May 3, 2012

CHICAGO (May 4)—If you like trains and your kids like trains, get ready to have fun together Saturday, May 12, when Amtrak unrolls its fifth annual National Train Day at Chicago Union Station.

The increasingly popular celebration, timed to coincide with the 143rd anniversary of the completion of America’s first transcontinental railroad at Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869, will feature more trains than ever this year.

The most popular attraction is sure to be the 40-minute Amtrak train ride that will be offered at three times during the celebration—11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Led by P-42 locomotive No. 156—repainted in the first Amtrak color scheme to celebrate the carrier’s 40th anniversary in 2011—the train includes popular bi-level Superliner equipment used on Amtrak’s long-distance routes connecting Chicago with California, the Pacific Northwest, Texas and New Orleans. Each of the 40-minute trips will depart from track 2 on the south passenger concourse. Tickets for adults are $5, but children under 12 ride free.

Plus there will be plenty of static displays—locomotives and cars that don’t offer rides but do offer visitors walk-through inspection tours. This year’s lineup includes:

Canadian National Railway’s executive train, headed by a 1950s-vintage streamlined E9 locomotive and two office cars.

A Belt Railway of Chicago switching locomotive.

A Norfolk Southern Corp. business-car collection, along with a restored F7 freight locomotive and a former Pennsylvania Railroad passenger locomotive.

A display of classic Metra commuter train equipment still in daily use, including F40C locomotive No. 611 and an ageless 1950s-vintage Budd stainless-steel gallery coache.

A BNSF Railway GP38 freight locomotive.

Nine privately owned restored luxury passenger cars, including sleeping cars, dome-lounge cars and open-platform end-of-train observation cars.

Unlike in past years, there will be no ticketing system to manage the crowds who want to board these trains. Space is limited, so if you want a walk-through tour be sure to come early so you can get a space in line.

Inside Union Station’s Great Hall visitors will find other attractions, including actor Hill Harper of “CSt.NY,” who will share his recollections of riding Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, and Miss Lori, star of PBS’s hit kid show “Miss Lori’s Campus.”

Visitors also will find a model train display, a cooking event featuring Amtrak chefs preparing free samples of their favorite dining-car dishes, an Amtrak high-speed rail exhibit and members of Amtrak’s uniformed police department displaying dogs from their K-9 Unit