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Celebrating Trains in our State and Nation


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In May, National Train Day serves to remind us that just as trains have helped fuel our Nation's history, they are poised to help forge our future.

Southern West Virginia knows firsthand the importance of passenger- and freight-rail to our local and national economies. In recognition of that fact, Amtrak made the former Chesapeake & Ohio passenger station in the City of Huntington one of twenty national designations to celebrate all things train-related on National Train Day.

Amtrak and our State have had a long, happy, and fruitful association for 42 years -- except, as my train encyclopedic friends at the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society reminded me, in late 1981 and early 1982, when budgetary troubles interrupted service for 100 days.

Thanks to the efforts of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, Cardinal service was restored to its current three-day-a-week schedule, enabling West Virginians now at eight stops in the State to travel to every point in Amtrak's national network. And with continued passenger growth, thanks, in part, to the Boy Scouts of America's new reserve, we hope to see daily Cardinal service.

Passenger rail is as essential to our Nation's economic health as is freight rail. With the $1 million I announced in 2011, West Virginia is designing a statewide rail plan. It will not only focus on freight and passenger rail coexisting in a productive partnership, but it will fully explore the advantages of connecting rail to roads, rivers, and aviation. A seamless transportation system saves time and money, making us more competitive in the world market.

National Train Day serves as a grand opportunity to thank the corps of dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly to preserve and promote our State's rail history and heritage. These individuals create and sustain all manner of annual events to celebrate our roots in the railways.

The dedicated members of the Collis P. Huntington Society have operated the popular New River Train excursion every October since 1995. Bringing to trackside as many as 4,400 tourists from around the world to ride through the scenic New River Gorge, the Train aims to enrich Amtrak's bottom line and boost our region's economy.

Besides the Society activities, among southern West Virginia's offerings are: Hinton's Railroad Days, Talcott's John Henry Days, and the Pocahontas National Railway Historical Society Model Train Show.

Want some additional scenic time on the rails? Try the Cass Scenic Railroad, the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, or the Ridge Runner. Our historic train stations in Alderson, Prince, and Bramwell, just to name a few, recall the graceful, charming architecture of times past. And they make great tourism hubs for our future: train and railroad workers' memorabilia and collections, from museums to home garages, abound along our rail lines and many points in between.

Train Day is a great time to recognize the contributions of Amtrak and all of its 19,000 employees to our State. As well, CSX and Norfolk Southern are two dynamic engines in our economy. Both are committed to tomorrow's research and training through the Rahall Transportation Institute and Marshall University and committed to keep driving our economy. The Heartland intermodal project at Prichard, a major $12 million federal investment, is just one example of engaging the rail industry's cutting-edge opportunities with container freight to serve existing and future key markets to generate jobs.

Congratulations to everyone for helping mark the history, heritage, and promise of trains to our State and Nation, not only on National Train Day, but all year round.

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