a prosperous and sustainable America, with trains and rail transit as its linchpin.

After spending a day and a half in the City on the Bay, we will travel east behind Amtrak’s California Zephyr and Capitol Limited, stopping over for at least a day in Denver, Omaha, Chicago and Pittsburgh before arriving back here in Washington, DC for a closing event on August 17. Our chartered sleeping cars will serve as our hotel for the entire trip, and we will have the unparalleled pleasure of experiencing the route through the wrap-around windows of a dome car and a rear-end observation car, which will also serve as mobile innovation labs and conversation spaces.

It is hoped that this journey will be the first of several similar MTP journeys that will take place on a regular basis, each with a different crop of Millennials not only pursuing innovative ways to make the world a better place, but also discovering train travel’s splendors and its unique capacity for facilitating contemplation and connection to landscapes, people and different communities along the way. And I’ll be proud to say that I took part in the very first one.

Check back here at the NARP Blog each day through Monday, August 19, for a dispatch from the journey, where I will share insights I have gained from my fellow participants, our on-board mentors, and the people we meet in the cities we visit. I will also share photos on the NARP Facebook page.

- Malcolm Kenton