Amtrak Bean Counters Axe National Train Day.
For a number of years—since 2008, in fact—Amtrak has sponsored National Train Day with the help and support and participation, I am proud to say, of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. It has occurred on whatever Saturday has fallen closest to the 10th of May, which was the date in 1869 when the completion of the transcontinental railroad was celebrated by hammering a golden spike into a special wooden tie at Promontory, Utah.
Well, if you’ll forgive me, there’s not a goddam thing to celebrate today, because Amtrak has just announced that National Train Day has been cancelled—just one more sacrifice on the altar of Cost-Cutting along with the dining car on the Silver Star, the station agent in Rugby, North Dakota, and the olives for my Bloody Mary in the Pacific Parlour Car.
The thing is, National Train Day was from all appearances a real success. Events were held at railroad stations around the country—the photo was taken at Union Station in Portland, Oregon—with Amtrak equipment, vintage rail cars and steam locomotives open to the public, displays of various kinds sponsored by NARP and other advocacy organizations, all providing information about train travel to the general public. What’s not to like?
I have no idea how much National Train Day cost Amtrak, either in money or manpower. I suppose one of Amtrak’s number crunchers figured out how many people put in how many hours and multiplied that by their hourly rates and came up with a big scary number. Of course Amtrak will continue paying these people; they just won’t be working on National Train Day.