Used with permission from the monthly newsletter "Amtrak(r) Ink" April 2010
Trails & Rails Logo
There has long been a unique relationship between the railroad industry and national parks, dating back to the 1880s. Moving forward into the beginning of the 20th century, railroads played an active role in creating and developing America's parks, encouraging vacationers and long-distance travelers to take the train to these natural wonders.
The Trails & Rails program, a partnership between Amtrak and the National Park Service that educates travelers on the heritage of a specific region while also encouraging train travel, is an extension of this long-standing tradition.
"Celebrating its tenth year, the Trails & Rails program operates on 18 routes, connecting major cities all over the United States," said Alan Orchison, Amtrak's senior director, Field Marketing and Industry Alliances. "Across these routes, T&R volunteers and rangers tell the story of those regions, focusing on natural resources, landmarks or historic events like the Civil Rights Movement or the Revolutionary War."
Sites and routes include the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Site along the Crescent, the Rocky Mountain National Park along the California Zephyr, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park on the Empire Builder route, and Old Bent's Fort National Historical Site on the Southwest Chief.
The Trails & Rails-Amtrak partnership offers a number of benefits, including reaching all ages and demographics; enabling National Park Service volunteers and rangers to give back to their communities; and allowing states, regions and local communities to create additional on-board educational programs for passengers. In FY '09, these and the remaining sites and routes included 476 volunteers, 31,812 hours donated by volunteers, 401,600 participating passengers, and 2,397 programs presented.
"We can promote rail travel to parks and protected areas as a fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly way to visit public lands,"Orchison said.
The relationship between Amtrak and the National Park Service continues to bear additional fruit in new ways. Sunset Limited passengers can make the trip between New Orleans and Los Angeles an educational experience as well. Beginning later this month, Sunset Limited passengers will be able to download an audio podcast highlighting the history and sites of interest along the route. "This audio route guide will cover 2,000 miles of territory and contain nearly 100 anecdotes and fun facts," said Orchison. "A printed version is also available, which is convenient for teachers and people who are deaf. The podcast was developed by Amtrak, the National Park Service and the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University.
In addition, to illustrate the ease with which travelers can take the train to visit the country's national parks, the "Parks in Your Backyard" Web site (Amtraktoparks.com) is up and running, showing users the nearest Amtrak route to featured national park sites, each of which is accessible by public transportation from an Amtrak station.
"With more than 500 Amtrak stops in 46 states and the District of Columbia, a national park
is as close as your backyard," said Orchison. The new Web site includes a trip wizard that allows users to customize their search based on geographic location and personal interests. Once the user selects a national park, information on the park and the relevant Amtrak route are highlighted, including a direct link to Amtrak.com to book travel. The site also includes 15 Amtrak Vacations packages to national parks, monuments, memorials and historic sites.
For the upcoming National Train Day on May 8, Trails & Rails volunteers and rangers will be on hand at the four major event locations - Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles - presenting a video presentation on the national parks and other sites of interest in and around those locations.
"Having the volunteers and rangers on the trains and in the major stations for National
Train Day further extends the reach of the partnership, allowing us to reach more people,
and to highlight the synergy between passenger rail and our national park sites," Orchison said.
For information on Trails & Rails, visit www.nps.gov/trailsandrails