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‘Trails and Rails’ program sets 2019 routes NEWSWIRE

By Bob Johnston | May 15, 2019

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Trails and Rails volunteer Andy Selden describes wildlife along the Mississippi River on the ‘Empire Builder’ in 2014.
Bob Johnston
WASHINGTON – Amtrak’s decision to no longer furnish meals or lodging for “Trails and Rails” program volunteers continues to curtail commentary on rail routes that used to have it. However, a new five-year agreement between the passenger rail carrier and the National Park Service means the redefined relationship will at least continue.

“It seems like we now have a steady source of contact folks at Amtrak in Washington, D.C., to serve as liaisons that can help move the program along,” Trails and Rails National Director Jim Miculka tells Trains News Wire. Communication had previously ended last year when Amtrak eliminated marketing department personnel as part of company wide cost cutting.

Volunteer commentators come from host parks; itineraries have been altered to cover portions of routes so now with some exceptions, they usually make round trips in one day.

For instance, guides from three New York-based parks give informative talks every Saturday and Sunday through at least Nov. 16 on the northbound New York-Montreal Adirondack:
  • Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites: Croton-Harmon to Hudson, returning on Empire Service No. 238
  • National Parks of New York Harbor: New York Penn Station to Albany-Rensselaer – except Sunday, returning on No. 284
  • Saratoga National Park: Saratoga Springs to Westport, N.Y., returning on the southbound Adirondack

“When Amtrak dropped the onboard meals and the National Park Service expense allotments didn’t change, the parks needed to prioritize how they use the same limited funds – varying from $500 to $2,500 annually – now that meals had to be covered,” says Miculka. “There was never enough money for overnight lodging.”

Commentators typically first introduce themselves over the train’s public address system. Miculka says they have about 45 seconds to explain the program and where they are set up onboard, usually the cafe car, “though periodically the guides walk through the train to answer questions and carry a few props as conversation starters. We make sure we hit the Americans with Disabilities Act sections, and we might make a train-wide announcement if there is wildlife or a particular point of interest.”

Miculka helped start Trails and Rails in 2000 when he was based at a New Orleans park, and is working with Amtrak and the National Park Service national office in planning projects for next year that will commemorate the program’s 20th anniversary.

In addition to the New York routes on the Adirondack the table shows other trains where Trails and Rails guides are present.
–This story was updated May 16 to correct the table
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21 thoughts on “‘Trails and Rails’ program sets 2019 routes NEWSWIRE

  1. John Privara and Robert McGuire – I can see that the milk of human kindness just flows through your veins. Don’t want those nasty vacationers and sightseers clogging up our trains. Don’t want to spend a few bucks to enhance their experience and maybe get the kids to be train riders. Nah, let’s black out the windows and only carry nearsighted geeks whose noses are attached to their laptops. That fulfills our mission.

  2. I worked the Trails & Rails from New Orleans on the City of New Orleans and the Sunset from New Orleans to Houston. We had the best time interacting with the passengers, making their time go a lot faster and with a lot of interest in the history of the areas we went through. When you think that the Amtrak crew has little time to interact with the passengers, or any thing in common with the passengers, the passengers were really surprised to hear we did all this for FREE.! The meals and the lodging were what we worked for.

  3. I Train Host on the NC trains. We try to have a host on every Carolinian and every Piedmont train. Only compensation we get is free coffee. Everything else is at our own expense. But like the gentleman said the passengers really appreciate it and the crews appreciate the assistance.

  4. I find it difficult to understand why there are Trains Magazine subscribers, which you have to be in order to have access to this site, who through their comments do not seem to support intercity passenger rail service in the US.

  5. John Privara and Robert McGuire,

    Your comments show no lack if ignorance on either of your parts. What exactly did you think part of traveling by train was about…it’s about seeing the scenery as you travel between points A and B, and you want someone to be able to talk about those sections that are related to/near, or part of a National Park or National Monument. This program, besides being collaborative offers the NPS the opportunity to introduce new places to visit to those passengers, whom might retake the train to a nearby station for their next vacation. Losing one seat/room and providing meals for one person does not break the bank…the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

  6. Arthur,They are planted on this site on behalf of anti-passenger train organizations such as The Heritage Foundation. The cost of a Trains Magazine subscription is minuscule in order for them to promote their agenda and to make it look like even train enthusiasts have turned against our national passenger train network.

