The People Want Their Train Back !
It has now been more than ten years since the Sunset Limited operated between New Orleans and Orlando. Back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina tore up a lot of the track east of New Orleans and even though it was repaired within months, Amtrak has never restored that portion of the Sunset’s route.
In the intervening years, albeit on and off, there have been efforts to bring back passenger rail to the Gulf Coast, but without success. Until now. For two days, ending this past Friday, a special train covered that route carrying Amtrak executives, government officials, political leaders and others representing freight railroads and rail passengers. The train stopped at every station and the response was amazing.
One of the dignitaries aboard the special train was Jim Mathews, president and CEO of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. Here is a portion of his report to the NARP board of directors:
“Many stops drew crowds of 1,000 or more! There were young and old, retirees, folks still working, veterans, families and people who took time off from work just to show their support.
“Children in Bay St. Louis hand-decorated gift boxes for the VIPs on board. Gulfport packed the station area with more than 1,000 attendees, with cheerleaders and the high school band there to greet Gov Bryant and Sen Wicker as they pledged their support in public to getting Gulf Service restored. Tiny Atmore, Ala., produced throngs of well-wishers and a military saber-arch to welcome the dignitaries on board. Tallahassee saw traffic jams and crowds well beyond the station itself. At every stop the enthusiasm built, and the officials saw it and took notice. This is what success looks like for advocates!”
I can think of only one comment after reading that: Wow!