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National Train Day 2013

National Train Day, Part Two

Welcome to National Train DayIn last week’s post about National Train Day I did whine a bit about the state of passenger rail services in the United States. To be honest, I attended Train Day hoping to find either someone who would hear my complaints or who would miraculously have all the answers. What I didn’t really expect to find was a sympathetic ear, but I did. Lots of them, from the men and women working for Amtrak to citizens volunteering for political action campaigns, from people boarding trains bound for elsewhere to people just dreaming about riding the rails.

Train Day events in Fort Worth, Texas were hosted by the Fort Worth Intermodal Station which houses Amtrak and the Trinity Railway Express (TRE) commuter line, and Greyhound and city buses. There is a Subway restaurant and Enterprise franchise in the building as well. I was glad to see Amtrak on hand selling t-shirts and goodies, and offering lots of information on Amtrak Vacations, the Trails & Rails partnership with the National Park Service, and handy discount offers for rail travel.

Somehow, trains and “old timers” go hand in hand and I found a few great examples of both sitting across from each other just outside the station. On one side, the 100 year old Fort Worth Limited Car 25 which once served on the electric commuter line between Dallas and Fort Worth. On the other, the North Texas T-Track Modular Railroad Club with well over 100 years of collective experience modeling N-Gauge railroads. Both were thrilling and beautiful, drawing flashes and coos from young and old.

Next to the trains, I was most happy to meet the folks from Texas Rail Advocates, a non-profit grass roots organization to promote rail interests in Texas who are pressing for improved and increased service – passenger and freight – in Texas and throughout the region. This group was instrumental in creating the Rail Division at the Texas Department of Transportation. They are fighting now to capitalize the Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund, which they helped pass as a Texas Constitutional Amendment in 2005, and which the Texas legislature has yet to fund. This fund is earmarked to implement improved train control measures, plan high speed rail from Dallas to Houston, and a whole lot more that would really help move people and freight faster and more safely.

Of course, the stars of the show were the trains! Freight movers BNSF and Union Pacific had modern locomotives on display, while TRE and Amtrak had passenger cars open to tour. I was delighted – and secretly jealous – to spot several people, young and old, toting luggage through the crowds to get to their seats on the Texas Eagle, bound for San Antonio that very afternoon. Glad to see there are people willing and able to take some time to enjoy what many think of as outmoded transportation. It gives me hope that rail is not dead in the United States, and we may yet see its rebirth.

More photos from National Train Day 2013

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