  7. La Junta Colorado to Las Vegas Nevada should read La Junta to Las Vegas New Mexico on the Southwest Chief.

  8. Didn’t know there were so many. No wonder Amtrak is broke. Giving out all those free meal and seats! It was wise for management to concentrate on wasteful spending such as this, I’m sure it had a huge huge impact on the bottom line.

  9. This just confirms that Amtrak is using our tax dollars to haul vacationers and sightseers from Point A to Point B. This article justifies calls for Amtrak to discontinue the long distance trains. Let those who want to go sightseeing pay for their own trips.

  10. Mr. Privara – You really are tiresome in this venue. However, I want to thank you for giving me some “Eureka” moments with your bloviating. I now realize that I’m NOT normal. I WANT to spend more than the absolute minimum time, because life is fleeting and there are roses to smell. I WANT to be on the train. I LOVE looking out the window. I also now realize that I must be a dreaded FOAMER. Need to carry more Kleenex. I now realize that I’m OLD. As Casey Stengel once said, “I won’t make THAT mistake again.” I now realize that I must be WELL-OFF. That’s good to know. Compared to whom? I do have a roof over my head and don’t go hungry, so I guess I’m also one of the reviled elites. I LIKE riding and sleeping in a roomette. Regrettably, I’m not “well-off” enough to travel alone in a bedroom. You never know when you’re going to learn some of life’s lessons, do you? I’m thinking there must be only two or three of me in the whole USA. Sure feels lonely.

  11. Privera:

    You are a classic philistine. You even had to look up the definition. These trains are NOT for foamers alone.

  12. Privara, McGuire et al:

    OK, you both have made your points. Now, if each of you will be so empathetic as to spare us more of your insensitive ranting I expect it will meet with much appreciation from other readers. The resources devoted to the objects of your loathing are, as we used to say while I worked for Price Waterhouse, grossly immaterial. Oppose the defense budget if you want to redirect considerable resources.

    Passenger rail is simply a civilized travel option that can be an experience to be savored opposed to an ordeal to only be tolerated. I find that, on occasion, a rail trip actually gives me quality time rather than taking it. To loose this would would be an act of philistines. Is this what each of you are?

  13. Re: I WANT to be on the train.

    Me too, but I’d rather have modern 21st Century railroad system MORE. The government should be supporting railroad foamers anymore that is should be supporting stagecoach foamers.

  14. Re: These trains are NOT for foamers alone.

    You are right, it’s foamers AND (usually rich) old-people with lots of time on their hands AND people without any other options who are forced to ride 1950’s passenger trains at 1920’s speeds which are perpetually late, because selfish foamers love living in the past and think they are entitled to having the government support their hobby at the expense of modern fast trains. (Makes those philistines look down right enlightened by comparison, doesn’t it?)

    Normal people don’t want to ride at 40 mph in the middle of night listening to people snore, using public toilets, being woken up all night, it’s insane. It’s worse than camping (unless you happen to LIKE camping – but did you even notice MOST people don’t camp either!).

  15. Private:

    These have not been my experiences. I will no longer read your irrational rankings.

  16. I should add; Are Richard Anderson and his associates not philistines? Is it that they do not appreciate what they have and it’s potential to add to the quality of peoples’ lives? Where is the marketing? It is nowhere. What does that say? It screams of no interest. The removal of amenities simply proves it further. I was infuriated when I was denied dinner on the LSL leaving Albany last February as well as breakfast the following morning. The savings are certainly immaterial relative to the entire operation but its affect on one’s experience is not immaterial. It is major. I am tempted to pass on the train in the future but that appears to be just what Anderson et al desire. Now I am on the horns of a dilemma. A meal in the diner is a high point of rail travel even if it is not prepared on board. This may be the solution to the cost issue. Perhaps someone can tell us if it has or is being tried somewhere. Something reasonable could be presented at an attractive cost and most of the experience preserved.

    When at a function in Los Angles and I was asked how I traveled there I remarked that I chose the train. The usual response was: “Oh, I didn’t know there was still a train across the country”. I don’t have to tell anyone what that says nor comment on how that affects ridership.

