April 29, 2008

CHICAGO (April 29)–In an April 21 letter to UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo, Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Alex Kummant proclaimed Amtrak’s first National Train Day and invited the union’s members, families and friends to celebrate the nation’s railroad revival with a day-long celebration May 10 at Chicago Union Station.

Amtrak will hold similar celebrations at the same time at its stations in New York City, Washington and Los Angeles. The Chicago celebration will begin at 10 a.m.

Kummant said Amtrak decided to inaugurate National Train Day to celebrate the continuing revival of both passenger and freight rail transportation in the U.S.

“With ridership at record levels, we continue to see a strong demand for rail travel as a link between growing communities,” Kummant said. “Passenger and freight service are on the rise, and there’s never been a better time to celebrate the railroad industry and the passenger rail service in the U.S.”

A centerpiece of the Chicago celebration will be a tribute the Pullman porters who manned the nation’s huge fleet of sleeping cars during the Golden Age of passenger trains. That ceremony will start at 1 p.m.

At 2 p.m. the World Classic Rockers, an all-star ensemble made up of performers from several famous rock bands of the 1980s, will entertain the crowd with their generation’s greatest hits.

Throughout the day, the Great Hall of Union Station will be the site of other live musical performances, exhibits, free trip planning for those interested in riding Amtrak, VIP appearances, and trip giveaways.

Szabo said railroaders and their families should anticipate attending the National Train Day celebration not only for fun, but with a sense of pride in the tremendous future that has opened up for railroading in the U.S.

“I can remember when most railroad events held for the public were about the past,” Szabo said. “We’re used to celebrating our ‘railroad heritage’ in this country, but the idea of a ‘railroad future’ is something new. I think Amtrak has done a real service in creating a new holiday just to celebrate the promise and the future of rail transportation.”

Despite its focus on the future, National Train Day retains one link to railroading’s past. Its date, May 10, commemorates the day in 1869 when America’s first railroad to the Pacific was completed with the driving of the Golden Spike to connect the rails of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads at Promontory, Utah.

“That day 139 years ago was alive with promise for the nation and for the railroad industry,” Szabo said. “Now that promise is alive again. The railroad industry has turned around, public attitudes toward rail transportation have turned around, and National Train Day is a great way to tell the nation the trains are back.

“I urge all our members to take the family to Union Station May 10,” he said. “Everyone who attends will have fun, but for railroaders there’s a special bonus. pride.”