Amtrak may not be perfect—far from it, actually—but I, for one, remain a loyal, longtime fan (especially of the Acela, for which I’ve got plenty of tips for improving your journey). And, come this weekend, National Train Day will bring celebrations and exhibits to communities all across the country to honor the 143rd anniversary of the U.S.’s first transcontinental railway. Major events—with entertainment, model-train displays, interactive exhibits, and tours of Amtrak equipment and luxury private rail cars—are taking place in train stations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, as well as in transportation museums and historical societies in more than 150 other towns and cities from coast to coast.
The coolest part, in my opinion, will be the opportunities to climb aboard some historic and private-luxury rail cars, including:
In New York’s Grand Central Station, the restored Amtrak Pullman car Hickory Creek, the 1923 Pullman Kitchi Gammi Club, the private 1922 Cannon Ball, and a 1950 Amtrak sleeper car—as well as an Acela Express, for the uninitiated.
At LA’s Union Station, you can get on the Union Pacific Genset Locomotive, a freight train; a restored 1927 classic steam engine, the Santa Fe No. 3751, listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and the Overland Trail, a 1940 Pullman lounge car.
In Chicago’s Union Station, catch rail cars including the 1948 Silver Chalet, originally built for the Western Pacific Railroad; the Warren R. Henry, built in 1955 for the Union Pacific Railroad’s Portland Rose and refurbished by a Houston businessman in 2004. You can also take a 40-minute ride on one of three Amtrak special excursion trains, including a Superliner Sightseer Lounge. All aboard!