Amtrak kicks off National Train Day promotion

Al Roker will host festivities
5/4/2008 WASHINGTON Dubbed "National Train Day," the May 10 effort includes a performance by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles in Washington's Union Station. Al Roker, of NBC's "Today" show, is serving as the official spokesman and will host the Washington events.

Elsewhere, the Harlem Globetrotters will perform in New York City's Penn Station. Amtrak also is sponsoring events in Chicago and Los Angeles, and other groups are organizing smaller-scale festivities around the country.

The national passenger railroad is using train day to trumpet its recent success. Amtrak has seen its ridership grow to new heights: Some 25.8 million passengers rode the railroad in fiscal 2007, an increase of 1.5 million over the previous year.

Still, future growth likely depends on federal funding, which the Bush administration and others would like to drastically scale back. Amtrak and its allies say it is unrealistic to expect the company to ever be completely self-sufficient.

In Washington, Chicago, Dallas and possibly other cities, National Train Day will include "equipment displays," giving people the opportunity to walk through Amtrak's trains.

At Washington's Union Station, for example, the company will be showing one of its plush Acela Express trains, which run at high speeds between New York and Boston. Model train displays also are planned.

"Our equipment is definitely the biggest draw, so we needed some way to get people into the stations who maybe don't normally take the train," Amtrak spokeswoman Karina Romero said.

Amtrak is spending $2.2 million on train day, Romero said. The cost includes general Amtrak advertising that the company has tagged with the train day promotion.

Amtrak chose May 10 for National Train Day because it is the anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad at Promontory Point, Utah, in 1869.

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