April 6, 2010

CHICAGO (April 6, 2009)—“When the blues took the train to Chicago” will be the theme Saturday May 8 when Amtrak holds its Third Annual National Train Day at Chicago Union Station.

In a historic tribute to the original bluesmen who began migrating from Mississippi to Chicago almost a century ago via the Illinois Central Railroad, two sons of blues legend Muddy Waters will retrace that historic route when they ride Amtrak’s City of New Orleans direct to the festivities in Union Station’s Great Hall.

On arrival in Chicago from the Delta, “Big Bill” and “Mud” Morganfield will perform a free concert in Chicago Union Station along with another famous bluesman, Bobby Rush, who will join the train in Memphis.

“Each year we do something special in Chicago for National Train Day,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari. “This year a multi-state blues tour will end in Chicago with a free concert in the Great Hall of Union Station. The performers will use the same connection between the Mississippi Delta and Chicago that their ancestors traveled, just as Amtrak’s City of New Orleans does every night.”

The concert will be one element in an annual family day that has quickly become a must with rail employees, rail fans, passenger-rail advocates and kids and adults who just plain like trains.

National Train Day is celebrated at Amtrak stations around the country, with each station, large or small, contributing its own impression of the importance of passenger trains to local history (Philadelphia, for example, will be celebrating the historic connection that developed between trains and baseball when the major-league teams traveled overnight in sleeping cars to their out-of-town games).

In addition to the blues concert, Chicago’s National Train Day will feature free walk-through inspections of Amtrak passenger cars as well as other equipment. Visitors also will be able to observe a model railroad exhibit, the AmtraKids Depot, a National Park Service Trails & Rails exhibit, Snapshot Station, and a presentation called “Trains Move Our Economy.” All exhibits and performances are free.

”There’s something for everyone to enjoy at National Train Day in Chicago, but there’s a special pleasure for rail employees and their families,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy.

“When friends and family get to visit one of America’s biggest railroad stations and see trains up close, they begin to understand the importance of the jobs we do,” he said. “This is a day that rail employees, both passenger and freight, can take great pride in and celebrate the work that we do. Amtrak President Joseph Boardman has personally invited me to participate in the Chicago event and I would encourage all UTU members who are available and interested to stop by the festivities and join in the fun.

“And when they learn that a great American art form like the blues literally rode the rails from the South up to Chicago, they understand the importance of trains in the development of our country’s unique culture,” Guy said.

Amtrak’s City of New Orleans is scheduled to arrive at Chicago Union Station, 225 S. Canal St., at 9 a.m. National Train Day festivities start at 11 a.m. and run to 4 p.m. The live blues program will run from 12 noon to 1 p.m.

“National Train Day will be the perfect occasion to hear your favorite blues numbers performed by the Delta’s most authentic artists,” Guy said.

But Guy said the audience should not expect the visiting bluesmen to perform the “Disappearing Railroad Blues.”

“That expression may have been appropriate when Steve Goodman used it in ‘The City of New Orleans’ in 1970, but it’s not appropriate anymore,” he said.

“The American railroad isn’t disappearing. It’s back, it’s bigger than ever, and it’s finally got its own celebration—National Train Day.”