Posts Tagged ‘National Train Day’

Toledo National Train Day Set for May 6

April 12, 2017

Toledo still plans to hold a National Train Day this year, although it will not apparently have the headliner external exhibits that it has had in the past.

The event will be held on May 6 at the former Central Union Terminal – now known as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza – between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. There is no admission charge.

Thus far the only announced railroad exhibit will be Ann Arbor Railroad GP38 No. 3879.

Built in 1969, the locomotive has been painted in a commemorative livery to honor the history of the Ann Arbor, which is now a Watco Companies property.

This year’s event will be the 10th National Train Day celebration in Toledo.

Past events have featured heritage and special livery locomotives of Norfolk Southern as well as an Amtrak exhibit train.

It is not clear yet if either NS or Amtrak will be participating in the event.

The event’s sponsors say on their Facebook page that as in past years the festival will feature vendors, model railroad displays, children’s train rides, a safety workshop oriented to children, food and train watching of the nearby NS Chicago Line from the Amtrak station platforms.

Miniature Lake Shore Limited on Display in Toledo

May 8, 2016
Amtrak No. 156 heads a display train at Toledo Central Union Terminal.

Amtrak No. 156 heads a display train at Toledo Central Union Terminal.

Toledo1 May 7-x

Toledo3 May 7-x

Toledo, Ohio, held its annual National Train Day festival on Saturday (May 7) and Amtrak sent a miniature version of the Lake Shore Limited to display.

That included a Viewliner sleeper, an Amfleet II coach, an Amfleet cafe car, a Viewliner baggage car, and P42DC Phase I heritage locomotive No. 156.

The passenger cars were open for public viewing and hundreds of visitors walked through the train.

Amtrak said earlier this year that it would no longer be a sponsor of National Train Day but would continue to provide equipment and its 40th anniversary exhibit train to select events.

The Toledo National Train event has traditionally been held a week before the national date for the event in order to enhance the festival’s chances of obtaining Amtrak equipment for display.

Toledo National Train Day Set for May 7

March 30, 2016

It may no longer be called Amtrak National Train Days, but a national train day celebration will continue in Toledo this year and Amtrak might be a part of it.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari declined to confirm an assertion by the organizers of the Toledo event that it will send passenger cars to Toledo for the May 7 event to place on display as it has done in previous years.

Norfolk Southern plans to send its “Honoring First Responders” locomotive, which carried roster number 9-1-1

Amtrak 4The units is painted in a livery of  red, white, and black. Show organizers say they are planning a ceremony to honor the region’s first responders as part of the event.

The Toledo event also will feature an open house at Central Union Terminal, which is now named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza.

This will be the ninth train day in Toledo and as in past year there will be operating model railroads along with railroad-themed vendors, safety exhibits, children’s activities and musical entertainment.

Amtrak said earlier this year that it was ending its sponsorship of National Train Day.

Amtrak’s Magliari said that before National Train Day began in 2008 that the passenger carrier would on occasion send an equipment display to various cities for promotional purposes.

“Each event request every year, everywhere, will continue to be considered,” Magliari said.

Amtrak Cancels National Train Day

March 7, 2016

Amtrak is doing away with its annual National Train Day celebration, citing financial reasons.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the Amtrak Exhibit Train tour this year would continue.

Amtrak logoNational Train Day began in 2008 as a way to celebrate the history of railroads as well as the tout the advantage of travel by train.

It has traditionally been held on the Saturday closest to the May 10 anniversary of the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad in 1869.

Events have been held at Amtrak stations, tourist railroads and railroad museums. Some of the larger events have featured equipment.

Between 2008 and 2012 the event would feature an official celebrity spokesperson appearing at a single event.

Last year, Amtrak retooled the event and began calling it Amtrak Train Days with a format of a series of events held in multiple cities throughout the year except during the winter.

It is not clear what will happen to the various local train day events.

Amtrak on Display at Toledo National Train Day

May 10, 2015
It can't pull a train anymore, but F40PH No. 406 still looks the part.

It can’t pull a train anymore, but F40PH No. 406 still looks the part.

Sure, seeing the Norfolk Southern GoRail locomotive motivated me to drive to Toledo on May 2 for the National Train Day event.

