Saturday, May 7, 2011

Today is National Train Day - 2011

The Southwest line travels from Waterloo, London to Bournemouth, England

A typical freight train in the United States

Today is National Train Day - 2011

Those who know me well know that I love to travel by train whenever I can. I sometimes think that I was born in the wrong century because I still have the nostalgia of train travel which developed when I was a child, and to be honest I have never felt the desire to rush from place to place :-)

Just this Tuesday I took a one day return ride on the the train from Buffalo, NY to Albany NY - a six hour journey each way - I was so happy to view the countryside just as the leaves are just appearing on the trees and the flowers are blooming. It is a wonderful route that travels through many towns and an excellent way to view the many bridges, and scenery that New York offers.

A young passenger in front of me was talking on his cell phone and I heard him say that he had never been on a train before and he was really enjoying it. He told his friend that it is just like being on an airplane except that the windows are much bigger and there is more opportunity to walk around. I thought that was an insightful observation.

As I was reading the complimentary magazine provided by Amtrak, I noticed the articles advertising information about the upcoming National Train Day and that it is on May 7, 2011 – today.

What Is National Train Day? It is a day for train lovers to celebrate the existence of trains. There are official Train Clubs; I have a friend who travels all over the world just to experience riding a certain train in a certain country. No, I do not sit at the train stations and record which trains I have viewed or travelled on in a Train Spotters Journal but I do think that I could get drawn into that hobby if someone invited me to do so.

Here is a condensed history of trains in the United States written by Amtrak. On May 10, 1869, in Promontory Summit, Utah, the "golden spike" was driven into the final tie that joined 1,776 miles of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways, ceremonially creating the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. And America was transformed.

Suddenly, the country was united in a way it never had been, and train travel sparked imaginations in small towns and big cities, among folk who desired adventure and businessmen who saw fortunes to be made. The sound of a train whistle was the soundtrack of happy reunions and tearful farewells. It heralded the arrival of mail, supplies and change.

The train became more than the go-to mode of transport for people and goods. It was a proud achievement of engineering vision, technical ingenuity and sweat. It was a cultural force that sparked the creative imaginations of storytellers in songs, movies and novels. Railways provided jobs for thousands of Americans. The train station became a focal point of every community, from New York City’s Pennsylvania Station to the tiny stations that dotted rural America.

Now, 140 years after the “golden spike” connected east and west, there’s never been a better time to take the train. Huge crowds and the frustrations that go with them burden our highways and airports. And at a time when we all share the same pressing concerns about environment and energy conservation, trains are a more energy-efficient mode of travel than either autos or airplanes. Riding the rails is not only a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, but also a great way to meet interesting people and see breathtaking scenery.

That’s why, in commemoration of the anniversary of the day the "golden spike" was driven, they celebrated the first-ever National Train Day on May 10, 2008. Thousands enjoyed live entertainment, train displays, raffles, prizes and surprises for big and small across the nation.
This year the events will be even better. Today there will be a coast-to-coast celebration of the way trains connect people and places, with major events in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles, while other events will occur in smaller markets nationwide. Join us and discover the Rail Way during any of the National Train Day festivities that are sure to be a treat for all ages.

To find out what activities may be happening to celebrate National Train Day in your area go to:

As I write this I realize that I could spend hours on this subject, especially about the immigrants who came to the United States (some voluntary and some enslaved) who laid those original tracks so that people could travel this vast country. I will save that story for another day.

I am off to my local train station to join in the fun – why not join me?


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