(Apparently Just Amtrak's) 2010 National Train Day at Los Angeles Union Station
Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 3:00AM
Joe Perry in Amtrak, Editorial, Events, Los Angeles, Media, National Train Day, News, Railroad Photography, Ramblings and Such, Union Station, trainday10

Anticipation

May 8, 2010, a date that I eagerly anticipated, had finally arrived! It was National Train Day (for 2010) and I was off to the festivities and fun to be had at the event held at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

This was going to be my first National Train Day event and I was excited as a kid at Christmas about the possibilities that someone who loves all things rail might encounter at an event such as this. After making sure I had all my requisite gear safely secured in or on my backpack, I headed off to the Upland Metrolink station to catch a westbound commuter that would deliver me directly to Union Station in just under one hour’s time.

Venue

I arrived  at Union Station, as planned, in time to get some shots of the former Santa Fe 3751, as she departed eastbound, over the same line I had just come west on, with an excursion train for the San Bernardino Railroad Days and Bicentennial Celebration.

A beautiful day greeted those who attended the Los Angeles National Train Day events at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

The main waiting room inside Union Station in Los Angeles is gorgeous. Shortly this area with be packed with attendees of the National Train Day event.

Event Photos

The former ticketing area and main foyer, normally closed to the public, hosts the “main stage” for the event. Here you can see the members of the USC Marching Band help open the festivities. This area is also frequently used in movies and TV shows.

Members of the USC Marching Band play to a cheering crowd on the National Train Day main stage in Los Angeles Union Station.

After a series of rail industry speakers, Huell Howser, a statewide renown television reporter and documenter, took the stage and shared his view of trains and California. In typical Huell fashion, he closed his remarks stating that “…trains are California’s GOLD! 

A genuinely nice guy, Huell spent time greeting and taking photos with many, many attendees.

Static Displays

The now infamous Amtrak 457, an EMD F59PHI, has been wrapped in a special livery to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Pacific Surfliner service which provides passenger service between San Luis Obispo and San Diego, and points in-between, under a partnership between Amtrak and Caltrans. It wears the slogan “Ten easy going years, 25 millon riders.QUESTION: What is a millon?

One of Metrolink’s new crash energy management-enabled Hyundai Rotem passenger rail cars was parked on Track 12 for display. Too bad the public wasn’t invited inside to see the new car and get an explanation of advancements in rail technologies.

Union Pacific and Pacific Harbor Line loaned 3 Generator-Set (or Genset) switchers for public display. Once again, too bad the public was not given an opportunity to see inside the cab or the hood to get a full appreciation of the latest rail motive power technology available.

Disappointment

Perhaps it was due to the awesome spectacle of seeing the 3751 seething and raring to go at the Track 8 platform or her steam and smoke-filled departure, or maybe it was because I am rail advocate, I don’t know for sure, but the rest of my day the National Train Day celebration in Los Angeles left me disappointed. Let me explain.

I feel that here was a real opportunity to win the hearts and minds of the public in order to garner future support of rail initiatives and projects from those that count the most - the voters.  I know that rail transport has been and will continue to be a very effective and efficient form of transportation for America, but not everyone has that appreciation.  Many see rail transport as an antiquated and less sophisticated form of mass transit.

Considering this was “National Train Day,” in my mind, it meant just that - a day to appreciate rails and railroading en masse. Rather, I left Union Station feeling that I just saw a big Amtrak commercial. I know that the event was conceived and managed by Amtrak, (a government entity), but there should have been more, much more.

Another disappointment was the missed opportunity to bring rail safety to the forefront of the public’s view of railroading. Tucked into the darkest corner of the atrium, where the “tables” that represented various communities and rail interests were positioned, was the table for Operation Lifesaver. Really? Something as important as an organization such as Operation Lifesaver is and it isn’t even up front and center? Their mission is crucial and here were thousands of people, and a whole lot of kids, that may or may not have gotten their message unless they intentionally wandered into the far corner of the venue.

I appreciate the two freight companies that loaned equipment for display, but, again, where were was the booth for Union Pacific and BNSF to pass out key-chains and press the flesh with the public? Where were the answers to the concerns the public has over “monster trains” and hazardous cargoes passing through their communities going to come from? Another missed opportunity.

Perhaps I am just accustomed to attending military airshows where the public can walk onto and through several different types of aircraft and actually talk to the folks that fly that particular aircraft to gain an appreciation or the job, have their questions answered, or to give folks the opportunity to just say “thanks for your service.”

If “we” aren’t there to answer the questions and provide the real data, then folks are left with listening to the media and each other, and, in most cases, the answers or suppositions are wrong or misinformed.

Perhaps, I am confused. Maybe I missed the memo that defined “National Train Day” as Amtrak’s newest campaign to garner ridership.

Let me know if you agree or disagree with my sentiments.

Article originally appeared on railroad photography and blog by joe perry (http://www.chasingsteel.com/).
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