But what I really wanted to see was Amtrak P42 No. 42. It is dressed in a striking livery that honor’s America’s veterans. It was every bit as classy looking as I expected it be and it was my first time seeing it in person.

And then there was Amtrak No. 406. Built in July 1988 by EMD, this F40PH has since had its traction motors removed and been converted to a NPCU, meaning that it can provide head-end power and be used to control a locomotive, but it can’t pull a train.

Yet for appearances, it looks just like it did when it came out of the EMD factory, complete with a Phase III livery.

Last Saturday it provided HEP for the Amtrak exhibit train and I found myself being transported back a decade or two when the F40 was the king of the Amtrak diesel fleet.

During their heyday, the F40 was the Rodney Dangerfield of locomotives.

A lot of railfans didn’t care for them. They made a lot of noise when standing in the station and they were diminutive in stature compared with their big six-axle freight cousins.

Not too many people are going to say they prefer the look of an F40 over the sleek streamlining of an EMD E or F unit.

I’ve always been partial to the short-lived SDP40Fs that Amtrak purchased in 1973 and 1974, but the F40 proved to be the locomotive that enjoyed the longer life even if it had been designed with corridor service in mind.

So I spent some time looking over the 406 and remembering all of the trips I made behind the F40 fleet until it began to be replaced in the middle 1990s.

It’s funny how something that was so common two decades can seemingly vanish overnight.

In time the same will likely happen with the P42. Will I someday have pangs of nostalgia upon seeing one of those? Probably, yes I will. But that day hasn’t come yet.

What I came to see.

What I came to see.

It's almost highball time for the next Amtrak train to New York at Toledo's Central Union Terminal. If only it were true.

It’s almost highball time for the next Amtrak train to New York at Toledo’s Central Union Terminal. If only it were true.

A father and his daughter spend some quality time in the Sightseer lounge, imagining they are taking a train trip.

A father and his daughter spend some quality time in the Sightseer lounge, imagining they are taking a train trip.

Built in 1950 for Union Pacific, sleeper Pacific Bend has racked up thousands of miles and seen a lot of places in its lifetime. No longer carrying revenue passengers, it is now assigned to the Amtrak exhibit train.

Built in 1950 for Union Pacific, sleeper Pacific Bend has racked up thousands of miles and seen a lot of places in its lifetime. No longer carrying revenue passengers, it is now assigned to the Amtrak exhibit train.

Amtrak's latest slogan on the side of former baggage cars turned exhibit cars.

Amtrak’s latest slogan on the side of former baggage cars turned exhibit cars.

The gray of P42 No. 42 is a throwback of sorts to the days of New York Central vanish sitting on these very same tracks.

The gray of P42 No. 42 is a throwback of sorts to the days of New York Central vanish sitting on these very same tracks.


Amtrak Tweaks National Train Day Event

February 13, 2015

Amtrak plans to tweak its annual National Train Day observance by making it a series of events held throughout the year.

Previously, Amtrak conducted a National Train Day on the second Saturday in May, although some communities held their own celebrations a week earlier.

Now Amtrak says it will expand from multiple events on a single day to individual events over the course of spring, summer and fall.

To be called Amtrak Train Days, the events are designed to celebrate with local communities why trains matter and reasons to ride.

Events will focus on reaching current and new audiences across America to reinforce the importance, benefits and value of passenger train travel.

The program will begin on May 9 in Chicago and include more than 20 events through the end of October. Locations and dates have yet to be announced.

Amtrak said events will feature a combination of outreach tools, including the Amtrak Exhibit Train in select markets, interactive displays at events sponsored by community organizations, Amtrak employee guest speakers, media and event promotions, and a toolkit to support local community activities.

Communities from across the nation are invited to join in the celebration of passenger train travel by hosting their own Amtrak Train Days events during 2015.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers commented that although the additional focus on local events will be welcome—and will help organizers better allocate limited resources—it remains to be seen whether a dispersed series of events can generate the same level of excitement as a national event.

Additional information is available online at



Amtrak Lights 38 Candles

April 29, 2009

Amtrak will light 38 candles on Friday and for the first time in years it will celebrate its birthday without the distraction of being under a death watch, real or imagined.

