May 3, 2011

CHICAGO (May 3)—National Train Day, the increasingly popular celebration of passenger trains that brought 5,000 people out to Chicago Union Station in 2010, is expecting even more visitors this Saturday, May 7.

One reason: Free train rides that let families ride right through the interior of Amtrak’s locomotive and railcar maintenance shops south of Chicago Union Station. (Note: The three all-reserved trips sold out almost as soon as they were announced.).

Despite the tour sellout, plenty of other attractions are expected to fill the Great Hall of Chicago Union Station. Visitors can tour static displays of Amtrak passenger cars and locomotives, along with vintage rolling stock from the “streamliner era” of the 1940s and ‘50s plus luxurious privately owned passenger cars and executive office cars.

The railcar tours are free but require reservations from the National Train Day Web site at Tours start every 30 minutes from noon to 3:30 p.m.

National Train Day, which Amtrak began sponsoring in 2008, will have special significance this year, the 40th anniversary of Amtrak’s creation as the nation’s sole intercity passenger railroad. The celebration is held each year at four of Amtrak’s busiest stations, Pennsylvania Station in New York, 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Chicago Union Station and Los Angeles Union Station.

Leading the exhibits at the 2011 event in Chicago will be “Hands on the Past: Mexican Contributions to the Railroad.” The exhibit will tell the story of how thousands of Mexican workers were brought to the U.S. to do railroad-maintenance work during the labor shortages of World War II.

Live entertainment will be provided by Radio Disney and a live performance from the Million Dollar Quartet: Chicago’s hit rock ‘n roll musical inspired by the true story of the night Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash made history. And local children’s entertainment group Mr. Singer and the Sharp Cookies will perform numbers from their popular album “Muddy Water Beaver Dam Band.”

Other exhibits include an Amtrak high-speed rail display; a K-9 demonstration by Amtrak police personnel; “Dining the Rail Way,” featuring Amtrak dining-car chefs preparing their specialties; a model train layout, an exhibit on Amtrak’s 40 years of history and its plans for future growth; and Amtrakids Depot, with games, prizes and crafts celebrating Amtrak’s 40th anniversary.

The celebration runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For further details, visit