Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Amtrak celebrates railroads May 12

From Amtrak celebrates railroads May 12 GALESBURG — Amtrak’s 5th annual National Train Day is May 12. While Galesburg does not host an event in conjunction with the celebration, Galesburg’s Convention & Visitor’s Bureau takes part in an Amtrak promotion at Union Station, 210 S. Canal St., in Chicago, which is held just five days later. Many of the National Train Day celebrations take place at train stations in large cities — Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles being the key cities — although many other localities take part. In 2011, there were more than 200 independently hosted events on National Train Day. National Train Day events in Chicago take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 12. A highlight is the “Hands on the Past: Mexican Contributions to the Railroad” exhibit. Social media makes it possible to participate without traveling, if one so desires. Amtrak passengers are invited to share their experiences by submitting photos, videos and stories at, on Facebook at or on Twitter at @natltrainday. Events at the “big four” cities include train equipment displays, Kids Depot, model train displays, K-9 unit demonstrations, Amtrak high-speed rail display, Amtrak culinary experience — including free samples of regional culinary specialities — and the See More Store, which gives visitors the opportunity to take home a print, a T-shirt and other memorabilia having to do with Amtrak. Convention & Visitors Bureau Director Judy Guenseth said National Train Day and Railroad Days fall very near each other on the calendar, making big exhibits here for National Train Day somewhat problematic. Railroad Days is June 23 and 24 this year. “We do so much with the trains,” Guenseth said. That’s not to say the Amtrak connection is ignored by Galesburg officials. Jerry Wood, tourism associate for the Galesburg Convention & Visitors Bureau, this year will be making her eighth or nine trip to Illinois Tourism Day, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 17 at Chicago’s Union Station. The event was formerly known as Downstate Amtrak Day. Wood said every stop on Illinois’ Amtrak system is invited to take part in the event. Admission is free and there are Amtrak ticket giveaways. Wood said there will be an additional local flavor this year. “This year, Bob Clark and the Rootabaga Jammers will play there” from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wood said. “It’s a very, very viable thing,” she said. Railroad Days brochures are available at Galesburg’s booth. “People are thrilled,” Wood said. “Last year, the winner of our travel package was from Indianapolis.” She said a free night’s stay at a local hotel was awarded along with Amtrak tickets. The family from Indiana had such a good time that it decided to stay an additional two days and to come back in the future. Galesburg’s Amtrak service and tourism are intertwined. “In La Plata, Mo., and Martinez, Calif., our visitors guides are in their train stations, at their request,” Wood said. She told of another example. Every two years, Boy Scouts from Indianapolis arrive in two or three 15-passenger vans, spend some time here, then ride Amtrak to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Wood said Scout leaders told her it is more economical to drive to Galesburg, rather than Chicago, when such things as parking fees are considered. “We’re a hub,” Wood said. “They come here from Minnesota, they come from Ohio.” She said some passengers have hours here while waiting to change trains. A man from New Mexico who rode Amtrak here recently walked from the depot to the Welcome Center on the city’s east side. Wood said he told her he needed the exercise after the long train ride. The man had a four- or five-hour layover before heading back west. During 2011, 111,520 passengers boarded the two state-supported Amtrak routes in Galesburg. Wood said many of the city’s out-of-state visitors end up in Galesburg because of the long-distance Southwest Chief and California Zephyr Amtrak trains. “Amtrak is very viable around here,” she said.

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