1999 has been a busy year of Amtrak Announcements and it is by no means over yet!
First, let's start with events still to come in 1999 that TrainWeb will cover:
I will be traveling coast to coast to Disney World from Los Angeles to Orlando, Florida on the Amtrak Sunset Limited starting on December 14, 1999 and returning starting on Christmas Day, December 25, 1999. I'll probably provide my usual photo and travelogue coverage for this rail travel, uploading web pages of my eastbound coverage directly from my hotel in Florida. Amtrak has a couple of major events scheduled elsewhere during my travel. But, TrainWeb will still cover those events! Ray Burns of TrainWeb, who provided the breaking photo coverage of the Metrolink accident (see www.trainweb.com/news/1999k18a.html) will be covering these events!
Amtrak will host an event on December 14, 1999 in Las Vegas where they will announce the new Los Angeles - Las Vegas Service and will have the Talgo train to be used on this run on display. The public will be able to tour the equipment at this event. Click here for photos and more information.
On December 17, 1999, Amtrak will begin the overnight daily service on the new Amtrak Kentucky Cardinal route (Train #850 & #851)! A public event will be held on December 17 in Chicago to kick off this service with a number of avid Amtrak supporters and members of the media traveling on the inaugural train out of Chicago. Ray Burns will be there to cover the media event before departure of the train and will also be on the inaugural train! Photos and the story will be posted to TrainWeb after the event. Click here for the Amtrak press release about this event.
Special note: An observant visitor to TrainWeb noticed and commented on the fact that the above ticket was purchased directly from Amtrak downstairs at the Fullerton Amtrak Ticket Window rather than from one of our travel agent sponsors (see: www.RailAgencies.com). Normally the TrainWeb staff purchases all of their tickets through the travel agent sponsor that is right down the street from us: Slotsy Tours & Travel (see: www.SlotsyTours.com). On Saturday morning, December 4, 1999, I read a post in the All-Aboard Advocacy Mailing List (see: all-aboard.railspot.com/aboard.htm) that indicated that space in the inaugural Amtrak Kentucky Cardinal was running out fast. Most travel agencies are closed on Saturday. Although some, including Slotsy, have a way they can be reached during a travel emergency, I did not feel that this would be considered an "emergency". I attempted to book a standard sleeping room on the Kentucky Cardinal using Amtrak's Internet Reservation System. However, the Amtrak Internet Reservation System had no knowledge of the Kentucky Cardinal yet and would not let me book a room on that new route! I then called 1-800-USA-RAIL. Although the agent knew of this new train and was able to read an internal announcement that she had just received about the new train, she could not bring it up on her reservation system and could not book a room for me! She said that my request was the second one that she had recieved that day and she suggested that I try calling back later when it might be placed into the reservation system. Later in the day I noticed another post on the All-Aboard mailing list indicating that space on the train had dwindled even further. Some people were not having problems getting reservations and I was afraid they'd be totally out of space by the time I could book one! They were already sold out of sleeping space on the first northbound Kentucky Cardinal! In a panic, I posted a message to All-Aboard noting my frustration in not being able to make a reservation and asking others how they had managed to book a reservation. Fortunately, when Ray called 1-800-USA-RAIL later in the day, that agent did find the inaugural Kentucky Eagle in the reservation system and was able to book one of the last two rooms remaining. Thus, that is how Ray ended up with a ticket purchased directly through Amtrak rather than from one of our sponsoring agencies. On Monday morning, Larry from Slotsy Tours & Travel noticed my panic post to the All-Aboard Mail List. To make sure that a room was set aside for me, Larry went ahead and without waiting to ask me for fear that the train would run out of room, booked the last remaining Standard Bedroom on the Kentucky Cardinal for me without waiting to find out if I had managed to get a room on the train. That is the type of service and concern that you can expect from Slotsy Tours & Travel! Larry called me as soon as he booked the room. All I could do at that point was to thank him and let him know that I had been able to obtain space on the train after my post to All-Aboard . Larry then released the space on the train. So, for those of you that are wondering why the above ticket is not on an ARC form from one of our sponsoring travel agencies, that is the story!
After covering the new Amtrak Kentucky Cardinal, Ray will head to Oklahoma where he will take the new Amtrak Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Fort Worth, Texas. Due to a conflicting event, TrainWeb was not able to cover the inaugural run of this train. I have traveled on all of the rails serviced by Amtrak except for some of the mileage of the two new routes: the Amtrak Heartland Flyer and the Amtrak Kentucky Cardinal. Eventually I'll cover those rail miles, but with all that we have planned for the next few months, I don't know when that will be. With Ray Burns providing the photo and story coverage of these trains, TrainWeb will have covered all of the Amtrak system before the end of this century!
Looking forward to next year, the 6th Annual Conference of the Amtrak Historical Society will be held April 28 - 30, 2000 near Lorton, Virginia. Central events will be coverage of the Amtrak AutoTrain and the Virginia Railway Express (VRE). Both Ray and I will attend this event traveling round trip using the Amtrak Southwest Chief and Amtrak Capitol Limited. Please join us at this event! I have found past conferences to provide some of the best tours of the inner workings of Amtrak and some of the attendees to have the most knowledge of Amtrak, both past and present. Click here for more information about this event.
On May 6 & 7, 2000, Amtrak equipment will be on display at Fullerton Railroad Days in Fullerton, California. This will be the second annual Fullerton Railroad Days. The first one had the Pacific Parlour Car, a Superliner Sleeping Car, and the new F59PHI locomotive on display from the Amtrak Coast Starlight, a new BNSF locomotive, and two private cars on display. Originally expecting a turnout of a couple of thousand people, the event drew an astonishing 15,000+ visitors according to Amtrak's own count! The event was an overwhelming success to Amtrak as well as the other exhibitors and attendess in bringing rail awareness to the community. A number of visitors went directly from the tour of the passenger equipment to the Fullerton Amtrak Ticket Office to purchase tickets for a trip on the Amtrak Coast Starlight! The Amtrak staff at this event could not recall a previous display where people had gone directly from touring the equipment to purchasing tickets for a rail tour on the train! Click here for more information about this event.
That brings us up to a quick summary of past 1999 Amtrak events and announcements, both good and bad:
If you can think of additional major Amtrak events for 1999, click here to send them to me via e-mail and I'll post them to this list!