  17. John Privara, You might be surprised to know that The Southwest Chief (one of the long distance trains that you loathe)operates at 90mph along much of its’ route. And by the way,if you would observe at one of the Chief’s stops such as Flagstaff,AZ,then you might be surprised at the demographics that are using this very valuable service.

  18. I forgot… Sarcasm doesn’t always translate well…

    But, related to this:

    Passenger rail is simply a civilized travel option that can be an experience to be savored opposed to an ordeal to only be tolerated. I find that, on occasion, a rail trip actually gives me quality time rather than taking it.

    While I have nothing against passenger trains (I ride the Coast Starlight and Zephyr about once a year AND I enjoy the human route guides) I am against the government supporting a long-distance passenger system used primarily by train-foamers and (mostly well-off) old people with lots of time on their hand. The government should be funding modern short-distance infrastructure that a majority of the population can use; not nostalgic transportation “that can be savored” (if you are rich enough), which some people judge as “civilized”, but which most of the normal population would judge as “uncomfortable” (yes, including 6’x4.5′ sleeping boxes which no-one in the 1st world thinks of as useful transportation anymore).

    Re: To loose this would would be an act of philistines.

    I’m sure there are steam-ship foamers who feel the same about Trans-Atlantic steamers. Should the government fund THOSE too? When the last Grayhound runs (which, apparently, will be within the decade) will bus-foamers demand the government run 1950’s Grayhounds for nostalgic purposes? (In fact, 1950’s Grayhounds running NOT on the Interstates; make it even more like our antiquated long-distance trains. As ANY bus foamer might say: who doesn’t want to spend an entire day on a bus?!) Long-distance trains are, for MOST normal people, an antiquated useless slow uncomfortable form of transportation which is why those areas WITHOUT long-distance trains don’t miss them at all, and aren’t clamoring for them (except the foamers). No-one, except foamers and old people with lots of time on their hands, even considers long-distance passenger trains. The government should NOT be in the nostalgia (or the “civilized transportation”) business.

    And worse (MUCH WORSE), the long-distance trains stigmatize ALL other train in the US. When (normal) people think if passenger trains (if they even do) they think of Amtrak and antiquated trains AND (even WORSE) they think that’s all that Amtrak is capable of. It’s time to get rid of the LD trains, and move the country into (at least) the late 20 century.

    Re: Is this what each of you are?

    I had to look this up to make sure:

    phil·is·tine
    /’fil??sten/
    noun
    1.
    a person who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts, or who has no understanding of them.
    “I am a complete philistine when it comes to paintings”

    I’d have to say yes (can’t speak for the other guy tho…).

    Disclaimer: I am a foamer (obviously).

  19. Re: Where is the marketing? It is nowhere. What does that say? It screams of no interest.

    You can’t market that which is useless to most normal people. Most normal people don’t WANT to spend more than the absolute minimum time getting from point A to B. You can see this anywhere in Europe and Japan (and now China). Do these people WANT to be on the train? Do they LOVE looking out the window deep in thoughts about what a marvelous time they are having on this WONDERFUL TRAIN!!!!!!!!!!! What happened to the vast network of European overnight trains? (Yeah, there’s a few left, but not many, and they are full of …. yes, old-people).

    Most of them (except the foamers and old people with lots of time on their hands) WANT TO BE AT THE DESTINATION ALREADY!!! And, only their iPhone keeps them from going insane while waiting to get there.

    Personally, I’d love it if the government wasted money on 1st Class Trans-Atlantic steam ships again. And, sure, fund the Super Chief back to its 1940’s glory. And, wouldn’t it be GREAT if those old Lockheed Constellations flew again (I know a plane foamer who would LOVE it if the government ran a network of Lockheed Constellations; no philistines allowed!) But, that is NOT the government’s job. All the government can do is build and destroy (hopefully, with infrastructure), but it definitely can’t “operate” anything well. Especially anything “customer service oriented”.

    Disclaimer: Old-Fart.

  20. People who hate trains shouldn’t ride trains. I appreciate the freedom the trains give you, the way passengers start up conversations with each other and the freedom from the necessary security and the crammed into planes like sardine passengers who do like to be anywhere near other people!

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