Although Amtrak’s future seems assured for now, nothing is ever certain about Amtrak other than uncertainty. It may be that the current administration isn’t recommending zeroing out Amtrak funding or telling the states to pay for service they now get for “free.” It may be that Congress is inclined to go along with that and maybe even up the ante by giving Amtrak more money.

Yet there are still those in Washington and elsewhere who argue that Amtrak is a waste of money and they are not going to go away quietly. They have not changed their minds.

Skeletal was the operative word to describe Amtrak’s route network on May 1, 1971, and that’s still true today. Amtrak was then and continues to be a combination of urban corridors, short-haul routes linking large cities with smaller cities and towns, and a handful of long-distance routes. On paper this creates the illusion that Amtrak is a national system. It also has assured enough votes for the yearly Amtrak appropriation in Congress, particularly during those years when a president was trying to eliminate it.

In some places, of course, Amtrak has far more service now than it did 38 years ago. This is particularly true in California, in the Pacific Northwest and to a lesser degree in some places in the Midwest, New England and North Carolina. Yet many states today have the same level of service that they had on May 1, 1971. Some routes have not grown in years while others are at the same level as when they began.

It has been an uneasy alliance that has held Amtrak together all these years. Passenger train advocates are not much for airing their internal disagreements in public. The National Association of Railroad Passengers has done a remarkable job of presenting a united front, saying that the California Zephyr is just as important as the Acela Express. Indeed, some passenger rail advocates argue that any conveyance that involves steel wheels on steel rails is not just worthy, but also needed.

Still the interests of those who live in flyover country are not necessarily the same as those who live on the coasts. Look up the writings of guys like Bruce Richardson and Andrew Selden and see what they have to say about the Northeast Corridor or any corridors for that matter.

For much of Amtrak’s life, it has been a struggle to fight off the efforts of various administrations to kill the beast. Even administrations that were not trying to kill Amtrak were content to treat it with benign neglect and let it limp along with just enough money to keep most of the existing system running.

Later this year we may see a renewal of age-old arguments about where passenger rail priorities should be as the federal government doles out the billions in stimulus money for passenger rail. President Barack Obama may speak favorably about passenger trains, but the trains he praises are not long-distance services. He is not calling for a resumption of the North Coast Limited, the Lone Star or the Floridian, to name three long-haul trains that bit the dust nearly 30 years ago.

Nor has the administration said much about how it feels about Amtrak as it is currently constituted. Every administration claims to be in favor of passenger trains, but that is not the same thing as liking or favoring Amtrak.

In a column in the May 2009 issue of Trains magazine, veteran transportation reporter Don Phillips wrote that Amtrak has won the war and it is time for it to get out of the foxhole it has been hunkering down in all these years.

I have a lot of respect for Phillips and I find him to be one of the most even-handed and sane voices out there when it comes to the politics of Amtrak. But I disagree that the Amtrak war is over or that it will ever be over. There may be a cease-fire right now, but we are just one change of administration or a turnover in Congress from the war being re-ignited.

Phillips was right to say that Amtrak needs to transition from a bunker mentality to a mindset of taking advantage of the new era of rail that seems to be blooming in America. But old habits and ways of thinking are hard to break. And old attitudes won’t change easily, including those that consider Amtrak an abject failure because it has never turned a profit in 38 years.

There are plenty of people who would like to throw Amtrak out, take a clean sheet of paper and start over. There are those who are horrified by that idea. Their fear is that they will lose whatever little passenger service they have now.

Where Amtrak goes and how often it goes there is not necessarily its most pressing problem today. As Phillips pointed out in his column, there is much that needs fixing at Amtrak, including its rolling stock. When Amtrak began, it relied on equipment that was a quarter-century old or older. Some of Amtrak’s Amfleet equipment is far older than that today. Amtrak is only beginning to show signs of taking action to replace its equipment and rebuild what it can.

For all of the issues surrounding Amtrak, Friday should be a day to feel the warm springtime air surrounding passenger rail. Of late Amtrak has celebrated its birthday with what it calls National Train Day. It’s a nice way to get people to come down to a station and perhaps interest them in riding a train.

Amtrak is alive today because there have been enough people riding its trains to demonstrate that, yes, people will ride trains. If there really is a new era in rail in America, then Amtrak’s next objective should be to show that there would be far more passengers if it could add more cars to its trains and even run trains to a few more places.